MediaNews' May 17 editorial on the Oakland A's search for a new ballpark could not have been more inaccurate. We know it's been more than a month since it was printed, but it was so factually wrong, we just have to respond to it. While the editorial stated that the city of Oakland needs to do more to retain the A's, it provided no facts to support the editorial's flawed point of view.
Let's be clear. MediaNews reporters and columnists such as Dave Newhouse, Monte Poole, and Carl Steward have done a great job in reporting Lew Wolff's and John Fisher's incompetence and dishonesty ever since they bought the A's. Unfortunately, the editorial authors failed to absorb their reporters' great work, and instead they bought into the phony anti-Oakland narrative Wolff and Fisher have spent the past several months crafting.
If anyone is to blame for game-attendance woes, it’s Wolff and Fisher. Wolff and Fisher are the ones who have repeatedly depressed A’s attendance with a toxic combination of incompetence and a number of PR mistakes almost too lengthy to list. Under Wolff and Fisher, customer service is terrible, marketing is non-existent, open concession stands at games are few, and the team’s media strategy – which bounces the A’s and their fans to a different TV channel and radio station nearly every year – is a disaster. Not only that but they tarped off over 10,000 available seats, which were the most affordable sections of the park. Even worse, when loyal customers recently voiced their frustration about the inept owners, those same owners had die-hard A’s fans ejected just for posting critical signs.
In 2003, the A’s averaged more than 27,300 fans per game. That’s a solid figure that placed them in the middle of the MLB pack, outdrawing several teams with new ballparks. Wolff joined the A’s in 2003. Attendance has gone down every year since. In addition, the A’s owners’ multiple complaints about game attendance this season always fail to mention that attendance is down for the vast majority of MLB teams due to the struggling national economy.
The city of Oakland for much of the past decade has tried time and again to reach out to A's owners to work with them on building a new Oakland ballpark. And time and again, Wolff and Fisher (and previous A’s owner Steve Schott) have stiff-armed city officials and all but refused to work with Oakland's leaders. The May 17 editorial also falsely cited that the non-profit group Lets go Oakland Works outside the city leadership. Actually, it is a coalition of Oakland civic and business leaders and Oakland residents led by Oakland Planning Commissioner Doug Boxer. We believe that Let’s Go Oakland and city officials should be praised for their work in identifying two new waterfront Oakland ballpark sites, and for giving taxpayers a realistic economic study that took a conservative approach, rather than offering pie-in-the-sky figures that other studies have provided.
In the meantime, we are extremely disappointed in the MediaNews editorial writers for selling out Oakland with its inaccurate editorial last month, which applied an unfair double standard to Oakland’s efforts while ignoring the ample problems presently plaguing every California city, including the ones coveted by Wolff and Fisher.