In the last two days, A’s fans have been met with very impactful news that the long-time ownership group led by managing partner Lew Wolff and majority investor John Fisher will be coming to a close. After 12 seasons at the helm, Wolff will be stepping down from the organization’s lead role and will be selling a large portion of his ownership stake to certain remaining owners. While the ownership change is not a majority stake, the change in control is meaningful.
So while the most recent 12 seasons of A’s baseball would best be described as the “Wolff-Fisher Era”, the current situation is a new beginning as truly the “Fisher Era”. What changes A’s fans will see from this transition remain highly uncertain, but it is certainly the dawn of a new era of Oakland A’s ownership structure.
Since Charlie O. Finley moved the Athletics to Oakland from Kansas City for the 1968 baseball season, there have been four ownership eras:
1968 to 1980 seasons (13) - Charlie O. Finley Era
1981 to 1995 seasons (15) - Walter A. Haas Era
1996 to 2004 seasons (9) - Steve Schott/Ken Hoffman Era
2005 to 2016 seasons (12) - Lew Wolff/John Fisher Era
We all know baseball is a game of stats. Especially in the increasingly “analytical era” of baseball, you have an explosive growth of statistics to measure player outcomes, as well as a jump in physics-related stats (e.g. “spin rate”, “exit velocity”, etc). Player performance is broken down to literally minute details, and it is exciting.
In the spirit of the vast expanse of stats in baseball, let’s take a look at some basic ownership stats of the four A’s ownership eras. (All data is per Baseball Reference).
Regular Season Win Percentage
We all love watching winning baseball through the year. Let’s look at the cumulative regular season win percentage for each era:
1. Schott/Hoffman 54.0% (“Moneyball”)
2. Charlie Finley 52.1%
3. Walter Haas 51.4%
4. Wolff/Fisher 50.3%
Props to all four ownership groups for achieving a cumulative winning record in each of their tenures. The A’s history in Oakland is certainly one that is full of winning tradition.
In what is certainly not a good thing as we enter 2017, all four ownership groups have shared experience in the same venue - the good old Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (and I mean old, but not old enough like Fenway or Wrigley to be properly vintage, old as in 1960s era dual use...) So, aside from the bad-for-baseball Mt. Davis mid-90s alteration, the venue has been the same location through all 49 years of A’s history.
In per game average figures:
1. Walter Haas 23,826
2. Wolff/Fisher 21,367
3. Schott/Hoffman 21,145
4. Charlie Finley 9,642
Interesting how far back from the pack the Finley Era was, given the success included in that time. Haas and Co. did a good job creating a new footing for excitement in Oakland A’s baseball, while the most recent two ownership groups have created winning programs, but have not seen a jump in attendance. Certainly the “market share” situation and the cross-Bay rivals completing a new park for the 2000 season has played a role in some of the stagnation.
It will be interesting to see if the new “Fisher Era” can complete their stated #1 priority of opening a new ballpark in Oakland and how that will potentially usher in new business success for the venerable franchise in a very strong but very competitive marketplace.
Playoff and Championship Success
The ultimate goal of any MLB franchise is to bring home a Commissioner’s Trophy. The Athletics franchise has 9 World Series titles in total and 4 in the 49 years in Oakland. Here is how the ownership groups have fared in playoff and championship success:
- Charlie Finley - 3 World Series titles in 3 appearances; 5 playoff appearances in 13 years (38.5%).
- Walter Haas - 1 World Series title in 3 appearances; 5 playoff appearances in 15 years (33.3%).
- Schott/Hoffman - 0 World Series appearances; 4 playoff appearances in 9 years (44.4%).
- Wolff/Fisher - 0 World Series appearances; 4 playoff appearances in 12 years (33.3%).
With each ownership group making the playoffs at least one third of the time, the A’s have shown that they can make plenty of runs to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the franchise has just one playoff series win since 1993. While the team has been there 8 times since then, the playoffs have presented a road block in the last two eras of ownership.
With Fisher taking the reins of control to go along with his majority stake, it will be very interesting to see how the new era compares to the four previous eras of Oakland A’s ownership. A’s fans have seen plenty of success, but certainly long for another shot at hanging a World Series banner. Will the Fisher Era succeed in securing another World Series to make it 5 in Oakland and 10 total? I believe. Go A’s!