For a long time, people associated the Oakland A's with Moneyball, a concept now outdated — it may, in fact, be discredited. So what name do we use for A's baseball at the start of this season?
That's easy. Call it "Multi-Ball."
Yes, Multi-Ball. All other teams have rosters of 25. That's the standard number. Not in Oakland because the A's are different from all other teams. Sure, the A's are allowed only 25 on the big-league roster. But that's only a small inconvenience to Billy Beane and his oversized bean.
There's Sacramento just up Highway 80 with its roster of 25. Call it the supplemental A's roster. Beane — God love him — is always telling Sacramento players to make the hour-and-a-half drive and join the A's. Or he's telling A's players to make the hour-and-a-half drive and join the River Cats.
There's lots of activity on that freeway and you hope the cost-conscious/cheap A's — Lew Wolff in particular — tell the players to drive Priuses to cut down on gas wastage. Or — and this is a friendly suggestion — Wolff might institute a daily shuttle between Oakland and the state capital to accommodate the constant movement of players back and forth.
If you're keeping count, that brings the A's roster to 50. And that gives Beane mondo options.
That's not all.
There are probably another 15 to 25 players out there on other teams or in the minor-league systems of other teams who will become A's this season or may become A's even though they don't know it yet. And Beane may not even know it yet. Beane is an old-style wheeler-dealer like, say, Bill Veeck. He's compulsive about remaking his team, and he sees the entire world as his roster. In realistic terms, the A's roster is up to 75 able-bodied young men.
Multi-Ball at its best.