On some Major League teams this year Tommy Milone, with his six wins and 3.55 ERA, would be approaching the level of Ace. On this year’s Oakland Athletics squad, even with season-ending injuries to AJ Griffin and Jarrod Parker, he has been reduced, to the role of Triple-A insurance policy.
The A’s have been the league’s most dominant team this year, at least according to winning percentage and run differential. And Billy Beane is going for a trophy, as evidenced by this weekend’s acquisition of Ace Jeff Samardzija and middle-of-the-rotation guy Jason Hammel.
The deal coincided with an agreement between the Athletics and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority (which still needs approval from the Oakland City Council) whereby the team will remain in what I guess is now called the O.co Coliseum.
I love this. The market settles at least some of its differences with the team, agreeing to make some upgrades to the nearly 50-year-old venue by Opening Day 2015. The team makes a commitment to try to build on the strong first-half of the season by acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher available in this year’s trade market – giving up a stud shortstop prospect in the process of doing so.
Now, a rotation that has been ably led thus far by Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez suddenly goes six deep or more, with Samardzija having put up legit top-of-the-rotation numbers all season long. Now they’ve got a horse. His record in Chicago was just 2-7, but the difference in the run production he’s likely to receive was apparent from the get-go Sunday.
This isn’t a deal without risk. Samardzija has one more season of arbitration before becoming a free agent. At this point it’s still a little far-fetched to see the Athletics pony up the nine-figure deal it would take to keep him long-term. And Hammel will be a free agent after the season.
But these are the strategies low-revenue teams like Oakland need to utilize. The A’s don’t have the resources in their current home to provide management with a blank check, ala the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels. So when they have a shot to win it, whether once every five years or once every 15, they have to take it. And Oakland clearly has done so here.
Earlier this year, colleague Marshall Garvey called on ESPN to take some attention away from the Yankees and the Red Sox and turn it toward the Athletics. During the second half of the season I don’t think the so-called Sports Leader has much choice: The A’s, the Anaheim Angels and the Seattle Mariners, while not necessarily as dominant as the quartet of teams that make up the NFL’s NFC West, are easily the strongest three teams in the American League and among the top handful in all the majors.
And, in an era of ballparks that cost nine-figures, the Athletics and their sewage-infested clubhouses at the Oakland Coliseum have gone all in. I’m not 100 percent sure they needed it, but I love the aggressiveness and I hope the Samardzija trade puts them over the top.