A Puncher’s Chance At Best

In light of the blockbuster trade, I wrote this last year after the A’s were eliminated from the postseason.


Sisyphus, by Titian (mid-16th century)

Two weeks from today will mark the 10th anniversary of the last team to win a World Series with a payroll under $70 million. The winner in 2003 was the Florida Marlins, a team chock full of prodigious young talent (Miguel Cabrera, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis) and wily veterans (Pudge Rodriguez, Jeff Conine, Mike Lowell) who shocked the world when they beat the Yankees in six games. In 2003 the Yankees’ payroll was nearly $153 million. The Marlins’ payroll was a shade over $45 million. This year the team the wins it all will have a payroll anywhere from double to more than triple that of the teams that were just eliminated.

Atlanta was the first to go, seemingly powerless against the Dodgers’ Puig-powered juggernaut. Next was Tampa Bay, who fought bravely before succumbing to a superior Red Sox squad. Wednesday night it was the…

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41 thoughts on “A Puncher’s Chance At Best

  1. This story doesn’t apply to the 2014 A’s though – with the addition Lester and Shark Samardziga, the A’s are the equivalent of a $120 mil. payroll team, and play like a $200 mil. payroll team. Also the 2012 giants had a high team payroll, however played like an $90 mil. payroll team – their high payroll was not a factor in that team winning the world series.

    • @duffer – That’s why I reposted it. It’s a huge change from the prevailing team philosophy.

      • I’m not so sure that this is a huge change in Beane’s philosophy. He’s always said you don’t want to just tread water. If you’re not a contender you’re better off being really bad than trying to tread water. That was the argument he used when he traded away folks like Cahill, Gio and Swisher.

        The A’s also aren’t taking on huge long term contracts. They’re basically mortgaging the future as opposed to giving up cash to try to win a title.

        While they’re doing this a bit to the extreme this year, it kind of goes along with the overall philosophy in that they’re OK with being really bad two to three years from now in exchange for a shot to win today.

      • @slacker – Under Schott/Hofmann it was very clear there were severe payroll restrictions – some internal, some external – that governed how the team was run. Under Wolff/Fisher the purse strings have been loosened at times. One thing that hasn’t happened over the last 15 years is the team tanking. During that period the A’s haven’t sniffed 100 losses, nor have they gotten a Top-5 draft pick. Mortgaging the future is very novel under Beane, and tanking is practically unheard of. We’ve heard at times that the A’s would take this current path if they saw the opportunity. It’s nice (and scary) to see that happening. The downside for 2016-17 is frightening, however the A’s have a lot of cost-controlled major league assets to deal should worse come to worst.

      • how have the A’s “mortgaged the future”?

        They got rid of one excellent prospect, a few not so excellent ones, 1 year of Cespedes, and let Millone leave Sacramento.

        Next year, the A’s have a rotation of Gray, Parker, Kazmir, Shark, and Griffin once the two pitchers come back, plus guys like Chavez and Pom hanging around…and that’s without any additional moves.

      • @Jeopardydd – When you get rid of 3 straight first round picks, you’re mortgaging the future past 2015.

      • ML, Beane’s A’s teams haven’t been built around home-grown prospects for many, many, years. That’s not how he does it. You, like non-Beane GM’s, are overvaluing prospects and Beane just took advantage of that market inefficiency.

      • @Jeopardydd – They’re still assets given up much earlier than expected. It matters little whether they actually make the big club.

      • JeopardyDD may be correct. Only 39% of MLB 1st round draftees’ careers are 3 years or more – most are busts. GMs may value draft picks because of economic reasons – they can pay the non tenured draftees who make MLB rosters the minimum salary for several years.

      • ML,

        When you get right down to it, it’s just a few prospects (one really good one), in terms of the “future”. A year of Cespedes vs. a year of Shark isn’t that different in this discussion.

        I don’t believe that a team trading a few prospects, and only one being a really good, close to MLB ready one, constitutes “mortgaging our future”. Maybe we just differ on what the term means, but imo, a team getting rid of a current, young cost-controlled starting MLB player (like a few other teams did) is more fitting of your statement than what the A’s did.

  2. @ML – kudos for the clarification – that thought had occurred to me also.

  3. What happened to the talk about Lew Wolff trying to lose? Guess those folks will have to just stick to the “trying to suppress attendance with tarps” conspiracy

  4. A’s are giving out Cespedes t shirts tomorrow

  5. Suppressing attendance with tarps is exactly what’s happening. The A’s are averaging 24,600 and are filling the stadium at over 70% capacity which is one of the highest ratios of the bottom half of the league.

