I bleed green and gold. Even when faced with ’70s crowds that made a
late-season Milwaukee road trip to Montreal look Woodstockian, I have always
loved the Oakland A’s. There’s no rational reason for it, and a careful
examination of the DSM-IV may well have my mug shot.
My mom and dad took me to A’s games; I remember my mom’s old–and
long-defunct–company, Caelus Memories, renting a bunch of buses for the
entire company to make the trek from San Jose to Oakland to see Joe
Rudi and Reggie Jackson homer in the same game. I think I was
seven or eight; I don’t recall exactly, but I do seem to remember (probably
incorrectly) that Rudi’s homer was his ninth, and Jackson’s was #22.
I used to emulate Joe Morgan‘s arm twitch when playing a version of
stickball with the Townsend brothers at our apartment building in Belmont.
My elbows (and bat speed) were considerably less prominent than Joe’s. In my
mind, I dreamed of Morgan getting traded to Oakland, and it was a thrill to
see Joe in the green and gold, no matter how late in his career it happened
I could wax nostalgic about the A’s and bore you to tears for another 2,500
words or so, but there are limits to my self-indulgence, contrary to the
opinion of certain light-hitting editors. I do want to say that Dwayne
Murphy rocks, and congratulations to the Paragon of CF on his ring.
Today, the A’s front office is being vilified by ignorant talk-show callers,
hosts, and local newspaper columnists. Jason Giambi has left for the
hated Yankees and $120 million over seven years, and a lot of fans are
pretty bitter and depressed about the whole thing. Giambi, like Mark
McGwire before him, was the walking embodiment of the A’s. He’s been
somewhat showy, yet professional in his approach to the game, and has been
perceived as the heart and soul of the clubhouse. More than one REALLY
ignorant radio voice has condemned the A’s ownership and front office as
low-class. (There go a lot of my promo appearances pushing
Baseball Prospectus 2002. C’est la vie.)
From this A’s fan’s perspective, I have just two feelings about the entire
situation: gratitude and relief. My gratitude is to Giambi, Billy Beane, and
Sandy Alderson. Giambi for his fantastic efforts while with the A’s. He
developed exceptionally well, tried his damnedest to play third base and
left field, both without a whole lot of defensive success. He’s become one
of the very best first basemen to ever play the game, and I am genuinely and
massively grateful for his fantastic service to the A’s and the Bay Area.
Giambi isn’t solely responsible for his service; I remember touting him as a
third-base prospect when he was playing in the California League, right
about the time of the A’s farm system ascendancy under Alderson and Beane.
Just as I’m grateful to Giambi for developing, I’m grateful to Beane and
Alderson for providing the leadership to bring modern management techniques
to the Oakland organization, and providing the environment and system in
which Giambi excelled.
Still, surpassing the gratitude I feel for these last few years is an
overwhelming sense of relief. Thank GOD the A’s didn’t sign him to the
reported six-year, $91-million deal with a no-trade clause. As much as I
love Jason Giambi, that likely would have been a disaster. Giambi will start
the 2002 season at age 31, and probably at the middle or tail end of his
prime, at best. He plays a position at which it’s fairly easy to find very
reasonable production for a league minimum (or close to it) price. No
foreseeable changes in the A’s situation are going to make them a team with
unlimited resources in the immediate future, so they need to be very
circumspect about all their investments in players. Giambi would have been,
in this fan’s opinion, an absolutely miserable signing that would not have
been in the best interest of the club, either in the short or long term.
I’ll be out "At the Net" a bunch more in 2002, and I’ll be
cheering for the A’s, who probably will field a platoon of Mario
Valdez and a hopefully recovered Adam Piatt at first base. And
you know what? I still objectively believe the A’s will be the team to beat
in the AL West. I believe that the Oakland front office will find a way to
put a league-average or better first baseman out there, and will do so at a
small fraction of the money Jason Giambi will be receiving. Hopefully, some
of that leftover cash will be part of long-term deals for Jeremy
Giambi and Barry Zito, along with well-considered investments in
player development, contracts and extensions, and research into how the club
can continue to improve.
Jerry Seinfeld had a famous–if somewhat limp–routine about sports fans in
general, and baseball fans in particular, rooting for laundry. In Oakland,
we don’t root for laundry. We root for another crack at the Yankees in
October 2002, and we know that when we beat them, it’ll send Steinbrenner,
Yankee fans, and probably a third of the owners into serious cramping fits.
There exists no informed Yankee fan who wants to see the A’s again in the
postseason; they’d rather see the Rangers, Mariners, or Indians.
We’re coming back, and we’re coming back now, with a team that’s going to
continue to improve. We may have Roberto Petagine or Mario Valdez at
first base instead of Jason Giambi, but we still want the Yankees and the
Giants this October. We’ll probably get half our wish.
Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by
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