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A's Sunday Summary

Four weeks to go

We’re now only four weeks away from the start of Spring Training and it’s been a busy couple of weeks for the Oakland A’s as they get ready for the 2023 season.

That gave Dom and I a whole host of topics to discuss in our latest podcast episode when we recorded it on Friday night. You can find it on all the major podcast platforms and today we published a video excerpt on the YouTube channel talking about the ‘Elon Musk in an A’s jersey’ story.

We’ll leave that story to one side and catch up on some of the others.

Saying Goodbye to Cole Irvin

This off-season has been relatively easy to cope with as most of our tradeable assets had already been shipped out, so we just had the inevitable Sean Murphy trade to process.

That changed on Thursday when it was announced that Cole Irvin had been traded to Baltimore.

It was surprising in the sense that it came out of the blue without any rumours to prepare us for the news, beyond the fact that A’s fans are always prepared to some degree for any player to be traded away at the drop of a hat.

As so often is the case, when you take the emotion out of it there is a fair amount of logic behind the decision. Cole is 29 and a back-of-rotation starter with quite extreme home-road splits in his performance, so he wasn’t considered to be a longer-term building block, for all that his competitiveness and personality endeared himself to the fans.

The fact that he was the one guy that Mark Kotsay had previously said would be locked into the rotation is the main issue. Form, injuries and inexperience of others meant that Irvin was the anchor in an otherwise unproven plethora of starting pitcher options; however, the amount of other options we have is the crucial context.

In another situation there would be more value placed on having a steady-hand around which to give starting opportunities to the likes of Shintaro Fujinami, Drew Rucinski, JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk, Adrián Martínez, Kyle Muller, Adam Oller and maybe A.J. Puk.

The honest truth is that, in our current state, it’s probably not so important. We may as well get a good young infield prospect for Irvin – in the form of Darell Hernaiz – and then share out those 30 starts to others to see what they can offer.

A’s General Manager David Forst also confirmed on Friday that Paul Blackburn and James Kaprielian are progressing well in their injury rehabilitation programmes. The expectation is that they will be “ready to go” for Opening Day, so that has played a part in making the team comfortable in letting Irvin go.

Jesús Aguilar signing confirmed

There is still a balance to be struck between youth and experience and that comes into play with the signing of Jesús Aguilar.

The first baseman was available at a modest one-year, $3M cost following a down year in 2022. There’s a chance that his form last season was a sign of things to come, but that risk is what made him available within our budget.

Aguilar is an experienced hitter with a reputation as a great character in the clubhouse, so he falls squarely into the category of being a low-risk, decent-upside signing who can share time at first base with Rule 5 pick Ryan Noda and also pick up at-bats as a Designated Hitter.

Minor League Coaching Assignments Announced

Of course, the A’s 2023 is as much about development at the Minor League level as it is in the Big Leagues. With that in mind, the team announced the Player Development staff assignments this past week.

There has been the usual moving around of some coaches within the system, with the main newcomer to the organisation being someone with plenty of links to the A’s already. Gregorio Petit will be the manager at Low-A Stockton this season having previously managed the Astros’ Double-A affiliate.

Petit was signed as an amateur free agent by the A’s back in July 2001 and made his MLB debut with the team in 2008. He played in 25 games for the A’s and then had spells in the Big Leagues with the Astros, Yankees, Angels and Twins before retiring at the end of 2018.

Johnny Doskow joins the broadcast team

The A’s also made a signing to the broadcast crew by adding long-time Sacramento River Cats announcer Johnny Doskow to the radio booth. He’ll be doing pre and post-game shows as well as play-by-play across at least 65 games in the coming season.

The River Cats were the A’s Triple-A affiliate from 2000 to 2014 before switching to the Giants, so Doskow is well known in A’s circles and the reaction of fans and media members to the news tells you he will be a wonderful addition to Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo.

Listening to the Silence

The plans for a new ballpark hover above everything and, as the A’s “Spirit Week” wraps up in modest style, the continued silence from President Dave Kaval is deafening.

Casey Pratt touched on this in his recent video update, rightly condemning the lack of communication whilst also noting that negotiations are continuing behind the scenes. He also pointed out that Kaval has had a habit of making things worse when speaking over the past couple of years – like stepping on a rake and having it hit you in the face, as Casey put it – so maybe the silence is a self-preservation tactic.

In any case, it’s nowhere near good enough. Sadly, that sums up pretty much everything about the way Kaval and owner John Fisher are running their business.

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A's Sunday Summary

A’s Rotation Taking Shape

The A’s made their 5th – FIFTH! – free agent addition of the off-season this past week by announcing the signing of Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami.

He was a heralded pitching prospect out of high school whose electric talent – 98 MPH fastball, wipe-out splitter and decent slider – has never quite come together due to control issues. He improved that part of his game in 2022 and the Hanshin Tigers honoured his wish to be made available to MLB teams this off-season.

Fujinami is no sure thing to be successful in the Majors, especially as a starting pitcher, but the old saying rings true: that’s why he’s joined the A’s!

Oakland were prepared to give him assurances that he will begin the season in the starting rotation, rather than the bullpen as some other MLB teams were offering, and signed him to a one-year, $3.25M contract with no additional option years attached to it.

For Fujinami, the ideal scenario will be to prove his worth as a viable starting pitcher and then sign a multi-year deal in twelve months’ time.

For the A’s, he’s precisely the sort of low-risk, good reward signing they should be using a roster spot on in 2023. If it doesn’t pan out then it’s no real loss. If we get a good half-season from him and trade him for a prospect then it will be $3.25M (plus $650k posting fee to Hanshin) well spent.

The unknowns with Fujinami also mean us fans can dream that we might have just signed someone a little bit special to get excited about. The A’s are even holding a press conference on Tuesday to announce his arrival, which doesn’t happen all that often.

