A’s third baseman Matt Chapman smacked 14 homers in 84 games last season while displaying flashes of brilliance at the hot corner. He and slugger Matt Olson are young talents that should excite Oakland fans about the future.
But with the exception of Opening Day and a free game later this month commemorating 50 years in Oakland, there’s not much else to be thrilled about if your allegiance is to the Athletics.
The team just completed a four-game homestand against the Texas Rangers, and ticket sales were an absolute joke. From Monday to Thursday, they drew 34,613 fans to the Coliseum, an average of 8,653 per game, which is sad when you consider free parking was offered for one the days. A season ago, the A’s drew 1,475,721 fans to the ballpark — good for second-worst in Major Leage Baseball — and the downward trend continues.
The A’s have turned into the Miami Marlins of the American League, and that’s painful for me to say about a franchise with such a rich history. I’m not here to bash the team, nor do I blame fans for not wanting to sit in a decrepit stadium to watch a team during its rebuild. But I get the feeling that if the franchise can’t lock down a stadium within the next two years, management will seriously consider relocating.
Numerous reports have been written in recent years detailing how Portland, Ore., is a city ready for an MLB team. Portland has already brainstormed and presented stadium location options. And, if you’re the A’s, it’s not the craziest idea.
Baseball in Portland makes sense, and, sadly for Oakland, the league thinks so, too. For one, the A’s would remain in the American League West in a booming city, with no sales tax, with the idea of forming a regional rivalry with the Seattle Mariners. There are some big-spenders in the Pacific Northwest who would love to bring a team to Oregon; imagine watching them play in a beautiful, state-of-the-art, baseball-only stadium that would seat about 35,000 people.
The Trail Blazers and Timbers are a big deal in Portland. There’s no doubt in my mind they’d gravitate and go crazy over a big-league ball club.
I hate to even bring something like this is up. The A’s held their own in attendance when I was a kid and, from afar, I envied the success the franchise was having, They swept my beloved Giants in 1989 and had a beautiful park to boast about with some of the most dynamic players of that era: Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley.
But after whiffing on a stadium, and with their track record of not splurging, it’s hard to believe the franchise is at this point.
I’m rooting for President Dave Kaval to deliver on his promise to get a stadium deal done in Oakland — a ballpark A’s fans can flock to and fall in love with. But I can’t help but shake my head at the situation the A’s are in as a franchise. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from noon to 3 p.m. on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, Bonta is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.