A Tale of Two Cities

I am personally very tired of reading hackneyed, reactionary articles that have myopic views of reality. I just read one that takes the cake.

It seems the Bay Area media is all in a tizzy about our Green and Gold Heroes. They don’t want to win, you see. That is the problem! They won’t sign high dollar free agents (not that they didn’t pursue any, but the reason those folks didn’t come is because Lew Wolff doesn’t want to win… not a substandard stadium or more money from the Cardinals and Rangers). They tarped off a “popular” section of the stadium (I thought popular meant a lot of people like them a whole lot and thus they are full on a regular basis) to drive fans away. If only Lew Wolff was as magnanimous as Peter MacGowan, people would be showing up in droves to watch the A’s. And best of all, look at the Tampa Bay Rays, they have built a perennial contender on a small budget. It’s doable if only you want to do it, or so the meme goes.

Upon further examination, that last part of the meme should be “Look how the Rays are replicating what the A’s did earlier in the decade, almost.”

Wait, what? The Rays are everything the A’s aren’t. This is true, currently. The Rays are a small market team that has to compete with the biggest of big spenders every year, and they have managed to make the playoffs 3 of the last 4 seasons. But let’s remember that the Rays are following the A’s playbook.

The Rays, an abject failure of a franchise for their entire existence until 4 years ago, have had the benefit of drafting in the top ten every year from 1999 through 2007. During that time they drafted such notables as Josh Hamilton, Rocco Baldelli, BJ Upton, Delmon Young, Evan Longoria and David Price (and less notables Dawon Brazleton, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend).

Prior to the A’s most recent run of success (I like to think it started with playoff contention in 1999 and ended in 2006) the A’s drafted in the top ten 5 out 6 seasons. With those picks they got Ben Grieve, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder and the good version of Barry Zito (and they passed on Todd Helton to take Ariel Prieto).

In other words, key components of both teams most recent successful seasons came through the draft. Or to paraphrase Billy Beane  in his recent Athletics Nation interview, the core has to come from the farm system. How do you get a stocked farm system? Losing a lot for a decade doesn’t hurt, apparently.

I have a ton of respect for the Tampa Bay Rays. The organization has done an excellent job of drafting and developing, but can we please get real? The Rays have been to the playoffs 3 times in their entire history and were perennial losers for their first decade of existence. This past off season they lost Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. It isn’t that far off before David Price goes the way of Mark Mulder. The writing is on the wall.

That is not to say that I am expecting, or rooting, for a monumental collapse by the Rays. It is to say that the hardest part is about to hit. The replacing Jason Giambi with Scott Hatteberg part. The taking a flier on Frank Thomas and hoping against hope that he goes bonkers part. The “Do I keep Miggy or Chavvy?” part. Ask us about this stuff Rays fans, we know.

We know that you can only replace an aging DH with another aging DH so many times before Mike Piazza isn’t Frank Thomas. We know sometimes you go Chavvy when you should have gone Miggy. We know that for every Mark Mulder that nets you Daric Barton, Dan Haren and Kiko Calero there is a Tim Hudson that nets you Charles Thomas, Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer. We know that once you stop having top ten draft picks your minor league system only gets you so far and you have to start robbing Peter to pay Paul in one way or another.

That’s the rub. The minor league system is what gives smaller market teams a chance. When it begins to pay off, there are two questions that you can ask to know how wide the window of contention is: 1. How long can you keep these guys together? 2. Are we better off trading them some time before they hit free agency or taking draft picks when they sign with the Yankees?

My guess is that when all is said and done, the Rays won’t match the A’s 8 year (1999-2006) run of contention. But my guess isn’t really that important, the “Do we trade Carl Crawford or take draft picks?” part is in the past and the “Do we trade BJ Upton or take draft picks?” part is just around the corner.

How long until the return of the top ten draft pick part? Only time will tell.