We hear that our friends at the Oakland 68s may be getting their drums out to give him a welcome too.

It’s not quite the glitz and the glamour of signing someone to a $300M contract, but something’s better than nothing when nothing is all we got last year.

Options Aplenty in the Rotation

Fitness depending, Fujinami will join our other starting pitcher free agent Drew Rucinski in the starting rotation alongside Cole Irvin and Paul Blackburn, provided the latter is back healthy after the finger injury that ended his break-out 2022 campaign early.

That leaves us with a gaggle of arms to compete for the fifth spot and other starting opportunities as the season progresses. Currently they shape up as follows:

Late Starter?

James Kaprielian – his timetable from shoulder surgery in early December is still a little unclear. Mark Kotsay said at the Winter Meetings that he hoped Kap would be good to go for Spring Training, although given that we have other options, don’t be surprised if the A’s take a conservative approach with his recovery.

Likely Bullpen arms

A.J. Puk – A’s GM David Forst stated at the start of the off-season that Puk would come to Spring Training camp as a potential starting pitcher. I would love to see it work out for Puk; however my hunch is that he’ll be our set-up man again this season.

Adam Oller – 2022 didn’t go well, so he may be better suited to a long-relief role. If not, he’s the type of player who will be Designated For Assignment to make space for younger talent on the 40-man roster.

The Next Generation

Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears – both showed promise at the end of last season and really have nothing left to prove at Triple-A level. Regardless of their Opening Day roster assignment, they’ll get plenty of starts in the Green and Gold in 2023.

Adrián Martínez – Although his 2022 didn’t go to plan, there were moments when his fastball and outstanding change-up made him look like an intriguing prospect. It’s worth giving him another go at Triple-A as a starting pitcher before considering switching him to be a potentially excellent reliever.

Kyle Muller and Freddy Tarnok – Both made their MLB debuts with the Braves last season and, like Waldichuk and Sears, will have made plenty of starts for the A’s by the end of the season.

Arbitration Deals Agreed

In other roster news, the A’s announced that they had agreed terms with Paul Blackburn, Tony Kemp and Ramón Laureano on contracts for 2023.

Blackburn ($1.9M salary for 2023) and Laureano ($3.55M) will both be hoping to have healthy and productive seasons to build on previous success, whilst Kemp ($3.725M) is in his final year before becoming a free agent.

As always, successful starts to the 2023 season for them will probably mean other teams will be paying part of that salary once we get to August and September.

Oakland goes 1-1 in funding agreements

Off the field, the Howard Terminal development plans have taken a blow with the provisional awards from the Federal MEGA grant program ruling that Oakland City Council’s bid for $182M was unsuccessful.

Whilst the naysayers are jumping on this as pushing the A’s one step closer to Vegas, the impact of the disappointing news shouldn’t be overstated. The City Council applied to that funding plot knowing they were extremely unlikely to get the full amount and that it was always possible they would get nothing giving how competitive the bidding process was.

In more positive news, the California Transportation Commission has approved $175 million of funding for the Port Of Oakland’s 7th Street Grade Separation Project, first announced back in December. The project obviously is much wider than just relating to Howard Terminal, but it’s part of the overall mission.

Spirit Week Announced

The A’s finally answered the question of whether they would be holding a FanFest this year by announcing a Spirit Week event.

It will begin on Monday January 23rd with various give-aways and ticket deals before culminating on Friday with an open ‘happy hour’ event.

Around the Majors

First – The Carlos Correa saga was brought to a close by the Minnesota Twins re-signing the shortstop to a contract that guarantees him 6-years, $200M and then has another four option years that could add $70M to it. Credit to the Twins for sticking with it after the provisional deals with the Giants and Mets gave them plenty of reasons to move on.

Second – Just after the Boston Red Sox’s 10-year, $313.5M contract extension with Rafael Devers somewhat appeased the Fenway Faithful, the despondency has built again after the news that Trevor Story has undergone elbow surgery that could put him out for the entire season. It only adds to the anger among Red Sox fans that the team signed Story to a six-year, $140M contract last off-season whilst offering low-ball contract extensions to Xander Bogaerts, who subsequently signed an 11-year, $280M contract with the Padres in December.

Third – There may be similar buyer’s remorse – albeit at a substantially lower financial level – for the New York Yankees when it comes to their mid-season trade with the A’s for Frankie Montas. He struggled down the stretch after being acquired at the trade deadline and the Yankees announced yesterday that Montas’s shoulder soreness has returned. He’s reportedly 8-10 weeks behind his off-season schedule and the fact that his shoulder has been a recurring problem makes this all the more concerning. It’s rough news for Frankie, although from the A’s perspective it shows that the Front Office did the right thing in getting a very solid prospect return for him and Lou Trivino when they did.

Home – And finally, fans of the similarly pathetically-owned Pittsburgh Pirates received a much-deserved bit of good news on Friday with the announcement that Andrew McCutchen has signed a one-year deal to return to the team. He reportedly turned down better financial offers from other teams as he wanted to go back to where his career began and to help their rebuild.

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Roster moves

Deals Done

It’s been a day of high drama for Bay Area baseball, brought to a head by an official statement in the past couple of hours addressing the big news.

Yes, the rumours were true: the Oakland A’s have indeed signed free agent pitcher Drew Rucinski.

The contract guarantees him $3M in 2023 and there is a club option of $5M for 2024. Everything has been signed; he’s even completed his medical examination. Bad luck New York: you won’t be able to sneak in and steal this one.

Who Is Drew?

If you are reading this and sheepishly admitting to yourself that you’ve never heard of Rucinski then do not worry. He’s been pitching in the Korean Baseball League for the past four seasons after making 41 appearances in MLB between 2014 and 2018.

Rucinski was primarily a reliever during his time in the Big Leagues, but was a reliable innings-eater in Korea and figures to be given a shot in the A’s starting rotation.

