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The Oakland Athletics Are a Disgrace

After 55 years in Oakland, it the Athletics are apparently making moves to relocate to Las Vegas.
After 55 years in Oakland, it the Athletics are apparently making moves to relocate to Las Vegas.

Photo Credit: Quintin Soloviev, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

In 2003, the Detroit Tigers left their unique mark of ineptitude on baseball when they lost 119 games. It was the most losses since the New York Mets finished with 120 in 1962. It was an abject disaster of a season. No pitcher who started a game for the Tigers that year finished the season with an ERA better than Nate Cornejo’s 4.67. Their best hitter that year was Dmitri Young. Amazingly, the Tigers would reach the World Series three years later, but only starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman and catcher/third baseman Brandon Inge remained as leftover everyday players from that ‘03 squad.

So, I guess, in a sense, there’s actually some hope for the Oakland (soon-to-be-Las-Vegas) Athletics! I’m joking, of course. Right now, it doesn’t appear that there’s any positivity at all coming from the East Bay. The marriage between the City of Oakland and the Athletics franchise is disintegrating quicker than Walter and Skylar White’s in Breaking Bad.

The 2023 A’s can’t do anything right. They’re currently wallowing in the basement of the American League with an appalling 12 - 47 record on the season. For reference, even last year’s Cincinnati Reds, who started the season atrociously at 3 - 22, had a better record through 59 games (20 - 39). They’ve scored the fewest runs in the majors and have the second-fewest hits. They’re one of the three worst teams in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, and they’ve struck out the third-most. In other words, they just plain can’t hit.

And it’s not just on offense where the A’s struggle. Their pitching leaves, well… a metric ton to be desired. They have the worst team ERA in baseball by almost a run and a half. They’ve given up nearly 100 more earned runs than their next closest “competitor” and the 100 home runs they’ve allowed on the season paces the league by sixteen. They’ve also allowed the most bases on balls, hit the most batters and thrown the second-most wild pitches. It’s like every pitcher on the team is doing a “Wild Thing” Vaughn impersonation and every hitter has turned into Pedro Cerrano versus a curveball. Life imitating art at its finest…

It’s hard to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel for the A’s either. While the 2003 Tigers were a pathetic excuse for a baseball team, there was still a dedicated fanbase in Detroit and promising players coming up through the pipeline. Bonderman was only 20-years-old in 2003, and by the time the Tigers won the AL pennant in 2006, he’d turned into a solid front-line starter. Justin Verlander (ever heard of him?) was a flamethrowing 23-year-old rookie in ‘06 and Joel Zumaya, another flamethrower, was the league’s most terrifying set-up man as a 21-year-old. Curtis Granderson, Chris Shelton and Omar Infante were other solid, young hitters who contributed in ‘06 and also came up through the Tigers’ organization.

A quick look at the A’s current minor league system suggests that these organizations are in completely different stratospheres when it comes to prospects. Coming into the 2006 season, Verlander was considered the #8 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, while Granderson peaked at #57. Andrew Miller, a late season call-up, was Baseball America’s #10 prospect coming into the 2007 season. Currently, the A’s have only two Top 100 prospects in their entire organization: first baseman/catcher Tyler Soderstrom at #28, and right-handed pitcher Mason Miller at #94 (and the 24-year-old Miller is currently in the majors).

The Tigers also had another advantage over the modern-Athletics: cold, hard cash. After ‘03, the Tigers splurged in free agency, bringing in All-Star catcher Iván Rodríguez in 2004, and outfielder Magglio Ordóñez and starting pitcher Kenny Rogers in 2005. And while the ‘03 Tigers certainly struggled with their attendance numbers (as any bad team might), they still drew an average of almost 17,000 per home game, nearly doubling the ‘23 A’s attendance.

The ‘03 Tigers were also younger than the ‘23 A’s, with an average hitter age of 27.3 and an average pitcher age of 25.3, compared to 27.9 and 28.1 for the A’s, respectively. So not only did the Tigers have a better record than the ‘23 A’s through 59 games, they also had more financial flexibility, a younger roster, and a better prospect pipeline. Basically, the ‘03 Tigers were atrocious, but they had some potential. The ‘23 A’s are just atrocious.

So now, all that’s left is for the Athletics to play out the string until their probable (read: definite) move to Las Vegas in 2024. It’s the MLB’s worst-kept secret, and it’s an absolute shame. The Athletics are one of baseball’s proudest franchises. Their nine World Series championships are tied for third-most all-time with the Boston Red Sox, and while five of those came while the team was still in Philadelphia, the A’s still managed to win four titles during their time in the Bay Area. Some of baseball’s greatest players played for the Athletics: Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Rickey Henderson, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Catfish Hunter, even more modern greats like Mark McGwire, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Eric Chávez.

Athletics fans protesting owner John Fisher's proposed franchise relocation to Las Vegas.
Athletics fans protesting owner John Fisher's proposed franchise relocation to Las Vegas.

Photo Credit: Quintin Soloviev, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The demise of the Athletics organization is as swift as it is surprising. For years, the Athletics have struggled with poor attendance and revenues, but that was never an excuse for poor play. It was only three years ago that the A's reached the ALDS. Hollywood even made a freaking blockbuster movie in 2011 (Moneyball) about the team’s innovative scouting strategies that kept the team afloat despite their teeny-tiny payroll-lifeboat. Now, this heavy analytical approach is the norm in baseball. Apparently, innovation has left Oakland, and now the Athletics are following suit.

It’s a sad state of affairs. Maybe the Athletics fortunes will change when they finally get to The Strip. Maybe legions of tourists really are the best fanbase the Athletics could hope for. Maybe they ditch the Athletics moniker altogether and go with something more apropos… the Las Vegas Royal Flushes? The Full Houses? The Benders? Anyway, there’s a saying about Las Vegas that goes a little something like this: “If you aim to leave Las Vegas with a small fortune, go there with a large one.” Considering the A’s are heading to Vegas with baseball’s smallest fortune, the odds don’t seem to be in their favor.

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