Could the A’s Return to Philadelphia?
Scoring Phillies tickets is about as difficult as landing a prime Saturday night dinner reservation at Vetri on short notice. Citizens Bank Park is the place to be in town from April through October. The Phillies’ well-designed yard has been sold out for 204 consecutive regular season games, and that number will swell 15 short of 300 by the end of the 2012 season. For the first time ever, the Phillies led the MLB in attendance with 3,680,718 last season. If you want Phillies season tickets, wait in line.
The mania begs the question: Can Philadelphia support two major league baseball teams?
Well, there happens to be a troubled organization looking to make a move that once called North Philadelphia home.
Celebrated Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane’s “moneyball” approach helped the financially strapped A’s make the playoffs 2000 through 2003 and in 2006. Beane’s love of OBP (on-base percentage) and sabermetrics and surprising success also inspired Michael Lewis’s terrific best-seller Moneyball, which yielded last year’s entertaining film of the same name starring Brad Pitt as Beane.
The A’s currently play in one of the worst parks in baseball, Oakland’s miserable Coliseum. The population in Oakland is dwindling, and the A’s swarthy fan base is shrinking as well.
San Jose has been a sought-after destination, but the A’s haughty National League brother team, the San Francisco Giants, has successfully claimed territorial rights.
There was some conversation about the A’s trekking to Las Vegas, but pro sports and Sin City is a poor match.
What about luring the A’s back to where the once proud franchise started in 1901?
The laws of supply and demand suggest that it is possible. There aren’t enough Phillies tickets for rabid Philadelphia baseball fans.
This is also about righting a wrong. How did the A’s leave in the first place? Every two-city baseball town lost the lesser squad. The feckless Boston Braves and the pathetic St. Louis Browns packed their bags while the storied Boston Red Sox and the phenomenally successful St. Louis Cardinals remained.
The A’s were the team in town, while the Phillies were their foundering cousin during the first third of the last century. When iconic owner-manager Connie Mack wasn’t selling off legendary players, his team was winning championships.
The ’29 A’s featured such Hall-of-Famers as Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Mickey Cochrane and is arguably the greatest team of all time.
However, Mack sold off those stars and the A’s fell from grace. The A’s moved to Kansas City after the 1954 season, but Mack’s white elephants remain the most successful team in Philadelphia sports history, winning five championships during his reign.
It would be amazing if Philly could bring back a franchise that has won nine World Series titles—the third-best record in baseball history, behind the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals—but the reality is that the A’s would have to deal with Phillies’ territorial rights. Is that possible?
Fishtown baseball uber-fan J.T. Ramsay, who has a campaign that already has more than 1,000 followers, to bring the A’s back to Philly (“Bring Your A’s Game”); he believes that there is a chance that the nomadic franchise could return after nearly six decades west of its birthplace.
“Anything is possible,” Ramsay said. “If they put NHL hockey in the desert, anything is possible. If you have the baseball commissioner on your side and you can work out something with the territorial rights, I think the A’s could come back and draw many more fans in Philly than they have in Oakland. I think the A’s could do very well in Philadelphia. The A’s are in a bad state right now. They’re selling off their best players again, just like they did under Connie Mack. They need stability and a home.”
Baseball is re-aligning. The Houston Astros are moving to the American League West. If the A’s were to move East, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox would be natural rivals.
“You would have that and it would be something new for Philadelphia,” Ramsay said. “You would have a new ownership group and a new stadium. It would be so exciting. I think Philadelphia sports fans would go for it.”
However, former Phillies closer and MLB analyst Mitch Williams, who knows a little bit about how Phillies aficionados feel, does not agree.
“I can’t see Oakland moving back to Philadelphia,” Williams said. “There isn’t another team that could come in and survive. The Phillies have die-hard fans, who wouldn’t pack up their bags and root for another team. One baseball team in Philadelphia is enough, especially when they’re a World Series contender.”
Ramsay still has hope. “Crazier things have happened in the world of sports. The A’s need a home, and I think Philadelphia, which is a bigger market than San Francisco/Oakland could be the city for them.”