Oakland’s Moneyball has worn thin on me

Here today, gone tomorrow for Athletics

Erik Khan,
Staff Writer

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Dear Lew Wolff,

I moved to the Bay Area from the Boston suburbs when I was 7 years old. Not long after, my mom took me to a San Francisco Giants game, but it just wasn’t for me: their brand new stadium felt too rich and pretentious for a small town kid like me.

I fell in love with your Oakland Athletics in 2008 when a good friend of mine took me to a game.

He was wealthy, so seeing his family support this low budget team and not the wealthy team across the Bay was inspirational. While I love my Boston Red Sox, I’ll never forget the first time being at an A’s game: the fans supported the team regardless of the environment.

You guys sucked at the time. The stadium was terrible, considered one of the worst in the league, but it wasn’t about that. It was about the people. The sense of comradery that never allowed the “Let’s go Oakland” chant die out.

The pungent smell of weed when you walked in. The feeling I got everytime I walked across the Coliseum BART bridge. It was all so symbolic of being an Athletics fan.

I kept the faith, hoping the team would get better.

And it did. During my sophomore year in college, 2012, the team got hot and won their division.

They played the whole season with an underdog mentality: the team had no stars and kind of sucked, but they were ruthless overachievers.

Despite finishing first in their division, that season ended with a Game 5 postseason loss in the divisional round to the Detroit Tigers.

Soon after, as the players began to leave; I was quickly reminded of the franchise’s mindset: “Moneyball.” Your tight pockets hold General Manager Billy Beane hostage and give him little funding to keep our teams together, highlighted in the movie starring Brad Pitt.

Once again, all of our good players were either allowed to enter free agency or were traded. I didn’t care when we let Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon hit free agency back in 2002.

Or when we traded Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street to the Rockies in 2008. I was too young.
This time around, I wasn’t as forgiving. Seeing guys that had contributed to the 2012 season like Jonny Gomes and Brandon McCarthy sign with other teams with no offers from Oakland pissed me off.

However, we were still competitive in 2013 and it seemed like our core players were here to stay. Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes were becoming superstars and brought firepower to our offense. Young pitcher Sonny Gray was blossoming into one of the best in the league. Again, we lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, but this team was trending up and fast.

In 2014, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The team was on fire during the first half of the season and were the favorites to win the World Series.

We finally were the aggressors at the trade deadline, acquiring star pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester while trading away prospects and Cespedes.

It sucked seeing a core piece like Cespedes go, but I absolutely loved the win-now mentality we were exhibiting as it was so different from our “Moneyball” mentality.

I still don’t understand how, but we fell flat on our faces after making those trades. We barely made the playoffs and lost to the Kansas City Royals in heartbreaking fashion: Our bullpen blew an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the 12th inning, in a game that we led 7-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Though the bullpen had issues, this team was still stacked and could definitely compete for a championship for years to come.

I was foolish to entertain the idea that you would pony up the funds to keep these guys together.

The fire sale began.

We let Lester and Samardzija sign with other teams without even making offers. Brandon Moss was traded to the Cleveland Indians and Derek Norris to the San Diego Padres.

Then, the straw that broke the camel’s back: We traded Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays.

I still struggle to understand why we made this trade, as Donaldson was still under contract and clearly the best player on our team.

We were the worst team in the league in 2015 while Donaldson went on to win the American League Most Valuable Player award. I couldn’t even watch his highlights, it was just too hard for me to accept that we traded away this stud in an attempt to rebuild.

We did have one bright spot last year and that was Sonny Gray, who solidified his status as one of the best pitchers in the league.

He flirted with numbers that garnered him consideration for the CY Young Award for the best pitcher in the league and he probably would have won it if the team could have scored more runs.

He’s the kind of player that teams like the New York Yankees and Red Sox would trade for in a heartbeat.

And Lou, I know you’re going to let that happen.

I know there is no way in hell that you are gonna sack up and give Gray a $200 million contract that other teams would gladly pay him.

Go ahead, let Billy trade him away for prospects, let’s stock the cupboard with prospects for the future.

Lou, I’m sick of this. What’s the endgame here? As fans, we need answers. This isn’t right.

I’ll never stop believing in the green and gold, but why do you do this to us?

I think I’ve made it clear: True fans don’t care about the low budget stadium. We care about the product on the field.

Please, keep our team together, it’s the only way we are going to achieve this ultimate goal of winning a World Series.

Sincerely,
Erik Khan
P.S. Please don’t trade Sonny Gray.