    Toronto has a capacity of 50,000 seats. Seattle can sit 48,000. The A’s lower capacity affects the average attendance because the “sell outs” are limited to 36,000 seats compared to the 48,000 seats we’d have with the tarps off of the third deck.

    So yes, opening night, the Yankee, Giants, and fireworks games attendance is being artificially lowered by the tarps and so is the A’s average attendance.

    • @ Elmano
      I would say the A’s average attendance for this year, may be somewhere between 27-30,000 a game if not for the tarps.
      Unfortunately, however all it would really do is reduce the amount the A’s would receive from the revenue sharing pool, in the current situation without a new venue and the opportunities to tap in to new revenue streams that hat comes with that (and ancillary development), it would not help much, but I do hear what you are saying.

    • So what’s the excuse for all the other years?

    • the suppressing-attendance-with-tarps nonsense has been debunked in here time and time again. What I want to know is why Elmano hates Lew Wolff for looking to move the A’s a 30 miles away but gives a free pass to Mark Davis for looking at Concord, Dublin, LA, San Antonio and who knows where else? Maybe there’s an abundance of direct flights between Oakland and San Antonio so Elmano doesn’t think a move by the Raiders 1,500 miles away is a big deal?

  6. @LSN- I have no idea how many of the 50 games the A’s have played have been sold out but let’s assume it was 10- to increase their average attendance to 27-30k the A’s would need 150,000-300,000 additional fans for this 10 sold out games- even without tarps it wouldn’t be possible-

    Second, for the best team in baseball to be averaging 24k fans a game says something is wrong- the Oakland crowd has always claimed that if we won then they would have great attendance- with that theory blown out of the water it’s now if they didn’t have tarps they would have higher attendance- not so much- bottom line just not a lot of interest in going to the O.Co to watch the A’s in person

    • @ GoA’s/ Elmano

      I agree with you the attendance is not as good as it should or could be, I’m not defending that and we have discussed many times, the verify of different reasons for why that is the case. I don’t know exactly what the A’s attendance would be without the tarps (I did not do the math), but it would undoubtedly be more, I think that was the original point. I also think you’re mistaken, by only looking at games that have sold out, say there are 10 sale outs, that doesn’t take into account the other highly attended games that were not sold out, where if the tarps were off those seats would have sold more.
      I know many, perhaps even yourself will say, but there were tickets available that were not sold, so that doesn’t make sense? but the tickets that were available may have been more expensive then, the fans that could have been siting in the third deck could afford, or the fact that there are fans that just prefer those seats.
      I not saying there would be a big difference, and as I said to Elmano originally, the difference would be minimal and without a new venue it would only serve to reduce the amount the A’s receive from the revenue pool, but in fact the A’s would have higher attendance if the tarps were off, we can always discuss the several other reasons, that if solved, would cause there average attendance to be 27-30,000 or even higher.

    • Yep. A’s attendance – ranked 23rd – is well below the tarped capacity. Take off the tarps so we can have 10,000-20,000 more visible empty seats? Why? At least the Raiders don’t use tarps, right, Elmano?

  7. @LSN- based upon your theory I fear what attendance will be if a new ballpark is built in Oakland and ticket prices double what they are today- o.co is one of the cheapest places to watch a game- a new ballpark will no longer be cheap-

    • @ GoA’s

      Yeah, again the only point being that the A’s average attendance would be higher without the tarps (among many other reasons), but good work on avoiding, that point.

  8. The point is that the tarps suppress attendance. I was there last night with a sell out crowd of 36,000. The A’s have sold out at least 13 games this year. How many more people would have bought tickets to those games if we had the 48,000 seats which we sold out for the playoffs available?

    Why don’t the Seatlle Mariners use tarps? Why don’t the Baltimore Orioles tarp part of their 48,000 seats? Why don’t the Toronto Blue Jays tarp good portion of their 50,000 seats? What about Cleveland, Houston, Miami and Kansas City? Where are their tarps?

    Shott and Hoffman averaged 26,000 with no tarps even as they were trying to move the team to Santa Clara year after year. Come on, you all know that Oakland has been undermined every single year with threats or relocation along with tarps. Oakland’s attendance would average over 30,000 without unfriendly ownerships and tarps.

    Even with the tarps the A’s are averaging over 29,000 in their last 23 games.

    • Elmano: Do the tarps suppress attendance at Raiders games, too?

