The Oakland Athletics Are Bad For Baseball

From 2018-2020, the Oakland Athletics were a genuinely good team. After making the playoffs all three seasons and even winning the division in the shortened 2020 season, the future seemed bright.  

The roster had legitimate stars. Matt Olson quickly became one of the best first basemen in the league while Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman filled out one of the best infields in the league. 

Behind the dish, Sean Murphy was coming into his own and helped a pitching staff that featured Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea Jesus Luzardo, and Frankie Montas. Out of the pen, Liam Hendriks was perhaps the best closer in the league. 

Astonishingly, after beating the White Sox in the Wild Card round and falling to the Astros in the ALDS, all of the aforementioned players would leave the team over the next three years. 

Choosing To Lose

In 2022, the Oakland Athletics would finish with a record of 60-102, finishing last in the A.L. West. It’s easy to wonder how they got to this point after three straight playoff appearances. 

Firstly, they allowed both Hendriks and Semien to leave in free agency. Joining the White Sox and Blue Jays respectively, both players have continued to be among the best at their positions. 

Following the 2021 season, all of Bassitt, Chapman, and Manaea were traded away. Losing Chapman was especially painful for a fanbase that watched him grow from a highly touted first-round selection to one of the game’s best third basemen. 

The worst was yet to come however as Olson, the team’s best player and one of the MLB’s premier first basemen, was traded to the Braves. The consolation however were the additions of Shea Langeliers and  Cristian Pache, both considered top prospects in the sport. 

A Means To What End?

“Tanking” is hardly a new concept in sports. The idea of trading your best players to avoid mediocrity and hitting the reset button on the franchise has been practiced for decades. While it may be hard for a fanbase to part with these players they’ve grown to love, teams like the Cubs and Astros have proved it can pay massive dividends. 

However, Oakland has botched the tank in almost every sense. While they have managed to trade all of their valuable assets, they have simply failed to receive adequate prospects in return. 

While the aforementioned Pache was a premium prospect at a valuable position, they have opted for quantity over quality in their other trades by choosing to add multiple mid-tier prospects instead of one high-end player. 

Currently, the A’s active payroll is just over $41 million. For reference, the defending World Series champion Astros have a payroll of nearly $174 million. Clearly, the distance between Oakland and Houston, who share a division, could not be any larger. 

It’s Only Getting Worse

Despite all of the moves made with the intention of tearing the team down in 2021, this year’s off-season has perhaps been the most egregious. 

Sean Murphy, a 28-year-old catcher who worked his way through the Oakland Athletics’ minor league system as a third-round pick, was traded to Atlanta. In return, they would receive a collection of prospects headlined by Kyle Muller and Esteury Ruiz. 

Muller, a left-handed pitcher, posted an 8.03 ERA across three starts for Atlanta last season, but showed some impressive strikeout potential while in AAA. He will be the team’s opening-day starter. Ruiz should join the outfield in Oakland before long. 

With opening day on the horizon, members of the Athletics fanbase were no doubt interested in the development of Pache after a 2022 season that saw him finish with an OPS+ of 34. An ungodly low number, there is plenty of time for the 24-year-old to turn it around with some additional coaching to help fix his approach. He showed as much by finishing spring training with a .362 OBP. 

Instead, Oakland decided he was not going to be a part of the team’s future plans. Having not made the opening day roster, he will either be traded or they will try and pass him through waivers in an attempt to stash him on the AAA team. What’s more likely is a team committed to winning will add him in hopes to cultivate his talent further. 

Bad For Baseball

“The ballpark is the key to having a larger payroll so we can compete more effectively with bigger market clubs, have a better fan experience, and retain players,” said A’s president Dave Kaval as they look to move the team out of Oakland and into Las Vegas. 

Would increased revenue in one of the country’s biggest cities help the A’s build a team? Of course. However, the team has provided no inclination that they’re willing to spend what it takes to be competitive in the modern MLB

After all, the club made $62.2 million last season, fifth-best in the league. Alas, the only impactful free agent signing the team made was bringing in 32-year-old first-basemen Jesus Aguilar on a one-year, $3-million deal. The A’s will hope he gets off to a hot start and they can trade him before the deadline. 

While the move to Las Vegas will certainly happen, it’s hard to see it making the A’s much better. Of course, players like Langeliers and Paul Blackburn have potential, but who’s to say they won’t be the next to go? With the league’s 22nd-best farm system according to MLB.com, the future is bleak. 

Regardless, the team’s ownership group will continue to profit off of television deals, an eventual state-of-the-art stadium, and whatever fans continue to show up. The 2023 Oakland Athletics will be one of the worst teams in the sport, if not the worst, and it has all been intentional. Not only bad for the players, coaches, and fans, the A’s are simply bad for baseball. 

Top Four Storylines for the 2023 MLB Season

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

As the sports world continues to rotate, we find ourselves just days away from the beginning of the 2023 MLB season, with a number of compelling storylines already brewing.

