“Best shape of his life” is so last month. “I’m just working on stuff, just trying to get my work in,” is old hat. The new one — and it may not be new; I’m just noticing it now — is “we’re gonna run some more.” The Royals are saying it. The Pirates are saying it too:
One of the stated objectives for the Pirates during spring training has been to run more.
Whether it be a straight steal, taking off after a pitch hits the dirt or not breaking stride and going from first to third on a base hit to the outfield, manager Clint Hurdle has said — numerous times — this edition of the Pirates will put a heavy emphasis on taking extra bases.
And of course, this is accompanied by the essential “but we’re gonna run smart,” and “we’re gonna pick our spots” talk. Which, when the team only has a few dozen stolen bases in August, will provide the out for the manager when he’s asked whatever happened to the running game.
Notice you never hear good teams talking about wanting to run more? Notice how you never hear anyone talking about how they’re “gonna hit more homers” or “we’re gonna strike out more guys”? Stolen bases, like those things, are just as much a function of talent, but for some reason no one ever scoffs at the “we’re gonna run more” comments like they would at similar comments about home runs and strikeouts.
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?