Welcome the Boys Back to Town

Well, the boys are back in town, and with an incredible winning month of July they have become THE story of the MLB 2012 season. The A’s are actually closer to first place now than they were at this time in the division-winning Moneyball season of 2002. Their turnaround has been remarkable and thrilling and, as we always do, we urge every fan to make it out to the Coliseum for this 10-game home stand and beyond. We want sell outs, big crowds and an electric atmosphere at every A’s home game.

Does Lew Wolff want that, too? On the face of it, it should be an absurd question. A pro sports team owner should want his team to win big — it’s more glory and money for him. Amazingly, we’re not so sure that a winning A’s team is what Wolff wants. Look at the San Jose Mercury News article on Wolff last week. Wolff had ample space in the long article to talk up the ballclub’s many exciting walkoff wins or the team’s unexpected and remarkable foray into the pennant race. But Wolff, a billionaire whose ownership group is the 4th-richest in all of baseball, didn’t talk about that at all. Instead, he whined about not getting what he really wants: a South Bay ballpark. Maybe that’s why Bay Area sportswriters likeLowell CohnMonte Poole and Scott Ostler recently questioned if Wolff wants the A’s to win. Ostler wrote:

“A valiant run for the playoffs would be a disaster to Wolff. It would mean more income, short-term, but it would undermine Lew’s master plan of convincing MLB owners that Oakland is a graveyard for baseball, that only a move to San Jose can save the franchise.”  

You may have noticed on our Facebook page that we have avoided stadium talk or criticism of Wolff in recent weeks. The reason is that there’s a time and place for everything. Just 30 days ago, the A’s record was 37-42, and they appeared to be headed for yet another losing season, the kind of forgettable, lackluster campaign to which A’s fans had, sadly, grown accustomed. But just 22 jaw-dropping games later, the A’s are shocking the world. It’s an awesome story. We’ve tried to focus on that. But if Wolff is going to divert attention away from the A’s players’ great season to further his greed-headed stadium agenda, then we must do the same — as temporarily and briefly as possible — in order to call him out on it.

Because of all of this, we’ll understand if there are a few games during this homestand where attendance is less than ideal — like say the weeknight games this week versus the Rays. Don’t get us wrong. We’re not giving excuses for that. We’re giving you an explanation. A fact-based explanation. The long and short of it is that while the A’s players and manager Bob Melvin are crafting a miracle right now that A’s fans are loving, Wolff — judging by the looks of that recent Mercury News article — doesn’t want that to be the focus. Sadly, he wants you to whine along with him about a South Bay ballpark that is, because of Wolff’s many mistakes, nothing but a pipe dream. And, until Wolff gets out of his own way, good luck with that.

In the meantime, every die-hard A’s fan (that means you) will be loving this surprising pennant race featuring our heroes in Green-and-Gold. Sometimes that will include a packed Coliseum crowd, sometimes not. An owner making a commitment to the franchise’s proud and loyal city of 45 seasons would solve that problem. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened since 1995. You know who is to blame for that.

Will Fisher/Wolff allow A’s to contend in 2nd half?

The A’s are 43-43 at the All-Star break, a far better record than most pundits predicted for this squad of mostly motley unknowns. With an extra wild-card spot this year, the A’s are just 2.5 games behind a postseason spot and they have a real chance to join the wide-open pennant race. The question is, according to the likes of Monte Poole and Ray Ratto today, is this: will team owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff let the A’s contend?
In a Wednesday column in the Oakland Tribune, Poole suggests that Wolff and Fisher (or, “Wisher,” as Lowell Cohn calls them) have never been committed to winning, and that they are probably surprised that the A’s are in the hunt for a playoff spot. He writes:

“They’re in it as Wolff and Fisher and even commissioner Bud Selig tell everyone they lack the resources to be in it.”

Poole then added that Fisher and Wolff might prefer pulling out of the race and holding yet another fire sale … “because it would serve their cause, allowing them to reiterate a familiar refrain. Being in Oakland, they insist, conveniently ignoring historical data, only means they’re 40 miles north of being able to compete.”
He ends his column with a call to arms, saying he wants Wolff and Fisher to encourage Beane to find the magic he last had during the Moneyball years. He writes:

“Such energy and fury have been missing around this franchise, lost to the archives — and drowned out by the falsetto whine of the Low Payroll Band singing an endless loop of the Territorial Rights Blues.” 

Ray Ratto, meanwhile, assessed the A’s chances in a column and used the occasion to identify the biggest problem with Wolff and Fisher. Ratto wrote that making roster moves with the goal of contending this summer would be“something to take people’s minds off ownership’s relentless whining about the South Bay.”

Ratto then added:

 “… it is time for ownership to face the fact that waiting for a ballpark before they get interested in their primary job is a losers’ proposition. It’s time, but they won’t follow it. They’re pot-committed to San Jose or sell, or maybe even San Jose AND sell, because for them this isn’t a living breathing baseball team, but an asset to be gussied up for market.”

So, amid the the A’s surprisingly strong first-half and all the fans’ optimism, there is an uneasy question: Will Wolff and Fisher — the notoriously stingy and San Jose-obsessed owners — spend the necessary money and focus on helping the A’s win? The answer will come in the next 30 to 45 days.