Here's agent Scott Boras talking to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about the Oakland Coliseum last month:
"You talk to players. It's not the city. It's not the team. It's the ballpark. And there are no fans there. When teams recruit against the Oakland A's, they say, 'Why do you want to play in an empty park?' It's not about the organization. It's not about ownership. It's about locale."
Boras may have a point, but the Athletics' ballpark is not why they lost out on his client Adrian Beltre this winter, nor is it the reason behind the team's failure to sign Lance Berkman and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Beltre was a prime target for Oakland during the 2009-10 offseason, but he turned down a three-year, $24MM offer to take one year and $10MM from the Red Sox. The A's offer didn't match up with Beltre's goal, which was to be paid well in 2010 and also make a one-year bet on himself and re-enter the market. That was the right call for him, and this time around the A's topped out at a six-year, $76.8MM offer. The five-year, $80MM deal Beltre signed with Texas, which also has a vesting option, is a much better contract. It's not as if Beltre turned down five years and $90MM from Oakland.
Berkman spurned a two-year offer from the A's to take one year from the Cardinals, but signing with them allowed him to remain in the NL Central and play the outfield every day while also making solid money on a make-good one-year pact. The Coliseum doesn't shoulder the blame here either, as Berkman did not view himself as a full-time DH. As for Iwakuma, the A's seemed to be in the $4MM a year range while his agent wanted at least twice as much. That was simply a difference of opinion on salary. If agent Don Nomura's claim that Oakland's interest in Iwakuma wasn't sincere is true, implying they bid just to block rivals, that's a flaw of the posting system.
The Coliseum probably does hurt the Athletics' ability to lure free agent hitters. But in the cases of Beltre and Berkman, it doesn't appear to have been the primary factor.