The regular season is over, and so is the World Series. As an Oakland Athletics fan, my season was over earlier than the final week of the regular season. And being an A’s fan means losing talented players to Free Agency about every two or three seasons. Then, without the money to buy or keep the talent, the team drops in the standings and doesn’t make it past September.
So I wasn’t surprised that the A’s winning percentage was .370 at the season’s end was the worst in the American League and the second-worst in all of the majors (the Washington Nationals finished with a .340 PCT). John J. Fisher had a fire sale that gutted the team of nearly all of its talent. When the season started, the only noteworthy players were: starters Frankie Montas and Cole Irwin, utility players Elvis Andrus and Tony Kemp; and catcher Sean Murphy. By the end of the season, only Irwin, Kemp, and Murphy still wore the green and gold.
If you are not a baseball fan (and have hung on so far), watch Brad Pitt as the visionary Athletics GM Billy Beane in Moneyball below to get an idea of what it is like to be in the Oakland A’s organization and what it is like being a fan.
“…there are rich teams, and there are poor teams, then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there’s us” that sums up many of my Oakland A’s teams over the years. I dread to think what the organization would be like without Billy Beane. Now with one foot out the door and in English soccer, it’s only a matter of time before Beane will be gone, and there will be no one who cares about the organization or, at least, no one who has the vision that Beane has/had. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been the GM for many years now, and the people who have taken his place seem to care less about the team than he does. Although to be fair, I’m a sycophant regarding certain people in public life.
Three of the season’s most notable moments didn’t occur on the field or with any players. One was in May at a Las Vegas Golden Knights (NHL) playoff match where Oakland Athletics President Dave Kaval sent a gushed Tweet video of the match–the seats filled to capacity. Kaval later said it was a way to let the Oakland City Council know that the A’s executives were shopping around. Naturally, this did not endear him to A’s fans, but he was already a divisive personality to many of the A’s faithful.
The second event was in July when the Oakland City Council voted 5-2 against the $12 billion Howard Terminal development that would include a $1 billion Oakland A’s ballpark. Ironically, I learned about the vote while traveling on a bus heading for a San Francisco Giants game. No, kind readers, I am not a Giants fan, but there was a major league ball game playing at Oracle Park, and my mother asked if I wanted to go. I don’t care much for the Giants or their opponent on that day, the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I couldn’t beat the company, and Oracle Park is a beautiful place to see a game. The news about the vote depressed me, though.
On the other hand, I am aware that Oakland and the greater Alameda County have many problems with the homeless and others living under the poverty line, so I can’t afford to be selfish about the vote since I don’t know any of the details. Municipal parks rub against the socialist in me: billionaire team owners demand taxpayers to foot the bill for a team they own, and they will charge a chunk of change to gain admittance into a park the local citizens are paying out of their taxes. It’s something I try not to think to dwell on. Maybe all professional teams should be like the Green Bay Packers, where the city owns the club, not some rich prick like John J. Fisher. However, if that were the case, the A’s would have to move out of Alameda County.
The last event was a reoccurring one that happened nearly every home game: the Coliseum’s poor attendance. Any A’s fan will tell you, mainly after Walter Haas sold the franchise back in 1995, that the A’s organization has struggled to fill the seats in the Coliseum, but this season is, by the numbers, the all-time worst. When I went to my only game this year, the aisle monitors with their fancy straw hats were long gone, and it was festival seating unless you wanted to sit in someone’s legitimate seat. Even some of the more devoted A’s fans were not showing up to the run-down Coliseum to watch their team of strangers lose, as noted in the New York Times’s aptly titled piece The Loneliest Team in Baseball.
One last point to make before I move on to my other two teams that fared better but still played under .500 ball. Before the A’s moved from Kanas City to Oakland in 1968, I liked the San Francisco Giants and always wanted to go to a game. My Dad didn’t want to go. He complained about how Candlestick Park (the Giants’ home) was a wind tunnel located way out near the San Francisco International airport. When the A’s came to Oakland, my Dad got excited, talking about how the shiny new Coliseum was a short drive on I-880 just past Berkeley. We started attending A’s games when I was ten and continued every season. We all liked to tease the Giant-loving kid next door by poo-pooing his team, their horrible stadium, boring radio announcer (Lon Simmons), and aging team (Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, and Gaylord Perry). The A’s were the opposite: they had one of the best boutique stadiums in baseball and an excellent radio personality. (If Lon Simmons put you to sleep announcing a McCovey grand slam, the Athletics’ Monte Moore could keep you glued to the radio as he read the local Pennysaver. Finally, the A’s lineup was the future (quite literally).
