A few short months ago Steve Lombardozzi was considered important enough to net a top-flight starting pitcher in a trade. Then, a little after that, he was only good enough to net a veteran infielder who wasn’t going to make a big league roster (and who was subsequently released). Now he’s a waste of 25-man roster space: he was just optioned to Triple-A to make room for Manny Machado.
Jokes aside, it is somewhat surprising that it was Lombardozzi who got the boot. He hasn’t been tearing up the pea patch, but he has been considerably better than Ryan Flaherty in around the same number of plate appearances. And while Jonathan Schoop has been a bit better than Lombardozzi, it was Lombo who was getting more time at second base than Schoop, who had mostly been covering third.
Not a big difference one way or the other, of course. But it’s kinda odd to think how far Lombardozzi has fallen in terms of perception in the past year.
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?