Josh Donaldson ain't here for the bullsh-t, and he won't buy any false narratives about the alleged "small-market" label that Oakland usually gets tagged with.
The former third baseman for the Oakland Athletics recently shared his perspective on the team's fanbase and the perception of the A's as a small-market franchise in an interview with Gary Phillips of the New York Daily News.
Donaldson spoke candidly about the unwavering support of the dedicated Oakland fans and the challenges the organization has faced in cultivating a strong fanbase.
"I feel like I don’t know what the best solution is for everything," Donaldson started. "But I know that the fanbase in Oakland, like, the diehards there, they show up every day with support and love that team."
So, are the A's a team based on a small-market town, or are the owners of the franchise just trying to force that narrative and feed folks across the nation with that fabricated belief?
Donaldson might have the answer for you, and Dave Kaval and John Fisher are probably not going to like it: "As an organization throughout the years, I don’t know how much they’ve tried to build a fanbase."
Donaldson clearly emphasized the perception of the A's as a small-market team despite being located in one of the largest baseball markets, the Bay Area, is just hella fake.
The former Athletic attributed this perception to the team's willingness, or lack thereof, to invest in their roster and how the ownership has constantly killed the upside of the teams that were organically built within the A's system. "It gets perceived as a small-market team, but it’s only a small market because of what the franchise is willing to put out there. One of the wealthiest owners in all of baseball owns the A’s," Donaldson pointed out leaving the door open to a plethora of what-could-bes if the investment was on par with expectations.
Donaldson was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft but was later traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2008. He made his major league debut with the A's in 2010, and it was during his stint in Oakland that he truly made a name for himself becoming a bonafide superstar and a face of the sport.
Of course, after willing the A's toward postseason runs in 2012 and 2013, and after helping them clinch the American League West Division a couple of times, the Oakland A's decided to trade him following the 2014 season because that was cheaper than fairly paying for Donaldson's production to keep him in tow and keep building toward World Series contention.
During Donaldson's time with the A's, the team boasted a roster filled with star power. However, over the years, many of these star players were either traded away or left the team in free agency.
Donaldson believes that constant roster turnover can strain the loyalty of fans: "If you’re going to relocate and still kind of run the business the same way, I don’t think you’re going to get people to buy in. I hope they’re going into this with a different mindset from a business standpoint." That's a warning for yall, soon-to-be
Las Vegas-based fans.
As Donaldson (and pretty much everybody in this thing we call the world) sees it, a potential relocation to Las Vegas isn't necessarily bad but it should be accompanied by a change in approach to the business of baseball that "prioritizes fan engagement and aims to rebuild a loyal following," mostly by paying fair value for production and to keep the team the A's build together for more than pre-arbitration/free-agency years.
The A's, as an organization, will have an extraordinary opportunity to redefine their relationship with their new fans in Las Vegas and build a stronger connection with them. Believing it will happen, though, is a much bigger task.