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December 29, 2011

The BP First Take

Thursday, December 29

by Daniel Rathman

Three down, one to go. That’s the mindset of A’s GM Billy Beane, who sent Andrew Bailey to Boston on Wednesday on the heels of earlier trades that sent Trevor Cahill to Arizona and Gio Gonzalez to Washington. If he can find a taker, catcher Kurt Suzuki will be next.

It’s clear, at this point, that the A’s are trying to add by subtracting. Beane even admitted that his team must get worse before it can get better. He would rather win 65 games in 2012 than 85, because the former would send yet another signal to the league that a move to San Jose is the team’s only path back to contention.  The A’s need a better hometown to increase revenues and, in turn, increase payroll to bridge the gap in the AL West. They need a new ballpark to attract fans. And they need to lengthen their competitive windows—to curtail the notion that they are a farm system for larger-market teams—so that those fans will stick with the team.

The problem is that their situation is not the Field of Dreams­­ian, “If you build it, he (or they) will come.” In fact, it’s closer to the reverse. Beane is selling his 2012 roster for potential parts of a 2015 contender that will hopefully be playing 40 miles down Interstate 880. If they—Cahill, Gonzalez, Bailey—leave, then he—Selig—will have to force the Giants to relent on their rights to the San Jose area and let the A’s move into the currently hypothetical Cisco Field.

There have been conflicting reports during the past week on the status of those plans. Bob Nightengale tweeted that sources told him the owners would ratify the move in February, but the San Francisco Chronicle found shortly after that a new home for the A’s is not on the agenda for the upcoming meeting.

 Sadly, Beane and owner Lew Wolff have no choice but to count on Opening Day at Cisco Field in 2015. They’ve brought in Jarrod Parker, A.J. Cole, Josh Reddick, and others for the occasion. If the team is still in Oakland four years from now, those guys will not be. The process will have to start anew, with a fresh batch of prospects preparing to take the field for the 2019 A’s at an unconstructed stadium in a city to be named later.  

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Bellis

A's season ticket holder here. I may be the only one that feels this way in the world, but I hope the A's stay right where they are and I don't care if they stink forever. I get tickets to major league games right behind home plate for $29 bucks a ticket. It takes me 15 minutes door to gate from my house to the stadium. I park for free. Having grown up watching the Padres at Jack Murphy, the Oh Dot Co even makes me a little nostalgic. And it's a low fi event, just like baseball should be. No overblown gimmicky stadium stuff to distract from the field. Just baseball.

Dec 29, 2011 10:36 AM
rating: 1
 
APer930

Can you say "Major League?"

Dec 29, 2011 11:12 AM
rating: 1
 
Behemoth

I saw an interview with Billy Beane where he said that, if they were moving to San Jose, they would likely be rebuilding with the intention of being competitive when they got there. This, plus recent specularion on the move, suggests to me that they may be making their moves knowing that they will be moving.

Dec 29, 2011 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Paul Mahler

Interesting take by Bellis on the situation. I have taken that stance for many years now. But the A's have been doing this for so long, for those of us who remember the 70s, or the early or late 80s, or even the mid-1990s and 2002, that it is hard to maintain enthusiasm, particularly when the reasons are to hold MLB hostage in return for MLB holding them hostage. Seems like a dumb strategy on both sides.

Dec 29, 2011 14:02 PM
rating: 1
 
UncleChuck

The A's (meaning Wolff's and Beane's) jusification for making these moves seems backwards to me.

The team seems to assume its revenues in Oakland are fixed, and that they can't spend above a certain level because the city and the stadium can't provide sufficient revenues to support a higher payroll. That assumption is faulty. Their revenues aren't fixed. Research by BP (and elsewhere) has shown that teams can increase their revenues by, surprise, WINNING SOME F'ING BASEBALL GAMES. Put a winning team on the field, and the fans will show up at the park. It happened in Milwaukee this year. It happened in SF two years ago (where attendance had been decreasing). And, it has happened in OAKLAND before.

The comments by Beane and Wolff suggest that they think the fans should show first, provide the revenues, and only then should the A's have to spend enough money to field a winning team. That's like a company putting out a crap product, and saying we'll put out a better product if you buy this one first.

I'm not arguing the latest rebuild doesn't make sense. I'm just saying the A's need to start being honest with themselves. Don't tell the fans "we can't field a winning team because you don't show up to the park." Admit your failure. The fans aren't showing up at the park because the A's have been fielding mediocre teams since 2006 (five straight years of sub-.500 ball).

The latest rebuilding effort (2007-2011) failed because the organization failed to develop/acquire any decent hitters to support their decent pitching prospects, and the A's don't want to spend what it would take to field a competitive team in the AL West. That's a reasonable business decision, and it's Lew Wolff's decision to make, but blaming the stadium and the fans for the decision is horse-stuff...

Dec 29, 2011 19:20 PM
rating: 4
 
klipzlskim

It's a perfect catch-22 for Oakland fans now. If we show up to games, we put cash in Wolff's pocket while watching some truly awful baseball. If we stay away, we bolster his case to leave town. I don't mind that the team stinks. I mind that they stink intentionally in order to leave my hometown, where I've been going to games for 30 years. I look at the depth chart right now and can't believe this is an actual MLB team.

Jan 03, 2012 00:18 AM
rating: 0
 
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