I always feel the need to switch off completely from baseball at the end of a season; however, that’s never been so necessary than after the heavy-going 2022 campaign that us A’s fans had to endure.
Watching the play-offs didn’t offer much of a distraction, not least because the Houston Astros always looked odds-on to go all the way. There’s no doubt that they deserved their World Series triumph and the way they have coped with losing key players to free agency has been a lesson to many other big-spending teams.
Alas, the Oakland A’s will have no need to attend the School for Big Spenders under current ownership, that is unless a few of our younger players are sent there to clean the bogs to earn some pocket money.
Let’s not get bogged down in the negativity, though. There’s always reason for optimism if you look hard enough and that’s what I’ll aim to do over the off-season every Sunday.
Beane and (not quite) Gone
Whether the big A’s news on Friday is something to cause optimism is in the eye of the beholder.
The Oakland A’s announced that Billy Beane is moving into a new role as senior advisor to owner John Fisher, relinquishing his position as Executive Vice President of baseball operations.
It has felt like this has been coming for a while as Beane has made no secret of his ambition to test himself with other sporting ventures. He is already involved in various other teams – most notably, and slightly bizarrely, including Barnsley Football Club – and the new role will give him the opportunity to invest more time into those whilst continuing to provide his wisdom and expertise to the A’s.
The news has garnered plenty of attention due to Beane’s Moneyball profile; however the Front Office has been a true team effort in recent years. It’s no slight on Beane to think that this is more about what we will gain than what we will lose as it will allow the other highly-rated baseball operations staff to take on more responsibility. That starts with current General Manager David Forst, who will now report directly to Fisher, but also others such as the Assistant GM’s Dan Feinstein, Billy Owens and Rob Naberhaus.
Owens is regularly mentioned when other teams have an opening at the GM position, most recently when that role became available at the San Francisco Giants. It’s the same in every company: if there isn’t space for your best employees to progress then ultimately they will seek opportunities elsewhere.
It all seems like a positive step for the A’s Front Office.
Other Personnel Changes
Keith Lieppman is a significantly lesser-known name than Billy Beane, even among A’s fans, but his retirement from the A’s this past week at the age of 73 deserves just as much attention.
Lieppeman held various roles with the organisation since being drafted as a player by the A’s in 1971; however it was his 28 years as Director of Player Development where his impact was most keenly felt. Since he started in the role in 1992, the amount of players who have come through the Minor Leagues and had successful careers, with the A’s and with other MLB teams, is staggering. He was justifiably inducted into the A’s Hall of Fame this past summer and his legacy will live on for a long time to come.
Elsewhere, the A’s Medical team will have a different look to it heading into Spring Training as Nick Paparesta, who was the Head Athletic Trainer in Oakland for 12 years, has taken up a position with the Minnesota Twins. Just as Billy Beane’s new role has created opportunities for others, the same goes here. Jeff Collins, who has worked for the A’s for 25 years, moves into the Head Athletic Trainer position whilst Brian Schulman has been promoted to the role of Director of Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.
And it appears as though there will be at least one change in the dugout for the 2023 season. Brad Ausmus provided some experience alongside his friend and former teammate Mark Kotsay during the latter’s rookie season as a Big League manager; however, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman has reported that Ausmus has turned down the offer to return for 2023 and instead is looking for a Front Office position elsewhere.
A’s player news (AKA ‘who’s leaving us next?’)
The MLB Hot Stove season has started relatively quietly, other than the New York Mets splashing out a record $105M to retain the services of star closer Edwin Díaz.
Predictably, it is Sean Murphy’s name that is being bandied about in trade rumours the most so far, with a group of teams (including the Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox) reported to be sniffing around the A’s catcher.
A few minor transactions have been completed over the past week as teams across MLB have been doing their usual tidying up of their 40-man rosters and deciding which of their current players they will be tendering a contract to. As expected, the A’s decided not to tender contracts to infielder David MacKinnon, and pitchers Deolis Guerra and Jared Koenig.
Meanwhile they have added a couple of players to their Triple-A depth by claiming infielder Yonny Hernandez off waivers from Arizona and outfielder Brent Rooker from Kansas City. Both players have at least one Minor League option remaining, meaning that they can be moved between the Minors and Majors during the 2023 season without having to offer them to other teams.
As with all such waiver claims, the two players have their warts (Hernandez has no power at the plate, whilst Rooker has plenty of power but hasn’t been able to show it in limited playing time in the Majors) and it’s more likely than not that they will have little impact, but they also have some skills that make it worth taking a very low financial risk on them to see if something clicks.
Oakland Mayor Race Almost Completed
Although we have more than enough political misery in the UK to stop us from getting worked up about local politics in the States, the election of the new City Mayor for Oakland has great significance in respect of the future home of the A’s.
The latest update from The Oaklandside website is that Democrat Sheng Thao has taken a narrow lead after the ballot count was completed on Friday, 10 days after the election day. There is little to split Thao and the other leading candidate Loren Taylor and so it may well head to a recount, but it seems like Thao will be the person to succeed Libby Schaaf.
What this means for the A’s plans to build at Howard Terminal remains to be seen. NBCS’s Brodie Brazil interviewed both of them a few weeks ago and the videos are well worth watching:
They are interviews with politicians trying to get elected so it’s understandable that they both broadly come to the same stance: supportive of the plans but the deal has to be right for Oakland. What it all means when one of them becomes Mayor remains to be seen.