The A’s Front Office is an Embarrassment

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Last night was the fan-organized reverse boycott which included a fan-sponsored t-shirt giveaway and by all accounts it was a major success. Both energetic and heartfelt, the evening was capped off with the team’s seventh consecutive win and a feeling that if this is it, it ended with a party. All of that good energy didn’t stop the A’s front office from embarrassing themselves…again.

Yesterday the Nevada legislation the A’s proposed was voted out of the Senate and is now awaiting a vote in the Assembly. The Assembly vote, I’m told, is currently very narrow as that body tends to listen more to the voters of Nevada. That said, one amendment could swing things wildly as it seems to have done in the Senate when two unrelated and previously vetoed bills were tacked on as amendments making it nearly impossible for democrats to deny.

Catherine Aker again spoke in public and was asked for details about her “listening tour” that she claims to have been on for over a year. If you think this listening tour was similar to the countless focus groups and surveys the A’s did in the early days of the Oakland process, you’d be wrong. Aker was eventually forced to admit that this “listening tour” was essentially a meet and greet with people who would eventually be working in the stadium. It was not a good look for Aker or the A’s front office — two entities who have been particularly void of good looks lately.

There has also been repeated discussions about the true community value the A’s will bring to Las Vegas and when reports came out that confirmed what A’s fans had already known — that much of the A’s community fund is funded by fan donations, that John Fisher contributes more to political campaigns than his charity, and that Steph Curry himself has contributed multiple times more money than the A’s — the team did a truly disgusting PR move.

With an attendance of 27,759 (the highest of the season) packing the coliseum, the A’s announced that all of that evening’s ticket sales would be donated to two local charities. The fact that such a massive charitable donation is drawing far more criticism than praise tells the entire story of the A’s front office at the moment. It was clearly a PR move aimed at padding their contribution numbers before an official Assembly hearing, diverting attention away from the fact that nearly 28,000 people showed up to voice their disdain for your business leaders, and to control a narrative that has spun out of control in recent weeks as national media is siding with Oakland fans.

What may have been the most idiotic move (aside from Dave Kaval having the gall to retweet several announcements about the donation) is that the team listed the total amount of ticket sales from that single game. The total, over $811,000, is more than 2% of the annual team payroll and it also happens to line up with the average estimated attendance for a Las Vegas stadium. What did they have to gain last night by admitting that when called to action A’s fans can generate a ton of money on a random Tuesday night game?

They have now told the world that ticket sales average out to $30 per guest and that potential, at that rate, for annual gate revenue is around $73M a year. Obviously a baseball team has several revenue streams and gate revenue is often the least impactful of the bottom line, but I’ve yet to hear a single comment about those other revenue streams in any of the Nevada hearings. The overwhelming narrative is that it’s all based on attendance and the money that attendance generates elsewhere on the strip. All of that to say, the A’s essentially admitted one or more of the following things:

  • Attendance alone won’t get them the numbers they need to make this plan work. We knew that already which is why we know that the team will remain on revenue share for as long as that program exists if they move to Las Vegas.
  • Average prices per guest are going to have to be significantly higher than Oakland’s current $30. This flies in the face of the repeated claim that it will be “affordable for local families of four” with tickets as low as $15. Of course there will be $15 tickets in the bleachers or as incentives to fill up Monday nights in April but the average is going to have to be much higher and that will price out a lot of local fans. For the record, Howard Terminal was likely to price out fans as well but I believe it will be on a larger scale in Las Vegas
  • Oakland is and should be a viable market for baseball under the stewardship of serious people. If Kaval and Fisher had done even the bare minimum to support their own team, more fans would come out. If the fans can organize a campaign that outsells opening night, why can’t the team’s cracker jack marketing team? I’ll tell you why: because they’re in Las Vegas lying about listening tours.

At every step in this process, the A’s front office has been an embarrassment and it defies logic that Commissioner Manfred allows this to continue as it has. It is, as it always seems to be, on the fans to save this team. It’s not too late. If the Assembly vote is as close as I’m told, it may only take swaying one or two legislators to end this thing. But even if it passes, it can still be put up for a vote by the people. The time to sit back and accept the fate of this team has not arrived yet. While calling out of state lawmakers may have little impact (or none, most likely) continuing to engage online and at games does have an impact as we’ve seen a near immediate shift from blaming fans to blaming John Fisher in both local and national media. It is on the fans to keep this crooked front office in the media and trending online. Those efforts are seen by people who can effect change.

It has now become abundantly clear that the A’s and/or MLB have instructed other stadiums to remove fan signs that support the A’s in Oakland. Fans from Seattle and San Diego have both claimed to have had their signs taken away. This means that the heat has been turned up. A’s fans are beginning to embarrass the powers that be and as I said on a recent episode of the Uprooted from Oakland podcast, that’s the power the fans have. We may not have power in out-of-state legislatures but if we can continue to make this embarrassing for Manfred, Fisher, and the other 29 ownership groups, we actually stand a chance at having an impact.

Is it guaranteed to work? No. Does it improve the odds over just sitting by and watching it all play out? Absolutely.

Last night was an embarrassment. It’s an embarrassment to have a stadium full of people coordinating giveaways, planning chants, and holding mid-game moments of silence between calls to sell the team. It’s embarrassing that the A’s received near universal backlash for donating $811,000 in profits to local charities. It’s embarrassing every time a legislator asks the front office for clarification on a claim they can’t support with any facts. It’s embarrassing when pro-Oakland signs appear at games totally unrelated to the A’s. The A’s front office is doing a lot of the heavy lifting but we, the fans, need to continue to expose them for the frauds they are and make sure that neither owner, commissioner, or A’s front office employee can stand before a reporter without being asked about this team’s embarrassing, image damaging behavior.

We’re not done yet, folks. Keep fighting the good fight!