Here is the 40 man roster; not looking too exciting then, even before the Gonzalez trade to the Nationals. 2012 might be the year when it would be more exciting and interesting to watch the Triple A Sacramento River Cats rather than the big league club? It does depend to a certain extent on how quickly the prospects obtained in the trades with Washington and Arizona get pushed through to the big club, though I have not seen any reports suggesting that any of them are definitely ready right now and given the Angels/Rangers arms race going on in the AL West, next season could be a severely demanding place to blood young talent, hitting or pitching.
I don’t have a problem with the return for Cahill and Gonzalez, by some rankings the return for Gonzalez represented a significant plundering of the Nationals prospects, 3 of the top six and 4 of the top 10 according to www.minorleagueball.com. The sub text here seems to be ‘our ambition for 2012 is <75 win season(again) but if you’d still like to come along to the park, pick a day when Anderson is fit and starting, Bailey is fit and closing(assuming he’s still on the Opening Day roster) and hope that Jemile Weeks has a good game’.
There are compelling reasons, two in particular, for punting the 2012 season and spend the time sifting through the slew of prospects, with possibly more to come if Bailey is also shipped out, one has been rumbling on for many, many years, the other being a more recent development. The more recent one popped up pretty suddenly when Angels ownership revealed their long suspected financial clout with the acquisition of Pujols and Wilson and made clear their intention to take on the TV money heading for the Rangers and appear likely to result in estimated payrolls of $140M and $112M respectively according to www.baseball-reference.com, the estimate for the A’s is $55M and even this seems high with the 4 biggest contracts from 2011 off the books as of this point in time; Crisp and Matsui are unsigned free agents, combined $10M, Willingham and DeJesus free agents already signed elsewhere, combined $12M and smaller contracts for Cahill, Gonzalez and Harden represent another $2.5M and I don’t see $24M being spent between now and Opening Day? This parsimonious approach is inextricably linked to the other reason for punting 2012, the uncertainty surrounding where the A’s will be calling home in 5 years time? I think this was the question 5 years ago also. From what I understand, the Oakland Coliseum holds the distinction of being the biggest toilet not only in MLB but NFL also and the local politicos have woken up to the threat of not only the A’s leaving Oakland but the Raiders as well and possibly the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. This is where things get a little uncertain for me, not what losing major sporting franchises would mean in political terms; one might be careless, two a coincidence but three would be terminal, but the economics of building major sporting venues out of the public purse. I understand that the state of the Coliseum reflects that of the locality in which it’s situated so the, AL lowest attendance of ~18000, doesn’t seem likely to inject an awful lot of revenue into the community so this potential loss is to be set against a $400M build for a baseball only venue, initially and maybe more realistically $500M+++ by completion, coming from the Alameda County coffers. There is also a hastily cobbled together proposal for a combined stadium to be shared with the Raiders, though I can’t see either party being particularly eager to continue the cohabitation. This all crops up at a time when there appeared to be some prospect of the A’s concluding a move to San Jose. This was not going to be straightforward by any means, the Giants hold the territorial rights for Santa Clara county and can block any move there unless 23 of the 30 MLB owners vote in favour, but there did seem to be some understanding of the difficulties the A’s were facing and, when push came to shove, the proposal might get the nod. But Alameda County have muddied the waters again; another set of proposals, no matter to what degree they may or may not be grounded in reality, financial or political practicality, offer Bud Selig and the owners the prospect of an easy life, at least for another few years, after all the committee that MLB set up to consider the A’s stadium situation has been sitting for around three years already, as they can defer a decision whilst the proposals for keeping the A’s in Oakland are scrutinised. Meanwhile the A’s remain uncompetitive financially and on the field, attendance remains stagnant, at best, and San Jose’s enthusiasm wanes away.
I have no idea about the detailed cause and effect permutations of poor team-poor finances-uncertain motivation of local authorities-low attendance-awful venue-lack of urgency from MLB but all appear to be conspiring to ensure that the next winning season looks unlikely before 2015 at the earliest. Perennial bottom feeders Kansas and Pittsburgh look forward to the next few years with more enthusiasm than A’s fans and even the abysmal Astros will be thinking that they can avoid the basement when they join the AL West.