To the untrained eye, Oakland A’s games are loads of fun. You’ve got Stomper the Mascot, the famous “Dot Racing” and the great game-day giveaways. However, it's easy for the trained eye to pull the blankets off the bed and find the makings of a smooth criminal.
Going into the 2009 season, Oakland was supposed to challenge the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the AL West title. The acquisitions of Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra were supposed to make people forget about how young and inexperienced the pitching staff was.
The Oakland faithful saw Billy Beane with a big red “S” on his chest, and Lew Wolff looked like he actually gave a damn about the team’s performance. The glory days of the A’s were upon Oakland once again.
The Holliday deal seemed too good to be true. Even I admit, I was on cloud nine. But right away it hit me, it was only a matter of time before he got shipped out to another team. A fear amongst all of Oakland was that if the A’s did make a playoff push, would Beane still trade him away? Needless to say, we won’t have to sweat that bullet anytime soon.
Anyone who knows the game of baseball could see it coming. As a fan, it becomes gut-wrenching knowing your favorite player is one step away from walking out that revolving door and into some other team’s life. It’s like when you were in Little League, and your team was short a player and you had to borrow a player from the opposing team. You’d stick him in right field and bat him ninth, nothing too major. However, he makes a few, good plays in the field and has a clutch at-bat, and now your coach has become absolutely infatuated.
That is, until the game is over and the player-on-loan jogs over to the other side of the diamond. That bitter taste of false hope lingers in each player's mouth. Even the coach and fans are bitter for the rest of the season.
Walking around the Oakland Coliseum, you’ll find t-shirt jerseys are the norm. Blanton, Dye, Giambi, Hudson, Haren, Mulder, Street, Tejada and Zito, they’re all there. But what more do these guys have in common? Oh, that’s right, none of them are with the team anymore. Half of these gentlemen went the way of Holliday and in return, Oakland received a plethora of prospects with loads of potential.
I understand these moves are made to build for the future, but they also need to build team chemistry. They had it from 2002 to 2006, when they averaged 94 wins a season. The lineup was consistent and the starting pitching staff was something to be respected. The ’09 season looked bright, with Giambi and Holliday batting in the 3-4 spots, but as of last week, it looks nothing short of dismal with Kurt Suzuki and Scott Hairston filling those spots.
Nothing against Suzuki and Hairston, but lately it seems liks all Bob Geren has been doing is pulling names out of a hat. How do you build chemistry when the names on the roster are stuck in constant flux?
What am I getting at?
Why go through all that trouble to acquire the likes of Holliday, if you know well enough he’s out the second a drool-worthy offer is on the table? Honestly, it misleads the fans into believing you actually want to put together something worth bragging about. Imagine watching your money being spent and not getting the total value for it, a la Orlando Cabrera.
Feels like money wasted, you say? Yeah well, imagine giving up on Eric Chavez to keep Miguel Tejada and seeing how that could have panned out. Your stomach still feeling sour?
Like I said before, I respect the whole “building toward the future” thing, but teams are building to win now, not for three seasons down the road. The prospects get thrown from the frying pan and into the fire way too quick, and in return their stock gets severely impaired and their chances of a meaningful career are now slim to none. It would be a better idea to surround them with a few grizzled veterans who can still play, and at the All-Star Break you may have something worth talking about. Maybe even an American League or World Series title, if they’re kept around long enough.
We know Oakland doesn’t have the same market value as a team like the Yankees, but as the saying goes, “money well spent is money well earned.” This can easily fix a number of problems standing in Oakland’s way.
One, the attendance issue will be repaired because fans will actually come out to the games. Secondly, potential free agents will see Oakland as an organization with good team chemistry, thus resulting in an improved win-loss record. Finally, enough revenue will be generated to build a new stadium and Lew Wolff will finally realize that Oakland isn’t so bad after all.
Oakland has some of the most underrated fans in the world of professional sports, however, it’s not right to play them for a mob of hooligans. They’ve been there through thick and thin, so the least thing the front office can do is show them the loyalty they've shown their team throughout the years. So stop with the deception and lets begin the healing in Oakland.