What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Honestly, this is hard to type…there are tears rolling down my cheeks from laughter. Somebody just used the phrase “culture of winning” in the same sentence with the Oakland A’s. I know, right?
Rico, otherwise known as the the guy at Athletics Nation…well, I’m sure he means well, and to be honest, I feel what he’s saying. For reasons I will divulge another time, I have split loyalties in baseball; I’ve been a fan of the Twins and Angels since my earliest days of sports fandom. That’s is relevant here for the fact that I know what loving a losing team is like. But I would hope my cheese never slipped this far off my cracker.
There are at least 3 people who I gather believe in the value of creating a “culture of winning,” and they are me, Billy Beane, and Bob Melvin. However, just because these three highly qualified and esteemed baseball people — ok fine, these two highly qualified and esteemed baseball people and some guy on the internet — believe in a principle does not make it a principle worth valuing.
There is an oft-argued question of whether a team like the A’s would be better off crashing and burning to 95-100 losses in order to grab a truly high draft pick, and perhaps the next Evan Longoria, or whether it’s better to remain as competitive as possible during the rebuilding process.
Wow…I barely know where to start with this. Let’s take the Brad Pitt-fueled legend of Billy Beane. I know the A’s went to the playoffs in four straight years from 2003 to 2006, but their pinnacle of achievement was losing to the Tigers in the 2006 American League Championship Series. Since then, the A’s have not made the playoffs again, in fact they’ve never finished above .500 since then. That doesn’t look to change this season.
Then there’s Bob Melvin. This guy defines “Jekyll or Hyde” as a manager. Here’s a guy who won 93 games with Seattle, and lost 95 with the same team the next season. Then he won 90 games with the Diamondbacks, and got fired less than two seasons later. He’s got a .481 winning percentage as a manager. The Mets hired Terry Collins as manager over Bob Melvin. Let that sink in for a moment…Terry Fucking Collins.
Culture of winning, huh? BWAHHHHHAHHAAAAH (deep, lung-reloading gasp) BWAHHHHHAHHAAAAH!!!! I’m sorry, but any place that has even a hope of building a culture of winning doesn’t have “oft-argued positions” about “crashing and burning” for draft picks. Herm Edwards covered this the best: “HELLO??? YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!”
One thing you have to like, right off the top, about a signing like Yoenis Cespedes is that the A’s have improved now without sacrificing the future in order to do so. This is in sharp contrast to the Matt Holliday trade, where the A’s either miscalculated how wide open the AL West would be in 2009, miscalculated how solid a player Carlos Gonzalez would develop to be, or quite possibly both.
That “get better now” deal set back the rebuild because it sacrificed a young player with potential; the only “downside” to the Cespedes signing is money, but in a way what the A’s did is to grab a #1 draft pick without having to lose 90+ games in order to do so. So now if they were to win 75-80 games and get a lower draft pick, they would essentially be getting that lower pick plus a really high pick on top of that: Cespedes.
Not bad, but what’s the point of winning 75-80 games when that won’t compete for anything while you’re waiting for your most talented young guys (Michael Choice, AJ Cole, Derek Norris, Sonny Gray) to move up through your minor league system, and for your most talented “major league ready” guys (Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Josh Reddick) to get their feet wet in the big leagues?
As far as Cespedes is concerned, the guy may very well be the real deal. But if you are a team crying about money (I think we all saw “Moneyball,” right?), it seems to me $36 million is an awfully big bet on a guy whose never seen a major-league pitch. If it works, Beane regains some of his “genius” status> Bu if not, this goes down as yet another Beane miscalculation.
“Miscalculation” is a key word here, as Rico uses it in his description of the Matt Holliday trade. Either of the “miscalculations” he mentions are perfectly valid. But so is the one he doesn’t mention; that Beane miscalculated when he acquired Holliday from the Colorado Rockies; switching leagues to a group of pitchers he’d never really seen and trading a very hitter-friendly Coors Field for that mausoleum for offense in Oakland.
Then there’s that pesky question of “what’s the point of winning 75-80- games?” Cue Coach Edwards again…”HELLO??? YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!”
Hold on, Rico will take us deeper into his thinking.
One point, arguably, is that if you’re an 80-win team you are only 10 wins away from being a 90-win team, so much of the foundation is there and you can more easily identify targets for bridging the gap to add those “just 10 more wins”. Few 65-win teams can make the jump to add 25 wins and call themselves contenders — Tampa Bay recently being one very notable, but rare, exception — and so you may be drafting very high but you’re also needing an awful lot of chips to fall into place in order to climb the mountain from 65 wins all the way to 90. And we all know, all too well, how frequently something goes awry in the world of “talented but unproven young prospects”.
Another point is that winning may require sufficiently talented players, but it is also a mindset within a team and within an organization. Students, employees, athletes — basically, people — have a natural tendency to rise or fall to the level of expectation, and one thing I really respect about Beane and Melvin is that I see them as being highly competitive, with the expectation that “if we’re not winning a lot, then we’re winning as much as we can and we’re building towards winning more.”
I believe that for whatever reason, Bob Geren brought a “mediocre is good enough” ethos to the team that was reflected in the team’s practice habits, and subsequently its on field play. The A’s didn’t have the talent to win a whole lot after Melvin took over the 2010 team and perhaps more importantly the bad habits, and “culture of mediocrity,” had been too entrenched in spring training, and then the first half of the season, for Melvin to reverse it significantly in June-September.
To be honest, this is the part where I said to myself “Holy shit! Maybe I miscalculated what this guy is really talking about!” I understand completely what he means about Bob Geren; if that guy managed my team, I’d probably wake up every morning wanting to drink a gallon of gasoline, then fire a flare gun up my own ass. This honestly was the part where I really felt Rico’s pain; watching the Twins in the mid-90’s was as exasperating an experience as one can get watching baseball. Going from the era of two World Series championships in four years to 95 losses; going from Puckett, Hrbek, and Gaetti to Scott Stahoviak, Rich Becker, and Pedro Munoz was as painful as I care baseball to be. Perhaps Rico has a point; maybe Beane and Melvin are the guys to right the A’s ship.
Then I read his closing.
However, even though the A’s most competitive years still loom in the distance, I see the Cespedes signing, even the interest in Manny Ramirez (whether you like that particular gamble or not), as efforts to keep sending an important message to the young players as they begin their A’s major or minor league careers: We aren’t going to sacrifice the future, like we did with the Holliday trade, but while preserving the future to be as great as possible we are going to be as good — heck if need be, as “not bad” — as we possibly can be, every day, every game, every season, until we’re ready to go “all in” and reclaim the AL West.
I like the message this sends to the players who will have to win down the line, and I think it’s the right mentality for an organization to have.
I’ve already said I see the Cespedes signing as a gamble, but it was the Manny Ramirez comment that tipped me as to what Rico is really up to. This isn’t about the pain of loving a lousy team, this is barely about baseball. This is an early “April Fool’s” joke; a gigantic dick-pull in green and yellow and I fell for it. Face it, anybody who can say with a straight face that signing Manny Ramirez “sends a positive message” is a master of satire. Forget the steroids and the 50-game suspension hanging over his head. Forget the drama and the clubhouse cancer he brings. Look at the fact that at this point in his career he is largely a non-factor and the Rays got better last year once they quit wasting at-bats on him.
Rico, I tip my cap to you. You are a master of satire. I’ve never been so taken in by a gag in my entire life. My sides will hurt for weeks from the convulsive laughter I went through.
I mean, you are kidding me, right?
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