Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The A's Battle for Relevancy in a Fog of Orange and Black

When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, they dealt the A's a true body-blow in the fight for relevancy, Before they had won, both teams had been in the playoffs, but no champ had emerged since the A's in 1989. As Moneyball (the movie) made reference to, people remember the team who wins the last game -- the World Series. If the Giants defeat the Tigers this year, they will enter the rarefied air that is reserved for teams known as dynasties -- "The Big Red Machine" of the Cincinnati Reds, the "Mustache Gang" of the A's and the New York Yankees in general (besides the 80's and early 90's, choose your time period).

A Giants World Series crown will make it that much harder to sway casual fans to the A's side. In terms of baseball, the Giants already dominate Bay Area sports media coverage and a title will only take even more air and ink away from the A's. The 2012 A's were a magical story, but a championship trumps it. People like a winner, but they love a champion.

All of this is to say that the A's need to seize each and every opportunity on the national and local scale to assert both that they exist and that they matter. 

The Stadium, ad nauseum

As maddening as it is, the A's stadium situation is so critical that it rivals the actual on-field product. Although this year's playoff run was great fun, it was a squandered opportunity for ownership and the pro-Oakland/pro-San Jose sides.

The most action was seen by Let's Go Oakland! (LGO) -- a political advocacy group whose aim is to keep the A's in Oakland. It's major initiative was the "Remove the Tarps" flash-campaign which aimed to convince ownership to increase the capacity of the Coliseum by taking off the vinyl covering over the third deck (minus the Value Deck) and Mt. Davis. The result was that the team did yield -- slightly -- by saying that for the ALCS (should the team have made it) they would have removed the tarps. Previously, ownership had said only for the World Series would this have happened.

The campaign was well-intended, as a frequent sentiment heard among fans is a strong distaste for the tarps, but had real long-term weaknesses. Past the playoffs, what was the organization's end goal? It is plain unrealistic to ask that the team de-tarp for the regular season when attendance was the 26th best (out of 30) in baseball. Did they want the team to un-tarp for big games -- such as Opening Day or the Bay Bridge Series? It is unclear as this was never expressed. What LGO did was motivate a lot of people to sign a petition. It has not, to date, taken the information and excitement it generated and leveraged it for any additional objectives.

What LGO could have done, rather than the tarps campaign, is say, "These jam-packed crowds are proof that if ownership puts a great product out, they will get the support -- here in Oakland -- that they desire. These fans are committed to this team right now, we ask that ownership do the same and work to find a home for this club here where it has won more division titles and championships than any baseball team in the Bay Area. Let's keep the excitement going by celebrating and committing to the team's Oakland roots."

Baseball for San Jose (BBSJ) -- a political advocacy group who wants the A's to move south to San Jose -- basically sat out most of the season and the playoffs. They posted an AL-West champs graphic to their Facebook page when the A's won the division. Besides that, they have said and done nothing publicly since late May. 

BBSJ could have emphasized the urgency of moving the team to a new facility. They could have said, "The entire Bay Area has enjoyed seeing this club succeed. We believe the time is now for Major League Baseball to approve a move to a new home here in San Jose that will assure the Bay Area of decades of great A's baseball. As the 10th largest city in the United States we have the resources -- population, corporate base and land to make a new A's stadium a reality."

Ownership, mainly Managing Partner Lew Wolff, could have pressed the point as well. Wolff could have said, "I'm having a lot of fun watching this team. It is important to understand that -- long-term -- our ownership group has a singular goal of showcasing great teams like this current one in a world-class facility. We want to share in the memories and joy of great A's teams with Bay Area residents for decades to come. We remain hopeful that MLB will allow us to move to San Jose and provide us with certainty moving forward."

Instead, Wolff was largely silent on the issue. Majority owner John Fisher was actually silent.

An Orange and Black Fog

The Bay Area is -- with all due respect to the true A's-only baseball fans -- wrapped in orange and black right now. The Giants, from a business standpoint, would like nothing more than to see the A's fade into obscurity. Make no mistake, they want the whole Bay Area market to themselves.

For voices in the A's debate, opportunities like the sensation that was the 2012 season don't come along all that often. It's a shame that when the bunting at the Coliseum was taken down and the national media had packed up, we were no further along in the quest to define where this team will be long-term.

2 comments:

  1. I hate that we're not in the national conversation any more, either. Hopefully I (and we) can make that up next year.

    You know, one of the things that really rankles is the Susan Slusser is now writing Gnats blogs. She's ours, dang it!

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  2. The A`s organization is experiencing what Giants fans experienced many years ago..when their former owner (Robert Lurie) was going to move the team to FL ! At that time there was no MLB in FL like there is now and Lurie was being courted to bring the Giants there. If your old enough remember that ? The Giants were very close to moving and attendance was bad at the stick when compared to the A`s of the same time.Now its the opposite.The Giants were sold and haven`t looked back..Now the move proposed by the A`s Owners..isn`t as drastic as moving to FL..But the A`s belong in Oakland !! I worked in San Jose for years and that is Giants territory ! There are some A`s fans yes..but the only thing Bud Selig has done right to me is not give the A`s ownership the green light to move ! Lew Wolf never wanted to keep the A`s in Oakland and is blind to see how getting a new ball park in Oakland hopefully in the Jack London area can energize the team and a city ! With the best GM in the league getting the most out of a small payroll Lew Wolf is about the worst business man I`d ever seen !! Some one or some group in the Bay Area step up and buy this A`s team and recognize the deal of the century when it come to owning a MLB team !!!!!!

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