Lowell Cohn's Aug. 19 column was very critical of billionaire A's owner John Fisher and his brothers. Cohn noted the fortune that the Fisher family has spent on their 1,100 pieces of fine art. The art alone is valued at more than $1 billion. The Fisher brothers, each of whom are billionaires, have loaned their artwork to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. But Cohn compared the Fishers' pricey artwork spending to the penny-pinching ways that they (and co-owner Lew Wolff) run the Oakland A's. Here’s an excerpt:
This is about how the A's greedily take money from the so-called big-market teams, the A's grabbing for revenue-sharing dough when the A's primary owner is one of the richest owners in baseball. Forget that, he's one of the richest men in the world. I'm talking about John Fisher, a billionaire. His two brothers also have stakes in the A's. They're billionaires, too. Not poor.
Fisher's billionaire status is well-chronicled. The San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea reported that Fisher is just one of eight billionare owners in MLB. Coupled with his billionaire brothers, that makes the A's ownership one of the richest in MLB. Also, Fisher's A's play in the Bay Area — the fifth biggest market in the entire nation.
So, when people call the A's a "small-market team," they’re wrong. In the populous, wealthy Bay Area, there are no small market teams. There are only small owners. The Warriors' Chris Cohan was a small owner. Fisher and Wolff are small owners, too. After half a decade of incompetence, apathy, and neglect of the A's franchise and its loyal fans, Fisher and Wolff have more than earned that "small owners" title.
Cohn continued about the Fishers:
I'm told the entire collection is worth more than a billion. Poor? Is the A's ownership poor? Oh, I know what you're thinking. The fancy art represents the Fishers' personal money, but the A's don't generate squat.
Please. Team owners should be sportspeople. They should love the game and have passion for the game like George Steinbrenner did, and they need to spend money to make money. The Fishers had no trouble buying all that art, shelling out big bucks for the art which brings in no income I can see. But the Fishers have trouble shelling out the going rate for a shortstop or a first baseman or a left fielder. When it comes to that, they're too poor.
Cohn’s new column echoes two recent blogs, in which he ripped Fisher and A's ownership. The veteran sportswriter ended this latest column just as stridently as he started it:
If the A's had to write their personal philosophy, it would go something like this: "We are committed to producing a below-average product and blaming it on Oakland and the Giants. We plan to suck until they let us move to San Jose. Then we'll be a real work of art. Just wait and see."
What's interesting is how Cohn's disgust at Fisher & Co. is almost unanimously supported by A’s fans in the blog's comments section. Many other Bay Area sportswriters agree, too. Unfortunately, Oakland fans have had to deal with ownership like this for 15 years, ever since Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann bought the A's from the Haas family in 1995. Schott was a disaster.
The Fishers, who have been almost invisible as team owners, have been as bad or worse than Schott. But we'll let Cohn have the final word on John Fisher and his brothers:
They should get out of the baseball business and sell to someone who loves ball more than art.