If the A's front office -- led by Wolff, Fisher and Mike Crowley -- builds and markets a new ballpark the same deeply flawed way in which it has created its new radio station, then the new stadium will be a bigger failure than Candlestick Park.
After two months of listening, we give the Sports Radio 95.7 station a grade of "D minus," with only one or two radio personalities sparing it from getting an "F."
Where do we start with how disappointing 95.7 has been?
Really, A's fans, could any of us have imagined that "the radio home of the A's" would employ an avowed Giants fan on its morning show and spend as much time or more talking about the Giants and Buster Posey than they talk about the A's? What's the point of having your own home radio station if you're just creating a new KNBR?
When the A's first announced they had joined 95.7 and it's new all-sports format, A's fans were elated because we hoped we would finally have our own Green-and-Gold version of KNBR, our own A's-centric universe where we could talk A's baseball first and the rest of the sportsworld second, through an A's-first filter.
Guess what? It hasn't happened. Not even close. While Giants fans get KNBR's Murph & Mac in the morning, talking Giants constantly with either Krukow or Duane Kuiper and only a brief passing mention of the A's, instead, we're stuck with Monte & J.D. talking nearly as much about the Giants as KNBR does. A's fans are forced to listen to J.D., a big Giants fan who actually said on the air that Madison Bumgarner is better than Gio Gonzales. Whaaaa? How can that happen? Even more important, why is A's management allowing that to happen?
Maybe Fisher, Wolff and Crowley don't care what the radio show hosts talk about, so long as those hosts pimp the owners' obsession with moving the A's to the South Bay. If so, the owners must be happy because nearly all of 95.7 show hosts have been doing just that. The interview that Monte & J.D. had with Wolff in late May was a journalistic embarrassment. The radio show hosts misinformed their listeners about the ballpark situation, shamelessly kissed up to Wolff, and said absolutely nothing about Oakland's years-long efforts to keep the team and the work it's doing on the Victory Court site.
Or, how about the fact that the radio station has stuck A's fans with the terrible Rob & Arnie Show? These are two guys who know very little about sports, and one of them is a big Cowboys football fan. Even worse, Rob & Arnie got in trouble in 2009 for hateful on-air comments they made about transgender kids, and on a recent broadcast they sarcastically referred to a caller with a foreign accent as "Muhummad." (No, it wasn't his real name.) That's unacceptable and no way to sell tickets to the diverse Bay Area.
While the team across the bay, to their credit, is making "It Gets Better" videos, we get these clowns. But Rob & Arnie do say a lot of pro-Wolff and pro-South Bay ballpark comments. So, maybe that's where they get their job security.
Just like the terrible customer service Wolff & Fisher give A's fans at the Coliseum (friends reported missing 40 minutes of the A's-Yankees game because they were waiting in line at under-staffed concession stands, for example), the failures of the radio station reveal a cluelessness in how to run a sports franchise that starts at the top.
People have said, give the radio station time. Rome wasn't built in a day, etc. But it's been two months now.
I mean, A's owner John Fisher should know better. He was once a Giants co-owner and he should know how important KNBR has been in marketing their new ballpark. Again, he should know, but does he? And Wolff has been an A's executive since 2003. He had more than seven seasons to envision how an A's flagship station would sound, and how it could be used to sell tickets and reach out to the fan base.
They've had years of time to come up with a plan and a list of local media/radio personalities to hire as soon as the station became a reality. Amazingly, there appears to be no plan.
But that's assuming that Fisher and Wolff really want to sell tickets and reach out to the fan base. Do they even want to? Sports columnists like Ann Killion, and Marcos Breton and Monte Poole don't think so.
We don't think so, either. We're not surprised that the same A's owners who canceled FanFest, closed concession stands in the bleachers every game, don't have any Spanish-speaking broadcasts, and let great announcers like Lon Simmons, Greg Papa, Amaury Pi-Gonzalez and Marty Lurie leave for other jobs apparently put zero thought into what their home radio station would sound like once they got one.
To be fair, the station isn't entirely terrible. Oakland resident Dan Dibley, plucked from KNBR, is a witty, knowledgeable guy and has been a good addition. Scott Jackson (from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Chris Townsend (from 3 to 6 p.m.) are competent. Not great, but not awful, either. However, Townsend is clearly there to repeat Wolff's & Fisher's talking points about their desire to move to the South Bay. When pro-Oakland callers -- who represent the vast majority of the A's fan base -- try to make their points, Townsend frequently shouts them down or changes the subject, and uses dubious "facts" to misinform listeners on the topic. He's better off just sticking to baseball talk, which he's fairly good at.
What's apparent is that Wolff's & Fisher's failures to grasp the nuances of what makes a radio mouthpiece truly work for a ball club, sadly, will be repeated if they're ever given a chance to make a ballpark happen. That's an opportunity that they frankly don't deserve -- because it's not enough to do just the bare minimum, which is all we've seen from the Wolff-Fisher regime. Pro sports, with all of its unique PR angles, is unlike many other businesses. You have to actually have a plan and then execute that plan with creativity, sweat and an accurate feel for what appeals to your fan/customer base.
Unfortunately, we've seen none of those things from "the new radio home of the A's," and once again, A's fans are stuck with a product far worse than they deserve.