A lot of things about the A’s make me want to scream, and their 131-game losing streak might actually be the least of them. But before we get to the franchise’s dubious plans to move to Las Vegas, can we talk about how the wreckage of a team from owner John Fisher threatens to wreak havoc on the integrity of the 2023 season? ?
Picture this: five AL East teams, all with winning records, battling not only for the division title, but also for the three wild cards. Alas, only one earns a wildcard spot after the Rangers win the AL West and the Mariners and Astros go 13-0 against the A’s to claim the other two wildcard spots.
Wacky? Not really. The Mariners are already 7-0 against the A’s, the Astros 3-0. Certainly, we’ve seen tanking teams like the Astros from 2011-2013 and the Orioles from 2018-21 create similar inequalities. The introduction this season of a more balanced schedule, in which teams play divisional opponents 13 times instead of 19, makes things a bit fairer. But the A’s are so horribly bad that the possibility of them having an outsized impact on the playoffs should annoy owners of AL East clubs, and frankly every other owner as well.
For this and many other reasons, owners needn’t look back for Fisher and his Las Vegas casino-fueled fantasies. Commissioner Rob Manfred told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday that a vote on moving the A’s to Vegas could take place by next month, as long as the Nevada state legislature approves public contribution to the ballpark. proposed by the team. After that, 75% of owners are expected to approve of relocating the A’s. For an owner who opened the season with a $57 million major league payroll and can’t trust Las Vegas to spend way significant.
A serious pause is in order.
• Has the league prepared a study on the viability of Las Vegas as a major league city, a study that would address the concerns raised by Athleticismis Eno Sarris and Steve Berman, and others?
• Does one of the owners ask why Manfred is so accommodating to Fisher when the A’s would still receive revenue sharing if they moved from the sixth largest media market in the country to the 40th?
• Will anyone demand an explanation from Fisher as to why he is so determined in Las Vegas when many larger markets, from Portland to Salt Lake City to San Antonio, from Nashville to Charlotte to Are Raleigh-Durham available for relocation, as evidenced by their expansion franchise business?
Dealing with Oakland was impossible, that’s what the A’s and the league continue to insist on. It’s not a ridiculous point, considering Oakland lost the NFL Raiders and NBA Warriors and had plenty of time to reach a deal with the A’s. We can all agree that a resolution is long overdue. Then again, perhaps the A’s more recent talks with Oakland would have gone more smoothly if the team hadn’t asked for the public’s help for a $12 billion development project at Howard Terminal which, as I wrote last month, included a ballpark.
The A’s get no such deal in Las Vegas, just up to $380 million in tax relief for a $1.5 billion park if Nevada state lawmakers approve a tentative deal reached Wednesday by the A’s, Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo and other local officials. These officials obviously consider it a victory that public funding can account for less than 25% of the cost of building the 30,000-seat ballpark.
To which I ask: Have they seen the A’s?
The major league record for losses in modern AL/NL history, 120, belongs to an expansion team, the 1962 Mets. In the pre-1900 era, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders , who finished 20-134 in a 154-game schedule, were even worse. The A’s, at least, will top the Spiders’ win total at their current pace of 31 wins. It’s hard to imagine them getting to 43, the number needed to avoid the Mets record.
The rotation, full of youngsters, could stabilize with the return of veteran right-hander Paul Blackburn, who is set to make his season debut next week after missing time with a middle fingernail avulsion. In theory, A-position veterans Jesus Aguilar, Jace Peterson, Aledmys Diaz and Tony Kemp can’t play much worse. Each sports an Adjusted OPS below the league average.
Which raises another problem. The A’s can’t even follow the standard operating procedure of a losing team at the deadline and trade veterans for prospects. They have lost eight straight games, 11 of their last 12 and 16 of their last 18. After being swept four straight by the Mariners, they return home Friday for six against the Astros and Braves. It’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that their losing streak will stretch to 14 games.
Again, the A’s aren’t the first team to create competitive disparities by coming up with an awful product. As recently as last season, on a more lopsided schedule, the Phillies and Mets secured two of the NL’s three wildcard spots by going 16-3 and 14-5 against the national 107 loss. The introduction of a third wild-card team, at least, left an opening for the Padres.
Even before the move to a more balanced schedule, the presence of one or more over-scored teams did not always ensure additional playoff berths for the division’s opponents. In 2019, the Tigers lost 114 games, the Royals 103. But the wildcards, including two that year, came from the AL East, where the Orioles lost 108 games, and the AL West, where the A, at the time they were trying, were in the middle of a run in which they made the playoffs six times in nine years.
Without a completely balanced schedule, the competition will never be completely fair. Teams understand this and also understand that the game is cyclical. The 2023 A’s, however, are far worse than the tanking teams of the past, they represent an even greater distortion, an even greater threat to the balance of the sport.
Fisher wanted them gone. Fisher embarrassed his co-owners. And now the league is going to give Fisher a free pass to a dodgy deal?
Someone please explain how this makes sense.
(Top photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)