We weren’t ever quite sure this day would come, but it finally has. Lew Wolff has rammed the last shoe in his closet right down his gullet.
The Athletics’ minority owner/front man decided, after years of telling the people of Oakland how little he and majority owner John Fisher valued their patronage, that they should be ashamed of not attending games in greater numbers and force.
This is, in sum, the man who just bumped you off a rooftop and down to the street below SAYING that you should have overcome gravity.
Wolff unburdened himself to Bob Nightengale of USA Today with a string of quotes that would have been incendiary if they weren't so essentially hilarious, starting with:
“There is something wrong here. You would think that with our lead, people would want to come out, count down the magic numbers, and all that stuff. Even if you're not a loyal fan, you would think this time of year, where the teams are in the standings, and where every game means something, people would come out.”
Actually, what you would think is that the proprietor would have the good sense not to blame the customers for not misunderstanding the relationship between the two. Put another way, it is not the job of the customer to do the owner a favor. It is the job of the owner to lure the customer.
And Wolff and Fisher have been as useful to the process as anthrax is to breakfast.
“It's depressing,” Wolff contributed. “I really expected the crowds to be huge this week. I had a player come up to me and say, ‘I feel sorry for you, Mr. Wolff.’ I told him, ‘Just keep pitching. And whatever you do, don't look into the stands.’”
Another grand idea, that. Tell the player to ignore the customer because the customer hurt the owner’s feelings. Oh, Lew, you were such a more effective communicator when you weren’t speaking at all.
But that is the essential disconnect that Wolff and the hologrammatic Fisher have lived with since they first decided they were in the wrong town. They have operated on the theory that someone else has to solve their location problem. Bud Selig . . . Jerry Reinsdorf . . . the mythical blue ribbon panel . . . San Jose mayor Chuck Reed . . . the ghost of Walter Haas. You name it.
But the A’s remain in Oakland against Wolff’s and Fisher’s wills because they have failed repeatedly to make a compelling case that they need to go to San Jose to thrive. Wolff has said he hasn’t buttonholed other owners. He has repeatedly relied upon Selig to carry the water for him while Selig was making it abundantly clear that he carries nothing unless there’s a very good political reason for him to do so.
And now, having failed to do the political begging and backscratching one needs to get any owner to act on one's behalf, they have sat back and watched Reed and attorney Joe Cotchett try to bring baseball and its army of lawyers and resources to their knees via a lawsuit.
If there are any other ways to tell Oakland how much it is hated, Wolff has not yet thought of them.
But now, he decides the town needs a fresh chiding. Pure, unadulterated genius – the same genius he applied with the North of Coliseum plan, and the Fremont plan, and the Dither About Waiting for Bud plan.
Well, here is an indisputable fact. If people aren’t coming to someone’s stand, it isn’t their fault. It’s yours. They are under no civic, moral or ethical obligation to please the owner. This relationship is true in every vein of commerce, and Wolff’s decision to make this a matter of his disappointment shows yet again the general misconception he, and frankly most owners, hold about the relationship between them and the moneybearers they wish to seduce.
He’d have been better letting former A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy do his talking for him: Again, from the Nightengale story:
“You can only spend so much time complaining about it. It's not the best ballpark in the world. But the fans that are there are awesome," McCarthy told Nightengale. "They know the playoffs are coming. And during the playoffs, that's one of the best sports atmospheres I've ever been around.”
And from current third baseman Josh Donaldson:
“I don't know if I really have a comment. We appreciate all the fans that we do have, and the fans that come out here. We respect that. We know that when it comes playoff time, this place is going to be bumping.”
Instead, we got this from Wolff The Fence-Builder:
“It would just be nice if people didn't wait until the playoffs to show up.”
Yeah, and it would be nice if he didn’t keep leading with his face by leading with his mouth. He doesn't sound much different than Charlie Finley did when he was the most reviled man in town.