70 Responses to A Tale of Two Cities

  1. Genaro says:

    Crosby could have been put at third base if the A’s had felt that was the area of pressing need but they made the Chavez decision long before 2003. And your point included the roids aspect yet that aspect was also there with Giambi and they offered him a ton. With respect to Crosby’s development, it was what they did after that ROY season that is on the team as they botched several injury diagnoses in addition to letting him fall off a cliff after the 2005 season, specifically when they rushed him back in Sept.
    .
    I was against the Bradley trade because at the time the Dodgers were forced to unload him as he just had the water bottle incident in LA that September. The original offer was Saarloos and Mario Ramos yet got bumped up to Ethier to get the deal done. The small market team took an incredibly risky short-term gain and that’s supposed to be a good move?
    .
    Again, I don’t get what you’re saying with this going all-in stuff, I never said it was bad in 2007, just that the A’s went about their 2009 “going for it” in a bad way by trading two top players for a guaranteed rental, something that a small market team can’t afford to do.
    .
    These aren’t little mistakes, that was being facetious as they were substantial mistakes but get glossed over because the overriding issue is the stadium issue. I come from it at the angle of wanting the A’s to do well, not that they need to stay in the Coliseum.
    .
    Jeffrey, I agree that there’s a bit of hindsight looking in these things but would it be unfair to say that Chavez had an injury history as well? If you remember, he had plantar fasciitis his first season and he had some back issues around 2001 or 2002, I forget which exactly. One would have to consider that in a comparison to then non-existent history of Tejada. Plus there’s information that we aren’t privy to like the difference in demeanor and whether a player can handle the burden of being “the” guy of a franchise. Chavvy has already said that he couldn’t handle it and you have to wonder if that was even a consideration at the time they made their decision.

  2. david says:

    *this blog*

  3. Anon says:

    @ genaro – again, hindsight is 50/50. you can continue to deliberate past decisions as if the opposite decision was easy to make. was letting mulder and zito go a genius move on their part as well? how did they know when to pick up thomas yet not sign him the following year? i’m not glossing over the issue based on the coliseum, but rather from a perspective that i don’t pretend to know all the compelling reasons that would affect beane to make those decisions and think that i could of done better. but i do think it’s stupid to blame the a’s management in not attempting to win as Dickey postulates. if the a’s had the budget of say the giants or angels, do you think those decisions would affect them as much? could they afford to blow millions on pitchers like vazquez to not perform and not bat an eye? as i said, these issues are probably minor to top revenue generating clubs, but is amplified by the fact the a’s are a small market team.
    @ david – swing and miss by another oaklander trying to bat against that ol’ “what should we do to stay in Oakland?” pitch…..

  4. Sid says:

    Here is what I have noticed is the big difference with the A’s since 2007 vs. the 1999-2006 years that no one seems to mention….Injuries.

    The A’s were a healthy team most of the time during the 1999-2006 years. In the past few years they have had to use the DL so many times they have broken their own team records over and over.

    Like any sport you need “health” to win. You cannot expect the A’s to win when 1/3 of the team is on the DL at any given time.

    Look at this year….Ellis, Anderson, Braden, Wuertz, Bailey, McCarthy, Ross, Willingham, Balfour, all spend time on the DL this year. That is actually less than in past 3 years.

    Tampa Bay on the other hand has had good health in the AL East with good talent hence they win. The A’s have had no such like the past 3-4 years.

    You cannot blame Beane or Wolff for the team succumbing to injuries. That is something people overlook a lot….Ask the Giants this year about injuries, spoiled their repeat campaign.

    @jk-usa- Your “one foot out the door” argument is flawed. The 49ers have had “one foot out the door” in SF since 2006 and yet still sellout in the dump known as Candlestick. The A’s as Jeffrey has pointed out have passed the median in attendance 7 times in 44 years….15 playoff appearances for 7 times?? Shows regardless of the owner the team does not get fans period in the East Bay.

    I emailed Newhouse and pjk is right he expects Fisher and Wolff to “pay for it themselves”. When I questioned him on how they would sell premium seating with the Giants so nearby he of course did not respond.

  5. pjk says:

    re: emailed Newhouse and pjk is right he expects Fisher and Wolff to “pay for it themselves”.

    …Y.es, pay for it themselves and if Wolff/Fischer go bankrupt doing it, that’s there problem. Not Oakland’s, or Newhouse’s or Dickey’s. Oakland keeps “its” team and Wolf/Fischer bear all the massive risk.

  6. pjk says:

    their problem, not there problem.

  7. Genaro says:

    Anon, you keep saying it’s hindsight but the reasons I gave as to how those conclusions were made is with the information that was there “at the time.”
    Ask Bill Neukom or Tony Reagins if they could spend on bad contracts and not have ownership “bat an eye.”

