Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Oakland A's.
2011 record: 74-88
Finish: Third place, AL West
2011 final payroll: $70.5 million
Estimated 2012 opening day payroll: $39 million
Yahoo! Sports' offseason rank: 29th
Hashtags: #firesale, #makeadamndecisionBud, #beaned, #OccupyOakland, #sanjoseorbust, #kids, #sadtrombone
Over a three-week span, the Oakland Athletics traded 37 percent of their strikeouts, 37.8 percent of their wins and 64.9 percent of their saves from 2011. The frenzied fire sale that saw Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow leave was expected, sure, but the speed with which the A's eased them out of town felt sordid, the ugly consequence of baseball's refusal to settle Oakland's festering stadium situation.
Want to let us rot? Fine, the A's are saying. We'll make sure you bathe in the full funk of our putridity.
There are no winners here – not Major League Baseball, which has refused to dictate where Oakland's future lies; not the A's, who made $20 million-plus annually between 2009-11, according to Forbes, which throws a dubious shadow on Billy Beane's claim the team lost money last season; and especially not A's fans, a rabid but winnowing bunch that must dream about 2014 or 2015 instead of now.
Most of Oakland's maneuvers looked more toward that future in a different ballpark – of Jarrod Parker (from Arizona in the Cahill deal), A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock (in Washington's package for Gonzalez) and Raul Alcantara (the headliner from Boston for Bailey) anchoring a rotation going forward. Of Derek Norris (Washington) catching them, Collin Cowgill (Arizona) and Josh Reddick (Boston) running down fly balls in the outfield. Of something beyond 2012, which could be brutal.
[ Fantasy: Oakland becomes land of the post-hype sleeper ]
Gone are all those pitchers, plus Josh Willingham and David DeJesus, leaving Coco Crisp and his new two-year, $14 million deal as the lone holdover from Oakland's free-agent outfield as well as the lone tie to a long-ago time known as the '70s. Of the 19 position players on the A's 40-man roster, Crisp is the only one born in the '70s – and just barely, at Nov. 1, 1979. The next-oldest player? Utilityman Adam Rosales. He turned 28 in May.
Going into last season, the A's found themselves the hipster style of baseball: sort of ugly but trendy nonetheless. It was easy to see how scouts could fall in love with their pitching rotation. At the same time, the offense that waylaid them for the last half-decade was as schizophrenic as the name for O.co Coliseum (if indeed that's what it's called anymore).
Then nightmare after nightmare terrorized the A's. Dallas Braden tore a shoulder ligament in May when the A's led the major leagues with a 2.69 ERA among their starters. Considering Johan Santana still hasn't pitched in the major leagues since suffering the same injury toward the end of 2010, the likelihood of Braden's return for opening day is minimal. Brett Anderson, the hard-throwing, slider-heavy left-hander, had Tommy John surgery in July and may return before the All-Star break. And with Gonzalez and Cahill gone, all that's left from last year's rotation is Brandon McCarthy.
Amazingly, the cupboard remains decently stocked among starters. Oakland gave a resurgent Bartolo Colon a one-year, $2 million deal in hopes he can repeat his first 10 starts of last season. McCarthy and Guillermo Moscoso were command-and-control revelations (whose low strikeout totals don’t necessarily bode well for repeat performances). Parker has No. 2-level stuff and Peacock emerged as a likely big-league rotation staple last season. Even Tom Milone, a low-upside lefty who was the final piece of the Gonzalez deal, could find himself plugging a hole until Anderson and Braden return.
The bats, on the other hand, remain flaccid. While a full season of Jemile Weeks should help and Scott Sizemore looked a lot better in an A's uniform than he did Detroit's, Oakland is banking on a whole bunch of maybes. Brandon Allen? Maybe he can hit for power in the major leagues like he has at Triple-A. Same for Chris Carter and Kila Ka'aihue. Maybe Michael Taylor can regain the prospect luster of a few years ago, maybe Cowgill can survive in the big leagues as a 5-foot-9 corner outfielder, maybe first-round pick Sonny Gray turns into Tim Hudson 2.0.
[ Related: Astros GM bring new-age approach to rebuilding ]
The A's might as well be the Ifs. Because as long as owner Lew Wolff and GM Billy Beane run their team with an indignant streak – trying ever so subtly to force MLB to figure out their situation – the perpetual limbo of the franchise will render it irrelevant. No team, not even the best-managed ones, can win with constant change. And that's what the A's are right now: a group of mercenaries who understand they're not long for a green-and-yellow uniform.
Cahill and Gonzalez and Bailey and Breslow learned just like Tejada and Giambi and Zito and Hudson and Mulder and Haren and Damon and Street before them. Only a new stadium will stop the revolving door. And the almost-certain use of public money to get it makes the situation not only more tenuous but more revolting.
March will mark the three-year anniversary of MLB forming a committee to explore the A's relocation prospects. Three years to figure out something that long ago was evident: baseball has no future in Oakland, not with MLB's commitment to publicly funded stadiums and the city's unwillingness to bend. It's long past due for Bud Selig to negotiate a compensation package for the San Francisco Giants to give up the territorial rights to San Jose, where the A's can move and prosper. Baseball is better with thriving multi-team markets. Los Angeles has suffered because of the Dodgers, New York because of the Mets and the Bay Area because of the A's. The Dodgers will have new owners soon. Creditors ultimately will save the Mets. The A's are in Selig's hands. He needs to stop fumbling them.
Athletics in Haiku
Bats, balls, jerseys, pants, socks, jocks
Next on A's trade list
Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
• Michael Silver: Fired Hue Jackson says Raiders owner made decision
• Big Ten basketball: After three tough seasons, Tom Crean living the dream at Indiana
• Was Michael Jordan really cut from his high school team?