Relegate the A’s

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Since Billy Beane has become such a keen observer of European fútbol and Michael Lewis publicly stated that he sees Beane one day running a club from that sport with which he’s become enamored (to the point of neglecting his deteriorating baseball team), perhaps it’s time for Major League Baseball to consider taking a page out of the book of the “beautiful game” by relegating a club that can’t compete with the big boys.

If a team in Euro fútbol doesn’t meet the criteria to be at least competitive in their league, they get sent to a lower league; since the Athletics will be fielding what amounts to an expansion team in 2012, send them to Triple A.

The Athletics are clearing out the house of all veterans in anticipation of…something. Supposedly it’s that they’re preparing to compete sometime in the distant future, in Never Never Land or San Jose (whichever comes first) when (if) they get approval for the new ballpark that’s going to finally provide them with the necessary funds to field a team that can win.

Ah, financial sustenance, it’s the Twinkie to Brad Pitt’s version of Billy Beane, except it’s not manufactured poison in the form of food.

Forget that Beane’s entire false aura of “genius” stemmed from exactly the problem that he has now: he doesn’t have the money.

How does that work? He was a genius for succeeding without money and now he’s still a genius for failing without money?

Ignore that he’s still drawing from the well of creative non-fiction and that there are scores of people who still believe the nonsense inherent with Moneyball the book and Moneyball the movie.

Shield thyself from that inconvenient truth as it renders the Athletics a running joke in a venue where players only venture when they have no other options.

Don’t pay attention to any of it if you still have some selfish investment in Moneyball and Beane the Genius taken as fact when it’s anything but.

The Athletics are terrible.

In trading Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox along with Ryan Sweeney for the overrated Josh Reddick, pitcher Raul Alcantara (age 19) and first baseman Miles Head (age 20)—minor leaguers both far, far, far away from the majors—it all fits in with the obvious template of trades the A’s have made in dealing Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.

The Athletics situation has been finalized.

They’re building for a ballpark rumors are saying is going to be built; a park that has yet to be finalized and for which ground hasn’t been broken. Since the Marlins received approval for their new park in March of 2009 and the unveiling is in 2012, it’s fair to presume a new A’s park won’t be ready until 2015 at the earliest.

Until then, they’ll build with youth.

Again.

Don’t you see? How many times is this farce going to be repeated?

The A’s are an empty carcass with only the vultures circling to pick the bones.

In 2011, they were built around young pitching and a refurbished offense and bullpen; because it didn’t work, it provided the impetus for Beane to tear the club apart (again) and play for the future (again) in the hopes that when they finally are (maybe) entering a new park, they’ll (hopefully) have the foundation to compete.

Beane’s going merrily along. Part owner of the club and, in chameleon-like fashion, inhabiting the role of hapless everyman, swallowed up by the financial juggernauts and struggling to compete.

It’s satire.

How many GMs are allowed continuous losing because it’s backed up by a lie? To stare off at some plan that’s off in the distance, yet changes based on nothing other than a strategy that was sensible in theory but didn’t work?

Was it necessary for the A’s to trade their young core for packages of minor leaguers because the scheme that he concocted in 2011 faltered? Is the idea of building around strong, cheap, young pitching a fallacy because it failed in practice?

Beane’s plans are so random and capricious that there’s no defending him; his armor of “genius” was demolished long ago, yet lives on by the mass-market devotion to the collapsing entity of Moneyball.

It’s mind-boggling to me that others are either blind to it or afraid to protest.

Is objective analysis based on the side you’re on?

Or does said objectivity follow the logical precedent that a thing is what it is and can be nothing else?

The 2012 A’s have decimated starting pitching; their offense—which was weak in 2011—has gotten worse; their bullpen is essentially gutted with Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes only hanging around long enough to accumulate enough value to trade.

A team that went 74-88 in 2011 has had its strength horribly diminished for 2012.

Will the Beane apologists find a way to excuse him for losing 100 games?

The relegation concept isn’t a bad idea. A team comprised entirely of fringe big leaguers would win, as a matter of course, 50-60 games by sheer circumstance.

That’s not far off from what this current Athletics roster is going to win in 2012.

A monkey could run that team right now and be as competitive or more as the club that’s been put together by a “genius”.

He’s a big fútbol fan? He reads magazines? He’s learning that business now?

