After finishing dead last in the division in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history, the Oakland Athletics are making a change at the very top of the organization.
Concluding nearly two decades as the team’s president, Michael Crowley is stepping down, yielding the position to Dave Kaval, who has filled the same role with the San Jose
Earthquakes of Major League Soccer. Managing partner Lew Wolff will transition to the position of Chairman Emeritus, while John Fisher has been tabbed as his replacement.
Wolff has also agreed in principle to sell the majority of his interest in the team to the remaining owners, retaining a small stake in the team.
In a press release put out by the team, Fisher, who along with Wolff is a member of the partnership group that purchased the A’s in 2005, addressed the tenure of his predecessor:
“I want to thank Lew for his leadership over the last 11 years. … Lew has given the organization all of his energy and experience for the last 11 years and I look forward to a new chapter in our working relationship and friendship. It is a privilege for me to steward the A’s at this important moment for the franchise.”
The important moment for the franchise goes beyond its worst two-year stretch, it is also in search of long-term answers in regards to a home stadium.
The latter, Kaval said, will feed directly into improvements in the outcomes on the field. In his first opportunity to address Bay Area media as the president of the Athletics, Kaval said:
“We have to unlock the revenue that comes with the new building. What that will enable us to do is invest more in the product, and actually compete for more World Series.”
And he boasts experience in both building a stadium and improving the product on its field. Since his assuming the presidency of the Earthquakes, Kaval has guided the team, which had won just 36 percent of its matches since its return to the Bay Area in 2008, to a 57-percent clip in his six years at the helm.
Even more impressive, though, was his ability to seek out a prime location near the San Jose Airport where he spearheaded the development of Avaya Stadium, which stands as a modern marvel of sporting architecture.
The 18,000-seat, privately funded stadium has received numerous accolades, including the 2015 Product Innovation Award from the Stadium Business Awards. The ‘Quakes have also sold out every home game in the stadium’s existence.
Kaval likened Oakland’s current situation to that of the San Jose’s prior to Avaya’s 2015 opening — the lack of a gathering place, or as he put it a “there.”
While he would commit to no particular location, or locations, being considered, the team’s new president was very clear that he has no interest in leaving the city (or town) of Oakland:
“This is a community that’s starved for a location. … The other teams look like they might be leaving, we might be the only team left, and I think it’s critical that we carry that banner of ‘Oakland’ both now and in the future.”
The Stanford Graduate School of Business graduate, and now a lecturer, also spoke to the recent frustrations of the Oakland fan base over a lack of roster continuity.
And, though he differed to executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, Kaval said that finding additional resources to retain players like Sonny Gray, whom he singled out among his favorite players to watch, is definitely among the new regime’s hopes:
“I wouldn’t rule anything out. Billy has operated the baseball operations part of the business in a certain way, and he has a great track record — he’s been to the playoffs a ton of times and done great with the resources he’s had. … It’s certainly possible. I want to make sure I support him, and provide as many resources as possible, so he can make the best decisions for our team and put the best possible team on the field.”