If you’re snowed in like me, or just
have a few minutes to kill before football dominates the day, I
recommend reading Andy Martino’s excellent piece from the Philadelphia
Inquirer recounting Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro’s pursuit of ace Roy Halladay.
Of course, the Phillies tried for
Roy Halladay in July, but the talks were rekindled with one simple
conversation at the November GM meetings in Chicago, when Amaro and his lieutenants approached new general manager Alex Anthopoulos
waiting for an elevator at the O’Hare Hilton.
“I want to ask you something,” Amaro said, according to Anthopoulos.
The two walked down a hallway and chatted about Halladay.
Amaro was direct and aggressive. “What’s your asking price?” he
said, before offering Anthopoulos a few days to think about his answer
and get back to the Phillies.
But the Toronto GM did not need any time; he remembered the player he’d been most impressed with in July.
“We like Drabek,” he said.
Martino touches on all aspects of
the trade, including the failed attempt to deal Joe Blanton and the
subsequent decision to trade Cliff Lee, the almost-trade of Phillippe
Aumont and Tyson Gillies to the Blue Jays and the madness of the
“flunked physical” that wasn’t. It’s a fascinating piece, not just
because of the complexity of the trade, but Amaro’s overt determination
to have Halladay in Philadelphia at any cost, even if it meant dealing
away a postseason hero.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?