The Oakland A's are a disaster. But all is not lost. All SHOULD NOT be lost.
In the 70s and 80s the Oakland A’s were an exciting franchise. Fans were blessed to see Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, and Sal Bando win three straight titles, as well as watching one of the most exciting players to ever live, Rickey Henderson. However, today, the A’s are not fielding a competitive team in any sense of the word. What happened? How could a franchise that is third all-time in World Series titles have fallen so far off?
iT's thE FaNS' fAulT
MLB will continue to say the issue is the fans, or lack thereof, and that the A's need to move to Las Vegas or Nashville. These ideas do seem ideal on paper, but not in actuality. MLB is simply looking at the Raiders and the beautiful stadium they have and the revenue they bring in and wants to try the same thing. THIS WILL NOT WORK!
The simple reason is that Las Vegas is not a weekday city. The Raiders play mostly on Sundays, apart from the occasional Monday or Thursday game. Sunday is the perfect day to play in Vegas because people are winding down from the weekend bender they just had, so they say, "let’s catch a football game before our flight." The A’s and MLB do not have that luxury.
If they move to Vegas they will have the same issue they have in Oakland because they keep fielding teams like they have now. They will not fill up a stadium day in and day out. If you look as recently as the A’s last home Wild Card game in 2019, the A’s set the record for attendance with 54,005 fans in attendance. Clearly, there are plenty of A’s fans who will go to the games when they have a real team. Finishing the plans for the Howard Terminal Park would be the best way to show the team and its fans that the organization is trying to make a positive impact in Oakland.
Issues Start at the Top
The real problem with the A’s is not the stadium or fans, it's the owner: John Fisher. The owner of the A’s is middle of the pack in the league in net worth. Slotted one spot behind Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry. From when Fisher bought the team in 2005 until now, they haven’t made a single World Series. They do have numerous playoff berths, but even when they make the playoffs, they won’t pay the homegrown talent in order to build the franchise. Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Sean Murphy are just a few in the very long list of names the A’s have dealt because they didn’t want to pay them when they had the chance.
Fisher is known by Oakland fans to not sign players long-term, instead trading them away with a season or two left on their contracts so they can get something in return. Every time this process becomes possible, A’s fans say, "it’ll be different this time." I fell for this the last time around with the Matts at the corners. Then poof, they were gone! Chris Bassitt, who was a star in the making in Oakland, gone. This is the problem! Trading away all of our talent for prospects, like when they dealt Sonny Gray for James Kaprielian, Dustin Fowler, and Jorge Mateo.
Dustin Fowler didn’t pan out, the A’s lost Jorge Mateo in the Rule 5 draft to the Orioles, and James Kaprielian is currently a below-average starting pitcher. This continuous cycle has made A’s fans lose hope, but a change of scenery won’t change anything. If they don’t start paying their players and signing free agents, nothing will ever change. If Fisher lets Billy Beane – who was one of the best GMs in baseball and is now the vice president of baseball operations – spend money on real talent, they could make a run in the playoffs. Fisher has the money; he needs to start spending it.
The Blueprint is Out There
With the A’s, it’s easy to talk about the past, partially because the future looks bleak as of right now. However, what the A’s could do over the next two seasons to start a successful rebuild is by looking at the Braves, Diamondbacks, and Rays. For many years, they have been compared to the Rays for the simple reason that both have had a very low payroll while having success.
Both the A’s and Rays have good scouting and player development departments. What the A’s need to do is figure out the prospects they like the most. Tyler Soderstrom, Zack Gelof, Esteury Ruiz, and other young guys in the system. If they keep doing well in the minors, when they are ready for the bigs, sign them to a team-friendly extension. The Cubs have done this with Nico Hoerner, the Diamondbacks are doing this with Corbin Carroll, the Rays have done this with Wander Franco, and the Braves did this with Ozzie Albies and others. This is becoming the new way to build a team with homegrown talent.
This can specifically benefit the A’s because they do not like spending extreme amounts of money, but could lock up the next generation at a discounted price compared to what they will be getting after they make it big in Oakland. It will help retain players, which will draw more fans to the games. If the A’s had done this with Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Murphy, and Chris Bassitt they would be a relevant team right now. Fisher doesn’t like spending big bucks and making free agent splashes, so this is how they need to think and operate if they want to be competitive in the near future. Or in any future.
Oakland A's Fans are Ready
Oakland is known for the culture they create in the clubhouse when they have good rosters. Signing players and keeping homegrown talent would make for immediate changes in culture and on-field production. The sad part is that, over the last 25 years, when a player in green and yellow has had a career year, they've gotten traded to an AL East team that offseason. Going to Vegas will not fix this issue. A’s fans are loyal, and despite the team reportedly setting the foundation for a move to the desert, nothing is set in stone: A's faithful will be loyal 'til the end, if it comes to that. When Oakland fields good teams, the seats fill up. There isn’t a playoff atmosphere quite like it.