A's Attendance, Baron Davis, Barry Zito
by Glenn Dickey
Jul 02, 2008

EVERYBODY HAS been wondering why the A’s attendance is down, though the team has been entertaining and in the race for the postseason. This is the same franchise that drew as many as 2.9 million fans, then the Bay Area record, so it isn’t a lack of interest. But the A’s promotional efforts have been a joke. Sometimes, it seems as if they’re determined to alienate their fans.

If they really want to get their fans back, here are some steps they should take:

--Open up the third deck at the Coliseum.

There is no single move the current ownership has done that has more alienated the fans than taking away these cheap seats, which also have great views of the game. I used to sit there during games myself, talking to fans and enjoying the old-time feel. The views are actually better than from the luxury suites behind the outfield, from which outfielders can’t be seen when they’re chasing falls near the right-field fence.

The A’s did this to try to encourage more season ticket sales and avoid those games where they had huge walkups. They guard the information on season ticket sales closely, probably because they don’t want to admit how low they are, but it seems the chief change is that they haven’t even been able to sell out the Yankees series, which used to draw crowds up to 50,000. That doesn’t sound like a smart business decision to me.

The A’s have to open up the upper deck when the Raiders play exhibition games. Why not do it during the All-Star break this year and send a message to their fans that they really care?

--Quit hyping tickets for the real estate project in Fremont.

Frankly, I have serious doubts that will ever happen but just talking about it is kicking their current fans in the teeth. If that park is ever built, with no BART access and gridlock on 880 during commute hours, it will be virtually inaccessible to fans from San Leandro/Hayward north, as well as the fans in Contra Costa County who now use BART to get at games in the Coliseum.

Lew Wolff obviously feels that it is more important to get fans from San Jose with the proposed new park, but that also is sending a clear message to Oakland area fans that he doesn’t give a damn about them. I’ve talked to many fans in Oakland who no longer go to games, and the constant refrain is, “They don’t care about Oakland, so why should I care about them?” Why, indeed?

--Spend some money on the broadcasting team.

When the Haas family bought the A’s, the first thing club president Roy Eisenhardt did was to hire Bay Area broadcasting icons Bill King and Lon Simmons, correctly reasoning that they were the club’s chief contact with fans.

The current ownership has a different philosophy: Go cheap. They got lucky with Ken Korach, who’s the best play-by-play announcer in the Bay Area, and Marty Lurie, who’s a free lancer and not directly employed by the A’s, does a great job with his “Right Off the Bat” and “Baseball Memories” shows, but the rest of the broadcasting crew, radio and television, should be scrapped.

Next year, the A’s may be able to switch to a 50,000-watt radio station, KTRB, but even that won’t be enough without a different cast. They need to get quality announcers in. Of course, that would cost money, so they’ll never do it.

The A’s have made one good move in recent weeks, hiring Bob Rose to head up their media department. Rose is an old pro who has worked both sides of the Bay, for Stanford and Cal, for the Giants and the A’s, as well as nationally, for the USFL as a whole and individual teams.

But they need to do much more. Their promotional efforts have been gimmicky, like the “all you can eat” seats, which come accompanied by pretty much every type of fast food that is making Americans obese, or the one where they subtract $1 from some tickets for every hit the A’s get in the previous game. When the Giants announced their plans for a 50th anniversary, the A’s suddenly realized they’d been here 40 years and had a “throwback” game, featuring the awful uniforms of 1968. Would they have even remembered that they had an anniversay in Oakland if the Giants hadn’t announced their plans? Probably not. They’re too busy planning for what they hope will be their future in Fremont.

Frankly, the A’s promotions remind me of the Charlie Finley era. Finley was into the gimmicky promotions, half-price night, the “Moustache Gang” promotions. They worked so well the A’s couldn’t even draw a million one year during their run of three straight World Championships. The first season the Haas family owned the A’s, a strike cut the season by a third, but with promotional genius Andy Dolich running things, they still drew half again as many fans as a Finley team did in the championship seasons.

Dolich listened to the fans, to see what they wanted. Nobody in the current A’s organization seems to. Until they realize they have to give the fans what they want, attendance will continue to be shameful at the Coliseum.

BARON GONE: The Warriors were both a victim of the times and their own history in the Baron Davis situation. Yes, his departure leaves a tremendous void, which may not be filled soon. But long-term contracts in the NBA can be a burden for years, as the Warriors had discovered with some bad signings in recent years.

With his injury history, Davis was not a good candidate for the five-year contract he was seeking. He played in 82 games last season but the chances that he’ll come close to that again as he heads into 30s is not good. The Warriors gambled and lost in this case, but they were acting sensibly.

EARLY STARTS: The commissioner’s office should act quickly to ban 6:05 starts for games, which have become common for both the Giants and A’s this season.

They’re scheduled for Saturday nights because Fox has exclusivity on telecasts during the day. But the games are farcical because for the first three innings, the sun is in the hitters’ eyes. That increases the difficulty for hitters and it also increases the danger when they’re facing power pitchers. If a 98 mph fast ball gets away….

Enough, already. Don’t start these games before 7:30.

GIANTS STUFF: The return of Eliezer Alfonzo once again points out the absurdity of baseball’s drug policy. The only ones who have been caught are those who have been ratted out by former friends – or Latinos who don’t understand what they’re taking. Alfonzo wasn’t even in the majors at the time but because he was on the Giants 40-man roster, he was subject to the policy. But those who thinks the policy is keeping the game “clean” are deluding themselves. The big stars are smart enough, and rich enough, to take HGH, which doesn’t show up on the tests…I was amused, as I often am, by Barry Zito’s comments after his latest disaster, against the Cubs. He had just come off a 6 2/3 scoreless start against the Cleveland Indians and said he was puzzled by his lack of command against the Cubs. I wasn’t. The Indians are 28th in the majors in team hitting, at .247, and falling fast. The Cubs lead the majors with a .282 average. Zito knew he wasn’t in danger of getting lit up by the Indians, but he also knew that the Cubs would hit whatever he threw over the plate – which they did. The Giants are stuck with this guy for another 5 ˝ years. As I was saying about long-term contracts above…The danger for Giants executives is that they’ll be deluded by how the Giants are doing in the pathetically weak NL West, where the division-leading Diamondbacks are just at .500. A better measure of the Giants’ play this season is the fact that 24 major league teams have better records and only four have worse, two of them in their own division. They are working young players into the lineup, which bodes well for their future, but they still need to trade Randy Winn, to make room for Nate Schierholtz. Losing Winn might hurt them slightly this season, but he isn’t part of their future, which should be the main concern.

EXAMINER COLUMN: For some reason, this wasn’t posted unti mid-afternoon yesterday, but for those who missed it, you can access it now through the usual link at the bottom of my Home Page.

TICKETS FOR the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium and all baseball games, including the Giants and A’s are available on TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! . In the entertainment world, Madonna is back in the spotlight with her October tour and tickets are also available for Neil Diamond, Dave Matthew band and Wicked. Just click on the local or national links and everything will come up.

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