Josh Willingham is a mean, mean man whose bat yesterday looked like it was the size of a city light post. If we can just intentionally walk him eight times over the rest of this series with the Twins, I feel like a series victory is still a strong possibility.
Even after Ryan Cook received a new Minnesotan nightmare from the baseball gods yesterday, the A's still reside at the top of the A.L West, 2 games ahead of the suddenly punchless Texas Rangers. The A's are six full games ahead of falling out of the playoffs completely with 18 games left, and currently hold the second-best record in the American League by a half game over the Detroit Tigers.
Soooo, where are the fans? Don't get me wrong...the fans that do show up on a consistent basis make crowds in the 12,000-18,000 range sound like double the size. But, this was supposed to be the year where the A's could capture the imagination of the greater Bay Area as a whole, with the Giants sputtering in all facets of the game.
While the A's attendance is up, at 22,312 fans per game, they still sit at just 11th overall out of 15 teams in the American League in total attendance. Of course the fans will begin to trickle in as the games gain more and more weight, but it is still a worrisome trend that the A's have looked like the class of the American League at several points of this season, but still see the stadium only filled 25-30% to capacity on certain weeknights.
With this being said, I have come up with a three-part plan to gradually increase overall attendance at the Coliseum.
1. Expand cross-branding with BART, AC Transit, and other Bay Area transit providers.
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) already sponsors $2 Wednesdays, where select Plaza Outfield and Plaza Reserved seats are just two George Washingtons and a smile. This is a good start, however it leaves a lot of untapped potential to be realized.
The A's fan base has a very large contingent of mass transit users ready to be catered to. Color a bus or two in Green and Gold, and make it the Oakland A's party bus. Put the money into a weekend BART ticket validation promo, where riders can get either free tickets or a sharp discount by scanning valid game tickets at a BART terminal. Bend over backwards to ensure convenience, and the fans will come.
2. Market "Green Collar Baseball" as the antithesis of Giants' baseball.
Listen...despite the stabbing and fire and sadness and such, European "football" fans got it right. With so many clubs in such a close proximity to one another, fans of said clubs identify with certain marketed or assumed traits of their teams, and latch onto that as a sort of collective identity.
There is a plethora of money over on the other side of the Bay, with a beautiful stadium and fairie dust where farts should be. Oakland is not that city, has never been that city, and can't be that city.
So, market to those fans. Use buzz words like "real baseball" and add in some (relatively) good-natured jabs at the "wine and cheese" contingent paying triple digits for seats for a Giants game. Posit a "working-class vs. the upper class" dynamic (whether true or not,) and use that buzz to fill seats.
3. Embrace Oakland. (Or Fremont, or San Jose, or JUST CHOOSE DAMN IT!)
Listen. Major League Baseball is run by a bunch of fair-weather hypocrites, only protecting small markets inasmuch as to protect expanding revenues in bigger markets.
Lew Wolff is an intelligent man. Don't be a slave to the process. Remember all the remarks on national broadcasts last year during the playoffs on how amazing and LOUD the crowds are when they show up in Oakland? Take a stand and say exactly where you want to be and will be, business sense be damned.
Show a fan-base who is begging and pleading to give a holy frick that you give a holy frick, keep putting competitive baseball between the lines, and even if it's gradual, you will start seeing the Coliseum transform.
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