Oakland is striking back at the blatant effort by Lew Wolff to run down the A’s so he can move them to San Jose.
Last week, a group of Oakland businessmen, led by Clorox CEO Don Knauss, called a press conference to offer help to Wolff and his money man, John Fisher, in building a park in Oakland. Knauss has experience in this area because he was the CEO for Minute Maid in Houston when the park was built there. If Wolff and Fisher wanted to sell the club, Knauss said he knew of three potential buyers.
This week, a full page ad was taken out in East Bay newspapers urging Wolff and Fisher to keep the A’s in Oakland, listing businesses which have their headquarters in the East Bay, including Clorox, Kaiser Permanente, Chevron, Safeway, Pixar, Peet’s Coffee and Dreyer’s Ice Cream, among others. The businessmen who paid for the ad urged the A’s owners to “fish or cut bait.” If they’re not interested in staying in Oakland, sell to one of the groups that will.
As an Oakland resident, I can tell you that the city has many nice neighborhoods and has become the center of a thriving food revolution, with many new restaurants in midtown, as restaurant critics have noted. Jerry Brown’s building plan has worked, though I regret that he opposed a ballpark.
The population is there, too. San Jose is the state’s third-largest city only because the city limits were placed where there were only tumble weeds many years before. Several subdivisions have since filled out the area.
But it is the “metropolitan” population which counts. That is why St. Louis has long thrived as a baseball town while Memphis has never had a major league franchise, though its city population is about 200,000 more. The more significant figures: St. Louis has a metro population of about 2.2 million compared to one million for Memphis.
Oakland’s population is just under 400,000 but it is part of an urban sprawl that goes from Hayward to El Cerrito, interrupted only by Highway 24. In addition, most of the communities in rapidly growing Contra Costa County are within easy distance of the Coliseum, by highway or BART.
But Wolff is not interested. He wants to make a real estate deal in San Jose. He has systematically driven down attendance in Oakland, which was well over 2 million before he and Fisher bought the team, but has declined by about 25 percent under their stewardship.
Others have noticed this. Baseball Prospectus chided general manager Billy Beane for blaming the stadium for the A’s problems, noting that Tampa Bay and Arizona, with lower payrolls than the A’s, were in the playoffs last year.
Tampa Bay is the franchise that really exposes the Wolff/Fisher ownership. With the worst stadium in baseball and little history, the Rays have been in the postseason three times in the last five years, once in the World Series. As of Thursday morning, they were leading the AL East and one of only four teams with 20 wins.
It is indeed time for Wolff and Fisher to “fish or cut bait.”
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.