Being Oakland A's fans, we don't like comparisons with the rival San Francisco Giants. We choose the awesome ways of Oakland and the quirky East Bay lifestyle for a reason. Oh, and having four World Series titles vs. SF's zero rings doesn't hurt, either. However, Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole this week compared things perfectly between the A's current situation with the Giants, circa 1992. If you look at the Giants these days as the "toast of the bay" -- with the glorious stadium and over 3 million fans -- it's easy to overlook the fact that the Giants were worse off in 1992 than when John Fisher and Lew Wolff took over the A's in 2005.
In 1992, the Giants, much like the recent A’s squads, played in a less-than-desirable situation. The Giants had a small fan base, a bad stadium and they were overshadowed by the 49ers, who were in the middle of their dynasty years. However, the Giants didn't point fingers, blame others, cut back on expenses or compromise the fan experience. Indeed, Giants owner Peter Magowan invested in the product and, as Poole emphasizes, he didn't complain about the situation and worked to make it more desirable. He improved food (think garlic fries), marketed heavily (especially in the use of their flagship station KNBR) and invested in stadium improvements and made the game experience better for fans. Did it cost the Giants' owners money? You bet. However, this eventually put them in a better long-term situation. Not only did it get them the momentum needed to get a stadium approved, it also allowed them to become one of the most stable franchises in baseball.
Can the same thing happen in Oakland? Yes. In fact, when John Fisher and Lew Wolff took over in 2005 the A’s had just come off their 4th consecutive year of drawing two million-plus fans. The Coliseum, despite Mt. Davis and its flaws, is by far a superior baseball venue than Candlestick ever was. Also, unlike Candlestick, the Coliseum is centrally located with freeway access to all points in the Bay Area. It has solid pubic transportation and solid baseball weather. Obviously, things could have been better, but the framework was there to grow the franchise and generate momentum to build toward a new stadium. Instead, Fisher and Wolff tarped off the upper deck, badmouthed the venue and the city at every turn they got, cut back marketing, and limited the food options, while simultaneously raising prices for everything. And they wonder why there are last in attendance now? Their decisions have not only shortchanged their fans, but it also might explain the hold-up in getting a new stadium now. Had the A’s decided to GROW their product as opposed to contracting their efforts, then perhaps the momentum would be there for the community to grant their wishes.
This is why we keep harping on the ownership, it's not just their lack of commitment to the city or its fans, but their destruction of what was a great baseball thing going here in Oakland. Wolff and Fisher could have a great thing in Oakland, if only they gave half the effort that Magowan and the Giants did in the '90s.