I stopped going to games with the family around 1978 when I had disposable income, a car, and friends who were into going to concerts–not sporting events. I continued following the A’s, but I rarely went to games, only checking the standings in the newspaper now and then. I knew I was out of it when–while reading my favorite Bay Area rock critic commenting on an upcoming concert at the Coliseum–he told his readers to be easy on the grass in left field, “you could be breaking Ricky Henderson’s ankle.” I had no idea who Ricky Henderson was. My father told me.
By the time I started following baseball again, my family had of them now followed the Giants. The change in allegiance rubbed me the wrong way, but I think there were logical reasons for this change. My brother, many years back, started work selling lumber, and the owners were big Giants/49ers fans. They bought season tickets and took clients to these games. I imagine he just got used to liking them.
I don’t know why my sister switched, or maybe she never was a baseball fan until she started attending spring training with her friends, who were all Giants fans. Then, some years ago, my mother told me some years ago she and my dad started going to Giants games, not because they preferred that team over the A’s but because the stadium was a lot nicer. The Giants moved from the horrible Candlestick Park to the gorgeous Oracle Park. Like most MLB parks, it was called something different when it opened and had changed corporate sponsorship three more times before receiving its latest name.) I may have the sequencing off above since I am a poor family historian. As for the A’s home, the Oakland Coliseum had been slowly disintegrating along with many other problems.
I got along with my family after this divorce, though. I once came close to blowing a gasket during a family party in 2014 or 2015. San Francisco had just announced the trade of Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox. One of the most significant subjects in my Giants-loving family that dinner was the absence of Kung Fu Panda from The Family Team. A few members acted as if someone in the family had died. I kept my mouth shut but wanted to say, “Aww, you poor babies. You lost Pablo; you lost a great player. Gee, I wonder how that feels? Wait, let’s see. Oh, that’s right, my team gets gutted every two or three years, ‘organ donors for the rich’ (to quote Brad Pitt as Billy Beane). I know exactly how that feels, times ten. So stop crying in your mashed potatoes and pass the rolls!” I was surprised the family didn’t have a Welcome Back party for Sandoval when San Francisco signed him back a couple of years later. (Then again, maybe they did, but no Oakland A’s fans were invited.)
As much as I want to bitch about my family switching their allegiance, the regular 2022 season showed I’m probably not as big of an A’s fan as my family members are Giants fans, plus my family has always closely followed baseball. I can’t say the same for myself. I attended only one A’s game, lost interest in watching the A’s on TV during the last two months of the season, and have shown little interest in the postseason. Except for the remaining players I mentioned above and a couple of others, I didn’t know any of the other players–I couldn’t tell you four of the five starters nor five or six of the top position players. On the other hand, if you asked me who’s on The South Land Park Crows and A Triple, He Hit a Triple! I could give you more information. (Even then, I didn’t consign many to memory since I could quickly look them up on their respective websites.) Of course, these are fantasy baseball teams.
I ran the two fantasy ball clubs, and they did better than my pathetic A’s. This is due to great starters like Gerrit Cole, Corbin Burnes, Walker Buehler, Shane Bieber, Joe Musgrove, and Dylan Cease, and a couple of good relief pitchers in Gregory Soto and Martin Perez. I also had some good hitters in Nate Lowe, D.J. LeMahieu, Alex Bregman, Tommy Edman, and Jurickson Profar. Too bad these are players from both my fantasy teams and not one UberTeam. You must try hard not to have a few franchise players on fantasy teams. In other words, except for a few remaining players (Sean Murphy and Tony Kemp), only a glutton for punishment would draft the 2022 Oakland Athletics on their fantasy teams. I had both of these players on different teams. The A’s catcher worked out exceptionally well for my A’s and one of my fantasy teams. In fact, as of this writing, Murphy has been named the best player on the Oakland payroll (which isn’t saying much) and a Golden Glove nominee, which is significant. Alas, in fantasy baseball, there are no metrics for defensive play: it all comes down to pitching and hitting, so excellence in fielding is not counted directly.
