The Oakland A’s won on Monday night, increasing their record to 71-48. That’s the fourth-best mark in all of MLB, and at the moment they have a firm grip on a Wild Card and sit just two games behind the heavily favored defending champions in the AL West. And yet, their latest victory over the division rival Mariners was witnessed by only 10,400 spectators.
It’s a tale as old as Oakland baseball, with plenty of background behind it. Outside of a couple brief windows of popularity, the A’s are notorious for not drawing big crowds to their games. There are countless well-chronicled factors, some of them the team’s fault and some out of their control, but the bottom line is always the same. They’ve cracked two million fans just once in the last 13 seasons, and a successful year is one in which they crawl from 28th in the league up toward 20th. You have to go back to 1992 to find them in the top half of MLB in attendance.
The current squad has noticed, and they would like to politely request a change.
Chaptain America has a PSA for all A's fans pic.twitter.com/i5dwZ9QpD4— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 14, 2018
No excuses to watch tonight’s game from home! Free parking, tickets available for less than $20, kids attend free, 1/2 off Don Julio cocktails in the oh and the @Athletics are playing lights out! https://t.co/lQHe4ANtFU— Chris Giles (@chrisgiles01) August 14, 2018
To the A’s credit, they’ve notched some major triumphs in terms of attendance this year. Their “free game” in April unofficially drew over 46,000 non-paying fans, and when the Giants came to town in July they set a Coliseum record with more than 56,000 butts in the seats. More recently, they broke 30,000 thrice in their last homestand — once for fireworks, and twice against the relatively local Dodgers.
However, they’re still struggling to pack the house when the only thing on display is wildly exciting A’s baseball. There can’t be free tickets, a post-game show, or a geographic rival every day, after all. Granted, Monday had its own excuses, as a chilly August night after a hot summer and the first day of school for many families in the area. But it was only one of many quiet evenings, and those same reasons don’t explain the week before, nor the month before that.
That’s fair enough, though. Ray Ratto at NBCS reminds us that this situation hasn’t come out of nowhere. The A’s still must contend with the damage done by previous management groups, and that will take time:
There is, after all, the long and troubling history of the team trying to leave town and slagging off their ballpark at every opportunity in the interim, a message that, having been delivered often enough, has finally reached the fan base at its core. There is a long history of roster churn, of moving familiar and even popular players for prospects, or money, or both. The word-of-mouth view of the A’s, rightly or wrongly, is, “They don’t want to be here, and they tell us the ballpark sucks. Okay, we believe them. Plus, who are these guys?”
And finally, it takes a lot of data to shift public opinion, rather than like an ocean liner reversing course. Two months isn’t enough in this town, and never has been.
There are a little over six weeks left in this season, and the A’s are doing everything possible to attract attention both on and off the field. They should be commended for those efforts, and they should continue to try as hard as they can to sell their product. But Ratto is right that some patience will be required here, because this isn’t an atmosphere that can be fixed overnight.
All that said, though, this is the one part of the sport where we the fans can make an actual difference. If you like baseball and the A’s and you haven’t been to a game yet this year, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better time than now.