September may be the most exciting time for baseball fans when your team is in the playoff hunt. All of the ecstasy and agony of the six-month long regular season is concentrated into a bewildering blur of four weeks and amplified to unfathomable levels. Yet with the A’s on the cusp of their second consecutive postseason appearance and AL West crown, it seems like all people want to talk about is shit.
With all the fervor surrounding what is happening off the field as opposed to on it, is it a bit of a panic to ask if team and fan morale are going down the toilet? Perhaps it’s a knee-jerk assessment, but one can’t help but wonder what effect these events have on the collective psyche of the team and fan base.
Tuesday was a complete shit storm (pun intended) to say the least. First, we had Josh Reddick on Twitter talking about the small crowds at the Coliseum. Despite the truthfulness and lack of contempt in his statement, some A’s fans seem to have taken issue with his criticism. While it may not be the best time for Reddick to talk about attendance in light of his sub par season, I don’t have an issue with anything he said. Maybe you’ll think I’m biased because I sit in right field, but if you’ve ever seen me at a giveaway day it’s likely you’ve heard me spout off the same complaint(s).
Then we had a Bob Nightengale article for USA Today in which Lew Wolff discusses his disappointment with the team’s trouble to attract large crowds for the last home stand of the regular season.
Naturally these episodes sparked the usual outrage on social media, with an already splintered fan base choosing sides (again) and attempting to “out-clever” their detractors by senselessly beating each other over the head with their simple brand of pseudo-logic and tired jokes that ultimately makes everybody look and feel stupider.
When the toilet in the dugout backed up later that night, it was a fitting end to a day that eventually saw a 2-1 victory over the Angels relegated to mere afterthought. Of course, this brought a renewed round of Lew Wolff conspiracy theories. I’m as critical of Wolff as the next guy, but I doubt he’s behind any of this.
The circumstances surrounding these backups are a bit suspicious to be sure. The incident in June was attributed to a “mystery mass” while Tuesday’s mess was the result of a small towel going down the toilet. How the hell does a towel end up in a toilet? Unless some member of the Oakland A’s staff, or some undiscovered creature in the bowels of the Coliseum, derives nutrition from terry cloth it was an act of vandalism. I just can’t see this being an accident. In fact, it’s a bit ironic given the San Jose Earthquakes’ new stadium opening is being pushed back due to problems connecting the facility to the city sewer system. But did Wolff do it, or have it arranged? It’s a bit of a stretch to believe.
Wolff didn’t become a rich, old dude by being a stupid, young dude. It would be insane for the owner of such a large, publicly visible business to sabotage his own operation at the risk of igniting costly and embarrassing litigation. This isn’t a restaurant where you light a match and collect the insurance money like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.
In all likelihood, this is the handiwork of a disgruntled employee who wants to extract some measure of revenge against the A’s. Or it’s a non-disgruntled employee who’s just a dick and treats his workplace like a playground for the demented.
I also refuse to believe it has anything to do with the condition of the facility itself. Sure, it was built in 1966, but if the only perquisite for faulty plumbing is being a nearly 50-year-old building half the Bay Area would be drowning in shit pools.
So with a sewage backup once again making the A’s the butt of countless jokes on the national scene, Lew Wolff claiming an A’s player saying he felt sorry for him (despite being a handsomely paid real estate mogul), Josh Reddick seemingly in many fans’ dog houses, and even Grant Balfour feeling the heat lately, is it a panic to wonder how this could affect the team’s morale?
Not necessarily. While I don’t believe these events will be the season’s undoing, distractions like these always have the potential to get inside a player’s head.
To their credit, the team seems locked in on the task at hand. They know what’s at stake. This team is a collection of undervalued and overlooked players who have learned to succeed despite the odds and conventional wisdom not being in their favor. Perhaps these incidents could galvanize the team as they fully realize their identity as the shoestring budget operation that produces upscale results.