I won’t forget July 4th, hearing the news that the Oakland A’s traded for Jeff Samardzija. At that time, the A’s were 3.5 games up on the Angels and had the best record in baseball at 53-33. I remember reading many publications saying at that moment the A’s were the team to beat. Then July 31st, the A’s traded for a proven ace in Jon Lester, but gave up a valuable piece in Yoenis Cespedes. It was a controversial trade being that the A’s were still 2 games up on the Angels with the best record in baseball at 66-41.
The A’s started their slide before that trade, but that trade highlighted the tailspin. Since the Lester trade the A’s went 22-33 and squeaked into the playoffs on the last game of the season. Many fans and critics questioned the trade, asking, why make a move when you didn’t need to? A lot of people put blame on Billy Beane for changing the dynamic of the team. I don’t.
The question should be asked – was a trade needed? Jon Lester went 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA as an Athletic, and Cespedes hit .269 with only 5 HRs with the Red Sox as the defending champs went 23-31 since the trade – so it looks like the A’s got the better player. I really think Beane looked at this team and said it’s now or never with this current squad. Their window was about to close, and he knew it. Unfortunately, the trade didn’t result in wins – but I don’t blame Billy. I still believe that trade was the right move. He went all in and lost, but I can’t fault a guy for making a move.
So if it’s not Billy, was it Bob Melvin? Many say that Melvin lost the team, made questionable moves and in late games cost the A’s wins with his decisions. I like Melvin and believe he got the most out of the talent he had. There were times that I can understand why fans would be frustrated with Melvin, but I don’t think he’s to blame. I believe the A’s played above their talent level all season, in large part to Melvin, and have done so year in year out.
So who is to blame? I said a while ago that after the way the A’s started this season, if they have an early exit in the playoffs this season is not a disappointment, it’s a failure. I stand by that. I said that someone needs to be held accountable. I don’t blame Beane, I don’t blame Melvin, I don’t blame the players. So who then? Who needs to be held accountable?
In my opinion, Lew Wolff and the Oakland A’s ownership are at fault. Oakland is not a small market. Yes, the A’s will always play in the shadows of Giants, but let’s not get it twisted; they’re not a small market team, they just refuse to spend. In the last 15 years, the A’s have consistently been towards the bottom of the league’s payroll. This season was no exception. The A’s finished the season 27th in payroll. In the last 10 years, the team with the worst payroll to win the World Series was the 2005 White Sox – who were ranked 13th.
You have to spend money to win! I hate to say it, but it’s true. The idea of Moneyball is great, and I wish it ended in more than just regular season wins, but it doesn’t. If you want to win, you have to spend…and unfortunately for the Oakland A’s, they don’t. So until they crack the top 15 in payroll, I’m afraid A’s fans will continue to root for a team that will be really good…just never great.