The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
Over the next few weeks, we'll give each of the 30 teams a day in the spotlight, showcasing the icons and traditions that make each big-league hamlet special. Up next is our pal Ben Koo of Awful Announcing, Bloguin and Koo's Corner.
1. Unexpected years of contention: Baltimore, Kansas City and Pittsburgh? I just don't know how you do it. Sure, the A's are constantly in a state of roster flux, and I don't know if any team has a shorter average player tenure than the A's. But what I've learned and enjoyed over the years is that no franchise holds the ability to randomly compete in a year in which they're deemed to be irrelevant as a playoff contender.
The 1999, 2005 and perhaps even the 2002 team from "Moneyball" were all squads that didn't really have any business north of .500. Even when the A's are deemed to be in rebuilding mode, we're able to dream that the onset of highly touted prospects, and some veteran throwaways could somehow combine to form a 90-win team. On paper, the team we're fielding this year should be terrible, but perhaps the stars will align again. There's always hope.
2. We have a legitimate reason to hate Bud Selig: A's fans in the East Bay don't want them to move to San Jose. But fans to the south and the city of San Jose are all for it. Regardless of your take on the relocation, MLB's nearly three-year decision process is not only a huge abomination in leadership gone wrong, but a massive hindrance to allowing the A's to increasing their payroll and bolstering their roster.
Selig is a guy who is often begrudged by baseball fans. When pressed as to why the stodgy, awkward-looking commissioner can be public enemy No. 1 to baseball fans, all too often the case to condone his stewardship of MLB is very flimsy. However, after yet another winter of dismantling what looked to be a contending team and spending another year in relocation purgatory, there just isn't any excuse or explanation of why such a pivotal decision should take this long.
With that in mind, I'm unaware of any team that goes to the lengths of the A's in terms of special promotions to get fans to the park. Free parking Tuesdays! Dollar hot dogs! Two-dollar ticket Wednesdays! Beerfest! Tickets with all-you-can-eat food included in the ticket!
Plus, promos that include a handful of awesome bobbleheads, fireworks nights you can watch while sitting on the field, root beer floats served by the players, and (OMG!!) Coco Crisp Chia-Pet day. Outside of actually paying me to go to a game, the A's do more to solicit my business than perhaps even McDonald's when the McRib is back.
4. The Battle of the Bay: For six days a year, the Bay Area is a great place as a sports fan. Not particularly known as a haven of sports zealousness, those six games bring out a passion, competitiveness and excitement level that is rarely seen in the Golden State. The crowds are lively, the bars are packed, fans on both sides are chirping, and for just a quick minute, it feels like that magical October in 1989.
Unlike other rivalries pitting teams from the same geographic area against each other, the cultural and social economical divide between the fans of these two teams is great. That said, these games, while competitive and significant, typically don't erode into an unfriendly environment, as both fan bases seem to mesh well in both ballparks and are usually treated to some very competitive baseball.
5. You can get away with anything: Are you a mischievous rabble rouser? Well, Oakland just might be your place. A certain team across the bay will charge you $80 to tailgate as they require an additional parking space and even still, you're not really given the liberty to stretch out and descend into debauchery.
With Oakland's close proximity to Hamsterdam and Berkeley, it seems as if the parking lot and the stadium itself have been annexed as a ganja-friendly destination. It's common place that on a trip to the Coliseum you're likely to see a higher amount of people hitting the green than players in green getting hits off the other team.
Even if you're not a big trouble-maker, the ability to sit wherever you want is a nice perk. The stadium is usually half empty and fans are late to arrive and early to leave, in addition to a good chunk of fans spending their time at the various watering holes the stadium has to offer. Out of the last two dozen or so games I've attended, I have only sat where my ticket was only a handful of times. There is something uniquely rewarding in spending $10 for a ticket and sitting in a $50 seat or even finagling your way into a luxury box.
6. "Moneyball": You're probably a tad bitter. We didn't really win anything, yet we had a best-selling book penned about one of the most memorable years in our history. Hollywood then double-downed on the book with an awesome movie. Who knows if we'll ever win another World Series in my lifetime, but for two hours, I can mentally escape the drain of being a fan and celebrate what was truly one of the more remarkable sports stories to take place in my lifetime. Have fun watching "Angels in the Outfield," Anaheim.
7. Close games: We may not win a lot, but rarely do the A's really get pummeled. With a philosophical preference for starting pitching, a strong bullpen and patient hitters, the A's are almost perennially a team that finds themselves in close, low-scoring games. In fact, last year through 47 games, more than 1/4 of the A's games ended up going extra innings, which is by no means good for your health. It's a blessing and a curse, as the A's are usually leading by just enough to blow it late or within striking distance for some late-game heroics that often never come.
MC Hammer worked in our press box growing up, the guy who invented propeller hats drunkenly walks the stadium known as Banjo Man (often mistakenly believed to be a hobo), and Tom Hanks sold soda in the bleachers back in the day.
There is nothing wrong with being a bit eccentric in Oakland as evidenced by the likes of Rickey Henderson, Catfish Hunter, Bill King and Barry Zito. I wouldn't have it any other way.
9. The upside of Yoenis Cespedes: Starting in 2003, the A's have only had one player reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, and that was back in 2006 with Frank Thomas. Since then, the middle of the A's lineup has been an abyss, featuring the likes of unfulfilled potential like Jack Cust, or washed-up veterans like Mike Piazza, Nomar Garciaparra and Hideki Matsui. Outside of some speed at the top of the lineup, there really hasn't been much offensively to get excited about or sell any tickets.
Enter the unexpected addition of Cespedes, who depending on who you trust, will either be as bad of an investment as Dell in the mid-2000s or could end up being the masher needed to contend with higher payroll clubs in the division.
I'm not going to pretend that I have the answer here, but it's been so long since I've been able to drink the Kool-Aid of an A's power hitting star. I'll certainly drink up (with irrational exuberance) that Cespedes is the next Vladimir Guerrero.
10. 20 straight wins will likely never happen again: Yes, I am well aware that our 20 wins did not occur in October. That said, I'll always have those memories. Especially being in attendance at games 18 and 20, which were won with remarkable walk off home runs. After the first 10 wins, it seemed that the bubble was just due to be popped. Game by game, the narrative of the winning streak grew with more momentum and significance, and culminated in what was one of the most remarkable sporting moments I've ever seen.
Only one team wins it all each year, but perhaps in 2002, A's fans were allowed to experience the height of that emotion as it certainly felt like we achieved something of similar significance. We'll always have those memories and that unique perspective. The odds are nobody else will have that experience, and if they do, I highly doubt they'll reach 20 with as much style and fireworks as the 2002 A's did.
* * *
Big League Stew encourages you to join in the fun! Please share these lists with your fellow fans on Facebook, tweet us your suggestions with the #BLS10best hashtag or just use the comment section below to tell us your favorite things about being a fan of the Oakland Athletics.