MLB Trade Rumors included him right at the end of their Top 50 Free Agents and their assessment of where he might end up was spot on:

“Since he’ll be looking for his first MLB payday, Rucinski probably won’t care whether he signs with a rebuilding club who might flip him at the trade deadline or a postseason hopeful. Whichever club is willing to dole out the largest number of years and dollars will win the day here, and Rucinski’s likely price point should be affordable enough that even low-payroll teams can make competitive bids. Teams like the Pirates, D-backs, Royals, Rangers, A’s and Tigers might even be preferable, as they’ll have an easier time making the promise of guaranteed innings to Rucinski”.

MLB Trade Rumors

May we have some decent pitchers?

The Rucinski signing follows on from the acquisition of relief pitcher Trevor May.

The right-hander developed into a very effective reliever in Minnesota and earned a two-year, $15.5M contract with the New York Mets ahead of the 2021 season. He was excellent in a set-up role in 2021; however injuries held him back in 2022 and limited him to only 25 innings.

May went into this off-season with the objective of finding a decent one-year deal that would put him in a prominent bullpen role – ideally as a closer – from which he could rebuild his value to head back onto the free agent market next winter.

In other words, he was exactly the sort of quality arm that the A’s were looking for.

We more than had the budget spare to sign him to a $7m deal and to give him assurances that the closer role was his to lose. The contract is structured so that he gets a $1m signing bonus and then a $6m salary, plus a $100k assignment bonus if he is traded. The liability of that bonus payment will fall on the acquiring team, which says quite a lot!

In reality the best-case scenario for everyone is that May returns to form as our closer in the first half of the season, the A’s get to trade him for a prospect (for example, a good young reliever who we’ll have under contract for 5-6 years), the other team picks up the $2.5M-$3M left on his contract (plus that $100k bonus) and he gets to pitch for a contender ahead of seeking a multi-year contract next winter.

As I’ve written previously, this is precisely the type of player a rebuilding team like the A’s should be signing. May’s track record suggests it could be a very astute addition, both in his potential mid-season trade value and that his presence as the closer will let other members of our bullpen slide down a spot to where they are probably better suited at the moment.

Taking Stock

Left-hander Zach Logue had to be Designated For Assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Rucinski and that’s testament to the fact that we do now have quite a few pitching options.

It is much more a plethora of pitchers than an embarrassment of riches, but there’s something to be said for having a whole bundle of arms and seeing if any work out.

If 2022 was Year Zero, 2023 should be a season in which we start to learn more about the group of players currently straddling the Triple-A and MLB divide. Principally, which ones look like they may be able to take the next step and be a part of the next contending A’s team.

Even if 2023 brings plenty of losses on the field again, as it surely will, it at least promises to be an intriguing season. And as we know from previous experience, those seasons can be fun irrespective of what the Win-Loss record says at the end of it.

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Roster moves

Sean Murphy Traded to the Braves

I was going to post a photo of our beautiful “Big Boy Home Runs” banner, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Sean Murphy has been added to the depressingly long list of quality Major Leaguers that have left the Oakland A’s over the past 12 months. The Gold Glove catcher has joined Atlanta in a three-way trade that also includes the Milwaukee Brewers.

As with all of the other departures, there’s a slight sense of happiness for the player that they have been moved to a good new home, one that will probably reward him with a contract extension in short order.

We might as well be happy for someone else, as it’s hard to be happy for ourselves right now.

Why???

The emotionless logic for trading Murphy worked on three factors:

  1. It’s Shea Langeliers’ time to become a regular starter.
  2. Murphy was unlikely to sign a contract extension – even if one was offered – to keep him with the team for when we expect to be competitive again.
  3. He is a valuable commodity, with multiple suitors, and would produce a very attractive return to add to our rebuilding effort.

The St. Louis Cardinals were one of many such suitors. They ultimately decided to sign Willson Conteras as a free agent instead and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch had this to say about the A’s negotiating position:

One of several teams chasing Murphy, the Cardinals found the Athletics’ asking price steep. One executive referred to it as “high — like the moon.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch

If we had got “the moon” in return then the blow of losing one of our few remaining good players would have been softened. Unfortunately, the initial reactions from prospect writers suggest the return has fallen somewhat short of the moon.

In fact, quite a long way short.

What Did We Get?

As Stockton Ports broadcaster Alex Jensen sensibly reminds us, it will take a couple of years before we can really assess the value of the prospects that we have acquired. Amid the bashing of David Forst and the rest of the A’s Front Office right now on Twitter, I’m sure you won’t find a single A’s fan who doesn’t hope that the negative reactions are proved incorrect in time.

And what else do we have right now but time? Well, let’s take a quick look.

A catcher for now: Veteran catcher Manny Piña comes across from the Braves. With Sean Murphy heading out, we had to acquire another catcher from somewhere as there are no MLB-ready choices in our Minor League system to join Shea Langeliers on the roster. It made sense for that to be a defense-first veteran back-up and that describes Piña perfectly.

He doesn’t add much at all with the bat – insert your own “well, he’ll fit in with the A’s” joke here – but he has consistently been rated as a good defensive catcher during his time with the Brewers and then last year with the Braves. He should be a help to the pitching staff and also can be someone Shea can learn from too, which shouldn’t be underestimated as part of his development.

One speedy outfielder: The reports on Esteury Ruiz state that he’s a very quick runner, and can knock one out of the park every once in a while, but he’ll need to out-perform the projections if he is going to hit enough to be a regular presence in the line up. It’s the second move in less than five months for Ruiz as he was acquired by the Brewers from the Padres on August 1st as part of the package that saw Josh Hader head to San Diego.

