MESA, Arizona — It’s been a week that many in and around the A’s would describe as a whirlwind, although it’s something many were expecting.
The A’s have traded away former All-Stars Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Chris Bassitt in the week since Major League Baseball lifted their suspension and teams have been able to make moves again. And they may not be the only ones being traded, either.
These moves come ahead of a season in which the A’s have already significantly increased ticket prices for some fans with doubling their seat prices and other fans want to swear off the team – even before the star players have been traded.
Before the A’s played their first spring game of the 2022 season at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa on Friday, team president Dave Kaval sat down for a 10-minute interview with Bay Area News Group, answering questions about the ticket price hikes and trade moves being made and why the team says these steps are necessary while waiting for an answer on a new stadium.
Bay Area News Group (BANG): With the changes that have taken place this week, I’m sure you’ve asked for and received feedback on them. How has it been for you guys at the top level so far?
A-President Dave Kaval: I’m very open to fans – open, transparent, walk around the hall to talk to people, see people when I travel and [have] I’ve spoken to probably dozens of people. Obviously, this is a process we’ve been through many times, and it’s something that really ties into our ballpark efforts. That’s exactly why we need a new ballpark, why we need the revenue that comes with it, so we can keep these players and actually don’t have the trading cycles that we’ve had for the last 20 years. Remember there is a great track record – Billy (Beane) and David (Forst) have done an incredible job of being able to get players who have been in control of the club for two or three years to really play them against others teams have substantial prospects and can actually be competitive faster than you would think. And I think if you look at our track record, even since 2010, we have the best record in AL West. So we’re entering another one of these cycles right now, and it’s going to continue until we get a new scale. And that’s why we spend so much time on it.
BANG: With those cycles, the players themselves — Chapman and Olson in particular — said they hoped to be the guys to break that cycle, and the fans really bought into them. It seems like while you’re doing this, even if they can build, it must be difficult for the fans to just stick with the players and not have the same kind of consistency of knowing who the guys even are.
caval: We are very sympathetic and empathetic because as a fan you connect with the players, especially players who have brought so many great memories and are so important to the community. So we realize how challenging this is and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to open this new stadium as soon as possible. You know, sometimes people in the media ask me, ‘Why do you need a new stadium?’ or ‘Why is there such urgency?’ And days and weeks like this are exactly why we need a decision.
We need to know if Oakland will approve it. If that doesn’t work, we need to know what options we have in Vegas and how quickly we can actually open those stadiums. Because once you know that, you know that you can have a much higher paycheck during those years. And then you can bridge the gap and actually sign players for longer contracts. We are not in that position right now because we don’t have a definitive answer and there is a lot of uncertainty, but we will work very hard and we will work very hard this year to hopefully get to that answer.
BANG: Under this new collective bargaining agreement, you get a revenue share, but it says it cuts off at a certain point if you don’t have a new ballpark.
caval: January 2024.
BANG: The dichotomy that you’re getting more money from the league while at the same time cutting the payroll, that’s something that, if the fans are having trouble putting that into perspective, how would you explain that to the fans?
caval: Well, I think it’s important to remember that revenue share is being rolled out gradually over four years, so this year it’s only quarter share. And all of that money is going to be invested in players and any extra dollars that we’re going to get in the next few years will all go into the players. It is very important that I emphasize this.
BANG: We received a lot of feedback from fans on the Bay Area News Group regarding the ticket price increases that took place in late September. What was the reason for these increases and, at least up until the start of the season, did you see it impacting your renewal rates at that point?
caval: I think there are many different factors. Knowing the current prices and season ticket plans, this is the first year in almost three years that we have offered a season ticket plan – in 2020 we had no fans and in 2021 we only sold single tickets. And if you compare the single ticket prices in 2021 with 2022, the prices have even fallen. So when people talk about the raise, they’re talking about three years ago, in the A’s Access era. And that was an era where there was a certain business product and we’re moving into a kind of new situation and we’re doing everything we can to make sure we still have promotional opportunities to draw people into the building. But we also want the integrity of a season ticket plan for big spenders. We want to make sure that this investment is worthwhile for them. And we appreciate that people have invested a lot in us and that this is a situation that takes several years and people have to decide whether it’s a good fit for them or not. We hope they see the bigger picture, but that’s a decision they have to make for themselves.
BANG: From what you’ve seen so far, where would you say you stand in terms of your season tickets? I know it’s been a few years to even know if there’s a renewal, but where would you say…
caval: It’s hard to say because it’s impossible to know how it compares because last year we didn’t have season tickets, the year before that we didn’t have season tickets. So it’s like we haven’t really been in the market to do this since 2019. And it’s 2022. So on some level it’s kind of a reset just because we’re standing as an organization and the pandemic and everything that’s happened. That’s just the reality of where we are and we’re going to deal with it as best we can. And we’re still going to make sure there are ways for people to get to the game and afford it [it] – like our tickets, when compared to other forms of family entertainment throughout the Bay Area, are very, very cheap. And I think people are still going to have a great time going to the tree house and Championship Plaza and going to the food trucks and Shibe Park. We still have many great amenities that we’ve invested in over the years to make the Colosseum a great experience for fans.
BANG: Is there anything the people in the Coliseum don’t know or plan for 2022 or the future?
caval: Right now it’s really just a matter of activating all the areas that haven’t been active for two years. You know, it’s like having the precinct open and the kid zone. We have all these new premium ticket sections. Keep in mind that some of the price increases are related to new products. Having the areas and a TV right in your seat and lounge chairs is a truly amazing way to be 30 feet from the field and watch a game. It was very popular and people really enjoyed it. We’re really happy to have people back and not sitting in booths. Really, this is going to be really great.
BANG: Because of the pandemic, visitor numbers have kind of stayed [flat], and even across the bay they saw it at a point perhaps lower than they had expected. Do you worry on your end that this number won’t pick up?
caval: It is difficult to predict. You know I spoke to Steve Fanelli who oversees ticketing as he has done for us for many years and he also worked for the Giants. It’s hard for us to know how this is going to turn out. And I think what we have to do is we just have to have the games and offer different promotions and reasons to come to the game and market the team and see where the confidence of the people is. Because I think there are still some people that there might be a COVID effect for. And certainly people just didn’t come, it’s not that new. People have moved in and around the Bay Area. So we’ll have to see how it pans out this year.
BANG: Knowing that this group is trading with that core, you were very excited to say, “This is the core that we want to come into the stadium with…”
caval: And it was. and you know, there was a pandemic. And that’s why I’ve been emphasizing with Oakland why we need to make these decisions. Because remember, a lot of people think this is going too fast. And so it’s important that people see both sides of it and understand, hey, we need to have some kind of understanding of where we’re going in the future. The uncertainty is troubling our fans. It’s tough for our players, the other teams in the league, everyone. It’s a really challenging situation. And so I think the focus now, from my perspective as President, is on property, [is to] Make sure we find a solution on this, know where we’re going to play and the schedule. Because then we can give Billy and David the necessary deadlines to make these broader decisions.
https://www.thereporter.com/2022/03/18/qa-as-president-dave-kaval-addresses-trades-ticket-price-hikes-and-more/ A’s President Dave Kaval talks trade, ticket price hikes and more