After watching Josh Willingham struggle through a left knee injury for three weeks the Twins finally placed him on the disabled list with a medial meniscus tear and bone bruise. To replace him on the roster Minnesota activated Aaron Hicks, who’s been on the DL for three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Hicks has been rehabbing at Triple-A and hit just .190 in six games there, but Willingham’s injury convinced the Twins to rush him back. Before the hamstring injury Hicks was one of the worst hitters in baseball, batting .179 with 56 strikeouts and a .575 OPS in 55 games as a 23-year-old rookie. He’ll presumably resume starting in center field, with fill-in center fielder Clete Thomas seeing action in a corner spot.
As for Willingham, after a career-year last season at age 33 he’s been banged up while losing nearly 150 points off his OPS. Whatever chance the Twins had of trading him for any kind of decent value this month is long gone and Willingham is signed for $7 million next season.
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?