The other day an excerpt was released from Terry Francona’s upcoming book in which Theo Epstein was quoted as being highly critical of Tom Werner and John Henry’s ownership of the Red Sox. Specifically, that they cared more about image than winning and made some foolish-sounding comments about adding “sizzle” and that the Sox “start winning in more exciting fashion.”
Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston spoke to Epstein, however, and Epstein takes issue with the way his comments about all of that are presented in Francona’s book. He says that his criticism was of marketing consultants, not the team owners, and denies that any moves he made were with an eye toward upping the “sizzle factor” in Boston. He also says that (a) Werner’s comment about winning “in more exciting fashion” was made as a joke; and (b) Francona’s claim that the team owners don’t love baseball is simply wrong.
As if the final days of the Epstein-Francona dynasty in Boston weren’t exciting enough, now we have a “Rashomon” aspect to all of 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?