When the Oakland Athletics first hired Dave Kaval to follow Lew Wolff’s reign as President of the team, he was met with open arms. He upgraded FanFest, he had office hours, he was constantly on social media seemingly in an attempt to unite and invigorate a fanbase that had long questioned his predecessor’s true intents.
His tenure has been rocky — for which he shoulders much of the blame — and fraught with missteps, setbacks, and disasters but for the most part he continued to engage with fans and local media. That is, of course, until he didn’t.
On the same day we last spoke with Dave Kaval he challenged sports radio host Damon Bruce to a debate mediated by Elon Musk and had a public argument with a seagull parody account on Twitter. Since that day he has been mostly silent with fans and media alike and has adopted a Howard Hugues model of public engagement. The once prolific Twitter user has tweeted only 35 times since that fateful day in April, 2022 (excluding team retweets and replies) and 21 of those tweets were simply photos from his game seat of the day.
What happened that forced Kaval into social media seclusion? There have been several setbacks in regards to the team’s quest to build a new stadium at Howard Terminal but there has also been forward advancements. Surely, the formerly public face of the organization could help fans make heads or tails of the incremental changes in that process. Silence.
There was also an abysmal season — one of the worst in franchise history — and wildly unpopular price hikes, service reductions, and season ticket holder treatment but Kaval couldn’t be bothered to address any of that either. In fact, the official team stance Kaval laid out for our interview last year was that ticket prices actually went down despite math and receipts saying otherwise. Again, silence.
Then there was Rob Manfred’s usual high-profile implication that the A’s were all but set to move to Las Vegas. Again, silence.
An entire article could be written about this year’s “Spirit Week” which was a FanFest replacement that was announced two weeks prior to launch and included a happy hour during the work day. Kaval has said nothing about that save for a lone retweet of the team’s account and one could probably wager that he won’t be showing his face at that event despite his office being within walking distance of the event.
Regardless of your thoughts on Lew Wolff’s acumen for leading the business end of a sports franchise, he never shied away from the fans and media in the way that Kaval has. To call it a complete 180 is an understatement. It’s a heel turn and he’s lost all the goodwill he generated in the early days of his presidency.
Will A’s fans see more of Dave Kaval this upcoming season or will he continue to challenge John Fisher for “most likely to avoid people at all costs”. The Oakland Athletics are at the most challenging crossroad of its history and the team president and owner are publicly absent. The Oakland Athletics are hemorrhaging fan support and actively developing a distrust among their customers and yet, the president and owner are publicly absent. They do nothing to endear themselves to Oakland fans and cry “small market” when they don’t have the attendance they so desperately need. It should be a crime to be this bad at such a high profile job.
The A’s have to make a deal this year and their revenue share — which doesn’t seem to be going to on-field talent as it was intended — will dry up. The fact that there is nobody from the Jack London Square offices updating fans is odd. Do they owe us an explanation? Of course not. But is it good business to keep fans in the loop? It really is.
Dave Kaval doesn’t need to return to the days of office hours and securing hot dogs for fans but if the public face of an organization is only marginally more public than the most reclusive owner in professional sports, it’s hard to imagine that 2023 is going to be a lot of fun for the fans who are interested in the off-field developments of this franchise.
Also, if you’re reading this, John, please sell the team. You’re not good at this.
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