Though Thanksgiving has come and passed, the period of giving thanks and self-reflection for what we are fortunate to have in our lives continues.
Athletes, sports franchises and owners are no different. Once in a while, they need to set aside some time for introspection. And in the end, they get to cherish all that they have going for them in the tumultuously wild world of sports ownership.
Surprisingly, the Oakland Athletics organization, one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, has a lot to be grateful for. Despite the worst five-year stretch since their move to Oakland, the A’s should be happy this holiday season. Here are five things the Athletics organization is thankful for.
While fans, media, politicians and even players are fed up with the issues regarding the Oakland Athletics’ stadium turmoil, the team’s front office and management are wryly cheerful about the attention they have received because of it. Because, let’s be honest, without the continuous tumult about whether the A’s relocate or not, the organization itself would be irrelevant throughout MLB.
For the past several years, the Athletics have been molding in the darkness of the East Bay, wallowing in a woeful limbo awaiting a decision to be made about their desired new home—San Jose. Owner Lew Wolff has been staunch about his desire to move to the South Bay, but MLB has not been able to approve that decision.
In the meantime, the A’s have suffered from a loss of fans that have resulted in the lowest home attendance in 2011. Free agents spurn signing with Oakland and its archaic facilities. Worst of all, the Athletics have anemically trudged through five straight non-winning seasons—the only time that has happened in Oakland history.
And that is why Wolff and company should be excited about all of the South Bay hoopla. Without the attention of a potential new stadium, A’s fans would have to focus their energy on a losing team.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the A’s were the toast of the American League. Despite a shoestring budget, the Athletics were able to forge a winning team—one that appeared in four straight postseasons during the turn of the millennium (2000-2003). How’d they assemble such a competitive squad in spite of a payroll that was a fraction of the Yankees’ and Red Sox’s?
Apparently, general manager Billy Beane employed a new-age sabermetric business model that analyzed the often overlooked qualities of ballplayers. These were the traits that were undervalued by baseball scouts. And ultimately, they belonged to the players whose salaries were the least expensive.
This new sports strategy was so revolutionary that a book was written highlighting the influence in the evolution of baseball scouting. In turn, a movie was produced based on that book. Moneyball, with Brad Pitt starring as Beane, created quite a stir in certain sports circles. After all, with the Athletics hiding near the AL West cellar for the past few seasons, what was the point of this movie? What winning formula needed to be showcased? Why?
Debates abounded on the relevancy, accuracy and legitimacy; however, what Moneyball did do was make the Athletics a topic not just in Oakland and MLB but also in Hollywood and the film industry. And with some potential Oscar buzz surrounding Pitt’s depiction, the A’s franchise could be featured in several more red carpet events next year.
Without Billy Beane, the A’s are nothing. Who would be so devoted to a team trapped in a financial and losing abyss? Nobody. Only Beane.
A’s owner, Lew Wolff, owes a great deal to his loyal general manager. Wolff entrusts Beane with nearly every decision on and off the field. And with Beane’s Moneyball reputation, he has the freedom to do whatever he feels fit in order to build the Athletics’ roster. All with tens of millions of dollars less than Oakland’s divisional rivals. How does one do it?
Beane is a reputable general manager, and his presence in the Oakland front office is something to be thankful for. While many others would shy away from such an abominable franchise and unenviable situation, Beane has thrived. His staying power is something to be valued by this disorganized organization.
There isn’t much to be thankful for on the Athletics’ current roster. The clubhouse is full of injured veterans and underachieving prospects. What a terrible combination.
But evidently, A’s management feels strongly about the potential of one player alone—second baseman Jemile Weeks. In fact, he is considered to be the only player who is not available to be traded.
In Weeks’ rookie season, he took over the second base position from longtime veteran Mark Ellis. Weeks never gave the job back. He finished the season with a .303 batting average, 22 stolen bases and a team-leading eight triples, despite not being called up until June.
He is an exciting, athletic and energetic player, and he is one of the only reasons to watch the A’s on offense. The Athletics are thankful to have such a promising young prospect. The lineup is vacant otherwise. And very soon, it may literally be void of any noteworthy players.
Not much to say about the A’s this season, or the past five, to be exact. The only thing that keeps A’s fans interested in such an expiring franchise is the proximity and availability of its native son, Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson.
The greatest Oakland Athletics of all time, Henderson makes frequent appearances and cameos throughout the season. And Rickey Henderson bobble-head day is one of the more popular tickets of the year.
He is still considered to be the best A’s player on the team—right now. And without the marketability of the most popular player in team history—a man who has not played for the team since 1998—the Athletics would have to rely on the greatness of ex-Athletics such as Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. So sad.