July 19, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
VentingThe A's have moved to within six games of the wild card after a terrible start, and are looking like the team we all thought would be the scourge of the American League. With the team playing great baseball, ESPN.com is reporting that Oakland A's co-owner Steve Schott is pushing for the team to trade Jason Giambi by July 31, as he's apparently convinced that the team will not be able to re-sign the first baseman, a free agent at the end of the season.
It's hard to convey the kind of visceral reaction this stirs up in me. One of the things that really makes my blood boil is baseball owners who, once in this exclusive club of 30, treat their new property as a cross between a grocery store and a tax shelter.
A baseball team is not a conventional business, to be run with the sole goal of avoiding red ink. If that were the case, the millionaires and billionaires and corporate entities that line up to buy teams wouldn't do so, and would instead do something more constructive with their money. What's gained in buying a baseball team is status, fame, a higher place in a community, and a level of attention that being a discount-store magnate or glorified trash collector will never bring.
Once gaining this status, though, carpetbagging hucksters like Schott, or Carl Pohlad in Minnesota, or Wayne Huizenga and John Henry in Florida, act surprised when they're expected to assume some risk, to take a chance on losing some tiny percentage of their assets to make their new property--their baseball team--successful. Instead they whine about "competitive imbalance" and being in a small market and act as if they're somehow not incredibly privileged to be the owner of a Major League Baseball franchise.
They refuse to invest in their product, denigrating it in public forums and all but threatening to shoot on sight any people who would dare come to the park and spend money and invest not only their capital, but themselves in the product. They beg for sympathy, these highly-successful, high-net-worth individuals who are suddenly distraught at the idea of possibly losing three million dollars by not trading a player, or by acquiring a high-salaried one and then not reaching the playoffs.
Steve Schott wants to sell the A's, having gotten his five years' worth of depreciation and no doubt made a nice little tax savings. Great, Steve: go, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
But don't undermine the work your staff has done. Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta and all the other people you have in that front office have done it differently and done it well. They've put together a hell of a baseball team while working under restrictions that cause GMs elsewhere to plead for mercy while losing 90 games a year.
Be a man. Give your employees the opportunity to finish what they started, and at the same time give the baseball fans of Oakland what they deserve: a baseball team that's trying to win, one committed to cashing in the opportunities they have to do so, not the players that brought them this far.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.