October 15, 2006

What’s Wrong With the A’s

Now that the A's are out of the postseason after losing in the second round, I think that Michael Lewis should re-release Moneyball with a new subtitle: “Billy Beane's Step-by-Step Guide to Winning the First Round of the Postseason in Just Eight Simple Years.”

There's no doubt that the A's have had a prodigious number of wins with the resources they've had in the Moneyball era. But what has it gotten them? A baseball team is an entertainment business; a group of professionals putting on a show while patrons spend money on concessions and souvenir t-shirts. This team, despite their unlikely number of playoff appearances, has to put a tarp over the top tier of seats to cover up how empty they are.

It's an organization that's suffering from Dutch door action. They can't see the forest for the trees: they're so concerned with putting together 90 wins a season that they aren't noticing that they had less than 2 million visitors during the regular season. But at the same time, they can't see the trees for the forest: they're so dependent on the aggregate in their playing philosophy that they can't win when it actually matters.

I'm afraid that this is what Wayne Krivsky is trying to do to the Reds. Reds fans have been clamoring for a winning team, and rightfully so. Cincinnati is a baseball organization with a proud tradition that the team has not been living up to for the last few years. But at what cost will we win?

Who's your favorite Red? The one you actually hope to see when you go to the ballpark. Chances are, it's Ken Griffey, Jr., Ryan Freel, or Adam Dunn. Now, why is that your favorite Red? Be honest: it's not because of his win-shares, is it? These are likable characters who also have the ability to put a charge into a game with a well-placed fantastic play.

So, would you rather have a team that's fun but can't win or a boring team that makes it to the postseason?

I want both. The teams that are a success--not just division winners, but also winners of the hearts of fans--are exciting as well as effective. And that's what it's going to take to save the Reds from covering the Red Level with a tarp.

9 comments to “What’s Wrong With the A’s”

  1. Joel says:

    I’m sure the A’s noticed their lack of visitors during the season and playoffs. But they’ve always had trouble drawing fans in that market, which is why they’ve threatened to move in the past. Rumor has it that the Bay Area media puts considerably more attention onto the Giants than the A’s, even when the A’s are winning. Having never lived out there, I can’t verify that either way though.

    [b]Now, why is that your favorite Red? Be honest: it’s not because of his win-shares, is it? These are likable characters who also have the ability to put a charge into a game with a well-placed fantastic play.[/b]

    I’m sure the A’s have plenty of likable characters who make fantastic plays. And you’ve always got the chance of a Milton Bradley meltdown. Can you put a price on that kind of entertainment value?

    Personally, I find having a winning team is fun, so if the Reds were like the A’s, I’d love it. I’m a fan of the Reds, win or lose. So if they win, that just makes it that much better.

  2. sweaver says:

    Nick Swisher is worth the price of admission, to name one. The A’s just have a terrible ballpark. The Reds have a nice park. And winning breeds chemistry, not the other way around.

  3. JinAZ says:

    Joel beat me to the punch, but I wanted to say that I’d be more than happy for the Reds to be quite a bit more like the A’s. They’re a smart team that has made it to the playoffs 5 times in the last 7 years. And I think that alone makes them interesting and fun. They’ve got a lot of attractive young pitching, as well as some terrific young offensive players. And they’ve been getting far more defensively-oriented over the past few years, which is fun to watch.

    Yes, they haven’t done well in the playoffs. But neither did the Braves, who only won the world series once in 14 tries since 1992. And I’d be really happy to have the Reds be more like the Braves were in that span.

  4. JinAZ says:

    [i]And winning breeds chemistry, not the other way around.[/i]

    Any time you can have a ballclub with Frank Thomas, Milton Bradley, AND D’Angelo Jiminez, you better win or it’s going to get nasty! 🙂 -j

  5. Red Hot Mama says:

    The biased media, the bad ballpark–so you guys admit that there ARE things that make a team appealing other than just winning.

    I feel like we’ve made a breakthrough here.

    You might like the Reds to be more like the A’s and Braves, but the ownership would not. Like I said: baseball is an entertainment industry. It puts on a show while people spend money. The fact that the show is a winning one doesn’t matter a whit if there’s no one in the stands to spend money, like there isn’t for the A’s and Braves.

  6. Zeldink says:

    Sports teams as businesses are interesting and unique models.

    The hardcore fans prefer to see their team win, however, it seems unlikely that there are enough of these fans to fill the stadium for every game.

    So teams are left to do a delicate juggling act, trying to both win and entertain the masses. It’s a lot harder to do both than just one, as evidenced by the A’s and the Cubs.

    I think it’s a reasonable to say that the Moneyball philosophy is a failure at creating a winning and entertaining team.

    Perhaps the best overall teams in baseball right now are the Cardinals, the Yankees, and the Red Sox. All three win consistently and sell tickets and loads of merchandise.

    I’m hopeful that Castellini can succeed at emulating them, although I grow a bit more worried with every Krivsky move.

  7. KC2HMZ says:

    I made this point in ASBCR back around the beginning of the month: The economics of the game is what gives us teams like the A’s and Braves who keep on winning division titles but never make it to the big dance. These guys build teams to win division titles. They don’t make the moves that will make the difference between a division winner and a WS winner because of the economics of the game. Once a team that does not have deep pockets like the Yankees, Red Sox, and a handful of others, finds itself in the playoff hunt, the economics of the game require a conscious decision on the part of management as to whether or not to risk the long-term prospects of the franchise for a chance to win it all.

    If they make that trade to help improve their chances this year, their prospects of repeating with a similar performance next year and the year after that is diminished. They fall back in the standings, attendance goes in the toilet, and the franchise becomes another Kansas City Royals.

    So they tell us that winning in the playoffs is all luck, which is obvious bull because the only two teams that have made it to the World Series more than once during this decade, the Yankees and Cardinals, just happen to be the same two teams who have made it to the World Series more than any other team in their respective leagues. I applaud the fans in Oakland for not buying it – but if they have that many empty seats now, imagine what it would be like there if they were losing 90 games a year.

    Anyway, we Reds fans need to understand this, because at some point during the next few years, I expect that Wayne Krivsky and Bob Castellini
    will have to make the same decision, and I’m not going to be the least bit happy about it if they start spouting the “playoffs is all luck” baloney.


  8. Red Hot Mama says:

    [quote]imagine what it would be like there if they were losing 90 games a year.[/quote]

    Maybe much worse, but maybe not. Consider the Cubs.

  9. KC2HMZ says:

    You have a point there. And a team playing in Chicago? If they were to cry poverty, it would be a de facto admission that the business side of the franchise (that handles sales and marketing) isn’t doing its job.

    Maybe it’s because the Cubs have been playing in The Windy City since before Cy Young himself first picked up a baseball and started studying the stitching. The A’s were in Philly and K.C. before they moved to Oakland, and they have to compete with the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, and Angels for the loyalty of the fans in California. The Cubs have to compete with the White Sox, which wasn’t hard to do until recently. No wonder they hired Sweet Lou.