The early part of every MLB season produces some surprise teams. This year, the Nats have been underachieving through the first 13 games with a 6-7 record. The Mets are an astonishing 10-1; everyone knows that will not last. For me, a really big early surprise team is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Common wisdom was that the Pirates had gutted their roster trading away Andrew McCutcheon and Gerrit Cole and that the team was diving into a rebuild. So far, the Pirates are 9-3 and – even though that will not be sustainable – they are playing very well.
The secret to the Pirates winning is not particularly complicated. They are scoring runs in bunches; they have scored 77 runs so far this year and that is 11 more runs than any other National League team has scored; the Pirates average 6.4 runs per game. When a team scores 6.4 runs per game they are going to win a whole lot of those games – – unless of course the team scoring all those runs is the 1930 Phillies who had a pitching staff that had a team ERA for the season of 6.71. Yes, that is the MLB record for the highest team ERA for a full season.
So far in 2018, the Oakland A’s have not been all that surprising; they are 5-8 in their first 13 games. Here is something else about the A’s that is not all that surprising:
- In 2017, the A’s averaged 18,219 fans per game; that ranked 29th in MLB.
- In 2018, the A’s average 15,212 fans per game; that ranks 29th in MLB.
The A’s had a 4-game homestand against the Rangers. The total attendance for those four games was 34,613 fans or 8,653 fans per game. I understand why attendance was not great:
- It is early in the season and the weather is not great.
- The team is not very good.
- The stadium experience is better than being in a porta-potty – but not much better.
The problem that the A’s – and MLB as a whole – must acknowledge is that something has to be done here. It has been a long and fruitless process by which the A’s and MLB have sought to get a new stadium in the Bay Area. The city of Oakland does not have tons of spare revenue to spend on a new stadium but at the same time the city of Oakland has not been helpful in terms of identifying venues where anyone could build a stadium. The Coliseum is a mess; the city lost one franchise already – the Raiders – largely due to the fact that the Coliseum is a mess. I will not be surprised to hear that the A’s are also in the “relocation rotation”.
I can think of two natural landing spots for the Oakland A’s:
- Las Vegas: The NHL is there and doing well. The NFL is heading there and there is a $1.9B stadium going up as we speak. The new arena where the Golden Knights play seats about 20,000 fans so it would not be a shock to see an NBA team there one of these days. MLB would not have to juggle its divisions because Las Vegas can easily fit into the logistics of an AL West team. The population of Clark County – where Las Vegas exists – was 2.1 million in 2015; that is enough to support sports franchises well.
- Portland: The NBA is there and doing well. MLS is there and is doing very well. Putting the A’s there would create an immediate rivalry situation with the Seattle Mariners. The population of Portland is 635,000 which is about the same size as Seattle and Denver – both of which support MLB franchises.
[Aside: Montreal is a venue that MLB should consider for future relocations; the city does not fit well as a venue for the A’s because it would require a shuffling of the division teams in the AL but if/when a team in the East needs to move… Fans gave up on the Expos because of the stadium; with a real venue in place, baseball in Montreal would work.]
For the 2018 season, the A’s will likely rank 28th or 29th in MLB in average attendance. They seem to be protected from finishing 30th by the Miami Marlins who should have the lowest average attendance by a sizeable margin. So far this year, the Marlins are drawing only 12,641 to home games. Doing some math, that projects to a total attendance for the year of only 1.02M fans.
Finally, Scott Ostler had this comment in the SF Chronicle recently. It speaks to the stadium experience for Oakland A’s games:
“Nice new touch at the Coliseum, where the A’s are creating a vegetable garden near the right-field flag poles. Not really surprising, though, considering how the team has gone to seed the past three years.
“Fertilizing the A’s new garden will be simple. Just divert the sewage overflows from the clubhouse to the garden.”
But don’t’ get me wrong, I love sports………