Joining the South Land Park Crows of The Musial Suspects fantasy league and A Triple, He Hit a Triple! from the Dead Seagulls Baseball Association were my first attempts at drafting and managing fantasy baseball teams. I used to think fantasy sports were a colossal waste of time and a little embarrassing. It reminded me of when I was at a hamburger joint and what I thought were members of a band seriously criticizing their band’s drummer. I cringed when I found out a few minutes later they were not in a band but playing Guitar Hero at someone’s house. That was lame (unless you have Heidi Klum over to play with you). Now in my 60s and retired, I thought I would find this silly activity relaxing. Instead, it was a little more time-consuming and required much more knowledge of the game than I expected.
I recommend an ESPN Fantasy league if readers are interested in dipping their toes into a fantasy sport. While I can only compare ESPN with CBS, I get the feeling that ESPN, being in the sports reporting business, offers information like real-time reporting on which one of your players is starting and when someone on your team has been placed on the Injury List (IL) or have been suspended. This makes fielding your team using the ESPN Fantasy website a breeze.
Before the regular season begins, you participate in the online draft, where you will assemble your team. You can either actively participate in the draft or select auto-draft. ESPN analysts rank the payers, and you can leave the list alone, or you can do what I did: pick twenty-five of the best starting pitchers from the National and American leagues and push them to the top of the list. Then walk away, and you will see your team when you log on the following day. Of course, you will probably have a few trade requests from fellow teams who want one or more of the pitchers you snagged.
This season I tried staying logged on and making last-second adjustments when my auto-draft was in process. Finally, I determined what I didn’t benefit from logging on during the draft. So next season, I’ll return to what I did the first season: set it and forget it. Either way, my South Land Park Crows were ready to play the day after draft night.
I can’t recommend CBS Fantasy to any newbies who are like me:
- Who doesn’t know baseball or whatever sport you want to “fantasy” in very well
- Who doesn’t want to log into the site and other sports resources numerous times each day to ensure the player you have on second base is actually starting.
- Who doesn’t like busy websites that only confuse the neophyte: Too Much Information. I prefer the Keep It Simple, Stupid approach.
There’s a fourth bullet point that might apply to some people and applies to me, but I think I can overcome this next year: the CBS site does not run the draft. The draft is done in person with all the managers in the same room simultaneously. We showed up at someone’s house, and each had a turn calling out an American League player (for whatever reason, this fantasy league used AL players only) and an opening bid. The better or more promising player, the higher the bids would go. Since each manager was given 60 credits, they had to use them wisely to ensure they could afford an entire team.
I was surrounded by guys who had been in this league for years. They followed everyone’s bids and balances to outbid someone purely on how little the guy next to him had in his kiddy. It was cutthroat, and I wasn’t prepared for it. I noticed two of the managers joined us via Zoom; looking back on it, I would have loved to have a desk in front of me for all the materials I brought (we were sitting on couches and comfy chairs with all our materials stacked on our laps. The veterans didn’t have a problem with this, but I was lost. Next year I’ll video in!
Dear reader, I know I wrote too much about my fantasy baseball experiences, and you don’t know how much I edited out–especially the CBS/Dead Seagulls Baseball Association. How did I get involved with each fantasy league? Who were the two guys who invited me into these leagues, and how do I know them? And specific events leading up to the draft in the CBS Fantasy league. This part of the post was getting ridiculously long for a subject not that many people find interesting. It must have been miserable for you, even at this edited length. And speaking of misery, there is my A’s.
Recently, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred cast doubt on the A’s getting a new home in Oakland, saying, “It’s dragged on so long. Frankly, in some ways, we’re not sure we see a path to success in terms of getting something built in Oakland.” Also, AthleticsNation.com recently said that after the World Series, the A’s are expected to announce a list of finalists among potential locations in Vegas. So, it’s a waiting game now. Not enough fantasy baseball wins can remove the sting of my team moving.