Three pitchers from the Braves: Left-hander Kyle Muller is the pick of the bunch as he was generally rated the Braves’ top prospect, albeit in a farm system that has been depleted over the past year by promotions to the Majors and other trades. He’s very likely to stick as a Big League starting pitcher, and made his MLB debut this past season, although probably at the back of the rotation.

Right-hander Freddy Tarnok is someone that the Braves seemed to like more than some of the prospect writers, so he’s potentially the player who could make this deal look a lot better in a few years’ time. He has a good assortment of pitches, including a 95-MPH fastball, and like Muller he made his MLB debut in 2022.

Finally, right-hander Royber Salinas is more of a project as he was pitching in Single-A in 2022. There’s plenty of variance in how prospect writers assess his potential and whether he will transition to a reliever role as he gets closer to the Majors, but again there is at least a decent chance that he will contribute in the Big Leagues at some point.

What Next?

It’s the development of the three pitchers from Atlanta that will determine how we look back at this trade in future. For every Dan Haren there’s a Dan Meyer. We can only hope that this time the pitching return from Atlanta works out better than those fateful few days in December 2004 when Mark Mulder was traded to the Cardinals and Tim Hudson to the Braves.

As for right now, we’ve traded away by far our best player from a team that lost 102 games.

We don’t yet know if the future will be bright; we do know it looks quite a long way away. Almost as far away as the moon.

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A's Sunday Summary

Draft Lottery Losers

The Winter Meetings in San Diego this past week were very eventful. Even our Oakland A’s got in on the act with a couple of reported free agent signings.

However, the most significant news for the Green and Gold was another disappointment for us to cope with.

Down to Sixth

The first ever MLB Draft Lottery took place on Tuesday and the A’s were the biggest losers coming out of it. Previously a second-worst win-loss record would have meant picking second in the following year’s amateur player draft. Adding the lottery element to it has resulted in the A’s dropping down to sixth.

Although there can be a drop-off from the players available at the very top of the draft, the significance is more in the financial implications and the A’s ability to add more talent to the rebuilding effort via next year’s draft.

Every single pick in the draft is given a guide value. The combined total of the pick values that an individual team has allocated to them defines their overall draft bonus pool budget. The individual signing bonuses are still subject to negotiation, so you can strike a deal at higher or lower than the guide value for that specific pick; however, the total value of all of your deals has to be within your overall bonus pool budget.

The guide values for the 2023 draft are still to be published, but for 2022 the difference between the second overall pick ($8,189,400) and the sixth overall pick ($6,037,500) was $2.1M. That’s not a lot when it comes to the MLB Free Agency market, but it is in the context of the bonus pools, such as the A’s overall budget of $8.3M for the 2022 draft.

First Round Fails

The A’s Front Office will have to get creative once again, not least because their disappointing record with First Round draft picks in recent years has been a factor in the team going into a full-scale rebuild.

After taking A.J. Puk with the sixth overall pick in 2016, they once again picked at six in 2017 and used that to select Austin Beck. Sadly for the A’s, Beck has never shown a consistent ability to make contact across four and a bit Minor League seasons. He split time in High-A and Double-A during 2022 and, although he displayed some power in Lansing (8 HR in 43 games), it’s still questionable if he will make it to the Majors at all, let alone be productive at that level.

The swing-and-a-miss on Beck in 2017, as well as late First Round pick Kevin Merrell, was compounded by the Kyler Murray debacle in 2018.

The A’s used their ninth overall spot to select University of Oklahoma’s two-sport star, came to terms on a $4.6M signing bonus and then allowed him to continue his college football season. He subsequently won the Heisman Trophy as the outstanding college football player of that season, was selected first overall in the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals and in July this year he signed a five-year contract extension that guarantees him $160M and could be worth up to $230.5M.

It worked nicely for Murray, but the only thing the A’s got out of it was most of their bonus money back. It left a hole in the farm system and that’s one that the 2019 First Round pick hasn’t filled.

College shortstop Logan Davidson was selected with the 29th pick and signed to a $2.4M bonus. As with so many other prospects of that year, Davidson’s development was hindered by the cancelled 2020 Minor League season. The A’s decided to send him to Double-A Midland in 2021 and his struggles there (batting .212/.307/.313) resulted in him being given a repeat assignment at that level this year. The results were better second time around (.252/.337/.406 with 14 HR in 111 games), but still not clearly indicative of someone who will develop into a Big Leaguer of any note.

The A’s left him off their 40-man roster this off-season, exposing him to the other 29 teams in the Rule 5 Draft this week, but nobody claimed him. There’s still a chance he could play for the A’s; however he’s unlikely to push on much further.

The disappointment with Davidson’s development also is now seen with the unflattering comparison to the shortstop taken with the very next pick. The New York Yankees selected Anthony Volpe and MLB.com’s Prospect Rankings currently list him as the fifth best prospect in all of baseball. He is a prospect with All Star potential and he was considered untouchable by the Yankees’ Front Office this summer when the A’s were negotiating a trade package for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino.

Every team has its successes and failures in the draft; however, the difference between the two is greatly exacerbated when you don’t compete for premium talent – or even very good talent – on the free agent market. With that approach, if you don’t draft a Matt Chapman or Matt Olson, you never have one.

The A’s will have an early pick this year – even if not quite as early as we had hoped – and likely will again next year too. Converting those into impact Major Leaguers could have a strong bearing on how far the next competitive A’s team can go.

Other A’s Notes

Alongside the Draft Lottery, another new feature of MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that we’re seeing for the first time this off-season is the allocation of a $50M fund to the top performing pre-arbitration players (i.e. those in their first three MLB seasons). Sean Murphy is the A’s sole beneficiary this time, earning himself a $700k bonus that pretty much doubles his take-home pay for 2022. There’s no need to worry about A’s owner John Fisher’s art collection budget though, as teams get reimbursed the full cost of the pre-arbitration bonuses from a central MLB fund.

