Athletics

Billy Beane and the A's are a baseball problem, not a marketing problem

Billy Beane and the A's are a baseball problem, not a marketing problem

When Sonny Gray is traded by the Oakland Athletics (15 days and counting, for you calendar whores), the longest-serving Elephants will be, as you well know, shortstop Marcus Semien and catcher Josh Phegley, the two enduring pieces of the 2014 Jeff Samardzija dump job.

In other words, Semien and Phegley are not long for the Oakland Job Fair, and that would leave the longest serving Athletic as . . .

Sean Manaea, the next ace of this staff of Ikea pieces. He’s been an Athletic for a season and a half, which means that he may not see the first of the year.

You see, the A’s are now being run as though they are a vegetable bin, with a shelf life of “I saw this broccoli a week ago. Get rid of it.”

This is an advancement from their usual veteran cleanouts, because with the trade of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington Sunday, the A’s have nearly achieved what we thought their true goal has been – to trade every player until they have for no players at all and just turn the Coliseum into a ghost ship.

And no, it doesn’t matter what the division of labor actually is -- whether this is being inspired by Billy Beane and executed by David Forst, or done a different way. The A’s have always been the most adept team in baseball at self-immolation, and now they can see the finish line – the first team to take the theory of scorched earth and modify it to become scorched scorch.

It isn’t so much that they have taken a nascent juggernaut and blown it up as some weird roster-o-phobic indulgence. The A’s are 42-50, or slightly better than most people thought they’d be at this point, and lots better than the Giants, as though that has ever been a consideration – though it should be.

But the A’s are working on their own clock, which is to have a real post-Pinocchio baseball team in time for the new stadium, which needs to be done by the time Major League Baseball removes their revenue sharing sippy cup. And with that in mind, they have decided to clear out the store for new inventory.

Again.

Hence, Wm. Lamar Beane explaining what people have been shrieking at him for years:

“Really what’s been missing the last 20 years is keeping these players,” Beane told a mediatronic throng before Sunday’s 7-3 win over Cleveland. “We need to change that narrative by creating a good team and ultimately committing to keep them around so that when people buy a ticket, they know that the team is going to be around for a few years.”

He then followed with an acknowledgement that the new sheriff in town is architecture, and reinventing the flat tire is no longer permissible.

“It sort of fits into everything in the direction we’re going,” Beane said of the deal. “First of all, we have to take a look at where we are — we’re in last place. And the direction we’re heading is, we’re going younger. We need to be disciplined with it, particularly with what we’re trying to do in the community as far as a stadium. There’s only one way to open a stadium successfully, and that’s with a good, young team. We’ve never really committed to a full rebuild. ... I will say this, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with ownership: There is a real commitment to finding a stadium. That’s not just lip service at this point. You’ve seen it.”

The real problem, of course, is that they have torn down the house because they’ve had to tear down the house. It isn’t so much that fans can’t stay connected to players as it is that the A’s braintrust has delivered players who are deemed non-useful so quickly.

It suggests, after all is said and done, that their lack of patience is the result of their missed guesses, and their missed guesses are the result of their lack of patience.

It may simply be that Beane, and Forst as his first adjutant/successor, are not as good as they should be at creating teams worth keeping, and excellent at starting over.

This is chickeny-eggery debate at its least satisfying, but the A’s are not a marketing problem. They are a baseball problem. Their rebuilds should not be so frequent, and they should not be skilled at them. The market-size argument is simply not good enough any more, and it really wasn’t that compelling to begin with.

And definitely not good enough for Beane at long last.

“Absolutely, no doubt about it,” he said. “The important end of the sentence is rebuilding and keeping them. This is my 20th year on the job. There are only so many cycles that I can go through before I get as exasperated as everybody else.”

The obvious rejoinder after all these years is, “What kept you, Skippy?”

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history Saturday night in Oakland. The 26-year-old became the first player in big-league history to kneel during the national anthem. 

Below is the official statement from Major League Baseball:

Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.

MLB media services contributed to this report