In that case, there are options. He can sign David Beckham to play shortstop—at least fans will come to see him play.

He can leave the Athletics and go run a team in another sport as Lewis suggests—why not?

Or he can stop running around to corporate speaking engagements; cease basking in the glory of a fictional tale of faux brilliance; run his team as if he cares and stop delegating to his assistants while being the big shot CEO.

I’m sick of his whining; I’m sick of people defending him out of their own selfish agendas; and I’ve had more than enough of the rampant excuses for the decaying exoskeleton of a franchise of which he’s the architect.

He wallowed in the accolades of winning without any money; then everyone else caught onto what he was doing and copied it; now he doesn’t have any money and is waiting, waiting, waiting to finally have a new park; luxury suites; the ability to attract players for reasons other than desperation.

But it’s not his fault.

Nothing is ever Billy’s fault.

Michael Lewis wrote it, therefore it must be true.

It no longer even qualifies as laughable the way Beane is allowed to do whatever he wants with impunity to any and all criticism. When will there be prevalent, mainstream criticism of this man and admissions that Moneyball is a farce sans the caveats of “you weren’t supposed to take it literally”; “it was about undervalued talent, not an end unto itself”; “he found a way to beat baseball at it’s own unfair game” and other bits of twisted, condescending inanities?

When does it stop?

Here’s reality: It’s his fault. He built it; he broke it; he tried to build it again and it collapsed right out from under him.

I believe in simplicity and it goes as follows: he got the credit, he gets the blame. Period.

He’s in the muck.

After reveling in the idolatry for so many years, let him wear the 62-100 like a bullseye and we can watch how his congregation leaps from the train to safer ground.

It’s on him and no one else. Not the ownership; not MLB; not the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox and Rangers; not the Giants for refusing to waive their territorial rights; not on the fans of Oakland for refusing to come to watch his rancid team play.

Him.

Yeah Billy, go run a soccer team. That’s a good idea. Show them you’re a genius. I’m sure they’ll buy it because it’s been such a great success in baseball.

After all, they wrote a book and made a movie about it. It has to be true.

Doesn’t it?

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The Genius Will Return…In 2015

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It’s almost biblical or a tenet of faith for any religion or cult.

According to the actions of Billy Beane along with whispers and reports from sources in the MLB front office—MLB Trade Rumors—the Athletics are likely to receive approval to build a new ballpark in San Jose. They’ll have to pay the Giants to relinquish their territorial rights, but they’re expecting to get their new park.

Until then, the apparent entreaty to suffering A’s fans is to endure; do penance; be patient; follow the great leader and put faith in him, trusting that he’ll show the way.

Support a team that’s going to be stripped down to its bare bones (again) in the hopes that someday, someday, someday the “genius” that is their overrated and propagandized GM will reappear and the team will rise to prominence.

Of course it won’t hurt that the A’s are going to have money to spend on players similarly to how the Marlins are now.

In 2015.

But for now, it’s a housecleaning.

Again.

I don’t care one way or the other what Beane says and does—I see right through him and his nonsense—but when is the mainstream media going to stop kowtowing to this man and see him for the snakeoil salesman that he is?

Since the last time the Athletics were relevant for reasons other than a celluloid bit of dramatic license or a crafty bit of creative non-fiction, Beane is on his third manager and second rebuild with one season of 81-81 since 2006 to show for it; they haven’t been contenders in spite of various attempts to recreate some semblance of competitiveness. That competitiveness from the early part of the 21st Century was based more on having three All-Star starting pitchers and stars at key positions than it was for finding “undervalued” talent and “genius” in doing so.

It’s a circular proclamation based on a lie and there’s nothing to replicate. He’s not a card-counter—he’s flinging darts at a dartboard while blindfolded. It’s partially his fault; partially due to circumstance; partially due to an attempt to maintain that veneer of brilliance that was never accurate to begin with.

Regardless of the positive analysis of the packages of young players Beane’s received in trading Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez (and presumably what he’ll get for Andrew Bailey and whatever else isn’t nailed to the floor), why does he have to tear apart what’s already in place in anticipation of whenever the new park is going to be open for business?

Is that the shining light off in the distance now? The new park?

The A’s spent years cultivating the young core of pitchers; they’re all in their mid-20s and the types of arms around whom a club should be built. Twice he’s tried to bring in veteran bats to augment those young arms and they’ve failed both times; but that’s a reflection on him and bad luck than it is a failing of the concept of keeping the young pitchers and trying to find someone, anyone who can produce offensively.

