Monday, September 27, 2021

Viva Las Vegas?

Maybe Las Vegas is the answer. After a pivotal series (in which the A's sadly were swept) against the Mariners where in four games attendance was never cracked 5,000, maybe baseball just isn't working in Oakland.

I've heard (and lived through for 10 plus years) all the traditional retorts. They don't keep the marketable players. The Coliseum isn't the greatest place to see a game. Wolff then Fisher don't care about Oakland. They won't spend any money.

The bottom line: the team wins (a lot, at least in the regular season in recent years) and very few people come to the games. To date, the A's have drawn 701,430 fans for a team that is 85-71. The Baltimore Orioles, a team with currently tied for the worst record in baseball has outdrawn the A's with 763,387 fans. The A's are in contention, still in striking distance for a playoff berth. The O's had a 19 game losing streak. (I also don't buy that the now long-gone Covid restrictions depressed numbers. See Giants, San Francisco.)

This backdrop made a tweet from @OaklandStadiumWatch heartwarming, but hollow:

I love the A's and have endless respect for the diehards, the drummers and the lifers. But, if the team can't draw 5,000 to games with playoff implications, I don't know what can be said. I think it's painful but necessary to consider that a new stadium won't change this dynamic. Even a new stadium plus new ownership might not move the needle.

When the A's left Philadelphia after the 1955 season, they had won five championships. The Phillies had zero and wouldn't win one until 1980. The A's bolted because Philly didn't support two teams. There are only three markets that still do -- New York, Los Angeles (sorta) and Chicago. All of these markets are bigger than the Bay Area.

The low attendance this season (even with pandemic restrictions and hesitation) is a major perception concern. It fuels Dave Kaval with a solid talking point, "Look, there are minor league teams that draw more fans regularly than we do for a must-win game against a division rival."

The players don't want to play to a virtually empty stadium either. And, what are bottom-line obsessed league officials like Manfred supposed to think when they see a competitive team drawing so few fans?

Are there just not enough A's fans in Oakland and its surrounds? The current numbers aren't making a compelling case for baseball in Oakland.