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Quote of the Day: Athletics' owner Lew Wolff

May 5, 2010, 1:13 PM EDT

“This idea we’re trying to discourage people from coming is a bunch of
crap. Every Wednesday, we have almost 9,000 $2 tickets. … It should be
embarrassing to all of us that we can’t draw people at $2.”

– Lew Wolff, bristling at the suggestion that he and the Athletics have tried to sabotage the Athletics in Oakland in the interest of propping up their case to move to San Jose.

The comments — and several other pithy ones — come in the course of an article in today’s Chronicle, telling the story of the A’s attendance apocalypse from the perspective of ownership.

California business and politics — especially when it involves large-scale real estate development — is an impossibly complicated subject, burdened with an overlay of left wing (“Don’t build here! We saw a rare salamander here last year!”) and right wing (“Don’t tax us! Taxation in all forms is theft!”) sentiment that is often hard to reconcile. In light of that I don’t know that I fully understand all of the dynamics in play with the Athletics’ situation.

But from what I do understand, this is not a situation in which any one party comfortably wears a black hat. I don’t think Lew Wolff has done everything conceivable to make Oakland work, but nor do I think he would ignore workable solutions or go out to sabotage the team.

Meanwhile, I feel for Athletics’ fans who root for a team whose owners make a tidy profit that doesn’t appear to be reinvested all that well, but at the same time I don’t think the A’s fans have always been such ardent supporters of the team that they are really entitled to play the wounded fanbase card.

This team is ultimately going to San Jose. Of this I’m fairly certain.  It seems, though, that getting from here to there is going to be an increasingly acrimonious experience.

  1. Old Gator - May 5, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Not “salamander.” Newt (Taricha granulosa). They’re highly poisonous, which is why I think people avoid the stadium.
    .
    Me for the newts!

  2. YankeesfanLen - May 5, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    Where’s Old Gator today? Don’t tell me he got tased at the Feesh game last night and is sleeping it off in the turkey-sub-on-wheat- with-tofu tank.

  3. Joey B - May 5, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    “Meanwhile, I feel for Athletics’ fans who root for a team whose owners make a tidy profit that doesn’t appear to be reinvested all that well, but at the same time I don’t think the A’s fans have always been such ardent supporters of the team that they are really entitled to play the wounded fanbase card.”
    Glad to a fair-and-balanced perspective. It’s an easy enough thing to hate the EE and the RSN for their spending, but they have a pretty healthy fan base that are capable of supporting that spending. I tried to get a couple of extra season tickets, and the guys in the NYY FO laughed at me. I can go into several cities that have had a fair amount of success over the years, and sit behind HP without a lot of effort. In NY, if you want to sit behind HP, be prepared to sign over your summer house, and the college funds.

  4. Ross - May 5, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    I agree. The A’s situation isn’t nearly the same as what happened to the Seattle Sonics and their fans.

  5. APBA Guy - May 5, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Good article by John Shea in the Chron, but it misses something important, I think, in that the pattern being followed by Wolff/Fisher is similar to the one being followed by Loria with the Feesh:
    - make a big profit
    - bad mouth the area in an attempt to get a new stadium deal
    - blame everyone but himself for lousy attendance
    - make a big profit
    I don’t blame ownership for wanting to run the team on a sound business footing. The previous owners Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman, certainly used the team to pay for a lifestyle most of us can’t even really imagine. But their teams won. And despite all the obstacles they ran into as far as building a new stadium or attracting new fans, they never bad-mouthed Oakland, and by extension the people who are its base of fans.
    And I think Wolff’s comments in the article are indicative of his problems in drawing fans. He should be saying much more positive things about the team’s chances in the Division this year. Look, .500 will be competitive. And they could get a minor free agent or two over the summer to make it look like they are improving the team. The A’s play a fundamentally good style of ball. The bullpen is excellent. The offense can punish weak pitching and hit mistakes. They can play .500 as is.
    The second thing is that dealing with the city of Oakland cannot be straightforward. There’s way too much smoke around corruption and payoffs, etc, for any of us to believe that one of the roadblocks Wolff refers to wasn’t a few or more city officials having their hands out.
    But if he wants to woo back fans he needs to be more open in stating what roadblocks he’s run into. Get the fans involved in pressuring the city. Obviously he can’t come out and say that so and so wanted a big bribe. But he can say that the Planning Commission disapproved the option of a stadium near Jack London Sq because of X, Y, Z. Even if you know your ultimate aim is to end up in San Jose, a much more affluent city.
    We all know the A’s future is either in San Jose or perhaps Las Vegas if current ownership has its way. Either of those would disenfranchise most of the A’s current fan base, in that getting to a game would become too burdensome.
    But while they are in Oakland, at least talk up the team, talk up the fans you do have, get them involved and on your side, make a positive move or two to win, and act like seeing the team is fun. Every time Wolff’s on TV in the stadium it looks like he’s waiting for a root canal. It won’t kill him to smile.

  6. scatterbrian - May 5, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    I’ve read a lot of references to Lew Wolff “bad-mouthing” the city and A’s fans, and while I’ve never seen actual quotes attributed to bad-mouthing, I understand that it’s generally when he’s discussing low attendance figures. Honestly, I don’t see how you can blame him. Back in 2006, the A’s won 93 games–with a cool revival season from MVP candidate Frank Thomas, exciting young players like Nick Swisher, Huston Street and Dan Haren, plus the Milton Bradley powder-keg–and they still finished 12th of 14 teams in attendance. This came after several seasons where they were killing it in the early 2000s and made the playoffs four straight years. Even then, they peaked at 6th in attendance. The fact is, the attendance in Oakland has been unacceptable for years–almost two decades, really. The old adage that fans will come to see a winning product on the field doesn’t apply in Oakland. The city has proven that their interest in the Oakland A’s in moderate at best, and waning. Wolff may be exacerbating the waning fan-base, but the fan-base needs to realize its role in this as well. I’m not sure if the relationship between franchise and fan-base is reparable, but I can understand why the franchise is looking at other avenues.

  7. APBA Guy - May 5, 2010 at 7:21 PM

    Check out Neyer’s post on the subject, showing a direct correlation between the A’s winning and attendance:
    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/3480/as-attendance-continues-spiral-down
    The stadium and local economics depress the attendance, but the annual variability corresponds quite well with winning.

  8. Old Gator - May 5, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    It’s great to have fans to blame, isn’t it? Wolff must have had lunch with Scrooge McLoria and his Chihuahua recently. “Just blame the fans, Lew. It’ll keep the Player’s Association off your ass, guaranteed.”

  9. Tom G - Jun 6, 2010 at 12:17 AM

    I have not seen Lew Wolff at any games this year. I am a season ticket holder, the team is good, pitching is young and improving, playing through injuries. All good, but owner is only interested in real estate development around a new stadium, not the team. Suggestion that politicians and civil servants are interested in kickbacks is ludicrous, you cannot do this anymore in the modern era. Lew Wolff’s business model for A’s died with the real estate market.

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