Monday, May 16, 2005

A's Deserve All The Blame For Fans' Behavior

It's happening, again. Those wild and dangerous A's fans are at it again, right?

A Lafayette man was charged this weekend with dumping beer on Jason Giambi as the steroid-filled slugger (he's hitting .206 currently) walked back to the dugout. A huge melee brokeout out in the upperdeck and a fan was hilariously tackled by Eric Byrnes Sunday.

News like this is quickly picked up by the national media and when coupled with fans throwing cellphones relievers assaulting fans in the stands, it reflects badly on A's fans. Is it warranted? Is it fair? Or are there other factors at work?

The citizens of the East Bay cannot be anymore prone to criminal behavior than any other Major League city. If this were true, then the ballparks in Washington, D.C. and Miami, having some of the highest crime rates in the U.S., would be battlegrounds. The story of the real problem of crime at the Coliseum lies in a decision made in 1997.

The spendthrift owners of the Oakland Athletics not only penny-pinch on their product on the field, but also in security and customer relations. In 1997, yours truly, benefitted from the A's decision to break the union that represented ushers and security at the Coliseum. I was a scab, I suppose, and ushered people around the stadium and watched baseball games for free because long-time ushers were laid off and given the choice to reapply for their jobs as non-union workers.

The union tried to get reinstated, but failed. Only the ticket-takers, a group of old guard union members joined the Teamsters. The others settled for $7.15/hr in wages with no benefits others than having a glimpse of Jose Canseco every so often.

Today, ushers and security guards are given the choice of creating their own schedules. If, for instance, you foresee a huge crowd for bobblehead day or the New York Yankees coming to town, you could decline to work those days. And most do. The A's then, further tighten their belts by farming out the work to outside contractors like Staff Pro whose employees have little instruction or no desire to do a credible job.

While the A's save money by dumping MVPs and young pitchers to save money they also pinch pennies on security. How many black eyes to the A's and Coliseum's reputation will have to occur for the A's to respond? In the media, they continue to announce more security and harsher charges against criminal activity, but it just continues.

At Saturday night's upper deck melee, there was zero presence from either security or ushers. Did the A's not foresee 41,000 fans? All these problems have occurred from outlying areas of the Coliseum that the team chooses not to staff.

The A's and Major League Baseball should stop paying lip-service to fan behavior and begin policing themselves. Maybe the A's should offer people more than $8/hr with a few benefits rather than shifting the blame to so-called poor fan behavior. Blame the A's.

PS: Thanks for trading Mulder. He really looks like he's lost his fastball (5-1, 2.76 ERA)