1-on-1 with A's owner Lew Wolff
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OAKLAND -- A’s co-owner Lew Wolff spoke with Comcast SportsNet’s Kate Longworth on Wednesday to clarify controversial comments he made recently about lackluster attendance in Oakland. USA Today published an article Tuesday that quoted Wolff saying the small crowds showing up to the O.co Coliseum while the A’s are close to clinching their second straight division title are "depressing."
Wolff held court on the field with a media scrum before Wednesday’s game, then met with Longworth for an exclusive on-camera interview in which he was candid about his attendance-related disappointment and his hopes for a future baseball-only home for the A’s.
“Here, you’re down right at the end, and it would be nice for the ballplayers and the energy to have more people here,” Wolff said. “It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it would be more fun.”
Ironically, Wolff’s quotes in USA Today came out on the same day the A’s passed their attendance total from last season. According to the team, it’s the fourth straight year of increased attendance.
If Wolff knows why a contending team can’t draw larger crowd numbers, he isn’t sharing.
“It’s a mystery to me. Is it the venue? Is it the market? Is it the fan base? Is it the corporation base? Baseball is asking that, not just of the A’s, but Cleveland and Tampa Bay.
“We’re confused. We don’t know. We always think if you put a winning team on, you’ll do pretty well. And we are doing pretty well. So it’s a mystery, but it’s not the end of the world, either.”
Last season, as the A’s went on a remarkable run to catch and pass the Texas Rangers for the AL West title, the O.co Coliseum saw its fair share of sold-out crowds in September. And in the two home games against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, players from both teams were amazed by the noise and energy.
“I think home-field advantage is a true word, a serious thing,” Wolff said. “I think [general manager] Billy Beane would agree.”
While Beane has done his job and put a polished on-field product together, Wolff has continued to dedicate efforts to finding a new home for the A’s. And he hasn’t been shy about it, either, something that has bothered a contingent of Oakland fans.
“I just want a new location so that its more compact, a single sport, just like the Raiders want for themselves. But I’m getting a little older, so maybe somebody in my office will have to take care of that.”
Whether it’s Wolff or an underling leading the campaign, their efforts will remain fruitless if MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Wolff’s fellow owners don’t green-light a move. Despite the lack of progress made on that front, Wolff said he’s not losing his patience.
“I don’t get frustrated easily,” he said. “We’re a loyal member of a partnership in baseball. And we’re trying to follow the direction of the commissioner. Sometimes it’s a little harder than others, but we’re also very successful in other areas, like on the field, and that’s really more important than the venue to me right now.
Wolff spoke with Longworth behind home plate, where the yard-line markers for Oakland Raiders home games are clearly visible. While football players have long complained about dealing with O.co’s dirt infield, Wolff has yet to hear complaints from any A’s.
“Look at the outfield here. We’re playing football and baseball on it, but we’re still there every day. And players don’t seem to worry about it. And as long as they’re not worried about it, I’m not worried about it.”
Wolff’s quotes Wednesday suggest a more reasonable attitude than what came across in the USA Today story, but it’s clear he’s not happy with the current situation. Look no further than his response when Longworth asked him if a deeper postseason run could help the A’s stadium cause.
“If I haven’t been able to get it by now, I’m not sure that anything further helps anymore than what we’ve done.”