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Sean Doolittle trade fits Oakland A's rebuild and improves game of baseball

In one fell swoop, the A’s made a sensible deal and also made baseball more fun.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics
Doolittle and Donaldson
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

I understand if you’re distraught about trading away Sean Doolittle, the last of the 2012-2013 wonder team and the heart of so many good traditions.

Does this tweet make my heart sink?

Without a doubt.

Do I think that the A’s have no sense of what is means to be loyal, both to players and the fan base? No, of course they know what it means, even if they haven’t often been able to afford to show it.

I’ve learned to love the game of baseball at large about as much as I love the A’s, but it took time. Exactly 10 years and one month ago today, I cried when Jason Kendall was traded. Seven years later, I felt sick to my stomach when Yoenis Cespedes was dealt. Five months after that, I rolled my eyes when the Josh Donaldson trade broke.

Today, I grinned when Doolittle (and Madson) were offloaded. Call it numbness or ambivalence, but I’d like to call it my love of the game.

I’m not trying to say that everyone should be happy about this trade, but at least it makes sense on paper.

If you ever listen to Mychael Urban on the A’s radio station, 95.7 The Game, he often labels various sporting events or trends as “good for ball” or “bad for ball.” Example: All-Star Game fan voting is bad for ball, but non-All-Star Manny Machado showing up to support Yonder Alonso is good for it.

This trade is textbook good for ball, and the actual exchange of players is undeniably fair.

In Treinen, the A’s get a pretty decent reliever who is having a down year, like the rest of the Nationals bullpen. If there’s one thing in all this that we can agree on, it’s that relief pitching is a volatile position; those in-the-know say he’s still an asset.

Also, it’s fun that the A’s originally drafted him in 2011.

In Jesus Luzardo, the A’s are getting a young but potentially very good former 3rd-round pick (who was projected to go in the first round if not for his Tommy John surgery). In three starts since returning from the surgery, the 19-year-old lefty has been averaging a mid-90s fastball and hasn’t walked anyone.

Sheldon Neuse was a 2nd-round pick out of Oklahoma, where he was known for his decent slugging ability and his plus arm. While he does strike out a lot, he has a legitimate shot to contribute in the major leagues if his defense holds up. Acquiring these two prospects is right in line with what the A’s are finally calling a rebuild.

Meanwhile, Oakland gave up two win-now players who are no longer necessary on a last-place team. As highly as we value Doolittle, he does have an injury-related downside that significantly lowers his return. Madson has had a good career, but is almost 37 years old and would have carried the highest salary so far for the 2018 A’s. They’re good enough to help a contender today, but even together they weren’t going to fetch a return anywhere near the ballpark of Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller last year.

And if the A’s need to add more relief help for 2018, they can sign another free agent next winter in the same way they got Madson to begin with. Again, good for ball, even if it’s tough on the emotions.

As a baseball lover, here’s where I get excited.

The Nationals’ bullpen has been so bad this year that it was almost definitely going to impede their inevitable postseason run (5.34 bullpen ERA compared to 3.61 for the starting rotation).

With the addition of Doolittle and Madson, we will likely get to see an October featuring more Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and if we’re really lucky, the third reincarnation of Joe Blanton. If you love watching good baseball, this trade is great.

As an A’s fan, you’ve been put in a tough position in which your favorite players often move to more successful teams. Given that and this particular time of a non-contending year, I challenge you to consider baseball fandom from a player-based rather than team-based perspective, and see if your love for the A’s simultaneously grows.

Personally I’m excited to watch Sean Doolittle the National, vying to play on the biggest stage, and remember where he came from.

The Hot Stove is flamin’, and I am here for all of it.