The Tampa Bay Rays have exposed the A’s ownership team of Lew Wolff and John Fisher. So have the Giants.
The A’s official line is that they can’t compete because of a bad stadium which keeps them from attracting top free agents and low attendance which forces them to keep their payroll low.
So, while the A’s seem stuck in the subterranean area of the American League, the Rays — with the worst stadium in Major League Baseball and a payroll in the same low area as the A’s — are in the American League playoffs, despite the disadvantage of playing in a division with the two richest clubs in Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
What’s the difference between the Rays and the A’s? One team is trying to win. Hint: It’s not the A’s.
Then, there’s the comparison between the A’s and the Giants.
When the ownership group surfaced in late 1992 to buy the Giants from Bob Lurie and stop a move to sell the team and move it to St. Petersburg (Lurie had already reached a tentative agreement with Tampa businessmen), the new ownership signed a deal with Major League Baseball that they would get a new stadium and in return would have exclusive territorial rights on the Peninsula and in San Jose.
Peter Magowan, who became managing general partner, quickly decided that the Giants would have to privately finance a park, and Larry Baer, just promoted to the head of the organization, was put in charge of getting the financing for the park, much of it from Silicon Valley businesses.
The ownership group agreed to take losses while the team was still playing in Candlestick Park to build a competitive team for the new park. They did that, with a team that reached the World Series in 2002, the third season in the new park, and should have won it.
And, while they were at Candlestick, they also put a lot of money into refurbishing the place as best they could, better restrooms, more spacious concession areas.
In contrast, the Wolff/Fisher ownership has done nothing but pursue a strategy aimed at eliminating the Giants’ territorial rights so they could move the A’s to San Jose. The word carpetbagger comes to mind.
They have put absolutely no money into refurbishing the Coliseum. Even the much-maligned Yorks have done their best to improve the Candlestick facilities for 49ers games, not relying on the cash-strapped city to do that, but Wolff and Fisher have not followed either the Giants’ or the 49ers’ plans.
The Wolff/Fisher ownership seems to have a plan to discourage attendance, tarping off popular seating areas in the upper deck, changing the popular FanFest from a February celebration with players in Jack London Square to a limited affair before the opening game. Two years in a row, Wolff sent out media emails just before the start of the season saying he had no desire to stay in Oakland.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a lot of problems, but at least their fans know the owners are trying to win. A’s fans know better about their owners.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.