In 2009, he made what turned out to be a disastrous trade for Matt Holliday in which he surrendered Carlos Gonzalez; signed a shot-as-an-everyday player Jason Giambi and an out-of-place Orlando Cabrera.

It didn’t work.

In 2011 he signed Hideki Matsui, Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour and traded for Josh Willingham.

It didn’t work.

So now it’s another teardown? Another reconstruction? How many does he get? Three? Five? Ten? Thirty?

A normal GM judged on his accomplishments gets maybe two rebuilds—and that’s if he’s got a track record of success a la Pat Gillick.

Can Beane be mentioned in the same breath as Gillick?

Gillick’s in the Hall of Fame; Beane’s in the Hype Hall of Fame.

Or the Gall of Fame.

Is he Connie Mack or Branch Rickey where he can do whatever he wants with impunity based on success that was fleeting and had a limited connection to anything he actually did? Success that’s perceived to be more than it was because of that book and now a movie in which he was portrayed by the “sexiest man alive”?

He’s fired managers for reasons and non-reasons. He’s blamed others and used his image and roundabout excuses to shield himself from the ridicule he deserves.

Now it’s the new ballpark that will save him.

His drafts have been mostly atrocious and the rebuilding of the farm system by trading his established players for the crown jewels of other organizations smacks of desperation.

But he’s got a plan in place. They’re loading up the farm system with power arms and bats that hit homers and get on base. And they’re not done.

The new park is the key.

Then he’ll be on the right track.

Then he’ll put a team together that’s going to win.

But it’s not going to happen until the new ballpark opens.

“We may not be much now, but you just wait boy!! Wait until we have that new park and—guess what?—will be able to spend money to buy established players. Then we’ll show you.”

Believe it if you want. Compare the A’s situation to other clubs who needed a new park, got it and became powerhouses.

But you can’t compare the A’s to the Marlins because the Marlins, in spite of a terrible 2011 season of their own amid unrealistic expectations and capricious, Steinbrenner-like behaviors of their owner Jeffrey Loria, had a foundation of young pitching and bats that the Athletics didn’t; ballpark or not, the Marlins were pretty good because they have a gutsy baseball management team that is skillful at talent recognition and does something that Beane has been shoddy at doing: finding players.

Apart from being able to spin doctor his way out of anything and manipulate the media with deft use of the language, reputation and an intimidating bullying nature, what has Beane done to warrant the pass?

Nothing.

2015 is plenty of time for Michael Lewis to plan and complete a sequel to Moneyball with a new plot.

“Billy Saves Christmas”?

“Selig’s Choice”?

What will happen when they have the new park and the latest strategy fails?

Will there be increased scrutiny on what he is and what he’s done rather than the unfounded and illogical belief the he knows what he’s doing? That it’s all part of one grand scheme to rule the world?

Salesmanship is a form of genius and the people keep buying it.

I suppose that’s something to hold onto when everything else comes undone.

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I’ll be a guest later today with former MLB player Les Norman on his baseball show Breakin’ the Norm on the ESPN affiliate 810 WHB in Kansas City. I’ll link the appearance and post it here.

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Giants/A’s—Same Area, Different Universe

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The Athletics problems are not going to be solved by the planned new ballpark in San Jose because the supposed “last hurdle” is a one that the Giants are not going to remove.

After reading this piece from Ken Rosenthal, I’m left wondering why there’s such ill-will at the Giants choosing to protect themeslves by refusing to give up their territorial rights to San Jose and allowing the Athletics to build a new ballpark.

Why should they?

These quotes from Rosenthal struck me:

The Giants, who draw a significant part of their fan and corporate bases from the counties south of San Francisco, remain adamantly opposed to relinquishing their territorial rights to San Jose and the South Bay region.

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The Giants, projecting a payroll of about $130 million next season, will need to draw at least 3.2 million to break even, one source said. The team, which drew nearly 3.4 million last season coming off its first World Series title, cannot afford much slippage.

If their profit margin is so narrow and they have a large payroll directly as a result of their success in recent years, they’re faced with the prospect of taking the chance of surrendering a significant portion of their game attendees and giving them to the Athletics. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to root for the Athletics if they move to San Jose—some would—but if they’re Giants fans, they’ll remain Giants fans; despite that, a closer park would provide an option for those who might have gone to AT&T Park to watch the Giants to go to the nearer venue to watch a baseball game, any baseball game. Even the A’s.

