Oakland Athletics is the most lonely baseball team

OAKLAND – One quiet night earlier this month, less than 3,000 fans went to the Oakland Athletics game. He was so free and quiet in volume, in the old Colosseum, that the visiting Tampa Bay Flight players could hear the sharp expression of every mockery.

Brett Phillips, Rays’s outfield, said one of his teammates told him that when he was on the bat, he clearly heard the crowd in the stands laughing at his faint shot. Phillips missed Barba too, but she was asked what she had heard that night from the barren tribunes.

“I heard a pin drop,” Phillips said. “Does it count?”

The new baseball season is a time of hope in many baseball cities, including Auckland, but the first few weeks of the 2022 campaign served to avoid long-standing problems for athletics. Things can reach crisis levels.

The May 2 game, between teams that had troublesome attendance problems, invited only 2,488 fans, the lowest number of seasons in the majoritarians and the lowest number for A in more than 40 years. The once loyal fans of the team seem to have all given up.

Why not?

Their favorite players regularly switch to more affordable alternatives. Their cavernous, concrete stadium, while retaining its stubborn charm for some, is dilapidated and roughly outdated. The organization, meanwhile, speaks openly about the long-distance romance with Las Vegas.

Over the years, the As have been hunting for a dazzling new stadium or energetic new city, creating uncertainty that almost pushes fans to refrain.

“It feels like the last days of the Montreal Expo before they moved to Washington,” said Jorge Lopez, 36, a construction restoration manager. The former season ticket holder, who now goes to about 10 games a year, Lopez sat with his partner, Megan Harter, in the lonely section of the stands to play the Rays series.

“I just want to do it all before they leave,” Lopez said.

For the first five and a half weeks of the season, the As are last in the Baseball Major League, averaging just 8,421 spectators per game Saturday through the stadium, which can accommodate nearly 57,000. In 2019, one year before the pandemic, they averaged 20,521. That year it was at the bottom of the league, but still decent. At the end of that season, Auckland hosted an American League Wild Card game – also against Flight – and 54005 appeared, causing the Colosseum to pulsate.

Now that attendance is dwindling, A’s fans seem to be facing three potential outcomes: the team is getting the desired new stadium in downtown Auckland on the waterfront (an initiative that faces many obstacles); He moves to Las Vegas or another city; Or he will rely on the same old solution he has had for the past half century – to stay in the park at an older MLB stadium, except for Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium. And one that does not carry the historical significance of these beloved temples.

Dave Cavalli, president of A’s, argues that the latter option is no longer viable as nearby San Francisco giants dominated the market with a beautiful park next to San Francisco Bay that opened in 2000.

“It’s especially important to have a seaside, visible pitch in Auckland, because we are a two-team market,” Cavalli said. “I need to compete with the giants and I can not have a substandard product, otherwise people will just go to their games.”

Cavalli has become a thunderbolt for disgruntled fans and irritated civic leaders, but he argues that the As are still struggling to stay in Auckland and spend $ 2 million a month on the waterfront. That’s more than they spend every year on all but one player, Elvis Andrews.

“I really think that’s right,” said Kevin Peters, a 33-year-old A fan from Auckland, who insisted the team was making an effort. “Riders and warriors are gone. I think the As are cheap, but at least they are trying to stay in Auckland. ”

Despite his protests, Cavalli is open about the fact that the team spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a month exploring the Las Vegas option.

Athletics is the latest triumvirate to once live in a huge concrete area with the Interstate 880 in Auckland. NFL’s Raiders, who also played in two separate seasons at the Colosseum, moved to Las Vegas forever in 2020. The NBA Golden State Warriors, who played in the arena a few steps from the Colosseum for 51 years, have moved into a magnificent new mansion. In San Francisco in 2019, near the Giants Ball.

Only the As stand, giving the stadium a ghost town, with closed concession grandstands, dark rivals and a piece of concrete. Behind Central Square stands Mount Davis, a massive view-blocking seating structure built when Al Davis brought the team back from Los Angeles – a monster that may be the only stretch of stadium visible from space.

