OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s an unfair comparison in the moment, but for Mariners fans that are old enough, it might be prescient to think about those early days in the 1995 season long before “The Double” was even a possibility.
But the absence of fans at the mausoleum called the Oakland Coliseum over the two-game series with the Mariners was a bit stunning, particularly considering the A’s are in the midst of a tight race with two other teams for the second wild-card spot, including the M’s.
The announced attendance for Monday evening’s game was 4,140 fans, which is the lowest total since they opened to full capacity June 16.
The finale of the two-game series Tuesday afternoon drew an announced crowd of 4,508.
Neither crowd looked to have that many people and at least 30 percent seemed to be Mariners fans.
MLB attendance totals are supposed to be counted by tickets sold, not actually fans in the facility. That number is also alarming.
The increased number of positive COVID tests and the presence for the Delta variant might be a quick excuse, but the A’s drew 40,133 for Friday night’s game vs. the rival Giants, and big crowds Saturday (36,320) and Sunday (30,345).
Obviously, the Bay Area series is expected to draw fans in a way that the Mariners, who aren’t a big road draw anywhere for fans, and the timing of the games — a Monday night with school having started and a Tuesday afternoon — are significant factors.
“It’s a little bit different,” Servais said. “It’s a Monday night and (Tuesday), they just came off a big series against the crosstown rivals, the Giants, where they did have 40,000 people in here. I think it’s kind of what we expected.”
But it’s also important to note the situation surrounding the A’s and their hope for a new stadium. With team representatives traveling to Las Vegas to be courted about moving the team there, like the Raiders, and reps in Portland trying to get a similar meeting for their PDX Diamond Project, the fatalistic comments from commissioner Rob Manfred about the situation and the city of Oakland simply not willing to give in to MLB’s demands and commit to public funding that it can’t afford, there is a looming feeling of hopelessness that the franchise will move.
It’s understandable why fans might not want to invest hard-earned dollars in tickets and concessions to an ownership group that wants to abandon them.
It’s a feeling older Mariners can relate to based on experience.
While so much is made of the late push to overtake the Angels in the 1995 season and the thrilling series with the Yankees, the possibility of the team being moved to Tampa was very real.
That sort of lingering anxiety can be a significant burden detractor. And for A’s fans, they’ve been dealing with the controversy surrounding a new stadium long before Brad Pitt portrayed Billy Beane in “Moneyball.”
With his team now one game back of the A’s and 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for that second wild-card spot, Servais hopes that fans will be out at T-Mobile Park for the four-game series against the Royals.
“I’m sure our crowd would be excited to see us when we get back home,” he said. “We’ve got some tough series ahead of us. There are some teams that are playing very well and they’re coming in. It’s never easy. It shouldn’t be. It’s hard to win in the big leagues. But that’s the fun of it. There’s nothing better than winning in this league.”
Seattle has had solid crowds on the weekends, thanks to stellar weather and a variety of promotions. But the goal has been to make the team good enough so that fans want to go for the players and the games and not the fact that it’s a fun place to spend a summer night. It’s refinding that missing attachment to a successful team that consistently brings them back even on random Tuesday nights, regardless of opponents.
“This is what we’ve talked about as an organization,” Servais said. “When we were going to do a little step back here a few years ago, I made the comment that these players as they come up, you’ll get to see them grow and know their personalities. All of a sudden, their jerseys start showing up on our fans in the stands. When you go through rebuild, it takes a little while to get there. That’s what excites me. And it should excite our fan base because these are players that they can grow up with. They were there the first time they saw this player do something special in the big leagues with the Mariners, so that’s what it’s about. “