OAKLAND -- As the A's rolled through July, winning games in bunches, with spectacular displays of power and dramatic finishes, they also caused a blurring of lines among their fractured fan base.
The die-hards already coming to the Coliseum continue to show up. Bless 'em.
Some of those who had given up, settling for the comfort of TV, began trickling back, seduced by the sudden prosperity.
Many of the casual fans leaned in, curious about this surprising club. Remember, bandwagons are built not on an assembly line but by the buzz of roaring success.
The demoralized A's fans, a sizable contingent beaten down by disloyalty and disrespect from ownership, leading to a financial though not emotional divorce, are left to confront a dilemma.
If they go to home games, they're supporting owners, John Fisher and Lew Wolff, by whom they feel marginalized and targeted for obsolescence.
If they don't go, they're ignoring the fine work of players on their favorite team, young men who are but pawns in ownership's well-publicized scheme.
This quandary could play out for another month or more if Oakland stays competitive.
The A's on Friday will introduce their latest pitching sensation, Dan Straily, who this season has more strikeouts than any pitcher in professional baseball. The right-hander, who will be called up from Triple-A Sacramento, will take mound against Toronto and be greeted by a large and vibrant crowd at the
That's not the marquee power of Straily. That's the allure of a postgame fireworks show, which in recent years has been the team's most reliable gate attraction. Sad, eh?
Even as the A's enter August in the race for the playoffs, they are averaging less than 16,000 through four games of the current homestand. That's less than half the scaled-down capacity (35,067), despite being uniquely affordable in this market. The A's recently have made the spontaneous decision to reduce some field-level tickets already substantially cheaper than those sold by the Giants.
Though the harm Fisher and Wolff have inflicted upon the franchise has everyone suspicious of their actions, ticket-price reduction generally falls under the category of "making an effort."
That A's fans remain unable to fully invest their money and hearts has Jim Zelinski, co-founder of saveoaklandsports.com, marveling about those who show up.
"Would any other fan base/community in the country still sell out ANY games or nearly sell out games after six years of being told that the ownership is not committed to their community long term?" he asked in an email Thursday.
"The fact that the A's attendance has INCREASED this year under six years of the most trying conditions any fan or customer could endure is simply astonishing."
Zelinski makes a valid point related to Fisher and Wolff. For all the enmity directed toward late Raiders owner Al Davis over his wavering commitments to Oakland, he never dedicated so much time and money to alienate and insult longtime customers in a naked desire for a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"We've lost the trust of ownership," said former season-ticker holder Mike Sobek. "It's hard to stay away. But this is not about the players. It's about ownership."
Yes, any conversation about the A's and attendance comes back to ownership, to the somewhat visible Wolff and the completely invisible Fisher.
One thing fans are unanimous about is that the owners remain committed to ruining baseball in Oakland, by any means necessary. Conspiracy theories, some with impressive evidence, abound. Wolff consistently disparages both the stadium (valid) and the lack of support (bogus insofar as he has done so much to foster it).
Garth Kimball, a co-founder of Baseball Oakland, a grass-roots group that wishes the keep the A's in their longtime home, even wonders if ownership is "undercooking" the numbers. He attended the game Monday night, estimated a crowd in excess of 15,000 and heard the announced attendance as 12,564.
The roar of dissent has increased over the years, claims that the Fisher-Wolff A's are deaf to the voice of the fan, that they needlessly complicate the process of buying a ticket, that they transparently follow the script of a movie, "Major League," in which ownership embraced failure.
Some of it is absolutely true. Some is circumstantially true. Some is the product of abused fans disgusted with co-owners more devoted to their vision than reality.
"They don't want this team to win," Sobek said. "You can tell by the trade deadline."
The deadline passed with the sterile silence of an empty office suite. Players and fans awaited a cavalry that never came. The apathy and lethargy remain unshaken.
The only message that can be taken by players and fans is that this team's best work shall be met with inertia. And, clearly, there's plenty to go around.