Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lawsuit threats, leaked stories no way to sell A's tickets

Opening Day, that grand old baseball tradition, is coming to the Oakland Coliseum in less than a month, and we couldn't be happier. Unfortunately, another A's tradition is arriving soon; one that started under the Lew Wolff/John Fisher regime: Wolff whining about not getting his move to San Jose. He usually follows it with complaints about attendance and the stadium, followed by yet another threat to move the team. That has always baffled us. Does Wolff really think an off-season of threatening to kick loyal fans in the gut is the best marketing strategy? After nearly a decade of employing that failed method, how's it working out for Wolff and the A's?

The A's stadium issue came to a head (again) over the weekend, when the Mercury News' Mark Purdy wrote a column featuring San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo. The councilman threatened to sue the Giants over the Santa Clara County territorial rights that MLB says the Giants own. Liccardo was playing bad cop. That hostile threat was followed by Wolff playing good cop, as he clarified where he stood -- kind of -- by releasing a statement:

"We are a part of the MLB partnership and will continue to respect the Constitution and agreements that govern our participation in MLB. We seek our needed new venue based solely on the merits of the move and the benefits to MLB, the A's and our fans and sponsors."

So, Wolff's statement -- we are left to guess -- was intended to let Selig and fellow MLB owners know that he has no intention of encouraging a city of San Jose lawsuit against the Giants or MLB. We think that's what he meant, anyway. Because he had an opportunity to explicitly say, "Sam Liccardo. Bad. Lawsuit. Really bad." But Wolff didn't explicity say that. Instead, he chose to keep it vague, letting the implied threat hang in the air -- which couldn't have played well in the Commissioner's office. The whole Liccardo/Wolff dance is probably the second worst version of Good Cop/Bad Cop we've ever seen.

Ray Ratto, the CSN Bay Area sportswriter, covered this issue with a column Monday. Ratto made special note of Wolff's and Fisher's incompetent handling of their attempts to move:

"They have hitched their wagon to the laughable strategy of letting commissioner Bud Selig do the heavy lifting, which he doesn’t want to do while he is still in the corner office. They have convinced themselves that a verbal endorsement from Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is worth the carbon dioxide with which it was expelled. And they sit and wait for someone to bail them out of their predicament while making a revenue-sharing profit every year with a debt-free operation."

Meanwhile, A's fans are made to suffer, unnecessarily. After all, this is March, right in the thick of the blind optimism of Spring Training. On Twitter, we've seen tons of A's fans excitedly say they can't wait for their A's season tickets to arrive in the mail. This should be the time that Wolff and the A's are cashing in on that hopeful enthusiasm, turning optimism into profits by selling hope in the form of A's game tickets. Instead, Wolff is selling the same tired whine about his stadium pipe dream. There is no doubt that Wolff's constantly negative media drumbeat is depressing A's attendance in Oakland at a time when it otherwise would be easy to boost it.

Maybe someone should file a lawsuit about that.

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