After getting slammed, and I mean literally slammed, by the New York Yankees on Thursday in the Bronx, the Oakland Athletics fell to 59-71 on the season and are still searching for meaning in this mostly meaningless season. The Athletics took two out of three from the Yankees, but that finale was so embarrassing I find it hard to believe that this squad of A’s actually took two of three from the Bronx Bombers. Perhaps luck was on their side during the first two games, I don’t know.
The A’s this season have been a mystery, much like the ones featured on FOX’s drama House, except there is no Gregory House in the real world to solve the many problems that currently stand in front of the Oakland A’s organization.
Obviously the biggest mystery is the one regarding the future of the A’s stadium situation. The A’s currently reside in O.co Coliseum, which they share with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. O.co Coliseum, formerly known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, is an outdated stadium unfit for any major league franchise. Hell, it’s probably unfit for any high school baseball team.
Yet the Athletics are still expected to call the cavernous Coliseum “home,” and play in front of crowds that rarely produce a sell-out. The small-market Athletics had a bright future back in the early 2000’s, with players like Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Miguel Tejada, and a few others delivering several playoff appearances during that time frame.
The A’s put together several amazing runs during the early 2000’s, including the remarkable 20-game win streak during the 2002 season, but they were never able to win a championship. The A’s did advance to the ALCS in 2006, without two-thirds of the Big Three that helped them in the early part of the decade, but were swept by a white-hot Detroit Tigers ball-club.
Following the end of the 2006 season, the Athletics tried to repeat as AL West champions in 2007 without key players such as Zito and Frank Thomas. Zito, who signed with the San Francisco Giants after the 2006 season, was the last member of Oakland’s coveted “Big Three” to leave the organization.
Oakland added Mike Piazza, but Piazza failed to fill the enormous shoes left behind Thomas, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays following the 2006 season. After failing, and I mean failing, to repeat as division champs, the A’s were left with an important decision about whether or not to begin a rebuilding process for the franchise.
Swingin’ A’s staff writer Jason Leary is revisiting the A’s rebuilding process, so I won’t delve too much into that, but I will say what the A’s tried or having been trying to accomplish since the end of that 2007 season has been one, giant, EPIC FAIL. I’m sure Jason will delve into this a whole lot more in his four part series, so I’ll just leave it at that.
What I’m interested in is whether or not Oakland’s failed rebuilding phase is beyond immediate repair. Oakland general manager Billy Beane has made a few mistakes during his tenure as GM of the A’s, and while he’s going to be portrayed by Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt in next month’s film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best-selling book Moneyball, Beane should share some of the blame for Oakland’s current mediocracy.
Beane, to me, made a critical error during this rebuilding: the Matt Holliday trade. I’m sure a lot of A’s fans will agree when I say that the Holliday trade is one of Beane’s biggest mistakes, and further suggests that perhaps one of baseball’s greatest minds doesn’t know how to evaluate young hitting prospects. Carlos Gonzalez, now nicknamed CarGo of the Colorado Rockies, is the main reason why most people call the Holliday trade as one of the worst ever made by Beane.
Gonzalez, now 25, played in just 85 games with the Athletics during the 2008 season, putting together a .243/.273/.361 line with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 302 at-bats. Apparently, the A’s didn’t like what they saw from Gonzalez at the time, and parted ways with the young slugger.
Smack dab in the middle of their rebuilding phase, in 2009, the A’s introduce Holliday as a member of their outfield. Holliday often looked disconnected with Oakland, and was probably really happy once he was traded to the Cardinals during the trade deadline that season.
The fact that Beane, who also signed veterans Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra that year as well, brought high-profile names to the team in the middle of a big rebuilding process tells me that he was a little off in his evaluations of Oakland’s youth movement. I guess he wanted to surround the young core of pitchers, including Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez, with a reliable offense. Even so, the Athletics finished 75-87 that season, 22 games out of first-place.
While the Moneyball approach worked during the early 2000’s, other teams, especially those with bigger wallets than Beane’s bunch, have adapted the concepts behind Moneyball and have started using them throughout their organization. Now that everyone is seemingly playing the Moneyball game, the A’s are finding it harder and harder to compete in a league that is characterized by the haves and the have-nots.
Beane, naturally, is playing a very unfair game…
Entering this season, many viewed the A’s as contenders in a weakened American League West, but those early expectations have been met only with failure. Oakland’s bats were non-existent in the first-half of this season, but the pitching was delivering remarkable performances on the mound. Now that Oakland’s bats have heated up a bit in the second-half, the A’s pitching staff, naturally, has hit a wall.
The A’s have remained largely inconsistent this season, even under new manager Bob Melvin, who replaced the always interesting (yeah right) Bob Geren midseason. It definitely seems as if the A’s are beyond immediate repair. The A’s made mistakes during the rebuilding process, mistakes that I only begin to scratch the surface of, and are now facing a very, very important question: do you come out next season like it’s yours for the taking, or do you cut your losses and rebuild for a brighter future in 2015-16?
Do the A’s sell some of their young pieces like Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, or Gio Gonzalez? Or does the organization roll out with some of their young hitters like Michael Taylor, Michael Choice, Chris Carter, and Grant Green in the coming years? To me, this question is like one of those imponderables. There is no easy answer.
Beane, who has been with the Athletics organization for a long time, might not even be the one addressing this issue this offseason. It’s believed that if the A’s don’t get approval for a new stadium soon, Beane might consider other job opportunities, like the Cubs vacancy.
The A’s have many question marks surrounding the future of their organization, but no one, especially Major League Baseball is stepping in to provide an answer. The A’s are playing a waiting game right now, not just with Major League Baseball, but with themselves as well. In addition to their current stadium woes, the A’s must decide whether or not 2012 is their year to win.
If it isn’t, hey, there’s always 2015…
What do you think? Are the A’s beyond immediate repair? Can they come back next season and put together a winning season? Sound off below!
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