Fans have endured it, but this year is different.

“This is a sad situation for everyone,” said Inffield Jed Lori, who played seven years at A’s, including three in which the team occupied the post-season. “As a professional, as a big league, you have to do your job. We understand that there are complaints, but it exceeds my pay. Hopefully it will be resolved. “Let’s say it must be resolved.”

For the past 22 years, the As have created the science of making the most of modest resources for competitive teams, a process described in the book Moneyball. They were regular playoffs, but the irritating process of trading the best players before they reached the free agency seems to have reached a turning point this spring after two matches – Chapman and Olson – moved to Toronto and Atlanta, leaving fans stranded. They only need to remember souvenir shirts.

“They change all of our players,” said Drew Hernandez, an 18-year-old student at Las Positas College near Livermore, speaking during one of his last games under the stands in an empty, eco-tunnel between the A’s and the Rays. “It must stop.”

A’s players, coaches and mid-level management are in a difficult position, as Lowry said, between the loyal but angry fans who support them and the team owner, John J. Among Fisher’s wishes.

Watching the departure of beloved and talented teammates is not easy.

“Our model is where we cycle between players and there are times when fans do not understand and appreciate what we are doing here,” said Mark Cots, A’s new manager and former Auckland player. “But we have a loyal fan base and that really matters.”

This loyalty, which has been experienced and stretched for decades, is beginning to deteriorate. Ticket and parking prices have risen this year, and for some skeptical fans, it makes sense for the team to deliberately place a mediocre product in a dismantled stadium to reduce attendance, increase A’s leverage for team relocation or permits to apply for new permits.

“Have you ever seen a movie in Major League?” Harter asked. “It is so. “They do not want the fans to show up to move.”

The idea of ​​a new stadium in Auckland is not a new concept. The current plan is to place the new park at a $ 12 billion development center in Howard Terminal, Port Auckland, downtown. Of course, this will require all sorts of public permission and grants to make this happen.

A recent vote by the San Francisco Gulf Conservation and Development Commission Key Committee recommended moving forward, arguing that space was not needed as part of future seaport development.

This vote has changed Cavalli’s worldview, but more obstacles are expected, including a major vote in the Auckland City Council on the underlying finance of the deal.

“If they reject the vote, we are done, the project is over,” Cavalli said. His focus will then turn to Las Vegas, an option that also depends on the outcome of the vote there.

Libby Schaff, Mayor of Auckland, strongly supports the Howard Terminal plan, boosting economic benefits for the entire area. In an interview, he said he had learned hard lessons from the “giant lie” committed by riders on Auckland, and said the experience would ensure that public finances were protected.

He is optimistic that the project will move forward and said it would be costly if that did not happen.

“It will be a huge loss for future generations of Oaklanders, and not just Oakland A fans,” he said. “It’s much, much bigger than baseball. It’s a take on this precious asset, which is the waterfront, and its best use for future generations. “

If the stadium were ever to be built, it would be the first time the Athletics – the original American League franchise dating from 1901 in Philadelphia – before moving to Kansas City in 1955 and then to Auckland in 1968 – built the stadium specifically for them after Shiba. The park opened in 1909. The stadium opened with great fanfare as Baseball’s first concrete and steel building, but as a sign of the future, the team was eventually forced to share it with the Phillies.

Cavalli said Howard Terminal Park would add “hundreds of millions” of team revenue streams and end the demoralized cycle of turnover on the list, which was a reality from the early days of the franchise under Coney Mack.

As it all happens, A plugs away from the Colosseum, and the few fans who show up – many wearing their Chapman and Olson T-shirts – take over the last days or years of Oakland Athletics.

After the last game, in which there were only 2,488 spectators, Phillips, a Rays suburb, spoke to some of them near the railing near Dugout as he left the pitch.

“I thank the four of them,” Phillips said. “I told them, ‘I know guys in other dugouts really appreciate your being here.’ The sport is popular and exciting because of the fans. They are the most important part of the game.”

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