Who is the worst owner in modern Bay Area sports history? The A’s Lew Wolff.
Others might nominate John York, who took the 49ers from Super Bowls to also-rans, but York was at least trying, and he’s turned the team over to his son, Jed, who has made a coaching hire with Jim Harbaugh that should turn the team around.
Chris Cohan was no bargain with the Warriors, but he was trying to win, and he didn’t threaten to move the team.
Al Davis did move the Raiders, earning undying enmity from the first generation of Raiders fans, but before he left, he had produced teams with great, exciting players who played in three Super Bowls and won two of them.
Charlie Finley was a despicable character, but he gave Oakland three World Series championships.
In contrast, Wolff and John Fisher, his money man, have taken the A’s from a perennially contending team which drew more than 2 million people a year and turned it into an also-ran which is near the bottom in attendance each year. Not easy, but Wolff has been determined to run down the franchise so he can argue that he should be allowed to move to San Jose.
When Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann bought the A’s from the Haas family, they were hammered by fans and members of the media who didn’t do their homework for cutting payroll drastically. In fact, as I learned when I talked to club general manager Sandy Alderson, they were following his advice, to dump the overpaid, underproducing older players and put the money into the farm system.
Schott and Hofmann did that and soon the farm system was producing players such as Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi and Eric Chavez, along with the big three of starting pitchers: Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.
Now, the A’s are still producing pitchers, but can’t seem to develop hitters at all.
From 2000 to 2006, with the players developed while Schott and Hofmann were in charge, the A’s were in the postseason five times and reached the ALCS in 2006. Only once in that stretch did they win fewer than 91 games (88 in 2005) and they twice went over 100 wins. In 2002, they set an American League record with 20 straight wins.
They went over 2 million in attendance for five straight years. They regularly drew more than 50,000 for games against teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Giants.
Since 2006, the A’s have not been close to the playoffs. Attendance has declined every year under Wolff-Fisher until last year, when it improved a miniscule 10,000. One Yankees game this year drew only 22,000.
This is the way Wolff wants it. He’s done everything he can to force attendance down, closing off almost all the upper deck, ending the popular Fan Fest, sending out media emails prior to seasons saying he has no interest in Oakland. Though he and Fisher are, according to Forbes magazine, the fourth-richest owners in baseball, they’ve spent no money on comforts for fans, content to collect revenue-sharing money from other clubs each year.
The South has tornadoes, the East Coast has hurricanes, Oakland has Lew Wolff.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.