Image via WikipediaI’m not going to get into the merits of the Rich Harden trade for the teams involved; enough people have done that already, and the blogosphere is predictably lining up behind the A’s.
But I do want to point out how differently Billy Beane and the A’s go about their business than just about any other team in pro sports.
As unfair as it is to throw every other front office into one big basket, it really isn’t that much of an overstatement. Almost all teams are driven by public perception, to one extent or another. This is especially true amongst owners, most of whom are in sports as a hobby, and often choose being liked by the media over making rational decisions.
And then there are the A’s, who are rational at all times, and will trade their ace starter in the middle of a pennant race if they feel his value has peaked.
That seems ballsy on the surface, and I guess it is since so few other teams would have done it. But Lew Wolff and Billy Beane get it on a deeper level: for the A’s to be a successful business, they must win on the field. Therefore, every move should be made with that goal in mind, public perception be damned.
Many people like to point out that Beane can get away with these things because he has an extraordinary amount of political capital, and Oakland’s fanbase isn’t nearly as intense as some others. But every team is a business, and should be run like one. Getting maximum value out of all of your assets is a key function of that.
Not to pick on the Pirates, given that it’s tough to gauge the trade market from the outside looking in, but they should have been shopping Freddy Sanchez this past winter. He was coming off of back-to-back All-Star seasons, one in which he won the National League batting title. His value had peaked, and yet they held on to him, possibly because he is extremely popular in the area.
Again, that is a completely circumstantial assertion, but it is the norm amongst Major League front offices. There is an attitude that “we can’t trade him, or people will be pissed.” And yet the great majority of fans just want their team to win, and will spend more money at the ballpark if they do, regardless of who is wearing the uniform.
Whether this trade actually will help the A’s win is a different discussion. But the rationale behind it is solid, and the A’s should be given credit for being bold where others would have sat on their hands.
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