In the slowest offseason in recent memory, the A’s are finally back in the news! A player who wasn’t even traded here talked about how excited he was to not even be traded here.
His words for those of you who haven’t pivoted to video.
“When I heard they tried to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say ... [shakes head in disgust] ... God please leave me over here.”
Starting with the obvious: how obnoxious and unnecessary.
The thing about Ozuna is while he’s wrong, he’s not alone and the A’s can’t blame him for his opinion. Why would he think differently? He’s played in two games in Oakland so far in his career, experiencing the Coliseum visitor’s clubhouse and all its quirks in front of 33k total fans. Not exactly the kind of playing experience that excites a player. Ozuna’s idea of what the A’s are has likely been colored by his small sample of playing here, one that’s colored the viewpoint of many players leading to that unfortunately widespread idea. The A’s need to give players reason to not believe Oakland is a bad place to play.
Dave Kaval’s tasks are far and wide, but one his ultimate goal’s is to bridge the gap between the Oakland’s baseball reputation and what Oakland truly is. It’s a city that has its faults, including repeated refusals to accommodate its baseball team. But mostly it’s a city that’s awesome and should cater to everyone, including toolsy 27-year-old outfielders. Oakland has perfect weather, some of the best food in the world, proximity to any climate you may desire which in turn gives anyone in the area the ability to do ... anything.
There’s no reason Oakland should’t be a desirable place to play for star players. It’s just a skip away from San Francisco and the Giants, which is a desirable place to play for many veterans (though not all). The A’s have one of the richest baseball histories in the sport, they’re in a large enough market, the infrastructure is there for the team to build a desirable home. There’s no reason Oakland should’t be a desirable place to play for star players.
Okay. Maybe a reason or two.
The stadium matters, and the truth is no matter how great Oakland is, players will have this perception so long as the Coliseum is in play. Kaval’s success rides on finding the A’s a new home. The results of that uphill battle are very much TBD, with the A’s having made more tangible progress than they had in years only to be brutally shut down in their 2017 efforts.
Indications are positive though, as the A’s have made real moves toward changing that underlying perception. The team has a modern office now designed to entice top tier talent. Kaval has upgraded the Coliseum experience too, and even if it’s far from a solution, it’s a step. Since his arrival, the A’s have also stated their intention to slow down the constant turnstile on their roster and sign players to longer term deals, and they’ve already mentioned a couple members of the new young core as candidates.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be annoyed by Ozuna’s comment. It’s hard to overstate just how unnecessary it is to throw a team under the bus after you’ve already not been traded to them. It’s compounded when you factor in he was traded from the Miami Marlins and specifically stated he would have rather stay with that dumpster fire. It’s a stupid thing to say for a number of reasons. Like, he could have played on the same team as Matt Chapman.
Fans and players will continue to dump on the A’s for the foreseeable future. It’s always going to be annoying, it’s always going to be shortsighted, and it will never make all that much sense.
But the onus is on the A’s to change that reputation, and after too many years of absorbing it and even succeeding with it, the A’s are finally making moves to drop it. Hiring Kaval was a needed step in the right direction, and the A’s have showed promising signs in his first year-plus.
Lot of work to do, but ample reason to believe it gets done.