The A’s are horrid (and also bad at baseball)

MLB and the A’s can blame the fans all they want, but neither they nor their actions built this embarrassment.

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The A’s are almost unbelievably bad in 2023. With most of the first month of the season behind them, their record sits at 5-21, and it’s a deserved record, too. Their pythagorean record, which is based on runs scored vs. runs allowed, is also 5-21. They haven’t scored 100 runs yet, but they’ve given up 212 of the things. You’re just not going to win very many games when that’s the case.

Back in February, I wrote that “The A’s have been busy, but only relatively speaking”. Everything in there is still pretty spot-on now that games are being played, with one exception: I did write that they might be better than they were last season given their various moves. In my defense, I said that because of how awful they were in 2022, when they went 60-102 and had a pythagorean record of 59-103. When I said their moves “probably made the A’s better” I meant in the sense that maybe they’d avoid 100 losses this time around. Which is to say, not much better!

Oakland is currently on pace for 31 wins, which would mean losing just a little bit more than 100 games again; 131 of them, in case you don’t want to do the math yourself. Just to give you an idea of how horrific that would be, the Cleveland Spiders went 20-134, and they existed in a time so long ago that we don’t actually count it as the official record of single-season failure. The modern baseball record is from 1916, and just so happens to belong to the Athletics, only the Philadelphia version of them. That team went 36-117 in a season shorter than the current 162-game model, but their winning percentage was also .235, which is considerably better than the A’s current .192 mark. Even if Oakland rebounds a bit, this is a real deep hole.

So, the A’s might have assembled the worst team ever, and as I wrote a couple of months back, it’s not because they’re incapable of building something better:

The A’s have problems that could be solved with money, but they have chosen not to go that route. They don’t seem to care all that much what people think of them, and are mostly interested in operating right up to the point where they’ll get in trouble. Hence the awful treatment of minor-league players — whether it was trying to bail on paying them during a canceled season, or feeding them anything that could constitute a meal, or not being able to afford to play home games, or the org being one of the final holdouts for paying players during extended spring training — and raising ticket prices after dealing away anyone on the roster of note a year ago. And the aforementioned grievance for pocketing revenue-sharing dollars instead of using those funds for their intended purpose, the extended campaign to get the city of Oakland to give in to every single taxpayer-funded stadium demand the team has… the list goes on.

So, all of this shuffling of the roster isn’t about being smarter than everyone else and not needing to pay the rates every other team is for good baseball players. The A’s, clearly, have a pretty good track record for identifying talent and developing it, but they’re just as likely to bail on that talent to bring in new projects and prospects rather than actually winning anything — or even attempting to win anything — with it.

Instead of doing any of that, the A’s continued to make themselves worse, trading away anyone who cost even a little bit of money while populating the roster with less expensive options and pocketing the revenue-sharing money they had talked their way into during 2022’s collective bargaining. They had commissioner Rob Manfred threaten the city of Oakland with the potential loss of that revenue-sharing money that the A’s weren’t spending on the roster, anyway, as some weird gambit to convince them to give in to all of the stadium demands the organization had. That didn’t work, but now the A’s are in Vegas, probably. If Oakland decides not to renew their lease with the team after 2024, then the A’s will be in Vegas whether they’re done negotiating with that city over tax breaks or not.

None of this had to happen! Not the current A’s awfulness, not dialogue being cut off between the team and their current city, not the move to Vegas. John Fisher’s ownership made all of it happen, though, and while Fisher can do his ventriloquist act for the media with his hand shoved up inside of Manfred to try to protest otherwise, you don’t have to believe any of that talk about how the lack of fans in attendance made this happen. The A’s are horrid, on every level, as a choice — a lack of attendance is a result of the A’s own behaviors, not the other way around. Were fans supposed to arrive in droves after the best players were dealt and ticket prices increased, anyway? This is what Las Vegas and the state of Nevada are purchasing — it’s what any city is buying when a team relocates there from elsewhere, but in the case of the A’s, as with anything they do, it’s worse because they’re involved.

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