Last May, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Al Saracevic famously wrote that “Lew Wolff is the most hated man in Oakland.”
Harsh words. But as it turned out, Saracevic may have been optimistic. About six months later, ESPN the Magazine published their sports franchise rankings and it wasn’t pretty, as it pertains to Wolff and other A’s owners. ESPN listed theOakland A’s as the 98th best franchise, but that score would have been better if A’s owners hadn’t dragged down the final score with their lousy ranking.
Where did the national publication rank Wolff and co-owner John Fisher? 121st. Yes, that’s 121st out of 122 teams. Only the Maloof brothers, then-owners of the Sacramento Kings, fared worse. ESPN ranked Wolff as “… the second-most loathed owner” among all sports team owners in the U.S. and Canada. Then the magazine described Bay Area baseball buffs as “a fan base that can’t stand him.”
Other national publications have taken notice. The New York Times’ reporter Ken Belson last spring wrote the following about Wolff:
“The strategy has led fans to accuse Wolff of trashing the current A’s to prove that operating in Oakland is untenable. Fans resent that Wolff has put tarps over the upper deck — even during the 2006 playoffs — and shuttered concession stands. Handmade signs that say ‘Slumdog Billionaire’ and ‘Don’t Take Our A’s Away’ now show up in the stands.”
The same New York Times article noted the cause and effect between Wolff and Fisher becoming owners in 2005 and the instantly negative effect their ownership has had on attendance:
“For much of the 1980s and early 1990s, the A’s routinely outdrew the Giants; as recently as 2005, the A’s drew more than 2.1 million fans. The next year, Wolff and the Fisher family took over the team, and attendance has fallen ever since …”
“This is no way to run a ballclub, folks. … Find a way to get a beautiful new stadium built in Oakland. If you can’t do that, sell it to someone who will.”