Oakland A’s presence felt in the World Series

Cameron Stover,

Oakland A’s fans who tuned into the World Series may have recognized a familiar face or two. As a matter of fact, they might have recognized seven familiar faces on the field playing for both the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs.

Seeing these former A’s playing on baseball’s biggest stage begs the question: Why don’t the A’s keep these players for themselves? The answer is one that A’s fans have been struggling with for decades: ownership apathy and revenue sharing.

Revenue sharing redistributes income from richer franchises to the less profitable franchises in an effort to create competitive balance. According to the MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team contributes 34 percent of its net local revenue into a pool that gets divided equally among every team. Higher-earning clubs put in more than they get back while lower-earning clubs receive more than they put in.

According to Forbes, A’s owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher make up the fourth-richest ownership in baseball. Yet the A’s payroll ranks 27th out of 30 in the majors. Wolff and John Fisher have continued to cash these revenue-sharing checks, pinching pennies off the payroll along the way. These billionaires don’t care about baseball, they just want to keep getting returns on their investment.

According to an ESPN poll surveying the quality of sports franchises, Wolff was voted dead last, at 122 out of 122. This survey was conducted after 2014, when the A’s were coming off their last of three straight postseason appearances. Another signal of ownership apathy, the Oakland Coliseum graded out at dead last in stadium quality and fan-friendliness.

The stadium currently ranks as the second smallest baseball venue in the major leagues. The large amount of room separating the seats from the field allows for more foul outs than the typical stadium. Mount Davis, as A’s fans came to call it, is a 10,000 seat expansion that is covered by tarps and blocks the scenic view of the Oakland hills that the stadium used to provide. To top it all off, sewage actually leaked into the dugouts multiple times.

Wolff has also said the A’s are looking to stay in Oakland, mostly due to the fact their dreams of a stadium in Fremont and San Jose were shut down already, since the San Francisco Giants have legal claims to the region through their minor league team. This man wants nothing to do with the city of Oakland or the fans.

In 2014, the A’s were in the thick of the playoff hunt. Oakland general manager Billy Beane saw the opportunity and made a few “win-now” moves. The team traded away Yoenis Cespedes to acquire pitcher Jon Lester, who was supposed to propel the A’s towards pennant contention. Instead, the A’s lost in the Wild Card play-in game and watched Lester leave for the Cubs after the season. Lester was the man who stepped on the mound to pitch Game 1 for the Chicago Cubs in one of the biggest moments in the franchise’s history.  

Ben Zobrist, a pivotal player in the Cubs’ lineup, played second base for Oakland until they traded him to Kansas City, where he went on to win his first World Series ring. This year, he looks to make it two championships in a row.

They also traded shortstop Addison Russell, who became the first shortstop in World Series history to hit a grand slam and tied the Series record for runs batted in. In that trade, the A’s acquired Cubs starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, the latter of which is currently on the San Francisco Giants, the team with the sixth-highest payroll in baseball.

Former Athletic and current Indian Coco Crisp has played a huge role for Cleveland throughout the playoffs. Crisp’s tenure in Oakland ended controversially after he accused the team of benching him so they could avoid paying a contract incentive.

“This team has never been motivated to give up a dollar,” Crisp’s agent, Steve Comte, told SFGate. “I know Billy Beane has always been fond of Coco, but what they’re doing now is really a joke. I’ve advised Coco to take the high road, but the way things are going is a disservice to him.”

Fourteen percent of this year’s World Series rosters were comprised of former A’s players. Someday, Oakland hopes to boost those numbers by competing in the World Series themselves. Seven players: Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Chris Coghlan, Coco Crisp, Rajai Davis and Dan Otero are all former Athletics who played in this year’s World Series.

Don’t be fooled by Wolff and Fisher. They don’t care about the state of the franchise or the stadium. There is money available that could help this team retain its quality players and sustain success. The A’s owners are playing their own version of “moneyball” that is only successful in alienating coaches, players and the fans.