Boy, the 2018 World Series between the Athletics and the Pirates is going to be a fun one.
I’m being a little facetious of course, given that both have some pretty big hurdles to overcome: The A’s play in the same league as the big 3 (remember when the season started and there were the big 7? Well the A’s are better than 4 of those teams now). And the Pirates, playing in quadruple A, otherwise known as the National League are one of about 10 teams with a shot at a pennant – but they do have a shot.
What I won’t be facetious about is exactly how great these teams’ front offices are and how well they are run – not just recently, but for decades.
In an era where one team that plays in the biggest market in the world is an embarrassment to the sport, and many other teams are run by “Woe is me, we have no money” types (coughs, Jeter, coughs, coughs…) Oakland and Pittsburgh not only don’t feel sorry for themselves, they go for it and they’ve given themselves legitimate shots to win, now.
- On this day last season, the Oakland A’s were 48-60.
- They traded away Sonny Gray, Sean Doolittle, Yonder Alonso, Rajai Davis and Ryon Healy.
- Over the winter, they were sued along with a few other teams by the MLB players union for not reinvesting the money they received through revenue sharing and luxury taxation into the on field product.
- Today they’re 64-46, better than any team in the NL, while playing almost a quarter of their games against the Astros and Mariners.
- They are dead last in payroll in MLB.
- Houston are the defending champions and are run by some of the sharpest people in the sport. They spend $108 million more than the A’s on payroll and have a whopping five more wins in the standings.
- There are 16 teams in MLB with at least double the A’s payroll – the A’s have a better record than 13 of them.
I’ll pause to let you re-read that last sentence and let it sink in.
Essentially by adding Blake Treinen and Stephen Piscotty and by hanging on to guys who may not be household names but who can play, they’ve become one of the best teams in baseball. (In fact, they may have the best infield in baseball – different blog…)
- They were 51-56 on this date last season.
- They traded away Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutcheon.
- They also were sued by MLBPA for not reinvesting their revenue sharing and luxury tax cash into trying to improve.
- Now they’re 56-53, 4 games out of a wild card spot and just traded for Chris Archer.
To put what GM Neal Huntington did in perspective, imagine if the Yankees traded away Luis Severino and Aaron Judge, and got better. And yes, they’re doing it with the lowest payroll in the National League – only the A’s and Tampa Bay spend less on players.
We are in an era in which some teams with vast resources have also gotten smart – the front offices of the Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs all deserve credit. But let’s not forget that there are front offices that don’t have the resources of those teams who are competing with the big boys and have given themselves a legitimate chance to win anyway.
“Moneyball” was about the 2002 A’s. “Big Data Baseball” started with the hiring of a new General Manager in 2007.
Billy Beane and Neal Huntington are no flukes, despite what the sports radio dimwits “never won a World Series!” screamers say. I’d take them over Brian Cashman any day and twice on Sunday.
So would you if you wanted more rings for the Yankees.