Alex Rodriguez connected for his 584th career home run during the bottom of the fourth inning on Saturday afternoon against the Rangers, passing Mark McGwire for sole possession of eighth place on the all-time home run list.
Rodriguez, who turns 35 in July, was homerless in his first 41 at-bats to begin the year, his longest such home run drought to start a season since needing 48 bats to hit his first major league home run as a 19-year-old in 1995.
Should Rodriguez avoid the disabled list, it’s not unreasonable to expect he will surpass Frank Robinson (7th place — 586 home runs) and Sammy Sosa (6th place — 609 home runs) this season, leaving him just outside the top-five all-time.
Speaking of history, Jim Thome launched his 566th career home run in a 6-5 win over the Royals on Saturday afternoon. He is currently 12th on the all-time home run list, breathing down the neck of Rafael Palmeiro (11th place — 569 home runs) and fellow Twinkie Harmon Killebrew (10th place — 573 home runs).
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?