Oakland Athletics Take 3 of 4, Bay Area Media Complains

Jun 28, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Khris Davis (2) crashes into the center field fence on a double by San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (not pictured) during the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Khris Davis (2) crashes into the center field fence on a double by San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (not pictured) during the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Athletics are the little brother to the San Francisco Giants by just about any measure, and in Thursday’s papers the local media let that be known.

Let’s make a few things known before we begin. I grew up in the East Bay, which is typically more A’s territory, although recent trends have seen an influx of people wearing Giants gear, especially in the more affluent parts of town. The A’s took the first three games of their series with the Giants (the only three that had been played before the San Francisco Examiner published the article linked below) against a first-place San Francisco team that is currently beleaguered with injuries. I’m a realist. I get that the Giants are the better squad this season, but due to playing their sixth string infielders in Oakland, they haven’t had an answer for the A’s offense.

I get it.

Yet, the Examiner (which I would liken to the New York Post) decided to run a piece by Paul Ladewski in a column entitled “Balls,” in which Ladewski’s headline looks as though he is going to rail against interleague play, but instead turns it into a manifesto against the A’s themselves.

The headline reads, “Bay Bridge Series Reminds us What’s Wrong with Baseball.” Take a minute to think about where you think an article with this headline may go. Nope, not even close. 

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In the first paragraph, the author writes, “Nobody with a competitive bone in his body should get excited about a series that packs all the drama of Schmoes versus Pros.” Again, the A’s had taken the first three games of this series, and outside of the drama-filled 13-11 contest on Tuesday, it would be hard to see which team he actually meant was the pro team. In Wednesday’s game, the Giants were missing routine plays, and even had a home run off of Mac Williamson‘s glove that benefitted the A’s. Total pro move there.

Ladewski’s sticking point is that a “rivalry” as he would deem this matchup, needs to have two good teams battling for supremacy. “It takes two committed organizations with some history of recent success to forge a rivalry, and this one has none of that whatsoever.” Yes, we get it. The A’s have had a hard time making it to the ALCS for quite awhile, winning only one playoff series since 1991. But if recency bias is what makes rivalries great, then the A’s have been the more competitive team year in and year out since 2000 with eight playoff appearances to San Francisco’s six. Want to stick to the timeframe since the Giants started winning championships? They’re tied three-three.

The Giants also had a six-year gap from 2004 to 2009 in which they didn’t make the playoffs, with a 91-win team and an 88-win team acting as the bookmarks to a slew of 70 win ballclubs. The first of those 70-win teams in 2005 netted them Tim Lincecum in the first round of the 2006 draft. The second 70-win club, Madison Bumgarner, and the third Buster Posey. The A’s weren’t competitive last year and landed whom many regarded as the top prospect in the draft for much of the year, A.J. Puk at number six. Time will tell if he is as good as any of the Giants trio of selections.

“Too many teams at the mercy of tightwad owners or not rich enough to compete for extended periods, too many that have the passion and resources to be successful on and off the field virtually every year.” Again, the A’s have been competitive for the most part for the better part of this millennium–even without spending money like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and–Giants. He then goes on to write, under the bold headline “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda,” that “Rather than cry poor and moan about their stadium situation, (which has been prolonged in part because of Giants ownership, but that’s beside the point) the A’s would make a far better case for themselves if they put a contender on the field.” Well the one year they really went for it (2014), trying to add to what was already the best team in baseball, the team crapped out down the stretch, and the loss of prospects at that trade deadline set the team back a bit.

Management went outside of their typical plan to “put a contender on the field” and the plan backfired. Thank you, desktop GM.

Now the real meat of all the mockery that Ladewski bestows is the team that the A’s could have had, if only their tightwad owners would spend just a fraction more.

Catcher – Kurt Suzuki (.279 batting average, 4 home runs, 0.6 fWAR)

First Base – Chris Carter (.231, 19, 0.6)

Second Base – Ben Zobrist (.296, 10, 2.8)

Third Base – Josh Donaldson (.290, 17, 2.8)

Shortstop – Addison Russell (.236, 7, 1.3)

Left Field – Matt Holliday (.257, 15, 1.0)

Center Field – Yoenis Cespedes (.290, 18, 2.0)

Right Field – Carlos Gonzalez (.329, 18, 2.5)

Designated Hitter – Nelson Cruz (.284, 20, 1.8)

Yeah, that’s one heck of a roster, I guess. We’ll pick this apart here in just a minute, but the sentence following his little table reads, “These 10 players would cost nearly $115 million this season, or about $25 million more than the current payroll.”

Oh, so many things wrong here. First, that’s nine players. Second, that’s nine players eating up more than it’s costing the A’s to field an entire team, so unless Dennis Eckersley and Dave Stewart are still in pretty good shape, would like to quit their current jobs, and get paid their salaries from the 80’s, this isn’t entirely feasible. Third, Carlos Gonzalez was traded for Matt Holliday, so that totally wouldn’t work either. Fourth, the A’s had Cruz in the minor leagues from 2001 to 2004, and it took until 2007 for him to really have an impact, and by that time the Milwaukee Brewers had also given up on him.

You know why the A’s have a hard time committing to a player? Because the largest contract that the team has ever handed out was to Eric Chavez in 2004 at six years, $66 million. While he was healthy for a couple of seasons, over the last four years of that deal, Chavez played in 154 regular season games. There are 162 games in one season. The A’s can’t afford to have dead money on their payroll like rich teams do. If management can turn over the roster and keep the team competitive for the most part, then let them have at it. Moneyball your hearts out.

While we’re out signing former A’s, let’s talk about Jeff Samardzija who signed with the Giants this offseason. Through ten games he was worth every penny of his $90 million contract. In June he had a 6.93 ERA. Which Samardzija will show up for the next four and a half years? The Giants have the luxury of being able to find out, as they’ve already been dealing with the dead weight contracts of Barry Zito (aren’t the A’s glad they didn’t spend that much on him in free agency?), Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in recent years. That contract would sink the A’s for it’s entirety if it didn’t pan out. Oakland’s management team has to hit with every bullet they fire, and for the most part they have. Landing Ben Zobrist in a trade before last season netted them a solid rotation arm for the next few years at least in Sean Manaea. Signing Rich Hill to an Oakland-esque contract (one year, six million) will likely net a nice group of prospects at the deadline to pair with the up-and-comers they have waiting in Triple-A.

While the much, much larger point that Ladewski was trying to make rings true, that the A’s have no marketable stars, instead fielding a team of, as he puts it, “has-beens and never-wases,” and that the A’s owners are tight with their money, more concerned with turning a profit than winning a championship, the execution of delivering that message was delivered with snark that wasn’t even remotely researched.

Next: In a Down Year, Still Plenty to Watch in Oakland

Spending money doesn’t make a team a champion. Sorry, Los Angeles. The St. Louis Cardinals let Albert Pujols, who many consider one of the best to play the game, straight-up walk away when he hit free agency. They didn’t pay him. Instead they trusted their system, and year after year they field a contender. The A’s certainly don’t have the same system in place to churn out contenders from their farm system year after year, but Oakland has more in common with The Cardinal Way than they do with the free-spenders.

And that my friends is what what’s wrong with interleague play. Or something.