Two weeks ago, Lew Wolff publicly insulted Oakland A’s fans — you know, his customers — in an interview with longtime MLB ownership mouthpiece, Bob Nightengale of the USA Today.
The timing, of course, couldn’t have been worse for people that want the A’s to reach out to the East Bay and sell as many tickets to A’s fans as possible. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be Wolff’s goal.
The day that Wolff’s comments hit the fan (literally) should have been a great one for Oakland fans. The A’s had just swept the Rangers in Texas, taking a commanding lead in the AL West race, and ALDS playoff games at the Coliseum sold out so fast that Lew Wolff and Mike Crowley did the unthinkable — they removed the 3rd-deck tarps for the entire playoffs. Instead of it being a day of pride for A’s fans, Wolff rained on his customers’ parade by complaining about attendance, when the problem really is of Wolff’s own creation.
Sports reporters around the nation took notice.
Tim Kawakami, of the San Jose Mercury News, wrote that Wolff too often makes bumbling mistakes and has become a PR problem. As a result, the columnist said he had lost faith in Wolff’s ability to deliver a new A’s ballpark in any city. He wrote:
“And that’s where I find myself now, reading and watching Wolff’s statements and thinking: This is not the leader who will get this done and maybe we’re seeing why every time he opens his mouth.”
Kawakami added: “We’ve seen Wolff bumble through almost every public comment on this issue. …Just go by what Wolff has said and tell me he doesn’t sound terribly under-prepared to be the guiding force of a major corporation that happens to field a baseball team that is followed by millions of baseball fans. Just base it on how he speaks in public. He sounds like a nice man, but he’s unreliable. Undependable. Not believable as a Sports Mover/Shaker at the heart of it.”
Kawakami said Wolff might be the biggest reason why the A’s are not even close to a new stadium 10 years after the L.A.-based developer was made A’s vice president of venue development:
“The more I listen to or read Wolff bemoan the A’s situation (… with horrendous timing –- shouldn’t the focus be on the team and the playoffs right now, not wallowing in frustration about an attendance situation Wolff himself helped create?), the more I think he really might be a bigger part of the larger problem…as someone who has failed so utterly to shape and push the discussion in a logical and fruitful direction that he has perhaps helped to derail the whole thing all by himself.”
Even ESPN personality Keith Olbermann got into the act, admonishing Wolff on TV for his comments. “Do not trash the local fans!” Olbermann reminded Wolff during his commentary.
Back in the South Bay, Kawakami didn’t let billionaire A’s co-owner John Fisher off the hook:
“Fisher has pushed Wolff forward as front man and executor–that’s Fisher’s problem. And he’s made it everybody’s problem or at least everybody who cares about the A’s. And that’s a lot of people.”
Kawakami essentially describes Wolff as being incompetent and the biggest obstacle to his own goals. We cannot disagree.