      • The Raiders losing record for the last 12 years suppress attendance.

        The Raiders sold out for over a decade before they left for LA and when they were a winning team. Are you once again trying to blame Oakland for the Raiders attendance problems? Is that what you’re implying?

        I suppose if the Raiders played in San Jose and didn’t have a winning season in 12 years the attendance would be better.

        I wonder what attemdance would be at Levi Stadium with 12 consecutive non-winning seasons. Would you still pay 50 bucks to park your car?

    • @ Elmano

      I think because you are viewed as extreme (by some), or unwilling to look at reason’s for the A’s attendance, not being what it could or should be. outside of reason’s that can be directly related Lew Wolff (A’s management past or present), that when you make a valid point. like the simple fact, that the A’s average attendance would be higher without the tarps ( which should be undisputed), it can’t be received by some.

      • @ Elmano

        BTW I think the Raiders had 20 straight years of sale outs before they left for LA, but I would have to look that up to be sure.

      • I think you may be right. I’m a bit too passionate about these issues at times.

      • There is also the “less is more theory” which Wolff, now Mark Davis ( evidently) subscribe to. 25,000 fans at a stadium which seats 35,000 looks a lot better than a 25K crowd at 60,000-70,000 capacity stadium does. That is perhaps why MLB had bad attendance in the ’70’s. Then, many MLB teams were playing at the large, multi-purpose stadiums, similarly to the Coliseum is now. The newer, smaller baseball-only ballparks likely get better attendance because they don’t have that strange, empty stadium vibe that the older stadiums did – Lew Wolff’s tarps are actually likely boosting attendance.

  9. No surprise. Elmano gives the Raiders a free pass for doing what the A’s have done: Use tarps and look to move to another city. In the A’s case, Elmano hates Wolff for thinking about moving the team 30 miles. But Elmano seems OK with the Raiders looking at Concord, Dublin, LA, San Antonio and who knows where else? Is it some kind of “anywhere but San Jose” thing, Elmano?

  10. @elamno- last night was the 11th sellout- not sure how many of those included fireworks or some gimmick but I would guess half. Best team in baseball is not even close to other competitive teams – at least 7k below in average attendance. And I would easily take anyone’s bet that the A’s have one of the lowest season ticket holder bases in all of baseball- which is key to being able to predict revenue streams and sell in stadium advertising etc-

    • With a new-baseball only stadium at the CC site – the A’s would easily average over 30K though. The A’s are outdrawing Seattle (with a much newer, baseball only venue) And Seattle is a much larger MLB market than Portland, Sac, San Antonio are.

  11. @duffer- your assuming a winning team- as ML has pointed out the A’s are a small market team that relies heavily upon their prospects- going after Lester they have pretty much said this is it in terms of WS- while they will be competitive again next year it’s only a matter of time before they are in complete rebuild mode again- a ballpark off of 880 with no other reason to go there is not ever going to average 30k a game

    • @Lakeshore/Neil – true, the Coli is also much safer than ATT Park is proving to be – along with its predecessor – Candlestick.

    • @GoA’s – The A’s didn’t need Addison Russell or McKinney anyways. Also Cespedes would have been history after next year. Besides, the A’s aren’t in 1st place because of Cespy’s 17 HRs and .256 BA – the team didn’t mortgage its future with the recent swaps.

    • @ GoA’s

      You’re assuming that a baseball game will be the only reason to go there, if Wolff builds there I’m sure whatever ancillary development he comes up with will give plenty of reason to go and be there.

  12. The idea is to build a city around the ballpark in order to have a reason for people to go there. Isn’t this what Lew Wolff told Oakland officials he wants to do? Of course, this is at the same time he was telling the Mayor of San Jose, over pancakes, that he thinks he will still relocate to San Jose.

    So, in effect either Lew Wolff is lying to Oakland or he’s lying to the Mayor of San Jose. Wollf’s past history, along with his wishes and desires, tells me he’s lying to Oakland.

  13. And didn’t Mark Davis just meet with the mayor of San Antonio and the ex-mayor too? Oh that’s right – Elmano will look the other way at that.

    • I would have to say pjk has a point, in that the Raiders, Warriors, and the A’s haven’t always been the most fare partner to Oakland (not that Oakland has always been a good partner either), but of the three it’s the A’s whom have always come up on the short end, when the city had to make a choice.

  14. In Elmano’s world, the city of Oakland is completely blameless for the A’s plight: only one of two teams stuck endlessly in a substandard stadium. A football stadium, even. Not Oakland’s fault.

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