There’s an interesting story in the New York Times today about how The Greatest Fans in the World* are taking to the McGwire stuff. As you might expect, there are some people who care a lot and some who kind of don’t. I found the quote from a long time Cardinals fan that kicks the article off to be one that most accurately captures my feelings about it all:
“It’s like when you find out your favorite grandfather didn’t turn in
his income taxes. You didn’t like him any less, but you squint at him and
look at him a little funny because you wish he wouldn’t have done that.”
Since I’m not a Cardinals fan I’ll switch out “favorite grandfather” for, I dunno, “admired second cousin,” but otherwise that kind of captures it for me.
*Have we ever figured out who started that thing about Cardinals fans? I mean, yeah, St. Louis is a great baseball town, but there are a lot of others too. Tigers fans are pretty awesome. I’ve been really impressed with Brewers fans too. St. Louis may have a better per capita rate of great fans than most places, but once you weed out the insufferable ones there are way, way more great Yankees fans than Cardinals fans in terms of sheer volume. I guess what I’m saying is that someone should give me a grant so I can study this scientifically and have us left with taking Cardinals fans’ word for it.
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?