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Well, doesn’t Billy Butler feel like the last turkey in the shop all of a sudden?
Two weeks ago, the A’s scooped up the former Kansas City designated hitter to help rebuild the middle of their batting order, but in doing so they also rid themselves of third baseman Josh Donaldson (to Toronto for four prospects), first baseman Brandon Moss (to Cleveland for minor league infielder Joey Wendle) and now starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (to Chicago for infielder Marcus Semien and other whatnot).
In other words, Butler just got to town and now he’s asking, “Is it something I said?”
General manager Billy Beane has said all along that occasionally cleaning out the hiring hall is the necessary part of running the Elephants, and this is one of those cleanouts. Two division titles and three postseasons (but no playoff advancements) would not be sustained because Beane has decided they could not be sustained, and now the A’s are back in Geren Era territory – bloviating with tiresome consistency about being a small market team dominated by a cruel and successful neighbor.
This makes its usual level of sense – if you can’t have 2015, you may as well aim for 2017 – but it’s too familiar a message to please a fan base that is too small for ownership’s pleasure and too patient for its own good.
But when you include the loss of Jason Hammel, whose struggles forced the Yoenis Cespedes-for-Jon Lester deal that either sparked or coincided with the ’14 freefall, the A’s are stockpiling youth that may or may not turn out to see Oakland, and letting the Angels, Mariners, Rangers and (gasp) Astros to figure out the present.
To be enraged by this development is, of course, silly. It’s like reading the same mystery novel repeatedly and getting mad when the same murderer is revealed at the end. These are the true and real A’s – they made their run for glory in the shadow of their failed move to San Jose, they got none, and now they are back in not-quite-business. They are the company that always seems to trim back, and there is no great joy in being part of that.
But they are who they are, and that’s who they always will be, it seems. They are the ultimate cyclical crop – two years of bumper crops and eight years of ration cards.
And necessary or no, what’s the fun in that?
At one point, the notion was that they might be doing this because they were husbanding resources for the San Jose move, but that turned out to be just a series of laughable blunders by the team and city. Now the team has almost no chance of escape, so this can truly be called “just a baseball decision,” just like all the other “baseball decisions” that make Oakland baseball fans hate the decisions their team makes.
And it’s going to be like this for the next several years. So dust off the canned goods and sweep out the backyard shelters – it’s looking like hard times again in Oaktown. By design.