Rock Bottom for The Athletics – Not A Bit Of It

Hey, we have an A’s contributor now! Welcome Brett Walker…

It’s that time of year again when the Oakland A’s lose a raft of players to free agency (this year, we have more free agents than any other MLB team too) and other teams’ ability to offer far bigger contracts to our free agents that we can or will. At time of writing, we’ve already lost some fan favourites, with Starling Marte and Mark Canha both going to the Mets, and Yan Gomes becoming a Cub.

Coupled with Bob Melvin heading to the Padres and the possibility that the MLB might make the A’s leave Oakland unless they get a new ballpark built, some feel that things are looking perilous for the Athletics. When the Bat Flips and Nerds team asked me to write an article about it looking like rock bottom for the franchise right now though, I couldn’t help but instinctively disagree with the premise.

Player turnover is part of the A’s DNA at this point and has been for many years – we build up players into guys that hit 40+ home runs a season, win Golden Glove awards, etc, and then they go off and get paid elsewhere, be it Jason Giambi going to the Yankees twenty years ago, Marcus Semien going to the Blue Jays last year or Matt Chapman and Matt Olson getting the big cheques their play deserves elsewhere next year (hopefully not though!)

Don’t get me wrong; I can’t say I’m particularly happy with us trading away a good young pitcher like Jesus Lazardo if all we were getting in return was half a season of Starling Marte (no matter how exciting he was to watch or how much he improved us for that half-season…), but it’s not a surprise and I’ve no doubt we will find a replacement for him in centre field. Lazer Ramon is coming back from injury for starters…

Ultimately, we will do what we’ve done for years; find the next underappreciated free agent or bring up the next prospect from the farm system, build them up and then see them leave for an amount of money we can’t afford to pay them, all the while continuing to put out a competitive team that is in the hunt for the post-season every year. For example, we’ve agreed terms with Deolis Guerra, Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder, and tendered contracts to the remaining players on the roster too. While the latter might be a strategic move given it was done right before the lockout started, this is an encouraging sign – for me, Kemp was one of our best players last season, and Pinder started to look very good towards the end of the season once he’d recovered from his injuries and was back to full fitness.

As for Bob Melvin leaving, that is a real shame, as he did a fantastic job with the players at his disposal to keep up competitive every year. All the best to him in San Diego, I say, and I hope the front office find the best person to replace him soon.

The more pressing concern for me is that the MLB wants the A’s to leave The O.co, claiming that the ballpark is “no longer a viable option”, and if a new ballpark in Oakland can’t be found, a host of other American cities have already been mentioned.

For me, the local Oakland community is too invested in the team to allow it to leave, as the team is ingrained in the community and does too much for it. You only have to look at the team’s social media channels to see the number of schools, community groups and charities that they support in Oakland and the East Bay.

The A’s are also the last team standing in Oakland too – the Raiders have left again, this time to Las Vegas, and the Warriors have departed for the bright lights and cosmopolitan tech bro vibes of San Francisco. The community can’t lose its last team.

I’ve no doubt then that the people of Oakland will be fighting tooth and nail to keep the team in the city and pushing the city council to do everything it can to accommodate the new ballpark and keep The A’s in Oakland, and it is heartening to see such a strong case being put forward for the proposed new Waterfront Ballpark District.

Finally, if the team did leave the East Bay, they would probably lose a commentary team that I have grown to love over the years as well – Glen Kuiper, for me, is fantastic. Crisp, professional, never misses a call, always engaging, always entertaining and sneakily funny too. Former A’s pitcher Dallas Braden is a wonderful and entertaining analyst too. Watching the A’s just wouldn’t be the same without Glen telling us ‘That baby’s gone’ whenever a home run is hit and then Dallas wanting us ALL ABOARD! the NEXT STOP to POUNDTOWN. We’ve already sadly lost Ray Fosse this year. We can’t lose Glen and Dallas too.

Brett writes about the Oakland A’s for Bat Flips and Nerds. You can follow him on Twitter @BrettWalkerPR

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