Because the Giants have become a star-laden team with a budget, they’re going to have an even smaller window to remain competitive and financially stable. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are both going to make substantial sums in the coming years as they head for free agency and if the Giants want to keep them, they’ll have to pay them. They’re still on the hook for Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito; Rowand’s been released, Zito has been atrocious and injured.

The difference between the Giants and A’s is that the Giants have fans that will come to the ballpark to watch the team whether they’re good or not and the A’s don’t. That star power of Lincecum and Cain now and Barry Bonds 5 years ago washes away the pain of a non-contending team.

Who do the A’s currently have that fans are going to want to go to the park to watch? They can’t blame fiscal difficulties for a series of horrible drafts and bad trades.

Charlie Finley put together one of the best teams in the history of the sport from 1972-1974 as they won three straight World Series. They never drew well.

Apart from the late 1980s-early 1990s when they were a star-studded, highly-paid club managed by Tony LaRussa and with recognizable personalities Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, they were never in the top-tier attractions in baseball. You can blame the miserable ballpark, but it’s questionable how much a new park would fix matters for them now. If the fans weren’t enthused enough to spur them to finish any higher than 6th in attendance from 2000-2006 when the team was consistently good and run by a supposed “genius” who was becoming a worldwide celebrity, Billy Beane, what difference is a new park going to make?

Fans would apparently prefer to go to the movies to watch Brad Pitt play a fictional genius—as was the portrayal in the movie Moneyball—instead of the on-field train crash that the real Beane built in 2011.

Propaganda-crafted fame aside, fans are not going to go to the ballpark to watch a GM do his GMing, so the Beane lust is essentially meaningless.

We’re going to get a gauge on how a new ballpark influences a baseball-disinterested population in Miami in 2012 with the Marlins. What’s going to make the judgment clearer is that the Marlins are intent on spending money to put a better product on the field in an effort to legitimize the franchise and justify the new park. The spending spree has been tried before with the organization and the Marlins won a World Series in 1997 after buying a load of star players, but when there wasn’t any immediate off-field rise in attendance or attention as anything more than a passing fancy for fair weather and “be here to be seen” fans; after 1997, then-owner Wayne Huizenga ordered a dismantling of the team and sold it.

Another championship under Jeffrey Loria in 2003 didn’t yield a drastic increase in attendance and then that team was torn apart.

Despite the amenities and non-baseball distractions inherent with a new park, a segment of fans might’ve been avoiding the Marlins games because of the constant threat of rain and a football stadium or because they’re not interested in baseball. Owners really don’t care why people are coming to the park as long as they purchase tickets, pay for parking, buy food and souvenirs; but if they’re not into baseball then they’re not into baseball and the new ballpark novelty wears off rapidly if the team isn’t winning. The Mets are proving that now and the Mets have a larger reservoir of hard core fans than the A’s do.

They don’t like baseball in Oakland.

Don’t think that an influx in money from a new park would guarantee a marked improvement in the on-field product either. Beane hasn’t distinguished himself in putting a club together since the rest of baseball caught onto what he was doing; the sentiment about Oakland that was expressed by C.J. Wilson—amid much vitriol—during the past season is shared in a less overt fashion amongst the players. They’ll only join the A’s if they have no other choice. Beane was once able to take advantage of that with former stars like Frank Thomas who needed the A’s to rejuvenate his career; the A’s could offer him a place to play everyday on an incentive-laden deal and hope to hit lightning. Many times they did. Now other teams are thinking the same way and with that revelation, Beane’s “genius” disappeared.

At least Florida is a year-round home for many players and has the absence of a state income tax to make it a sound personal choice. What attraction is there to go to the Athletics and Oakland?

There are none.

There are other venues that could support a team, so why is there this desperation to stay in Oakland where they can’t get a new park and the fans don’t care?

Either eliminate the team or move it to a place that won’t infringe on a healthy club. The casual fans in Oakland didn’t appreciate them when they were good and they’re definitely not invested in them now that they’re bad and not getting better anytime soon.

You can’t help those who don’t help themselves and if they lose their franchise, it’s because they never bolstered it to begin with.

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