We Are Not Prompt

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 hasn’t already been said better elsewhere.  I don’t even have a particularly strong take on whether this is a “good trade” for the A’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 A’s combined.  My opinion at this point might best be described as “cautiously optimistic,” which is to say that I’m hopeful, but significantly less confident in the trade than I am in the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  (Have you seen that trailer??!!)

One thing about the trade stands out to me, however.  It seems to me that it augurs the arrival of a seismic shift in how prospects are valued in baseball.  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 organization’s ability to identify and capitalize on undervalued commodities.  Once upon a time, those undervalued commodities were minor league prospects – “Sure, you can have our All-Star pitcher,” Billy would tell other teams, “and all we ask in return are these six guys none of your fans have ever heard of.  I’m okay with you coming out so far ahead on this deal, because we’re best friends.”  And that’s the story of how Dan Haren was traded for every member of the A’s roster from 2008 to present. Continue reading

Of Complacency and Roster Construction

Of the many other sins of which you could legitimately accuse this site, it is at least clear that we are not bandwagon fans.  Proof: in 2009 (final record 75-87 and a last place finish) we were throwing a post like every other day.  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.  Apparently contentment breeds complacency.

And it’s not like this post is going to be The Brothers Karamazov – 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.  It doesn’t seem like there’s much for me to add.  Everyone already knows that the A’s are run by the kind of man who won’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.  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.  Of all the rosters that every Moneyballed, this is the Moneyballiest.

With one exception (hopefully) – 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.  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.  It’s kind of our thing, and it’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

We’re Back

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.  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.  “I am a bad father,” I thought.  “I should not prize worldly glory more than the love of my family,” I thought.

That didn’t last long.  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.  So whatever.

Full squads report to Spring Training today.  Happy baseball, everybody.

Is There Even Baseball Anymore?

It is a testament to the progress that the Oakland Athletics organization has made in the last two years that I feel so crummy today.  On April 1, 2012, I was declaring the upcoming season to be a lost season and openly rooting for 100 losses and a favorable draft position.  On October 1, 2012, I was deliriously happy that I had just watched my team secure a playoff spot.  On October 11, 2012, I was disappointed that the A’s hadn’t managed to advance further in the postseason, but nevertheless awed and content with the most magical six months of baseball in my lifetime.

Today I just feel like crap.

I recognize that I am offbase in my thinking here, and that my observations don’t match up reality, but it has nevertheless always seemed to me that in any given baseball game, a team has one opportunity on which the fortunes of the game swing.  One inning in which the opposing pitcher is looking shaky.  One chance to shut down the heart of the opponent’s order.  If you take advantage of that opportunity, you win, plain and simple.

I can also say the same of a playoff series.  In the 2013 ALDS between the A’s and the Tigers, the A’s opportunity to win and advance to the ALCS for the first time in seven years came in Game 4.  That was Oakland’s game to win, but thanks to a misplaced fastball, an unnecessary wild pitch and a fake home run, the opportunity to win the game and the series was lost.  That’s why I didn’t feel any particular sense of tragedy in Game 5; that had come two days earlier.  Instead, all I felt throughout Game 5 was a sinking inevitability and a desire to have it all over with.

And that’s all led to today, where I’ve had three days to do away with the frustration and anger at Game 4, and am instead left to deal with that persistent feeling of emptiness that follows when something that had occupied so much emotional energy for so long (that ALDS took about a year and a half to play, right?), something you had expected to devote energy to for just a bit longer, is suddenly taken away in the time from one pitch to another.  There’s none of the 2003 rage, and certainly none of the 2012 contentment, but instead just a gaping hole rooted somewhere in my guts.  Seeking to fill that hole may be why I spent twenty minutes last night watching the end of Moneyball at 1 a.m. with my half-asleep three-year-old son sitting next to me on the couch.  Seeking to close the hole may be why I threw every piece of Oakland-themed clothing I own in the laundry hamper this morning.  Neither did the job, but it was worth a shot.

Today I feel like crap.  Tomorrow I’ll feel better.

April 2014 isn’t so far away, right?  How’s Jaso’s concussion recovery coming along?

96-66, American League West Champions

Finis

Of Monumental Import

Here’s the plan: if I go a long time between posts, it looks like I’m lazy.  But if I go a REALLY long time between posts, it looks like I’m just waiting for something of monumental import before I sully the metaphorical walls of this website with text and images.

And man, do we have something monumental now.  You all know what I’m talking about.  You all watched that game last night.  And you know what I know.  You know that . . . .

Continue reading

Baseball banter for Athletics fanatics!