What a difference three months of a site-crippling virus makes. When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed, the A’s had the best record in baseball and we all had front row seats on the delirious jet ride to immortality and a fifth World Series trophy in Oakland.
Things changed. And, per Oakland’s particular variation on Murphy’s Law (Dwayne Murphy’s Law? Donnie Murphy’s?), they changed in the most horrific fashion possible. All-Star Break dominance downshifted into a catastrophic string of one-run losses, and time better spent polishing up a spot in the trophy case was instead occupied with watching a four-run lead evaporate over two of the most depressing innings you’ll ever see, followed by three more depressing innings and Christian Colon streaking toward the plate.
As is so often the case, I have virtually nothing to say about the July 4th trade that brought Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland that hasnâ€™t already been said better elsewhere.Â I donâ€™t even have a particularly strong take on whether this is a â€œgood tradeâ€ for the Aâ€™s, though my perspective might be a little skewed by me starting to write this while watching Hammell give up more runs to the punchless Giants in five innings than they managed to score in their other three games against the Aâ€™s combined.Â My opinion at this point might best be described as â€œcautiously optimistic,â€ which is to say that Iâ€™m hopeful, but significantly less confident in the trade than I am in the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie.Â (Have you seen that trailer??!!)
One thing about the trade stands out to me, however.Â It seems to me that it augurs the arrival of a seismic shift in how prospects are valued in baseball.Â Everyone reading this site knows that the success the Oakland franchise has seen over the past fifteen years (give or take the Jack Cust era) is largely due to the organizationâ€™s ability to identify and capitalize on undervalued commodities.Â Once upon a time, those undervalued commodities were minor league prospects â€“ â€œSure, you can have our All-Star pitcher,â€ Billy would tell other teams, â€œand all we ask in return are these six guys none of your fans have ever heard of.Â Iâ€™m okay with you coming out so far ahead on this deal, because weâ€™re best friends.â€Â And thatâ€™s the story of how Dan Haren was traded for every member of the Aâ€™s roster from 2008 to present. Continue reading
Of the many other sins of which you could legitimately accuse this site, it is at least clear that we are not bandwagon fans.Â Proof: in 2009 (final record 75-87 and a last place finish) we were throwing a post like every other day.Â And now, after watching close to a half season from the best Oakland team of at least the last 25 years, a team which has been far and away the best team in baseball from almost Game 1 (no need to take my word for it), this is only the first post since the start of the season and only the second post since the end of last season.Â Apparently contentment breeds complacency.
And itâ€™s not like this post is going to be The Brothers Karamazov â€“ one of the pleasant side effects of rooting for the best team in baseball is a surplus of content out there discussing your rooting interest, on both a local and national level, most of it far better than anything I could write. Â It doesnâ€™t seem like thereâ€™s much for me to add.Â Everyone already knows that the Aâ€™s are run by the kind of man who wonâ€™t let a little thing like two consecutive division championships with the sixth-lowest payroll in the game stop him from spending his offseason overhauling the roster by digging through the bargain bin at Ross Dress 4 Less.Â Everyone already knows that the team that leads baseball in runs allowed is also the team where not a single member of the 2014 starting rotation was in the rotation on Opening Day 2013, and the team that leads baseball in runs scored runs out a roster composed almost exclusively of failed prospects from other organizations.Â Of all the rosters that every Moneyballed, this is the Moneyballiest.
With one exception (hopefully) â€“ though to the rest of the world, Moneyball means competing on a lower budget by capitalizing on undervalued resources, Oakland fans have always seen Moneyball in terms of results.Â That is to say, for the last fourteen years Moneyball has meant that we every season we lose all our veteran All-Stars, promote our rookies, fill out the remaining spaces with a bunch of scrubs, and win 95 games before losing Game 5 of the ALDS.Â Itâ€™s kind of our thing, and itâ€™s all we know.
This year might be different though, and the way it might be different is just about perfectly personified in a single trade from last offseason: Seth Smith for Luke Gregerson. Continue reading
A quick thought stream to usher us into the return of the baseball season:
I got to thinking the other day about how I might react to an Oakland World Series championship come October, and the thought of it – just the thought, mind you – almost pushed me to tears. Â I can only take this to mean that an actual World Series trophy coming to Oakland would leave me sobbing like a baby, possibly before, after, and during my run through the streets of Los Angeles wrapped in a yellow A’s flag screaming and blasting off my air horn.
I felt no shame in these thoughts, until a slight twinge hit upon realizing that an Athletics world championship would leave me far more emotional than I have been at the birth of any of my three children. Â “I am a bad father,” I thought. Â “I should not prize worldly glory more than the love of my family,” I thought.
That didn’t last long. Â The A’s haven’t won a World Series in 25 years, and my wife and I are knocking out kids at a rate of once every two years at this point. Â So whatever.
Full squads report to Spring Training today. Â Happy baseball, everybody.