In his latest column on ESPN.com, Buster Olney, points our three trade chips the Oakland Athletics have that could be dangled if the team is deemed done for the season.
The candidates Olney picks out in Scott Kazmir, Ben Zobrist and Stephen Vogt are all very valid. Zobrist would have to prove he is healthy first but I read recently that Beane said he wouldn’t even think about a trade until he sees how the team is doing in mid-late June.
Sure the A’s are playing at an under .500 (13-23) clip right now. Sure they are 9.5 games behind the first place Houston Astros but Olney makes some VERY important points. He writes,
“Since Billy Beane has been the team’s general manager, Oakland has gotten better during the course of the season time and again, so what you see on May 15 is not necessarily what you’ll see in August.”
This point is the most important to me because it is exactly the point I make in a post written back on May 3rd titled,”Why the Oakland A’s will pull away from the pack in the second half.” Since Beane took over as general manager the team has consistently (with the exception of 2014) gotten better in the second half of the season.
One of the biggest examples of this phenomenon is their late season 20-game win streak in 2002. On May 15, 2002 the A’s were 18-21. The team went on to finish the season 103-59.
In 2006 the A’s defied what everyone thought of them – that they couldn’t get passed the first round of the playoffs but they did. Of course they were swept by the Tigers in the American League Championship Series but hey – that’s passed the first round isn’t it? I think so!
Guess what the 2006 Oakland Athletics’ looked like on May 15, 2006? They were 18-19, a game under .500.
Another very interesting example might be the A’s 2012 season in which the team was predicted to LOSE at least 100 games. On May 15th of that year the A’s were just barely over .500 with a record of 19-18. They finished the season by winning the American League Western Division Title as they defeated the Texas Rangers in the season’s final game. The team’s record? 94-68.
The same goes for other years too. These are the years in which the A’s were under .500 on May 15th and finished the season with a record of .500 or better under Beane –
- May 15, 2001: 16-22, Season Record: 102-60 (lost to New York Yankees in ALDS)
- May 15, 2002: 18-21, Season Record: 94-68 (lost to Boston in ALDS)
- May 15, 2006: 18-19, Season Record: 94-68 (defeated Twins in ALDS, Lost to Tigers in ALCS)
- May 15, 2010: 18-19, Season Record: 81-81 (did not make playoffs)
Those four seasons don’t include the other times the A’s have come from behind to finish over .500 or make the playoffs after a slow start. Those are just the seasons in which the team was UNDER .500 on May 15th of that year.
So what Olney says is absolutely correct that the team you see playing today won’t necessarily be the team you see playing in August – and he isn’t talking trades at this point. He’s talking about the team having virtually the same players.
Overall what Olney is questioning is whether or not the A’s will be buyers or sellers on trade market this season. The point he makes is that it is too early to tell. Sure, the A’s have three very sell-able players right now that teams in contention may already be looking at, but that Beane shouldn’t (and isn’t) ready to sell just yet.
He also points out that,
“Oakland actually has a plus-1 run differential, meaning the team has probably played better than its record indicates.”
Which if you are an Oakland fan you’d already know. The team has lost quite a few one-run games, many in extra innings. However, this might be new news to fans of say the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels or the Houston Astros.
Also noted in Olney’s post is that thus far the Angels and Mariners have under-performed, that the Rangers are, like last season, battling injuries and that the Astros, while very good, have a strikeout rate that may catch up with them as the season continues.
What all this means is that it’s early and that a multitude of things may or may not change. Who knows? Beane is known for making what some people might call “outrageous” trades. No one but Beane knows what his next point of action may be.
At this point in the season it is too early to tell what the outcome will be in almost every division, let alone try to decipher what Beane may do next.
All I am saying is don’t write the A’s off just yet. If it gets to be July and their record is the same then I’ll concede the season. Yet even that means that they could still finish with an 81-81 record.