The first half of the baseball season is over. Actually, mathematically, more than half of the season is over. Most teams have played 85 to 86 games of the schedule of 162. But traditionally the All Star break is the halfway point.
Going into the break, the A's are at break even. They are 43-43. A .500 team. But for this Oakland team, that is a winning record.
For the Red Sox, a .500 record is disastrous. It is a reflection of a big-budget team falling far short of expectations. Boston manager Bobby Valentine is probably calling around for a new job. His old employer, ESPN, already brought in Terry Francona.
For the Blue Jays, a .500 record is a reminder of the state their franchise has been stuck in. They have not been a bad team, but they have had trouble making the leap into contention like Tampa and the surprising Orioles have this year.
But for the Athletics, finishing at break even with the American League's lowest payroll is a big accomplishment. Oakland is paying their players $55.3 million this year. The Red Sox are paying $10 million more than that just for Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Andrew Bailey and Josh Beckett.
In the offseason, the A's were killed by the media and their fanbase for trading away three young pitchers in Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez just as they were going to get bumps in salary.
It was seen as the Athletics fielding a minor league team and led to them being called a mockery of baseball. They seemed better off fielding the actors who played the 2002 A's in Moneyball than their actual roster.
That minor league team is holding its own in the big leagues, though. The Phillies have the second-highest payroll in baseball and are sub .500. The Marlins went on their wild spending spree this offseason to field a $118 million team, and are entering the break three games under .500. The defending division champion Milwaukee Brewers are in the top ten for payroll and are also-rans with a 40-45 mark.
And for less than half of those payrolls, the A's are even. They are doing it with no one with over 100 plate appearances batting .290 and only two in double digits for homers. They are doing it with no starting pitcher with double digit victories or saves.
They are doing it with a team effort and on a shoestring budget. Sounds like winners to me.
Reliever Craig Breslow, who was sent to Arizona in the Cahill trade, said after the deal "These are two different organizations going in two different directions". He's right. The Diamondbacks are the team currently under .500, unlike the A's.