OK, this belongs front and center and we need a new thread for comments anyway... please also visit wacchampion's marvelous Facebook page directed at Bud Selig if you already haven't and "Like" it. Please keep those cards and letters and emails flowing towards the Commissioner's desk as well (his email is email@example.com). --Josh/EN
Even though I'm not as vocal on AN any more I read the site each and every day. I follow game threads when I'm not in the middle of putting the children to bed. I'm still amazed at the incredible content Nico and the crew pour out on a daily basis despite the deep and dark malaise this team has been in for, well, about five years now.
Here's the thing for me though. It's not nearly as fun to follow the A's anymore. And it's not just because they haven't played that role of super successful underdog lately. It's because the team is essentially in a holding pattern with respect to planning for the future. And the simple reason for that is that ownership and management have no idea what is going to happen with their team long-term. How do you plan for things two, three or even five years down the road if you have no idea where the team will be or what kind of budget it will have?
One thing I will say about Schott and Hofmann, and believe me, I couldn't stand those guys, but they didn't come out and declare the franchise a lame duck in its current location which effectively alienated the Oakland loyalists and also gave potential free agents little appeal in signing here. The A's are currently a franchise in a location that is unlivable (well articulated in this post by EN). I've talked to Beane and Wolff on multiple occasions and each of them told me repeatedly that they were the highest bidder for quite a few free agents over the last few years and those free agents chose other destinations in large part because of the facilities. We live in a new athletic order, where top end athletes, or even middling ones like Rafael Furcal, demand beautiful facilities where they are pampered like the country club atmosphere Mark Cuban has created in Dallas or Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in his monstrous facility.
Which leads me back to MLB. It has been at least two years since Bud Selig created his "committee" to explore possible destinations for the Oakland franchise. I do believe that Selig wants the A's to stay in Oakland if it can be worked out in some way, shape or fashion. That way he doesn't have the San Francisco Giants jumping down his throat for "impeding on their territory". Clearly that isn't what Wolff and his crew want. So what's the problem? Why the paralysis? Why does it take more than two years for a dedicated committee to come up with a recommendation? I understand that the issues are complicated but shouldn't this have been resolved one way or the other right now?
In the meantime, we have Beane put in the unenviable position of trying to create a team from spare parts and whoever is willing to sign in Oakland because they happen to be on the downside of a once stellar career. Beane's mission has been obvious the last few years. Acquire as much good, young pitching as possible and in that sense, he's succeeded, but the team's failure to develop their own hitters has been crippling because there is no possibility to attract any top-end hitter to Oakland. At least if there was a decision and the stadium plans were in motion, the A's could sell a Beltre on the beautiful new facility that he would be playing in in three years. Right now, the sales pitch is, come hit at one of the worst hitters parks in baseball, hang out in our decrepit facility with busted pipes and horrid ambiance. But hey, at least you'll have the third coolest mascot in baseball to clown around with!
This doesn't forgive the lack of developing a better minor league system or the lack of great drafting or dealing a Carlos Gonzalez before he had a chance to really become Carlos Gonzalez. But it also makes A's management's job a ridiculously difficult one. If anything, Beane gambled on a new version of Moneyball whereas he gets as much good young pitching as possible then hopes he can cobble together an offense to give them support to at least win a division. But without those big sticks coming from the minor league system, the A's haven't been able to produce much in free agency and/or through trades. Beane has been reluctant to trade any of the great young starters he has and rightfully so.
But until this team has some idea where it will be in 2014, I wouldn't anticipate much turning around between now and then. In order for any business to succeed, it needs a foundation of stability and the A's might just be the most unstable franchise in MLB right now. And that's thanks in large part to the paralyzed, impotent MLB leadership. No one on the A's has been willing to say it so far but I'm going to say it. MLB apparently can't take a stand involving this franchise which leads me to believe that they just know someone is going to hate their resolution or they're as baffled by this issue as everyone who has studied it before them. It just seems like the committee is taking this tact with the whole effort, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool rather than speak out and remove all doubt."
I'd take them removing all doubt at this point because we'd at least have some idea what's going to happen with our favorite franchise. I'm sure the A's ownership and front office would take some answer, ANY ANSWER, at this point as well. Even if it wasn't favorable to Wolff's San Jose ambitions. Because there would at least be some direction for the franchise. Right now the Oakland Athletics are kind of a rudderless ship sailing on the seas to nowhere. And that's not fair to A's fans. It's also why you should be irate with MLB each and every day until they finally issue some sort of decision. Sorry but this just makes me more upset with each passing day.