The A’s selected first baseman Ryan Noda from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday. By all accounts, there’s a good chance he’ll be a regular at first base for the A’s in 2023. I’ll provide some more detailed thoughts on that selection, and the trade with Colorado that bagged us reliever Chad Smith, in a mid-week blog.

If you haven’t seen them already, you can catch up on my thoughts on the reported signings of Aledmys Díaz and Jace Peterson elsewhere on the blog (they are both pending completion of physicals, so have not been officially announced as yet). The one additional piece of information to add is that Peterson’s contract is reported to be a two-year deal worth $9.5M. That’s a bit higher than I estimated and is part of a wider trend so far this off-season of teams being willing, or being forced, to table offers with a higher average annual value and/or length than initially predicted.

Around The Majors

First: It’s difficult to know where to start with the flood of big money signings across MLB this past week. The eleven-year contracts signed by shortstops Trea Turner ($300M with the Phillies) and Xander Bogaerts ($275M with the Padres) are as good a place as any. Former (and probably future) A’s scourge Carlos Correa is predicted to beat Turner’s deal in the next week or so.

Second: Will Correa be the player to finally take the Giants’ money? For a few hours on Tuesday they thought they had beaten the Yankees to Aaron Judge’s signature, then it emerged that they had pursued fellow outfielder Brandon Nimmo before he decided to take an 8-year, $162M deal to return to the New York Mets. The Giants have managed to sign former Mariner Mitch Haniger, but the Big Star Splash they are desperately trying to make has yet to come off. There’s only a small amount of smirking towards the Giants here: the pain of narrowly missing out after tabling huge offers is a pain us A’s fans would gladly cope with.

Third: As for Judge, well you have to give credit to both the Giants and Padres for making what seemed inevitable be in doubt for a little while. The Yankees would no longer have been the Yankees if they had let their one beloved star leave the Bronx, so the 9-year, $360M pact was a commitment they had to make. The morale boost of keeping him shouldn’t obscure how badly the rest of their offense struggled down the stretch last season, so they’ll need to keep going if they are to be a true World Series contender.

Home: For a guide on this, the Yankees can look towards Queens. The Mets brought back Nimmo at a fair market price, responded to losing Jacob deGrom by signing Justin Verlander and have just added Jose Quintana and Japanese import Kodai Senga to cover for losing Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt to free agency (although C-Bass is still unsigned). ESPN’s Jeff Passan has done the sums and estimates that the Mets’ payroll will end up at around $345M, requiring owner Steve Cohen to pay a $76M tax bill for blasting through the various luxury tax thresholds. It’s known as a Competitive Balance Tax, although when one team pays more in tax than some teams will pay their entire 26-man roster (including our lot), it doesn’t seem a very accurate name. How about Free Money for Poor Billionaires Fund?

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MLB Roster moves

ALL the Utility Players!

The Oakland A’s reportedly have agreed a two-year, $14.5M contract with Aledmys Díaz, the former Houston Astros utility player.

Yes, you read that right; $14.5M! Whatever has come over A’s owner John Fisher?!

My thoughts on the Jace Peterson signing yesterday provide the context to the spend here. The Frugal Fisher A’s do have payroll space to play with this season, even if the amount of money that involves is very modest relative to the rest of the MLB competition.

Adding Peterson, and projecting Murphy’s 2023 salary to be on another team’s budget, left the A’s Front Office with $20M or so even just to get to the Opening Day payroll at the start of last season.

Not really surprising?

Signing players like Peterson and Díaz was what I expected from this off-season. Referring back to yesterday’s blog again, they’re not exciting signings but they make a lot of sense for a rebuilding team. You are adding experienced Major Leaguers to help an otherwise young group on and off the field, whilst also creating some decent trade assets too.

That both Peterson and Díaz got two-year deals is part of that plan. The extra year is a big incentive for such players to take our money over another team’s offer, creates a bit of stability to the roster and also gives us more options when it comes to future trades compared with a players on just a one-year rental deal.

Díaz has been used as a utility player by the Astros over the past four seasons, although we shouldn’t use that term in a negative way. That’s particularly the case with Díaz as for much of his time in Houston he had an elite infield of Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman ahead of him. His role on the team was to cover for injuries, give the regular starters days off and to provide a league average bat whilst turning his hand to whatever position was needed. In 2022, he played all four infield positions and also spent some time in left field.

He’s the sort of player who doesn’t stand out to fans on a World Series winner, but everyone in the clubhouse appreciates how important they are to a successful team.

V is for Versatility

The versatility fits nicely with similar attributes displayed by fellow newcomer Peterson and Tony Kemp.

What these players bring is the ability for Mark Kotsay to mix-and-match with his line-up and, most especially, creates flexibility depending on the progress of some of our younger players.

As an example, let’s say Kevin Smith finds something with his swing over the off-season. If he shows up well in Spring Training and carries that on into the early Minor League season then that’s the perfect time to bring him back up to the Big Leagues. If we had signed a dedicated third baseman then you have a logjam, but by signing Peterson we have someone who can shift to another position to make space if needed.

Signing a couple of utility players essentially means we can bring some experience into the line-up without blocking a fielding position for a prospect depending on who grasps the opportunity.

We need to talk about Pinder

A few A’s fans on Twitter have reacted to the Díaz signing by wondering why we didn’t just sign Chad Pinder to a new contract? I appreciate that sentiment is coming from a good place; we all have a soft spot for Pinder and have hoped for years that he would come good.

The thing is, sadly, he never has come good. He had a very encouraging campaign in 2018, but it’s been downhill since due to injuries and struggling for any sort of form or consistency. Looking at the basic hitting stats and then FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (that factors in hitting and fielding value), we see the following:

Chad Pinder: 553 Games, .242/.294/.417. 2.5 fWAR.

Aledmys Díaz: 582 Games, .266/.320/.443. 7.7 fWAR.

