The Bay Area has changed. It used to be known for fisheries and earthquakes. Now, it’s microchips and the excessively high cost of living. Most cities still have their own niche: San Francisco will always have Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and sourdough bread, San Jose is now the most populous Bay Area city, Berkeley and Palo Alto have Cal and Stanford, while Santa Clara has Intel and the 49ers.
Where does that leave Oakland? Other than the A’s, Warriors,
and Raiders, the city isn’t famous for much. It’s acclaimed neighbor San Francisco rakes in more than $9 billion in tourism per year. For Oakland, that figure is well under $1 billion. None of the big tech companies that populate the area have headquarters in the city.
Any municipality’s greatest resource is its people, and Oakland has nearly half a million of them. When that many folks get together in one place, there’s bound to be an explosion creativity. Oakland is no exception. The city has a rich history as a center for arts— specifically music. Along with its three (soon-to-be-two) major sports teams, this is perhaps the greatest legacy of the city.
Tower of Power
The Oakland Stroke is for real. They bring back most of the same lineup that blasted 227 home runs in 2018. Matt Chapman, who is Still a Young Man, became a superstar in his first full season. His 137 wRC+ only tells part of the story— he amassed 29 DRS last year. No other third baseman accumulated more than 7! Khris Davis was So Wonderful, So Marvelous, leading all of MLB with 48 blasts. Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty can also Rock Baby, having combined for 56 dingers of their own.
There’s more than one kind of power, however. With so many elite arms in the bullpen, You Ought to Be Havin’ Fun in the late innings. Blake Treinen is the closer, and given that he led all MLB relievers with 3.6 fWAR last year, the team knows you Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream). Lou Trivino and Ryan Buchter make it So Very Hard to Go to first base.
A pair of older vets, Joakim Soria and Fernando Rodney will try to continue their successful careers, but Only Time Will Tell. Overall, this is arguably the best bullpen in baseball. They have every right to believe Ain’t Nothin’ Stoppin’ Us Now.
Putting too much faith in prospects can lead you down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but the A’s have always relied on developing young talent. Ramon Laureano said Good Riddance to the minor leagues last year, and had the Time of his Life in Oakland. Nick Martini took the Longview, but posted a .397 on-base percentage as a 28-year-old rookie. Sean Murphy is a fantastic defensive catcher; he’ll be Hitchin’ a Ride out of MiLB to the majors soon enough.
It seems like pitching prospects that achieve their potential are a Minority, but the A’s have two of the best in baseball. Jesus Luzardo is the top ranked left-handed pitching prospect in the game, according to MLB Pipeline. He’ll probably spend most of 2019 in the majors, so opposing batters should consider this a Warning. A.J. Puk has electric stuff, but he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery. You know where he’ll be found When (he) Comes Around!
Last year, using the Opener became En Vogue, in Oakland. Reliever Liam Hendricks actually started the Wild Card game. If you’re looking for a staff ace, you’re Never Gonna Get It.
You really have to Free Your Mind to envision Mike Fiers or Marco Estrada at the front of a playoff rotation. In fact, FanGraphs projects Luzardo to lead the team’s starters in fWAR, even though he’s yet to debut in the majors (Whatta Man)! With such an outstanding bullpen, the A’s just have to Hold On through five innings, and they’ll be fine.
Of course, the reason why the A’s couldn’t sign a front line starter is because they’re always Too $hort on cash. Their projected payroll of $68.53 million is last in MLB. But this isn’t The Ghetto; the franchise is worth more than $1 billion. There’s plenty of money coming in, but the players just aren’t Gettin’ It. I’m A Stop harping on the issue, but there’s a reason why Moneyball originated in Oakland. Fans should Blow the Whistle on these Freaky Tales of poverty from the front office.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983