The final countdown is on—just a few dozen hours left for holiday shopping. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, there are only a couple more days to go to find those last-second items on your loved ones’ wish lists.
In the waning moments of the shopping hustle, most people will concede that it’s not easy to pinpoint among the myriad of malls and holiday sales anything in particular to get your friends and families. Do you provide a gift you know someone will love based upon his or her expressed interest? Or do you offer a more unfrequented present based on utility and benefit?
For rabid sports fans, this is the time when both options apply. They want a dream scenario or package that simultaneously benefits the best needs of their favorite sports teams. Be it a player acquisition or removal, whatever is needed to equal a winning organization. That’s the ultimate stocking stuffer.
I need outfielders.
From, Billy Beane
Hopefully, Santa got the letter that was sent this past autumn. The A’s outfield is as empty as the seats of Mt. Davis. A plot of grass—that’s about it. When the groundskeeper and security guard are on duty, there are more Oakland Coliseum personnel patrolling the outfield than actual Oakland Athletics outfielders on the roster.
Ryan Sweeney. Ryan Sweeney and some other players. That’s the extent of the players in the Oakland A’s clubhouse who have major league experience.
The first step toward fielding a legitimate roster is rounding out the outfielder depth chart. Last season’s free agent acquisitions—starting outfielders Josh Willingham and David DeJesus—are already gone. And Coco Crisp is likely out the door. That leaves Sweeney as the slated starter in all three outfield positions.
Though next spring will provide ample opportunity for young bloods to play themselves up the ladder, the A’s can’t count on such a green crop of inexperienced players to provide sufficient production. Especially given the candidates from their farm system who have already budded with the big club last season.
In 2011, timeless minor leaguers Jai Miller and Michael Taylor arrived to the A’s as September call-ups, demonstrating in a short amount of time that they are and will be average players. Meanwhile, top prospect Michael Choice is not quite ready to perform at the major-league level. Having these two positions to fill with these three unripe rookies won’t cut it. More so when considering that Sweeney himself is a below-average player who hasn’t showed any offensive prowess in his five-plus seasons in the bigs.
A’s fans would like to see a solid veteran to offset the inadequacies and obvious growing pains that will comprise the outfield next season. A Rick Ankiel or Kosuke Fukudome would be adequate and on par with the ambition of the organization this upcoming year. Or maybe a local bat like Pat Burrell.
Whatever the case, it’d be nice to see under the tree a player with an outfielder’s glove.
If it were up to Oakland A’s fans, the organization wouldn’t have an inadequate outfield if general manager Billy Beane didn’t forego acquiring a new one, instead letting all of the Opening Day starting outfielders depart via free agency this winter. But that’s just another blemish in the general manager’s portfolio of late.
The magic Beane has not sprouted any upward-rising stock of late. Rather, the organization as a whole has become a revolving door of players, none of whom last for more than a few seasons in the cesspool that is the Oakland A’s. Beane is at the forefront of this upheaval—year after year after year. And his actions are inciting rampant grumbling among the Athletics faithful.
A prime example is the recent trading of All-Star starting pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. But their departures are not that surprising when considering the tradition that was established during the Billy Beane era. Names like Giambi, Tejada, Hudson, Mulder, Zito—it goes on and on. And A’s fans cringe with each new addition to that list.
Though Beane has been touted as the cream of the general manager crop for having introduced the Moneyball philosophy to the rest of the MLB, A’s fans are a bit tired of the same rigmarole. Ultimately the never-ending swapping of rosters has led some to wish that Beane was given away to another team for Christmas.
Of course Billy Beane’s actions are only the result of orders he receives from his own boss, A’s owner Lew Wolff. Beane would probably do things a lot differently if he had more financial freedom and less oversight from his penurious owner.
Wolff is a businessman, through and through. His intents and beliefs have always been to maximize the value of his team by pinching pennies. And unfortunately that has resulted in an annual expunging of young and talented players in exchange for younger and unproven minor leaguers. Wolff’s management philosophy has never been to win, and that irksome behavior places him on the top of fans’ naughty list.
In their dream situation, Wolff would no longer be the owner, because he has never put the interests of the ball club or the fans ahead of his bottom line. His eternal quest to relocate the Athletics to San Jose has caused a tremendous divide among the team’s own fanbase. And it has become so excruciatingly frustrating to watch for these paid customers and afficianados of a franchise that has been entrenched in the East Bay for over 40 years.
Ultimately, the Athletics are likely to find their way to San Jose—some time, some how. But at present, the fact that Wolff has ostracized his own fanbase, deceiving them to the point of the poorest attendance in all of MLB, is a disappointing flaw of team management. It is this lack of trust of the organization can only be attributed to the sad little Grinch, Lew Wolff. And A’s fans would love nothing more to see him get lumps of coal in his stocking this holiday.
Though Lew Wolff may be the anti-Santa during this Christmastime, one thing he has provided for the Oakland A’s is the interest in creating a new home for the team. No matter if you are an Oakland faithful or a Silicon Valley believer, the agreed upon reality is that the Oakland Coliseum is way past its prime.
Surely as individuals, we’d like to think that our dwellings, our living space is a representation of who we are. For the most part, the cleanliness, orderliness, aesthetics and presentation of our office, home or car depict how we might be as independent entities.
For the A’s, the Oakland Coliseum characterizes the team as being archaic, antiquated and antique. Which is sadly befitting of a team that has no payroll, no prudent ownership and no ambition—at least under the Lew Wolff regime. The Coliseum personifies the dilapidation of not only the stadium itself but the franchise as a whole. And sadly, or not, it's time to find some new digs to showcase the true life blood of an aspiring organization.
In order to compete with the rest of baseball—and the rest of local sporting events—the A’s need a new stadium, be it in downtown San Jose or in a revamped part of Oakland. For Athletics fans, if this present actually were to be delivered, everything else on this wish list would come true.
Hope Santa can fit a stadium in his sleigh.
Above all else, all A’s fans want for Christmas is a winning season. Ahead of the new stadium, ahead of the All-Star starting pitchers, ahead of the replacement of the black sheep owner Lew Wolff. Athletics fans just want to see a winning team again.
Oakland has not had a winning record for the past five seasons. Worse, the team hasn’t sniffed legitimate contention in their division since winning the American League West in 2006. It’s been a tough and tortuous stretch for the organization, and its fanbase has followed suit by drawing the lowest attendance numbers in 2011.
But what can be attributed to the last of a competitive roster?
Unfortunately it’s a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the business model imposed by the miserly ownership, which has resulted in an assembly of lower-tiered free agents, massive roster overhauls and poor clubhouse culture and spirit. The byproduct of that is a lack of cohesion, as each member of the team knows his tenure with the A’s will last no more than a couple of seasons. Positive attitudes ebb, and everything sort of snowballs into an avalanche of antipathy. And that emits a losing culture.
For A’s fans, if there’s one thing that can solve all of their team’s problems, it’s an unexpected winning season from the likely cast of nobodys that will comprise the Athletics roster in 2012. The rookies, castaways, also-rans, has-beens, underachievers and average Joes will have to find a way to compete with the big boys of the AL West and come away with a playoff berth.
If Santa can pull off this Christmas miracle, all will be merry for the Green & Gold. And that would be the best present all A’s fans could receive for this holiday season.
Happy holidays to everyone.
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