John Shea: “A’s free agents want to stay in Oakland”

Just a few years ago, Lew Wolff was saying the Coliseum’s age prevented Billy Beane and A’s from attracting free agents or keeping their own.

The problem with that is that none of it was true.

John Shea’s Chronicle article from the weekend’s A’s FanFest noted that Coco Crisp wants to stay in Oakland; he extended his contract through 2016 (with an option year in 2017).

But that’s just the beginning.

A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes said he wants an extension to stay in Oakland, too. Even though he still has two years left on his current A’s contract, Cespedes said, “I’m confident playing here, and the fans support me … if another team offers me the same money as Oakland, I’ll stay here.”

A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said the same: “I’ve enjoyed my time in Oakland and definitely would be open to talks.”

For years, Wolff has tried to paint the Coliseum as a place where the A’s, a) “Couldn’t compete,” and, b) Beane “can’t attract free agents.” But Shea paints a different picture. He reports that players were staying away from the A’s from 2007-2011 because the franchise was saddled with a losing team and a league-wide perception that owners Wolff and John Fisher were not committed to winning.

Shea also mentioned the role that ex-manager Bob Geren played. Geren was widely disliked and not respected by A’s players, and scared away prospective free agents.  Shea wrote: “It wasn’t long ago — remember the Bob Geren years? — that players weren’t fond of joining the A’s …”

To his credit, Shea also wrote that the state of the aging Coliseum, in fact, has NOTHING to do with whether or not the team attracts or retains free agents. He noted that new A’s closer Jim Johnson said the Coliseum can be used to the A’s advantage. “As an opponent, you hate coming in here. It’s an advantage if you’re the home team,” Johnson said.

Shea is right. The Coliseum has nothing to do with signing players.  If owners are willing to pay ball players market value on a team that has a decent chance to compete for the postseason, the players will sign anywhere.

The truth about the Oakland A’s is that they can sign the free agents they want because players want to play for a two-time divisional winner (as the A’s are), and in front of passionate, loyal fans (as the A’s have in Oakland). And now that the team is managed by the widely respected Bob Melvin, it is exactly the type of franchise that most athletes wish to play for.

Or, as Donaldson said Saturday at the Coliseum: “I would like to be an Oakland A as long as I can.”

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