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.
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?”