The batting lines look fairly similar at a superficial level, but when you dig into them and add defence to it too then Díaz has clearly been a much better player.

The Pinder/Peterson comparison is closer:

Jace Peterson: 741 Games, .231/.321/.343. 4.3 fWAR.

The difference here is that nearly all of Pinder’s value came from that 2018 season (2.2 fWAR). Over the last two seasons, Pinder’s fWAR has been precisely zero (0.1 in 2021, -0.1 in 2022) whilst Peterson’s has been 3.2. In fact, Peterson’s 2022 campaign (2.2 fWAR) was the equal of Pinder’s best season.

Taking the emotion out of it, Peterson is an upgrade and Díaz potentially a considerable upgrade. What we all hope for, I’m sure, is that both players produce the goods for the A’s whilst Chad succeeds in a part-time role on another team.

What Next?

Now we’ve got the taste for spending some money, let’s keep the dollars flowing! MLB Trade Rumors sums it up neatly:

“Given the lack of experience on the roster and the defensive fluidity many of the current starters bring to the table, the A’s could still make a play for a free agent at just about any position. There’s also clear room for multiple veteran arms, be they starters or relievers, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see a handful of comparably modest signings in the weeks and months ahead”

Steve Adams on MLB Trade Rumors

“Comparably modest” is a good way to describe the signings made so far and what we should expect between now and the start of Spring Training.

Categories
A's Sunday Summary MLB

Pache Getting To Work

We always refer to this time of year as the off-season; however, that’s only accurate when it comes to the baseball action in MLB.

The Australian Baseball League is in its Third Round of the 22/23 season, with former Oakland A Josh Reddick playing for Perth Heat in what will be his final competition before retiring.

You will also find a whole bunch of Major Leaguers and Minor League talent in the Caribbean Winter Leagues, primarily in Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico, LVPB in Venezuela and The Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana, known as LIDOM, in the Dominican Republic.

One of the players getting some at-bats in LIDOM is a native of Santo Domingo Centro: Cristian Pache.

The A’s centre-fielder unfortunately epitomised how Oakland’s 2022 season unravelled. Just as we knew it was going to be a rough year in the win-loss column, we also knew that Pache came from the Braves with a reputation of being an elite centre-fielder, but needing plenty of development at the plate. The hope, for both the team and for Pache, was that there would be improvement over the season and encouraging signs of things to come.

That wasn’t quite what happened.

Although Pache’s fielding was as outstanding as advertised, he never found any sort of rhythm at the plate. Despite manager Mark Kotsay giving him plenty of time and encouragement to work through his struggles, by June 30th he was hitting only .159/.203/.224 and the team had no choice but to demote him back to Triple-A.

He put up a much better line in 41 games in Vegas, hitting .248/.298/.389 with 4 HR, although it still wasn’t quite at the level you would like to see from a player trying to force his way back onto the Major League roster.

Pache is far from unique in finding it hard to deal with the quality of breaking balls and off-speed pitches as he moves through the Minors. You don’t get far in the professional hitter ranks if you can’t catch up with a good fastball, but what separates the maybes from the Major Leaguers is how they cope with the so-called secondary pitches.

That doesn’t mean you have to be just as good at hitting those pitches and in fact even some of the best hitters have quite a drop in their production off non-fastball pitches. You’ve got to be able to hit them well enough to keep the pitcher honest and, most importantly, you’ve got to develop the pitch recognition and discipline at the plate to force the pitcher to either come at you with the fastball or give you a free pass to first base.

When we look a bit deeper into the statistics there is a case that Pache did suffer some misfortune at the plate during 2022.

His batting average on fastballs was .192, but his expected Batting Average was .276, just as his expected Slugging percentage of .361 was .100 higher than what his actual slugging percentage turned out as (.264).

You have to be careful when looking at ‘expected’ stats as they don’t tell the whole story (e.g. if Pache had been getting better results then pitchers would have started pitching him differently etc); however, at a basic level they give you an idea of how lucky or unlucky the hitter was.

In this case, Pache’s ability to hit fastballs hard didn’t produce the results you would normally expect and part of that genuinely will be a case of hitting into some bad luck.

We all know how important confidence is for an athlete, especially a young player trying to find their feet, so perhaps if the baseball gods had been more on his side then Pache may not have fallen into such a hole and found a better approach at the plate.

That’s not how things work, though. Coping with failure is a big part of the game and Pache was like a driver sat in a car spinning its wheels in the mud hoping that if he jumped on the accelerator pedal enough times he may finally gain some traction and race clear of danger. Time and again Pache was behind in the count 0-2 within a blink of an eye from chasing after bad pitches (accepting that’s easy to say watching on TV from the comfort of your sofa). No one knows any of this better than Pache himself.

Pache is playing for Estrellas Orientales (Oriental Stars) in LIDOM, alongside former A’s teammate Christian Bethancourt.

His season debut came on Monday against Tigres del Licey where he went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and he then went 1-for-5 against Toros del Este on Tuesday. Pache sat out the team’s game on Friday against Aguilas Cibaeñas, whose line-up included former A’s favourite Yoenis Cespedes and former A’s Minor Leaguer Frank Schwindel.

In truth, Pache’s stats from his time in LIDOM won’t tell us all that much. What matters is that he uses the off-season to re-set and then is able to work with the A’s hitting coaches during Spring Training.

His fielding is so spectacularly good that he doesn’t need to be an impact hitter to be a quality everyday Major Leaguer. He does need to be able to contribute at the plate, though. The joy of watching him patrol centre field at the Coliseum, and the infectious joy he shows when playing the game, means that we all want him to come good.

Whether he can or not will be one of the key stories to follow in the A’s 2023 season.