  8. David says:

    the niners don’t sellout the Stick … they buy up all the unsold tickets, so the home games can be broadcasted locally.

  9. pjk says:

    …I’ll bet the 49ers sell 90%+ of their tickets, much better than the 40% or so that the A’s sell…This seems to be the equation: 49ers moving 30 miles south = no big deal; A’s moving 30 miles south = absolute horror!

  10. GoA's says:

    @David–than you should be pissed that Uncle Al doesn’t do the same thing…guess he doesn’t want to win

  11. eb says:

    @pjk The 49ers aren’t going to change their name to Santa Clara 49ers, the Oakland A’s would change to San Jose. How would you feel if the Sharks moved to SF and ditched the San Jose moniker? As a proud Oaklander born and bred, it makes a difference to me. Baseball is also more dynamic to it’s surrounding area due to the number of games, football is a different and doesn’t impact the urban core as much.
    @GoA’s Are you really suggesting Jed wants to win more than Al? Wow. Slam him all you want, there’s been good reason, but he spends money getting players here. Buying excess tickets has nothing to with wanting to win, it’s a PR thing. The 49er “sellout” myth has been a long standing tradition.

  12. Columbo says:

    @pjk – FWIW, I married into a family of niner-fanatics (I’m a Raider fan, so it sucked). On top of that I succumbed to the wife’s pressure to live near her parents so I have been on the Peninsula for awhile now. As such, over the past 7 years I met the most ardent of niner supporters. Without question, 100% of those I encountered hated the fact that the team has been wanting to move south. On top of that, my father-in-law, the wife’s uncles, cousins, friends, etc., all season ticket holders since the 80′s, have vowed to cancel their tickets should they move. They still attend games from time-to-time now but not like they used to. The caveat here is that this is my own personal experience. It might be that there are hordes of other ardent fans who could care less and would gladly drive down to SC. I just thought I’d make this observation. One other thing… The season ticket holders I’ve encountered sell many of their game tickets on the cheap quite often to whomever is willing to buy them, many times on gameday. Perhaps these near “sellouts” and the well-known decline of fan ahem “quality” over the past few years have something to do with cheap tickets floating around nowadays. Perhaps it’s not so much the ardent supporters attending games anymore. Again, just a personal observation that is admittedly limited in the grand scheme of things.

  13. GoA's says:

    @eb–it was tongue in check as you pro-oakland guys like to take every extraneous item and come back and try to correlate it to poor ownership—the latest rant was LW doesn’t want to win—maybe Al should tarp some seats off so he has less to sell and than he can get his games put on local tv on a more regular basis–

  14. pjk says:

    If San Jose’s elected politicians were as dismissive of the Sharks as Oakland’s have been of the A’s (We don’t need to rehash everything again), I wouldn’t like, but would certainly understand why the Sharks might want to leave….FWIW, as I’ve said, nothing changes except the ballpark location and the city name in the standings and on the away jerseys. Not even the A’s cap would change…

  15. GoA's says:

    @Columbo–the ’9ers must be really worried about all those fans cancelling season tix—this morning on KCBS they reported that they plan on beginning site preparation work for the new stadium in Santa Clara earlier than expected–I work in Palo Alto–and I have yet to encounter anyone here who is opposed to the ’9er stadium in Santa Clara—amazing how we operate in the same general area and yet your experience is so different than my own–

  16. eb says:

    @GoA’s *sigh* “You pro-Oakland guys” You do realize there are a huge number of A’s fans who are “pro-Oakland,” right? Not all of which act or think in generalizations in which some on here like to apply to them.
    As for your joke, call it a “whoosh” moment on my part.

  17. eb says:

    @pjk I think that a lot more changes than just the away jersey, pjk. I guess we just disagree.

  18. GoA's says:

    @eb–and you realize there are a huge number of A’s fans who are pro- A’s and wanting them to get into a new ballpark asap–and therefore by extension, support them moving to SJ–

  19. eb says:

    @GoA’s My point, GoA’s, was that your statement was generalizing a large number of people.

  20. Columbo says:

    @GoA’s – #1) That’s why I threw in the caveat that this was personal observation and it didn’t necessarily apply to everyone, #2) Isn’t Palo Alto in SCL County, i.e. closer to SV? I’m on the northern side of the peninsula, closer to SF. That doesn’t surprise me that your experience of zero resistance to a niner move would be found in such a location.

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