Lewis Wolff, the managing partner of the Oakland A’s since 2005 is stepping down and will sell off his stake in the team to the rest of the ownership group, according to a press release the team sent out earlier today. John Fisher will take over his role. Also departing is team president Michael Crowley, who will become a senior advisor.
John Fisher and Dave Kaval named Managing Partner and President, respectively, as Lew Wolff and Michael Crowley transition to new roles. pic.twitter.com/oDCiml8Bqd— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) November 17, 2016
Wolff helped orchestrate the purchase of the club from Steve Schott eleven years ago, and has presided over some of the best and worst of modern Athletics history. His A’s made the postseason four times, but were plagued by poor attendance and low payrolls. The last two years have been awful, with the A’s losing 187 games and posting the worst two franchise records since 1997.
In addition, Wolff was open about trying to find a place for the Athletics in San Jose, an effort that was constantly stymied by the crosstown Giants and Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption. More recently, Wolff gave up trying to move his club, but was unable to find a way to build a new stadium in Oakland. Meanwhile, the Coliseum began to crumble, and eventually the raw sewage leaking into the dugout matched Oakland’s play on the field.
Susan Slusser, of the San Francisco Chronicle, reports that Wolff’s decision may be connected to “the looming possibility that the team will no longer receive revenue-sharing money in the new collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association. In other words, after already receiving payment for the A’s stake in MLB Advanced Media’s sale to Disney, Wolff is getting out while the getting is good.
Left unanswered is what this change in leadership will do to the rest of the Oakland front office. The vaunted Billy Beane, who is the longest-tenured showrunner in Major League Baseball, and general manager David Forst have struggled in the last two years, with several high profile decisions turning into utter disasters. While Beane is a pioneer and has long been regarded as one of the sharpest minds in the game, he has also been characterized as bored with the game and his rivals may have finally caught up to him.
Wolff has always been steadfastly loyal to Beane, and understandably so. But with new owners taking over, this could signal that Beane’s time at the top is limited. It could signal a whole new direction for the franchise.
Not that that will happen right away. Fisher and his new president, Dave Kaval, will need some time to get adjusted to their new roles, and the offseason is already well underway. There’s little chance of the A’s changing horses this year. But if Beane and Forst want to keep their jobs beyond 2017, turning the A’s around quickly may be their only chance to do so.