Thao confirmed as new Oakland Mayor

As rumoured last week, Sheng Thao has now been confirmed as the new mayor-elect for the City of Oakland. Thao was elected by a narrow majority of just 682 votes over Loren Taylor and held her first press conference outside the City Hall on Wednesday.

Thao’s campaign drew in part on her own experiences of the homelessness struggles that are rightly a major concern in the city, as the Guardian.com’s news report states:

Just 15 years ago, Thao was living in her car with her infant son. She had just escaped an abusive relationship and had nowhere to go. This week Thao, 37, became the first Hmong American woman to lead a major US city, the youngest Oakland mayor in 75 years and the first renter to hold the position

The Guardian.com

The report goes on to state that “Over the past five years, Oakland saw a steeper rise in homelessness than any other city in the Bay Area” and this of course plays into some of the tensions around the A’s proposed development at Howard Terminal. Whilst there are valid arguments to support the wider benefits of investing tax-payer dollars into the project, it’s understandable that the optics of potentially doing so continue to be controversial.

Thao’s previous position has been the straight forward one: she wants the project to go ahead but the deal has to be right for Oakland, not just for the A’s owner John Fisher. Coming from a country where public funds wouldn’t be used in this way, largely because we don’t have a sports franchise system that allows teams to threaten relocation, it’s a stance that is hard not to support regardless of how much we all want the team to stay in Oakland.

Thao has lots on her ‘to-do list’ and that will likely include resolving the Howard Terminal project one way or another in the first half of 2023 rather than letting it continue to drag on.

Over to you, Fisher.

Around the Bases

First: Aaron Judge’s Free Agency tour began this past week across the Bay where the San Francisco Giants rolled out the red carpet for the Linden, California native. Whilst a return to the New York Yankees still seems the likeliest outcome – the Yankees not being able to re-sign the reigning AL MVP, and by far their most popular player, would cause a complete meltdown in the Bronx – the Giants figure to be a strong candidate for at least one of the big-ticket free agents on the market this off-season.

Second: There is something very comforting about the annual off-season tale in Anaheim, where the Angels make some moves, the national media hypes them up, and then they fall woefully short of the play-offs. It’s funnier when the A’s aren’t hopeless too, but it’s always worth a chuckle anyway. The Halos have been the most active MLB team so far this off-season, signing pitcher Tyler Anderson to a 3-year, $39M contract, trading for third baseman Gio Urshela from the Twins and then this week adding outfielder Hunter Renfroe in a trade with the Brewers. Will it work this time?

Third: The competition for ‘Cheapest Team of the Off-Season’ has taken an early turn as the usually frugal Pittsburgh Pirates have jumped into the free agent market and agreed a deal with first-baseman Carlos Santana. Although it’s only a one-year deal worth $6.75M, the stakes are so low in the Cheapo Challenge that the investment may take the Buccos away from the other misers. It looks unlikely that the A’s will agree to a free agent contract worth more than that amount of money. The question is whether our entire free agent spending goes above that figure?

Home: The MLB London Series returns in 2023 with the postponed 2020 match-up between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals at the London Stadium. Pre-sale ticket offers go live for MLB Europe subscribers on Monday.

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A's Sunday Summary

On to the Off-Season

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.

Categories
Roster moves

A’s 2023 Arbitration Salary Estimates

MLB Trade Rumors have published their annual estimates for the salaries that the arbitration-eligible players are likely to receive in 2023.

This is always an interesting list, but it’s all the more so for the A’s this off-season as our roster is devoid of any guaranteed contracts.

We have a group of pre-arbitration players, plus six confirmed arbitration players and two more (A.J. Puk and Cole Irvin) who may be added to the list once the qualification point for Super Two players is finalised (a certain number of the best performing players become eligible for arbitration after two seasons rather than the standard three) .

Here are the six currently-confirmed arbitration eligible players and what the projection system has produced as a potential 2023 salary for each of them.

Tony Kemp (5.098): $3.9MM

We all love TK; the energy he brings and everything he stands for fits perfectly with Oakland. That doesn’t change the fact that he had some struggles at the plate in 2022 (yes, I know that can be said for virtually A’s hitter) and his value is more as a 25th/26th roster guy who can fill in at multiple positions than as a regular starting player.

Kemp made $2.25M in 2022 and I can’t help but feel that if signing him will take close to $4M then the A’s may not tender him a contract. To be honest, I was surprised that the projection system gave him such a big raise as I was looking at him being more in the $3.25M-$3.5M range. If he’s prepared to accept that level of contract, on the basis of staying somewhere he knows and where he’ll get plenty of playing time ahead of becoming a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, then a deal might still be possible.

Deolis Guerra: $900K

Not much to be said here, other than Guerra will be making his way back from Tommy John surgery and there’s every chance he won’t be tendered a contract.

Austin Pruitt: $1.2MM

Pruitt did okay for us out of the bullpen this season, pitching in 39 games. He gave up 11 home runs, which hurt, and he’s not a strike-out pitcher, but he does a good job in limiting free passes and can do a steady enough job in 6th-7th inning situations. It doesn’t seem overly likely we’ll spend a 7 figure sum on him, though.

Ramón Laureano: $3.6MM

2023 is going to be a big season for Ramón. We hoped that he would come back in a big way in 2022 once he finished up his suspension, but things didn’t quite turn out like that and his season was ended early by a hamstring injury.

Selfishly, the difficulties he faced in 2022 increase the chance that he will stay with the team heading into 2023 and hopefully we will see the old Ramón firing on all cylinders once again (albeit, that likely meaning he gets traded at the deadline).

Sean Murphy (3.029): $3.5MM

Comfortably our best player in 2022, Murph is a steal at a salary of $3.5M; however, unfortunately that factors into him being comfortably our most valuable trade asset this off-season.

Any team that is seeking an upgrade at catcher will be a potential trade match, with the most obvious fit being the Cleveland Guardians. They boast a strong farm system to trade from, have a need at the position and Murphy’s contract status (three years of arbitration-eligibility left) puts him in an affordable bracket for the cost-conscious team.

