If I was A’s General Manager for a Day

Introduction

The Oakland Athletics are currently slogging through a horrible season, carrying a record of 31-60 with two games remaining before the All-Star break this week. Although they started out the year all-right, the team’s June swoon (5-21 record) killed their faint hopes of competing. Now, the A’s, owners of the worst record in the American League, sit almost 30 games back of the first place Houston Astros and have a legit shot at matching or surpassing the franchise’s 1979 squad that lost a 162-game season franchise record 108 games. However, always the optimist when it comes to my beloved A’s, there is a tiny bright spot with the team performing a bit better as of late, going 5-5 in their past ten games. Nonetheless, with the season unsavable, following are some moves I think the team should make to salvage any positives from this season and prepare for the future.

Baseball transactions

  1. Release Stephen Vogt and Jed Lowrie. These guys are two of the most notable and well-liked players to wear the green and gold over this past decade. Stephen Vogt is such a fan-favorite that A’s fans made the chant “I believe in Stephen Vogt”. Lowrie, who has returned to the A’s a couple times after being traded away, used to provide average defense and reliable hitting. In 2017, he set the A’s record for most doubles in a season. Yet, both Vogt and Lowrie are now in their late 30’s, not as good as they once were, and serve no purpose for this rebuilding team.
  2. Releasing Vogt would allow the A’s to call up catcher Shea Langeliers, their top prospect whom they received in the Matt Olson trade and is just about ready for his Major-League debut. In fact, he is playing in the Futures game today alongside other top baseball prospects. I would also recall Cristian Pache (the other big name in the Olson trade) soon with the hope that his recent offensive performance at Triple-A will carry over to the big-leagues to match his defensive prowess.
  3. Decide what to do about veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus who triggers a $15 million option for next season if he accumulates 550 at-bats. He is currently half-way there. He seems to bring a good attitude along with veteran experience, and he has been relatively solid both offensively and defensively. However, at age 33, it might be time to let him go and invest the resources (which Fisher seems so unlikely to part with) in younger talent. Speaking of which, I would continue giving Nick Allen playing time as he is outstanding defensively at both shortstop and second base and shows some offensive ability. Although he has been doing a good job at 2nd, he could replace Andrus as the starting shortstop starting next season.
  4. Trade at least Frankie Montas by the August 2nd trade deadline to fully complete the roster teardown. With the A’s out of contention, teams will be lining up to try to trade for the A’s ace pitcher provided that his shoulder injury doesn’t cause him to miss any more time. A’s President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane should try to get as many top prospects as possible for him and any other traded player. For instance, he might consider Dodgers pitching prospect Bobby Miller or Cardinals prospect Michael Mcgreevy 

Non-baseball transactions

  1. The majority of home games are 95% empty as no-one goes to see this losing stripped down team play in the decrepit Oakland Coliseum. So, lower the cost of tickets and parking and maybe more people will attend games. Regarding the new stadium project at Howard Terminal, A’s ownership should do whatever it takes to come to an agreement with Oakland leadership so that this historic franchise can stay in Oakland forever.
  2. Speaking of A’s ownership, owner John Fisher is a super private person who won’t talk to the media, spend money to retain key players, or even partake in the Howard Terminal meetings alongside team President Dave Kaval. In the meantime, Joe Lacob, the super successful owner of the NBA team Golden State Warriors, apparently has a standing offer to buy the A’s. I, and many other A’s fans, wish that Fisher would sell the team to Lacob or any other person who is more willing to invest in the team on and off the field. Unfortunately, Fisher doesn’t seem to be in the mood to sell, therefore the A’s will likely continue to just be the farm team for every other MLB club for the time being

A Few Things I am Following in the Sports World Today

Major League Baseball

The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is hurtling right along. After half the season (81 games played), the contending teams have for the most part separated themselves from the pretenders and tankers. The teams expected to contend (New York Yankees and Mets, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers) are all in first place in their respective divisions. The Yankees (58-23) are living up to their Bronx Bombers nickname thanks to an explosive offense led by Aaron Judge who has already smashed 29 home runs in the final year of his contract. The San Francisco Giants are widely rumored to be one of the main suitors for the northern California native if he decides to not re-sign with the Yankees in free agency. Speaking of the Giants, they are finding it difficult to put together another strong season after last year’s 107-win campaign in which everything seemed to go right. The loss of Buster Posey to retirement has proved to be a major blow as his successor, Joey Bart, the number 2 overall draft pick in 2018, struggled so much that the team sent him back to the minors. The Giants are 40-39 and find themselves in third place behind the San Diego Padres and Dodgers. Yet, they are not as bad as their Bay Area rivals, the Oakland Athletics, who trail the major-league with an abysmal 28-56 record. Their performance is expected given that the team held a fire sale before the season trading star players like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. Sadly, things won’t change for A’s fans until the team gets a new stadium and hopefully a new owner who is willing to invest in players to retain them for more than a couple of years.

Basketball/Hockey

Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) are in the offseason having just crowned new champions last month. The Golden State Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight seasons defeating the Boston Celtics. The Colorado Avalanche won their third Stanley Cup in franchise history, disappointing the Tampa Bay Lightning who were seeking a three-peat. The NHL free agency is just getting started with the draft scheduled for this week, while NBA negotiations have been going on for a few weeks. Although the Warriors managed to re-sign starting center Kevon Looney, they couldn’t keep their other free agents, losing Damien Lee to the Phoenix Suns, Gary Payton II to Portland, and Otto Porter Jr to Toronto. They signed Donte DiVincenzo, are expected to give an extension to rising star Jordan Poole and will likely consider making additional signings or just giving roster spots to other young players.

