Oakland A’s dying a miserable death

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor

Michael O’Grady | Staff Writer

The date is Oct. 2, 2019.

For the second straight season, the Oakland Athletics are in the American League Wild Card Game and unlike the previous year, they are hosting it. In the six seasons since Oakland had hosted a postseason game, it has become clear that the crumbling Oakland Coliseum needs to be replaced, and soon. The stadium, home to both the Athletics and NFL’s Raiders, is widely considered to be the worst and most outdated in both sports. The Athletics have been trying to build a new ballpark in the area for nearly twenty years, and the Raiders are set to move to Las Vegas. Despite the A’s usually fielding a good team, fan attendance has suffered, and entire sections are normally closed off.

However, on this night, the A’s faithful pack the same crumbling Coliseum. A wild-card record 54,005 people fill the seats to see their stars such as Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. They’re there to see a team that has punched above their payroll year after year both in the standings and in player development. A team that, since moving to Oakland in 1968, has won four World Series championships, six AL pennants and 16 AL West titles. There was even a book and a subsequent movie, “Moneyball,” about this team winning against all odds.

The A’s lost that game, but it was a reminder that Oakland’s fanbase hadn’t gone anywhere. Amid uncertainty regarding the future of their team, they showed out and made it clear Oakland was where the Athletics belonged, and as long as the front office tried, then they would, too.

Fast-forward to the opening week of this season. After a second-consecutive 100-loss season, and every recognizable player on the team sold off, the A’s drew 3,837 fans at the Coliseum for their second game of the season. That’s barely larger than crowds drawn to Cooper Fieldhouse here at Duquesne.

Athletics owner John Fisher has made it clear over the past few seasons his intention is to relocate the team to Las Vegas, at a hypothetical ballpark that is not guaranteed to be built. In the meantime, he’s made the bold move of intentionally alienating the Oakland fanbase. The team is now downright terrible, and Oakland signage and merchandise has been removed from the stadium. This is not normal procedure for a relocation of a sports team. It’s an unnecessary temper tantrum. It’s gotten so bad that the A’s have shut off replies on their social media accounts due to all the backlash Fisher has received.

None of this had to happen. The city of Oakland was willing to work with the A’s to secure a new ballpark site, but Fisher saw the success of his former neighbor Raiders and saw an opportunity to win big in Las Vegas. To cut all ties to Oakland, he rejected an extension on the Coliseum lease and the Athletics are now getting evicted after this season. Just days after Opening Day, the A’s announced they’d temporarily move to a minor league stadium in Sacramento for at least three seasons.

The fact that Major League Baseball and commissioner Rob Manfred are letting Fisher get away with this is disgraceful and unprofessional.

Although the Athletics have released renderings and have land picked out in Las Vegas, nothing has been finalized. To let an owner go scorched-earth on his city and fanbase and play major league ball in a Triple-A park, casts a shadow on MLB as a whole. That’s not to mention Las Vegas and their mayor Carolyn Goodman don’t even want the A’s.

Goodman said on a podcast in February that she thinks the A’s should try staying in Oakland.

Sports have become fixtures in communities, especially in Oakland where the A’s have played since 1968. Fisher should learn that tickets aren’t sports fans, people are, and people in Oakland would be happy to give him the money he wants if he built a new stadium there.

The situation out there draws parallels to another cheap owner ignoring his team’s fans for a buck. Bob Nutting has spent years making the Pirates into a farm team for big-market cities around the league. Even he has all recognized how to get fans in the ballpark despite being uninterested in winning.

Poor ownership in baseball is more common than any other sport. The lack of a salary cap is killing the sport. Not because it allows big money teams to spend big, but because it justifies small-market owners burrowing their franchise in the bottom of the standings. Fans have an undying passion for the sport that will keep them paying money to the teams they love, even when it isn’t reciprocated.

Baseball would be just fine without the owners, but its the fans who breathe life into the teams they love. Maybe the power should be in their hands instead. Someone needs to step in and take the wheel away from Fisher, because baseball — and Oakland — will suffer if they don’t.