Justin Flom weighs in on the ALDS and baseball from the Oakland perspective with far more sincerity than I could muster.
Admittedly biased, I believe that the best team in baseball has just lost the chance to prove the most important fact about baseball. But let me get to that in a moment.
Let me first say that Detroit played an incredible series. They have incredible pitching and a top of the line line-up any normal human being would intentionally walk, bases loaded. But the most important part of the former two sentences is that I mention that “Detroit played an incredible series.” This is because for at least a little while, I still grasp onto the tenet that baseball is the most human of sports. It has moments of great expectation, but it also has the looming attitude that money owns all in the modern age. A baseball team belongs to a city and a region instead of before a business owner. And slowly and in an agonizing fashion, this is becoming less true.
Tonight the A’s lost. After Pittsburgh lost to St. Louis, after Tampa lost to Boston, and after Atlanta lost to Los Angeles. Each of these match-ups indicates the smaller spender losing to the bigger spender.
Here’s where I worry about the baseball situation. Although the Bay Area culture would have you believe otherwise, Oakland Athletics fans don’t mind the San Francisco Giants that much. What they really mind is the perversion of the idea that a sports team belongs to a group of people, NOT a group of investors. I LOVE Oakland. I’ve never claimed it as my address. I’ve never worked for a business in the city. But, I have lived in the area, the East Bay, supported its businesses when I could and understood how frickin’ difficult it is to ensure greatness when no one else expects it. Not all East Bay people do that. A lot just cling onto the Giants because… San Francisco is an effortless thing to like. Oakland is for those who have something to prove.
The San Francisco Giants are AWESOME. Hunter Pence is one of my favorite batters in baseball and those who have followed every game he has played this season (all of them) are great. But few understand that Giants fans often discriminate against Oakland for not having as many garlic fry vendors and not having a large Coca-Cola Slide in left field. The reason why Giants fans are majority is not because of heart and geography, but because of comfort, tourism and Barry Bonds sensationalism. There are certain things that lure in the baseball’s lowest common denominator: Not the least of people, but rather the kind of folk who merely care about economic status and social likeability – People who I can not entirely understand, but that I must respect because they are. Giants fans, even fair-weather, care about something. That is good because caring about something is the first step in caring about something important. Those that care merely about money, however, I can not sympathize with.
As I watched tonight’s Detroit vs. Oakland game, I ultimately witnessed two warring sides. The first was Detroit’s Dave Dombrowski who flagrantly mocked Oakland and flaunted his and his son’s wealth with shiny suit jackets and a green tie. While I entirely respect Detroit and their Tigers, this inconsistency in values made me weep for inconsistent ownership priorities. A single man and his son could wear glimmering suit jackets as the city that claimed them fortune went into bankruptcy. To them, this was glory.
At the same time, the Oakland owners, Fisher and Wolff, could march on either the victory or downfall of the team. With a win there were more ticket sales, with a loss, there were more odds of moving a team to San Jose.
I can’t prove that behind closed doors conniving is going on. I can’t say for certain that owners are pushing for San Jose ownership of the A’s because it’s more profitable. I can’t say that Bud Selig and the MLB are stacking the umpiring rosters to screw over Oakland’s chances. But what I can say is this: 2013 was a great year for the A’s. It was a great year for Oakland, and it was a great year for the East Bay. Billy Beane got us to the ALDS once again, the film “Fruitvale Station” brought us back into the light of social rights and the city was able to claim multiple articles in developing back into artistic and economic relevance. What I can say for sure is that baseball belongs to a people: Even Oakland, which has already borrowed from Philly and KC. (My father was an A’s fan in Kansas City before he moved to the East Bay).
The time ought to be over for moving teams to where they can make the most money. American sports institutions have already proven that they can make money. It’s time for American sports institutions to prove that they actually are invested in the integrity of America and especially local culture. I love that OKC can support a basketball team. I love that Winnipeg wants the name of the Jets back and especially, I love that Montreal misses the fact that the Expos are gone. But it doesn’t make a good excuse to tear a team away from a city. This is the reason I’ll never respect the Washington Nationals. You don’t move a team just because they will make more money somewhere else. America (and Canada) are mature enough to know that freedom is great and you don’t exploit that.
Detroit went bankrupt this year. Its owner did not. He only profited. St. Louis recorded, once again, one of the highest crime rates per capita. Boston was attacked by bombmakers and as much as I dislike Los Angeles, LA still prevails over one of the most complicated immigration and crime situations the world has ever seen. Yet the owners of each city’s respective teams profited significantly while the city has struggled and the team been proud to prevail.
Really, in baseball, there is a winner and a loser, but there is not a better and a lesser. It’s time to stop treating the situation as such. It’s not human. There may be a more profitable and less profitable, but that doesn’t mean it should be a more and a fewer.
Sure. There are people who say the Oakland Athletics would be more profitable in San Jose. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a thousand East Bay residents who know the A’s, being in Oakland are still profitable, even if it’s only by a few dollars, and would say it’s still worth it.
So whoever wins the world series from here: Detroit, Boston, St. Louis or Los Angeles, there is a city who will go nuts about it and that is an awesome thing. Any excuse for a city to celebrate greatness is a good thing, but it is time for such an attitude to quit being “official.” To stop letting it be ESPN’s decision and “expert” opinion. To stop letting the power of the fan go from the person who can afford to buy the season-long box seat over the guy who sits in the cheapest seats and screams his lungs out every day he can get off of work.
The reason why this postseason loss felt so horrible for me was not because it was a loss for just my baseball team, it was because it felt like a loss for my team, for my city, for my people. I wanted to win so bad because the owners of our team have threatened that it might be the third or fourth last chance. Put yourself in those shoes, no matter what sport you rattle your nerves with. For Oakland A’s fans, this season was not just a battle against the other teams, but against a system that emphasized the importance of corporate sponsorship and an organization that touts itself as perfectly equal but really isn’t. Let’s love people and communities as they are; Not the size of their population or amount of revenue they can accumulate. Baseball isn’t about revenue, it’s about heart. It’s what makes us feel weird in our chest between April and October. It’s what makes us say that this could be our year, even if it isn’t, even if it totally was. It’s what kills us with every strike out and lifts us through every base hit. You don’t put a money value on those feelings, and if you do, it’s because you wanted to win, not because you wanted to put a money value on it.