College Sports

Like everything else in sports and society, money seems to control college athletics. While colleges have many athletic teams, their marketing and financial resources have largely focused on men’s teams, particularly football and men’s basketball. Although last month marked the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we clearly have a long way to go before there is parity between men’s and women’s sports.

In the meantime, two of the biggest issues facing college sports right now are the impact that Name Image and Likeness (NIL) has on college recruiting and conference realignment. With college student-athletes now able to profit from playing sports, the recruitment algorithm has shifted. Schools like USC, which are in a prime area and have a long history of football success and a deep fanbase, are able to attract top recruits by offering sponsorship deals or other attractive ventures. For instance, Caleb Williams, the top quarterback in the 2022 transfer portal, landed multiple NIL deals after deciding to follow his head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC.

Conference Craziness

Speaking of USC, their recent announcement set the internet and the PAC-12 conference ablaze. In the latest sign of where the power lies in college sports conferences, USC and UCLA decided to leave the PAC-12 for the Big-10 in 2024. This landscape altering move comes on the heels of Oklahoma and Texas announcing last year that they would be moving to the SEC in 2025. In addition to the Big-10 and SEC being seen as the two best conferences, they generate the most revenue and have the best television deals. By adding USC and UCLA, the Big-10 will get even more revenue thanks to the lucrative LA market. However, I wonder what USC players will think when they have to fly across the country to play Maryland, or when they have to play football in freezing cold Wisconsin in October/November. Also, as someone who grew up going to Cal football games, this realignment could mean the end of the PAC-12 and a nail in the coffin for Cal Athletics if the conference collapses and they are unable to get into the Big-10 or another conference. Fortunately, the conference still has legs as the Big 10 has expressed no interest in adding more teams. I hope that the conference stays together, perhaps with a few new teams, because realignment just destroys long-standing rivalries and related activities that fans look forward to every year.

And you can look forward to more on US men’s and women’s soccer coming soon. 

Sports During the COVID pandemic

While the COVID pandemic shut down most of American society for virtually all of 2020, US professional baseball, basketball, football and soccer managed to compete in a reduced format. Their seasons were played or are playing now (in the case of football) in the midst of a pandemic that has ravaged the whole entire world and so far killed around 290,000 Americans. After being postponed for a few months, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)  successfully completed their 2019-2020/2020 seasons by playing in well-controlled bubbles in Florida. The Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Seattle Storm (WNBA) emerged from their league’s respective bubbles as league champions.

Normally, the Major League Baseball (MLB) season consists of 162 regular season games from April to September. Yet, this year, players on MLB teams like the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants only played 60 games and had to follow strict COVID safety protocols after an initial shutdown when COVID-19 hit America towards the end of MLB spring training. Players preparing for the coming season had to return home until July when league officials and players finally decided to start an abbreviated schedule with no all star break and expanded playoffs. Star players such as Buster Posey and David Price chose not to play, possibly a wise decision given that several teams had to stop play for a period of time after experiencing a spread of coronavirus. After the Dodgers took home the World Series following this strange season, MLB franchises are now firmly in offseason mode. In recent years, the best free agents in baseball have received massive contracts by teams desperate for their help. For instance, last year the New York Yankees gave top free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole over $300 million. Yet, due to the condensed schedule and overall drastic financial losses that many teams are facing, 2020 free agency is moving very slowly. Many teams are employing cost-cutting procedures and, as a result, many of the best available players have not yet signed new contracts.

College and professional football teams are playing their seasons now. The NFL started its 2020 season on time and has marched right along, cancelling very few games despite a seemingly endless number of  teams being forced to temporarily close facilities due to players testing positive for COVID. Recently, they moved the Baltimore Ravens v.Pittsburgh Steelers game to Wednesday, December 2 rather than cancel it. This decision was made following a massive COVID outbreak in the Ravens’ organization that halted the game from being played on Thanksgiving as scheduled. 

In college football, each conference began playing at a different time. The Southeastern conference (SEC) and Big 12 started at the normal time of early September. Whereas, the Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences began playing at the end of October/early November. Just like in professional football, there have been many COVID-19 cases in college football. However, likely because college players are still amateurs and schools are wanting to avoid the team’s outbreak spreading on campus, college teams and schools have been more likely than the NFL to cancel games.

While I am thrilled that sports has given me a source of entertainment during this challenging and dreadful year, I can’t help but wonder if they are  contributing to this ongoing pandemic. I also think it is a little unfair that professional athletes, coaches, and other officials get tested for COVID daily when many ordinary people are experiencing challenges getting a COVID test. Moreover, I agree with Ann Killion of the SF Chronicle who wrote an article expressing the hypocrisy that the Golden State Warriors get to hold full practices indoors while the rest of Californians have to abide by new restrictive stay at home orders enforced by CA Governor Gavin Newsom.

With a safe and helpful COVID vaccine on its way soon, hopefully 2021 will be a better year and sports and society will be able to return to a semblance of how it was before the virus  destroyed the world.