By Tripper Ortman III (@Tripperino)
As one of the identified elder statesmen of the group, I agree that since the days of Vida, Catfish, and Reggie, the A’s success has always been driven by personalities and team chemistry. In the 70’s it was the team against Finley and the World, in the late 80’s and early 90’s it was LaRussa masterfully managing a mix of back-to-back-to-back ROYs, reinventing the careers of washed up pitchers (Stewart (yes, washed out of LA), Welch (same), and Eck (yes, before he started closing)), and giving them all a swagger that could only have come straight outta Oakland. Those guys had personality, chemistry, and confidence, plus unbelievable support from the best owners in baseball.
Between and after those dynasties were some very lean years. The Rob Piccolo, Bruce Bochte, and yes, Shooty Babbitt years. Then, after the early 90’s success the Bordick, Brosius, Berroa, and Browne (Jerry “The Governor”) years — entertaining and marginally successful. Like all organizations, the A’s had to rebuild, and they needed new ownership after the second dry spell.
They got it, and they got Beane, a benchwarmer on the ’89 World Champs. While I personally blame ownership for hamstringing Beane and trying to ruin the legacy of the A’s, their fans, and their ballpark, what Beane has never seemed to understand is the Oakland mojo — that unique, funky ingredient that gets our teams to exceed their potential and bring home a championship.
For example, he chose Chavez over Giambi and/or Tejada (I know ownership would never have allowed him to sign both). For all his defensive prowess, Chavez never had the mojo on his own. He hit 30 HRs and drove in 100 only when Giambi and Tejada were here. He was never a “get on my back, I will take you there” kind of guy. Giambi and Tejada were (I recognize I am ignoring the Juice issue, but humor me). It wasn’t just the numbers, not just the glove, not just the bat; it was the leadership, the goofy Oakland mojo that made those two perfect for Oakland. Beane didn’t understand that. Maybe because Beane was a can’t miss prospect (if you looked at the numbers) who never had the mojo and apparently couldn’t relate to his ’89 teammates that did. Who knows why.
In addition, Beane has shown a proclivity for making a decision about a player and sticking to it, whether that means keeping a guy too long (Chavez, Barton) or never really giving a guy a chance (in my opinion, Milone). Moreover, as Moneyball confirmed, Beane doesn’t believe in intangibles. He doesn’t believe in mojo. And that is frustrating to people who believe that teams and players can overachieve with the right chemistry, inspiration, and wacky fan support. It has been very frustrating to me over the years.
Every GM makes mistakes, and Beane has always been given leeway because we all understand that he is operating under economic constraints from ownership that sees baseball as a purely profit-driven business. That bugs me too, but was the Yo trade a mistake? Maybe, and apparently from a mojo perspective it was. Given what I have said here, you might expect me to say it was. Get ready for the curveball.
I would have made this trade. Lester is money and when the trade was made, we were in the AL West driver’s seat. We needed a playoff pitcher and we got the best one. If you look back at our cursed string, we were all pretty excited when the trade was made, despite the loss of a favorite player.
We got Gomes and SuperSam to play outfield, and while neither has Yo’s arm, both beat him in the hustle department. Their numbers are actually comparable to Yo in many ways, but of course, neither gave us the “oh shit” factor. I think Beane realized that, and so we got Dunn, the best he could do in this market.
I don’t think we can honestly say that Beane has not built this team to win and win now. And bring home a championship. There is still plenty to mojo in the tank in Oakland. In the dugout and in the stands.
As a pop star recently noted, players gonna play play play play play play play and haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate hate. Beane has done what he can do, now the players gotta play play play play play.
This is our time. Let’s do this.
Sent from my iPhone.