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Fan confidence back on the rise as Oakland A’s get hot again

The A’s are finally making their push toward 2019 contention.

Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Welcome to SB Nation FanPulse, a survey of fans across MLB. Each week, we send 30 polls to plugged in fans from each team. A’s fans, click HERE to learn more and join FanPulse.

A’s fans were asked on Monday if they have confidence in the direction of the team, and the result was a resounding “Yes!” The final tally was 87% approval, a huge spike from the previous week and the highest we’ve seen in five weeks.

The A’s treaded water for most of June, and on June 23 they were the same three games over .500 that they had been on May 28. Fan confidence puttered along during that inconsistent time span, most recently landing at 67% each of the last two weeks. But then Oakland put together a 5-1 week against the Cardinals and Angels, on the heels of a 5-2 week preceding it, and now folks are beginning to believe once more.

Better yet, the A’s have continued that roll, going 3-2 since the survey to rise to eight games above the .500 mark. Last week we were waiting to find out just who this team is, and their response so far is that they want to be a legit Wild Card contender.

The recent success has been fueled by contributions from around the roster. The starting rotation has stayed strong despite the loss of suspended ace Frankie Montas, and the pitching staff tossed a pair of shutouts in the week before this survey. The bullpen, which has surprisingly been the team’s top roadblock so far, has settled down around newly minted closer Liam Hendriks, who has been so dominant lately that he earned an All-Star berth last week.

As for the offense, they averaged nearly six runs per game in the week before the survey, led by seven total homers from the two Matts. One of them, Matt Chapman, earned his own All-Star berth as well as a spot in the Home Run Derby. The other, Matt Olson, has continued smashing and is close to seizing the team lead in dingers despite missing the first month of the season.

The A’s 87% fan rating ranks them eighth among MLB fanbases, trailing the Astros (96%), Braves, (96), Padres, (93), Twins (93), Rangers (92), Yankees (91), and Brewers (90). Bringing up the rear are the Mets (8%), Cardinals (21%), Pirates (27%), and Red Sox (27%).

Fans were asked about manager Bob Melvin as well, and everyone still loves him. His approval rating climbed up to 97%, from 92% the previous week, and his latest mark is his highest since Week 4 of the season. He’s yet to dip below 82% in any week, even when the overall team confidence has fallen as low as 51%, so clearly Athletics Nation has faith in their skipper beyond just the current standings. Only Chris Woodward (Rangers, 100%), Rocco Baldelli (Twins, 100%), and A.J. Hinch (Astros, 98%) scored higher ratings last week, while six teams’ managers ranked at 60% or lower.

As for the national question, it had to do with each team getting representation at the All-Star Game. Personally, I voted Yes on this question.

With 32 spots on each league’s roster, plus several more players making it as replacements for injuries or Sunday starters, I believe there is space to let every team (and thus every fanbase) get involved. That’s especially true now that the game is a pure exhibition and the result doesn’t affect the postseason anymore — it’s for fun, so let everyone have fun. When I was growing up following bad A’s teams in the 90s, I can remember being excited to tune in just to see my lone rep among the other stars, so I think it’s worth getting everyone involved even if you have to go out of your way a bit to do it.

To me, the every-team rule isn’t just acceptable, it’s fundamentally one of the points of the entire All-Star Game. The NBA is different because it’s a more individual, star-driven league, and the All-Star rosters are so much smaller that there mathematically aren’t enough spots for every team anyway. But baseball is a more regional sport and rosters are much bigger, which both dilutes the individual national star power and also provides enough room logistically to include every team.

If it came down to it, I’d sooner add a couple roster spots to fit in reps from every team, rather than cut out the every-team rule. A more complex option could be to add some kind of bonus exception for lone reps who wouldn’t otherwise be deserving on their own merit, so that they aren’t stealing spots from superior players. But if you hold an MLB All-Star Game that omits some MLB teams, then you’re doing it wrong and missing a huge portion of the point of the exercise.