A's Upper Deck Closing: Problems Ahead
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 21, 2006

CLOSING OFF the upper deck has had one desired effect for the A’s: Season ticket sales have increased about 11 per cent, according to club president Mike Crowley.

That was one goal for the A’s. The other was to give fans an incentive to buy individual game tickets in advance, to even out the crowds. In recent seasons, there had been relatively few tickets sold in advance, which led to huge walkups for some games. That made it difficult for the A’s to know how many ticket sellers and concession workers to have for individual games.

Has that pattern changed? “That’s harder to gauge,” said Crowley, “because we had a lot of bad weather for games in April and May. The test will come now in the summer months, with the kids out of school.”

The downside for the A’s is that they lose the chance to sell 50,000-plus tickets for the big games. The Dodger series last week, for instance, sold out the regular capacity with a thousand more buying standing-room tickets, but they might have sold another 10-15,000 tickets for each game if they’d been available.

But realistically, there are only a handful of games like that in a season. The Giants in inter-league play, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers when they’re on the schedule, which is not every season. Other inter-league opponents aren’t big draws, and the A’s have never had the kind of natural rivalry the Giants and Dodgers have that ensures sellout crowds.

The reduced capacity has drawn a mixed reaction, Crowley said. “Some fans like the fact that it’s a lot easier to walk around the concourses for big games, but I’ve also heard from people who enjoyed the view from the third deck behind home plate.”

There will be an interesting situation in August and September, when the Raiders are playing at the Coliseum, first in exhibition games and then in the regular season.

“We’ll have to take the coverings down,” Crowley said, “because they sell tickets for those sections. Then, we’ll have to put them back up for our games. We have no idea how much that will cost, and there will be some quick turnarounds, too, so it will be interesting.”

The Raiders have four nationally-televised games this season, for reasons that escape me. It would be smart for them to keep those sections closed off until they sell all their more expensive seats, and then open up only as many areas as they can sell out, so they won’t be blacked out locally.

But, smart and Raiders don’t usually belong in the same sentence.

A’S TRADE: With Andre Ethier hitting well for the Dodger in a platoon role and Milton Bradley again on the disabled list, that trade looks like a stinker, but it might still be a bit early to evaluate it.

In recent years, the A’s have had three players who had comparable minor league seasons to Ethier’s 2005 season. Eric Chavez has been a solid player. Ben Grieve was Rookie of the Year but soon went into a decline and played himself out of baseball. Adam Piatt never did much. He’s out of the game now, as well.

My early evaluation of Chavez was that he would be a star, and I was always skeptical with Piatt because he couldn’t cover the outside of the plate against right-handed pitching. But I completely whiffed on Grieve. Though he was always a mediocre outfielder, I thought his sweet swing would keep him around for a long time.

ATHETE BRAIN LOCK: I had no sooner written that Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident wouldn’t be a lesson for other athletes than Esteban Loaiza got a DUI while driving in excess of 100 mph. That goes beyond stupid.

MENDOZA LINE: Ever since Mario Mendoza hit .198 in 148 games for Seattle in 1979, a .200 batting average has been known as the “Mendoza line.” When Mark McGwire was hitting .201 in 1991, Tony La Russa kep him out of the final game so he wouldn’t dip below that.

“When hitters fall below that mark early in the season, they have real problems getting over it,” noted A’s hitting coach Gerald Perry when I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. “When they get over the Mendoza line, they usually take off.” That seemed to be true this year for Frank Thomas, Dan Johnson and Mario Scutaro, but now the A’s have fallen into another hitting funk, with back-to-back shutouts in Denver – and they’ve blamed it on the humidor. Come on, guys. Look in the mirror.

WORLD SERIES: The Players Association has agreed to an extension of the plan to let the league which wins the All-Star game host four of the World Series games, if it goes seven games. That’s bad news for the National League, which again appears to be the weaker league, trailing by a wide margin in inter-league play. Last weekend was especially embarrassing. American League teams won 29 of the 42 games, though 10 of the 14 series were played in National League parks.

JOE MONTANA, AUTHOR: Having written one book, “The Winning Spirit,” with his friend, Tom Mitchell, Joe Montana is contemplating a children’s book now. “It’s just in the talking stage,” he said, “but Tom is pursuing it.”

Though many 49er fans would like to see Montana coaching Alex Smith, it isn’t going to happen. “They (49ers) need to do their own thing now,” he said. In fact, Montana isn’t going back to coach Brady Quinn at Notre Dame, either, as he did last spring. Quinn went on to have a fine year, but the only football in which Montana is engaged now is throwing the ball in the backyard with his sons.

He’s keeping busy, though, traveling around the country to give talks on a medicine which helps reduce high blood pressure and prevent strokes. Last week he was in San Francisco; this week, he’s in Alabama. It’s a message close to his heart, literally. In 2004, a physical revealed that he had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and he had to change his eating habits drastically. “I used to be able to sit down and eat a whole bag of potato chips,” he told me last year.


CRUISE WITH ME: I am organizing a sports-oriented cruise of the Panama Canal, Feb. 16 to March 3, starting in San Diego and ending in Fort Lauderdale, aboard Holland America’s Volendam. While we’re at sea, we will have sports seminars and discussions about your favorite teams. For further information and prices, please contact my travel agent, Janice Hough, at JaniceHough@yahoo.com.

RADIO: I’ll be on with Gary Radnich at 10 a.m. Thursday on KNBR.

EXAMINER COLUMN: There’s now a link at the bottom of my home page for my Examiner column.

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