Paul Blackburn (3.018): $1.9MM

Paulie All-Star was having a break-out season until he ran into some performance struggles in the second-half and then ultimately was shut down for the season in early August with an injury to his pitching hand. There was talk that he may need to undergo surgery, although that doesn’t seem to have been needed to this point.

In any case, that puts some uncertainty against him that will affect his trade value this off-season, so there’s good reason to expect him to be back with the A’s in 2023.

All Comes Back to the Budget

As always, the options available to the A’s Front Office will be dictated by the budget constraints John Fisher places them under.

It shouldn’t be possible for Fisher to set such a ridiculously low payroll again without penalty ($47.7M 26-man Opening Day, just under $61M 40-man for Competitive Balance Tax purposes); however this is a system with little to prevent him from doing so.

It’s best not to underestimate how cheap a cheap Billionaire can be.

Categories
MLB

Oakland a “Baseball Wasteland”?

It’s been a while since a journalist has put some money into the ‘Oakland A’s article’ machine and pulled the handle.

In the first few weeks of the season, when other baseball stories were thin on the ground, it seemed like coins were being fired into the machine with the frequency of a compulsive gambler trying to chase their losses on the Vegas slots; appropriately enough, some might say.

Since then, most news outlets have shifted back to the default position of forgetting the team exists at all; however for some reason the online version of the Guardian felt minded to publish an opinion piece by Dave Caldwell describing Oakland as “a baseball wasteland” and condemning the Coliseum as “a dump”.

Dom took to our Twitter account to point out all that was wrong about this view, whilst also offering me up as being able to “talk sense” about it. Well, you be the judge!

What’s the Motivation?

The most curious part of the article is that its opening salvo, and presumably the thing that sparked the idea for it, is the level of attendance for the recent visit from the New York Yankees.

The writer makes the valid point that it was a rare series this season that was well-attended throughout: “93,719 fans attending the four-game series, or 23,430 per game”. This train of thought ends with the following conclusion:

“The A’s are still dead last in the major leagues in attendance, though, having drawn a little over 10,000 fans per game this season. That should tell you not just something about the Yankees’ drawing power, but about Oakland as a baseball wasteland”.

There’s no doubt that the Yankees are an attraction and they produce an uptick in attendance at most ballparks they visit, but although he throws in some vague references to the way the team has been run in recent years (low payroll, churn of players etc), he doesn’t actually probe the obvious question that the facts should lead you to ask: what’s the difference between the series with the Yankees and all of the others?

Do over 10,000 fans from New York jump on planes and cross the country so that there is briefly a decent-sized baseball fanbase to sell tickets to?

Does the Coliseum temporarily undergo a magical transformation in which all of the things he readily trots out that make the place a “dump” somehow vanish for the weekend?

No, what the attendance at the Yankees series tells you is that Oakland is far from being “a baseball wasteland”. It tells you, if you have ignored all of the vital baseball market metrics (population, size of media market etc) and so don’t know this already, that thousands of local baseball fans are ready and willing to part with their hard-earned cash to enjoy a visit to the Coliseum.

The core issue is simple: invest in putting a good product on the field (such as the Yankees’ team of stars) and people in the area will come out and watch it; continually treat your customers badly and offering them a poor product and they will simply take their money elsewhere.

Oh, Caldwell delights in telling stories of feral cats (a valid issue but obviously not something that is actually putting people off attending) and feral fans (it’s becoming something of a trend in North American stadiums), but he skates away from considering whether these issues are relevant from the point he’s making because he knows they are not.

What’s It Based On?

And that leads us to the overriding reason to take issue with the article: what exactly is he basing all of this on? Well, he’s interviewed a couple of fans – neither of whom negatively comment on the Coliseum – and he’s watched a video on YouTube in which the presenter is actually much fairer than the “Is This Place Safe? Rusting Floors at Worst Stadium in Baseball?” title would suggest.

What he doesn’t include is his own experiences of visiting the Coliseum. That whilst it is unquestionably rough around the edges, it provides great views to watch a ballgame from. That many of the staff there – Hal The Hot Dog Guy being the obvious example – go above and beyond to make sure everyone has a fun and enjoyable afternoon/evening at the ballpark. That what the fans lack in sheer numbers they more than make up for with their noise, passion and friendliness (and that, selfishly, having plenty of space to stretch out in is actually a bonus!).

No, Caldwell doesn’t mention any of this because – as with all other such articles – it’s based on preconceptions, half-truths and the nonsense that the A’s top brass spew out to justify their relocation threats (to be fair to Caldwell, he does state that Kaval didn’t respond to a request for comment, but he would have only received the same well-rehearsed lines every other journalist gets anyway).

Come And See For Yourself

Four of us are heading out to Oakland from the UK in three weeks’ time to take in six games at the Coliseum. None of us will spend a single second tut-tutting about the ballpark.

Admittedly, we are all used to visiting football grounds in the UK, some of which would be condemned for immediate demolition based on the U.S. sports franchise owner view that anything over 25 years old is ancient and requires hundreds of millions of tax-payers’ dollars to make it habitable, but anyone who doesn’t require a sedan chair to take them to their seat will have no real complaints.

Does it look tired? Sure. Is it a poor venue to watch a game at? No, not in a million years.

Perhaps Caldwell could get in contact with his editor at The Guardian (presumably the US version) and see if they’ll stump up the expenses so that he can join us in the bleachers for a game or two while we’re out there?

If he’s in luck, he’ll find that Oakland is far from being a baseball wasteland deserving of his ridicule and instead is a baseball city of great heart and huge potential that needs journalists like him to shine a more discerning, critical light on why that potential is being wasted by cheap ownership rather than regurgitating the same false narrative.