Quite an interesting column by Ray Ratto the other day, and all A’s fans should give it a close read. It will explain exactly why at least some folks at the home finale had the motivation to boo A’s managing partner Lew Wolff when he was introduced during the 40th Anniversary celebration Sunday.
My first baseball memories are of growing up in Alameda during the A’s heyday of the 1970s (Vida Blue’s son was on my tee-ball team). I had season tix during the Bash Brother glory days of the 1980s (to this day, I’ve never seen anybody, not even Barry Bonds, dominate a full season the way Jose Canseco did in 1988). I was there for Rickey’s record-breaker in 1991. I covered The Streak in 2002.
In other words, I go back a long way with this team. And I bring this up, because Lew Wolff left me with the sad feeling that there may not be many more seasons for the A’s in Oakland.
Wolff and I discussed the A’s attendance situations, and I turned the subject to that of Cisco Field, and what he said wasn’t encouraging. And if Cisco Field isn’t built, that would leave the A’s without much choice other than to move. I discussed that option with Wolff, too, but that part of our conversation was off the record, so I’m not privileged to share it. What I can tell you is that without a new stadium, the options become these: The A’s move. Wolff sells. Or both.
Personally, I think Wolff is in a tough spot. He got annoyed when I suggested that it would be impossible to ask fans to help with a stadium, especially with the current economy, and he insisted the A’s have never asked for a dime. He didn’t say that they don’t intend to do so. That, and the bureacracy is takes to get projects completed stacks the odds against Wolff succeeding in this vision, and if he doesn’t succeed, nobody else will, either.
Perhaps the best solution for the A’s would be for the Raiders to high-tail it out of here. Then they could pour money into renovating the place, the way the Angels did with their home. Nobody remembers that the Big A was as much of an eye-sore and revenue-sucker as the Coliseum now is.
I can also tell you this. As long as the A’s stay in their current home, don’t get too attached to any ne player. But then, you probably knew that already.
The A’s are going to lose at least 90 games next season. If not 95. If not 100.
Anybody out there not drawing that conclusion following the weekend trade of their ace Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a package of six prospects/suspects? If so, you probably believe that everything you hear out of the mouth of a major leaguer in regards to the performance-enhancing drugs in the sport is the gospel.
But how many games the A’s lose next season is not really the point. The real issue, rather, is a) whether the A’s are able to get a new park in Fremont built, b) when such a park will be ready to house the A’s and c) what kind of team the A’s will have when they move in.
At this point, the target date is 2012, and everything the A’s continue to tell us indicates a deal will get done. Personally, I’m optimistic about it, because there are no decent alternatives for the A’s to move, and because owner Lew Wolff has made a fortune out of creating development projects against very difficult odds.
So assuming the A’s will be playing in Cisco Field in 2012, the issue then becomes whether Billy Beane is expert enough to construct a team that’s a duplicate of the early 1990s Cleveland Indians. The Indians, as you’ll recall, were a miserable franchise for about 30 seasons, but especially so once they got word that they’d be moving into Jacobs Field. But by loading up on a boatload of prospects, drafting high (and being able to sign those picks), they put together a powerhouse that made those first few seasons in the Jake as memorable as any baseball team has ever enjoyed.
This is what Beane must do, and it appears his approach will be similar. The more minor leaguers he’s able to collect, the better the chances that one of two of them will turn into studs. And the more the A’s lose in 2008 and ’09, the better the odds of getting a stud or three high in the draft. That’s how Beane built the A’s in the late 1990s — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Eric Chavez were all high picks — and it appears that’s how he’s trying to do it again.
Whether he can is another issue, entirely. It’s one thing to build a team once. It’s quite another to tear it down and rebuild it again. Can’t off the top of my head think of a single general manager that’s done it twice with the same franchise, especially one that’s had the same financial constraints as the A’s.
Thus, the A’s may be awful, but they won’t be boring.
One thing to debate: If the A’s trade Joe Blanton (and who among us doesn’t believe they will?), who becomes the Opening Day starter? Lenny DiNardo?
Here’s a look at the scouting report on one of the six prospects the A’s got in the Haren deal. One thing to remember: Coach’s kids tend to grade out high.