On The Oakland Athletics Rebuilding For The 5,302nd Time

PHOENIX AZ - Gio Gonzalez and Brad Ziegler of the Oakland Athletics joke around during media photo day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The owners of the Oakland A's might be hoping that the team is so bad, they'll get to move out of the city. Don't be surprised if they use Charlie Sheen to replace Andrew Bailey.

There are words in our language that have lost their luster. The word "epic" suffered from overuse and inflation, and it's now something that can be applied to especially delicious pistachios just as easily as The Iliad. Thanks, Internet.

But "travesty" is still a good one. People don't throw it around lightly. So when you read a headline like "The Oakland A's are a travesty", you have a pretty good idea that the author isn't going to serve a plate of waffles with maybe syrup. And Monte Poole doesn't disappoint. A selection of phrases used in the article:

... stomps all over the ideals of the game
… even Pete Rose, the disgraced hit king, has to scratch his head and wonder, once again, what is the definition of "integrity of the game."
MLB has an ownership team brazenly deciding to "throw" a season
Any high-minded rhetoric about integrity from the commissioner has to be considered disingenuous at best, downright fraudulent at worst

Those are just the first four I read. Every paragraph has a comparable doozy. It's a powerful piece. And while reading it, it's easy to forget the logical reasoning behind the A's rebuild:

  • The Texas Rangers are a bit of a super-team, with six viable starters, two straight pennants, and a fearsome lineup
  • The Los Angeles Angels have one of the best rotations in the game, and they added baseball's best hitter right after replacing baseball's worst hitter
  • Oakland tried to add offense before last season, acquiring David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, and Hideki Matsui, and the plan flopped.
  • Young pitchers with several years remaining on a cheap contract have a ton of trade value
  • Rather than attempt to compete with the Rangers and Angels, the A's decided to maximize their assets now to prepare for a time when they can compete

Makes sense in a cold, clinical kind of way, especially in the offseason, when we don't actually have to watch a Taylor/Cowgill/Reddick outfield. And while a dispassionate look at Billy Beane's moves makes sense, it's worth remembering that by definition, being a fan means being anything but dispassionate. Take a look at the Facebook wall for the A's, for example. The poor person in charge of the page will post an innocuous trivia question, and it's quickly followed by ALL-CAPS RAGE in response to how the offseason has gone.

There's more to the story than just a bad team looking towards the future. This isn't just a garden-variety rebuild -- it's not a huge leap of logic to suspect that the Athletics' ownership had nefarious reasons for dismantling the young pitching staff. They want to move to San Jose. Their paid attendance was just over a million fans last season, and if there's any way they can dip under a million, well, that would sure help their case that a baseball team in Oakland is unsustainable. Wink wink.

The conspiracy theory paints the A's as a villain, something directly out of Major League. It's hard for me to buy, mostly because I always thought the Giants were supposed to be the villain. The Giants were supposed to be Devlin McGregor-- the evil super-corporation thwarting the plucky underdog to maintain their profit margin. Also, there's a good chance that the Giants will turn to a one-armed man for their clean-up duties at some point, so the analogy works on a couple of different levels.

More than anything, though, what the A's rebuild reminds us of is that there's a cost of rebuilding. Even if the strategy is sound -- and the A's really did get a lot of prospect value for Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill -- there's going to be guaranteed resentment. And it's hard to write a better blueprint for resentment than how the A's are operating: openly pine for a new city and remove all of the fan favorites from the current city because of financial considerations.

The Athletics' rebuilding is good for the on-field future of the franchise. The Athletics' rebuilding is horribly discouraging for the rabid fans that have stuck with the team through some lean years. The Athletics' rebuilding is a craven, cynical, last-ditch effort to further ownership's ultimate goal. The Athletics' rebuilding makes perfect baseball sense. All of that can be true at the same time. As far as rebuilding projects go, this one is as unique and fascinating as it gets.

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