Lowell Cohn: Small-mindedness of A's leads to unforgivable moves
Most people around here accept the A’s big lie. Routinely accept it. Like it’s gospel. Like it’s remotely true.
The A’s big lie goes like this: “We are a small-market team. We can’t afford expensive players.”
The A’s are liars.
The liar A’s just dumped three good players — more on the players in a moment — and most fans and many sports writers defend these cheap cowardly moves. Say the moves are necessary and good.
The big lie.
The Oakland A’s are not a small-market team. The A’s work and play in the Bay Area, one honking big market. No other team in the Bay Area says it is a small-market team. The other teams compete for wins and fans.
The A’s need to compete.
If the A’s compete, fans will come. The A’s have the same potential to get fans as any local team you can name. The Warriors, who play right next door, don’t say they are a small-market team. The Warriors pay premium prices for players. The Warriors just won the NBA championship. The A’s, as usual, will win diddly.
Pass the handkerchief and give a good cry for the small-market A’s.
The cheap A’s ownership matter-of-factly says, “This is the way we do it in Oakland.” People accept that phony line, which is such a copout. The cheapo A’s make a ton of money. They always have their hand out for revenue sharing. They always are in the black. They have one of the richest owners in the big leagues — the Gap guy. They do not spend their dough on players.
Cry for the small-market A’s.
Billy Beane is part of the big lie. He is the apostle of the big lie. Beane has the second-longest tenure of any general manager in the majors. Eighteen years. You know who has the longest tenure? Guy named Brian Sabean across the Bay. He gave up his title, got a promotion, but he still runs the show. Guy who recently won three World Series.
How many World Series has Beane won in 18 years?
Unfair question. The A’s play in a small market.
Well, to keep the record straight, Beane has won no World Series. He never even got his team to the World Series. Think about that. Any other GM who didn’t get his team to the World Series in 18 years would be a goner. Not so with the A’s. And that leads to the key question about the A’s, the essential question.
What is the objective of the franchise?
Most franchises — take the Giants as an example — want to go all the way. The A’s have an entirely different objective. They don’t want to win it all. They want to put a competitive team on the field more often than not with a low payroll. That’s it. That’s their puny objective. It certainly isn’t to win championships.
And that is Beane’s legacy — his teams are somewhat competitive some of the time. His teams have been to the postseason for nine series including last year’s wild-card game. You know what his record is in those nine series? One and eight.
It is a pitiful record, but almost no one calls him on it. Beane gets an attaboy. Why should Beane still be the GM unless ownership is happy with his performance? In terms of being driven to win a championship, where is the evidence from Beane or the cut-rate ownership?