Despite stadium issues, A’s have become a destination team 

click to enlarge Jeff Samardzija was happy to leave the Cubs for the A’s, who already had the best record in baseball before getting the top trade prize. - BEN MARGOT/AP FILE PHOTO
  • Ben Margot/AP file photo
  • Jeff Samardzija was happy to leave the Cubs for the A’s, who already had the best record in baseball before getting the top trade prize.

Take a bow, A's fans. You've pulled off the impossible.

You've made Oakland a baseball destination, and that's the first huge step toward getting the respect and attention that you've so hated to see go to the Giants for so long.

The Billy Beane-as-GM Era A's have had their share of success. More than their fair share, really. Look around. There are Major League Baseball fan bases galore that haven't sniffed the postseason for years, yet with the exception of the regrettable Bob Geren-as-Manager Era (2007-11), Oakland's relatively small but -- altogether now -- passionate fan base have watched their boys in the playoffs damn near annually.

Granted, they've had a hell of a time getting past that pesky American League Division Series. And the one time they did, in 2006, they got swept in the AL Championship Series by (who else?) the Detroit Tigers, fired very successful manager Ken Macha and ushered in Geren to oversee five years of the baseball equivalent of eating tortilla chips made soggy by the pico de gallo juice your Uncle Isaac spilled all over the place.

But, hey, it's better to have loved and lost, right? A lot of fans out there would kill to be backing clubs known for early October exits, and let's face it: that's what the Billy Beane Era A's are known for.

Well, that and "Moneyball." And "Aces."

(I'm kidding. Book sellers are now willing to pay YOU to take their stock of my 2005 homage to the early-career brilliance of Tim Hudson-Mark Mulder-Barry Zito off their shelves.)

Despite all that winning, though, and for obvious reasons, the A's have never been known for being an attractive home city for players.

The Giants have been. They've got the sweet digs, the monster fan base, the sellout crowds, the big-market money. Who wouldn't want a piece of that? Traded to the Giants, a typical player would respond with, "Yes, please."

Nobody in their right mind wanted a trade to the A's. Remember Matt Holliday? Dude never even unpacked after arriving from the Colorado Rockies, and he couldn't get out of Oakland fast enough. It was laughable. Notoriously frugal, housed in a dump of a yard and playing in a city strangely noncommittal about them at the civic-leadership level, the A's have never, under Beane, been a team to which anyone of real value wanted to go.

Until now.

What's changed? Well, the notorious frugality has been dialed back a bit. That's helped. But the yard remains a dump, and the local government still seems to take for granted what the team really does mean to its citizens.

So why the huge smile on the face of Jeff Samardzija when he checked into the home dugout at O.co Coliseum after the Swap that Slapped San Francisco Silly?

It's the fans, man. They've slowly but surely turned the Coli into a nightly party. They've become baseball's version of the Warriors' rabid fan base, but with a slightly sharper edge. Just ask Hunter Pence.

In short, they've made the experience of playing in Oakland a blast. And the team is back to regular playoff appearances, so what's not to love?

Sewage? Rainouts without rain? Mayor Jean Quan? Sure. But winning and fun is all the modern player needs these days, and thanks to Oakland's collegial fans, more and more modern players are looking west and seeing more than Orange and Black.

They see drums and flags and signs and W's, and they say, "I want me some of THAT!"

About The Author

Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban

Bio:
Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).
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