The Oakland Athletics may win the division, but no one is watching

gmilner
OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 01: Matt Chapman
OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 01: Matt Chapman /
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If the Oakland Athletics win the division, and no one is around to see it, did it really happen?

The Oakland Athletics game time attendance at the Coliseum last night: 10,400 people. The A’s are right smack in the middle of a division race against the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros, but you wouldn’t know it from the fan turnout.

The story should be that the Oakland Athletics are up against the Mariners with a chance to put some distance between the two teams for the second Wild Card position. Instead, the narrative on Monday evening turned towards the sea of empty seats at the game.

For some perspective, the game time attendance last night at Comerica Park in Detroit for the Tigers-White Sox game was 20,964. This, for two teams who will be playing golf in October when the playoffs roll around.

You see, it doesn’t get any better than this for A’s fan. This team is performing and playing exceptional baseball. There are players on this ball club who are incredibly easy to fall in love with. The A’s are just two games back of the ‘Stros for the division lead… so where are the fans?

Love/Hate

The Oakland Unified School District start date happened to be last night. Families are a big part of the crowd makeup at the game. Perhaps that had something to do with the numbers.  Maybe it was the fall football-like temps in August at game-time.

Maybe it was the Monday blues.  Who wants to start off the work week with a night at the ballpark cheering on the hottest team in baseball?

Or… maybe, just maybe, it’s the elephant in the room. Let’s move the team to San Jose. Let’s move the team to Sacramento. Let’s trade off Yoenis Cespedes, Nick Swisher, Rich Harden, Josh Donaldson, and if you’re old enough to remember the heartache, Jose Canseco.

This blog isn’t an exercise in placing blame on the fans for not showing up. All of you have your reasons.

Your children started school. There is no higher priority. You had to work. Not everyone is blessed with a 9-5 gig. It’s too expensive and money is tight. I’ve been there.

But if your reason is because you’re scared or because you’re still harboring anger and resentment towards ownership, let’s put our cards out on the table and talk this through.

It is better to have loved and lost…

We all know it’s a conflicting experience to be an A’s fan. The anguish isn’t about being competitive or wins and losses. After all, the Oakland Athletics have made the playoffs eight times since 2000.

Instead, it’s about the journey required to stay competitive as a small market team. It’s a road paved with affliction and tears. It requires us as fans to open our hearts and embrace a player who, if good enough, will be wearing another team’s uniform in short order.

Stay on the path long enough, and cynicism will set in. Distrust of ownership develops. The heart becomes guarded.

I have a #16 Athletics jersey hanging in my closet. It was the jersey I wore while begging the A’s to beat the Yankees in the 2001 AL Divisional Series.

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It was also the jersey I wore while I watched #16, Jason Giambi, play in that series, knowing he was auditioning for the very team we were trying to surpass in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Giambi will always be a bittersweet reminder of what being an A’s fan is all about. The 2000 AL MVP and runner up for the same award in 2001 captured our hearts and then broke them when he signed a $120 million dollar contract to play for the Yanks after the 2001 season ended.

The worst part was there wasn’t anyone to blame. The market dictated Giambi’s worth and as a player, you’d be foolish not to sign for top dollar. Ownership recognized signing Giambi to a massive contract would be prohibitive moving forward if they were to field a competitive team.

It was a breakup without any type of closure. Nobody to find fault with. Those are the worst kind, aren’t they?

I haven’t worn the jersey since. It hangs in the closet, right next to my Cespedes and Donaldson jerseys. They serve as memorials to relationships I had to say goodbye to, much too soon.

Matt Chapman

Your heart can’t take another breakup. You stay away from the ball park because you can’t stand to fall in love only to have to say goodbye yet again. I understand.

But this is a new team, full of new promise, new possibilities, playoff aspirations, and a special once in a generation 3rd baseman. And honestly, the best cure for a broken heart has always been a new romance.

Matt Chapman is that next elite A’s player that will steal your heart. He deserves our attention and support… for however long he is wearing the green and gold.

Chapman is a black hole at 3rd base. Nothing escapes his glove, nothing. It’s difficult to envision a situation in which he doesn’t win a Gold Glove this season.

He regularly makes impossible defensive plays look routine and now his bat has brought on MVP whispers as the calendar closes in on September.

What is most important, is that Chapman plays HARD. Every play. You won’t see him lose focus for even a moment when he’s out on the field. He simply doesn’t know how to play the game any other way.

In an age full of “me first” prima donnas, Matt Chapman is everything that is right with baseball and the type of inspirational player that is worth buying a ticket to watch.

He’s playing his heart out on that diamond for all of us to see and asking… no, rather, begging for people to come watch. Have a look.

This was Matt Chapman pleading to fans last night after the game courtesy of NBCS. Chapman is about as genuine as they come and that sincerity bleeds through the screen.

He knows something special is brewing right now in Oakland and with the exuberance of a young boy asking his parents to stop what they’re doing and watch him for a moment, he’s asking that we take the time to watch the magic that’s unfolding over at 7000 Coliseum Way.

Forgive and forget

You’ve felt alienated and disenfranchised by the decisions ownership has had to make in the past for the greater good. I get it.  I’ve been right there along with you for the ride.

I’ve said my share of goodbyes to players I was emotionally invested in as an Athletics fan.  I have a closet full of jerseys to prove it.

But it doesn’t have to be about the owners or the millions of dollars involved.  Compartmentalize it. Tell yourself it’s about these players. The ones wearing the green and gold right now.

The guys who are playing amazing baseball each and every night for any of you who willing to come watch. They each have a story to tell to anyone who will listen.

Time heals all wounds. It’s time to get back to the ballpark. An opportunity to take a chance and fall in love with Oakland Athletics baseball again is here again. Matt Chapman is a great place to start.

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Hit the pause button on life for a few hours tonight and come watch Chappy flash the leather. Lose yourself in watching Oly scoop up yet another ball out of the dirt at 1st base. Let a smile creep over your face as you watch “Khrush” Davis send another home run over the wall.

Let go of past frustrations and immerse yourself in the A’s playoff push. You’ll be surprised at how good it feels to be back.

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