The World Baseball Classic did more than enough to get fans excited, and after Japan’s victory, the focus of the baseball world transfers to Major League Baseball. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines heading into the new season.

Top Storylines for the 2023 MLB Season

The MLB’s New Pitch Clock Rule

This is an obvious one, and it’s one that will cause confusion as the season begins to unwind. There’s a lot of controversy regarding the MLB’s decision to implement these new rules, and both sides of the argument make a decent case.

No matter anyone’s opinion, it’s now a rule. As with any new rule, it’s going to take some getting used to. One thing you can be sure of, a lot of attention will be placed on this new rule as the season begins.

Will the Orioles Make the Playoffs?

One of the most exciting storylines of any season is the prospect of new teams rising into contention. This year, there are a couple of contenders. One of the teams with the brightest futures in the MLB is the Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore put together a winning season last year, and saw themselves in the playoff race for much longer than most fans would have expected. The Orioles’ young core is impressive. The team should look to put it all together and make a playoff run in 2023.

Which MLB Teams Will Fail To Meet Expectations?

As is similar with every baseball season, some teams come into the new year with massive expectations. Both New York teams, the Mets and Yankees, are already being pinned as pennant contenders. Teams like the Dodgers, Padres, Phillies, and Braves all carry big expectations on their shoulders, as well.

Every year, a couple of teams fail to meet those pre-season dreams. In 2022, the Mets fell apart in the Wild Card round, and the Dodgers were victims of an early exit at the hands of the Padres. As the new year begins to develop, it will be interesting to see which of these teams are contenders and which ones are pretenders.

Which Teams Are Going the Wrong Way?

As new, young teams come into the fold, some older squads start to fall down the standings. Watching your favorite team slowly exit from its window of contention can be tough. Unfortunately, it happens to every franchise in the MLB at some point.

The Red Sox, Cubs, and Twins are three teams that might fall into this category. Each of those three teams has been a contender in recent years. Each team finished the 2022 campaign with more losses than wins. Finding out which of these teams is headed into a rebuild will be an exciting development.

Hunter Greene Is Poised To Breakout In 2023

Think back to a year ago. After a full-on fire sale that saw the Cincinnati Reds move on from Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Nicholas Castellanos, and Sonny Gray, the team was fully committed to a future built on the back of high-end prospects. Prospects like Hunter Greene.

While the pitching staff was headlined by Luis Castillo, who was later traded, it was the youngsters that gave Reds fans reason for hope. Both Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft appear to have bright futures, but it’s Greene who captured the attention of the baseball world. 

When looking at his skill set, it is easy to see why. Capable of throwing his fastball at 100 mph with ease, it is never surprising to see him reach 101 or 102.

After a strong spring, Greene used his sizzling fastball to earn a spot on the team’s opening-day starting rotation. In his first start, he would face off with the defending world champions, the Atlanta Braves. While he would surrender three runs, he earned the win on the back of seven strikeouts across five innings. 

In just his second major league start, Greene broke the record for most 100+ mph pitches in a single game with a whopping 39. While he was still learning the ropes, he cemented himself as one of the game’s most exciting young pitchers.

The rest of 2022 would be much of the same. Greene would finish with an ERA of 4.44 to go along with 164 strikeouts. With an 11.7 K/9, it is clear that Greene has the stuff to succeed in the big leagues. However, the home run ball has continued to bite him this spring.

Alas, change may be on the horizon. 

Numbers Don’t Lie

By far the biggest weakness in Greene’s game is the home run ball. Despite the fact that he throws as hard as anyone in the game, MLB hitters are the best in the world at what they do. As such, if they know what is coming, they will hit it, regardless of velocity. This led to a staggering 28 home runs allowed for Hunter Greene in 2022.

So, when he wasn’t striking pitchers out with his supersonic heater, it was getting hit hard. In fact, his fastball was responsible for -7.0 runs above average despite being his trademark pitch.

Last season, Greene was essentially a two-pitch pitcher. Alongside the aforementioned fastball, he also throws a quality slider. In 2022, he threw the fastball 54% of the time, and the slider 41%. The other five percent, he threw a change-up. It is this pitch that will define his 2023 season.

Changing It Up

This spring, through two starts, things have not been kind to the right-hander. With 4.1 innings under his belt, Greene has had five runs charged to him, including a home run.

However, for those paying attention, the story is not about the runs Greene has allowed, but instead about his increased change-up usage. In his last start against the A’s, 12 of his 50 pitches were change-ups. After barely throwing it last season, he threw it on nearly half of his pitches.

Of course, it is only spring training, and it’s likely he was throwing it an increased amount in order to get a feel for it. However, Greene appears determined to make it an increased part of his repertoire going forward.

Greene said, “I obviously spent a lot of time working on that. It was my main focus, to have that pitch in my repertoire going into this year is going to be really exciting.” If he can work the change-up going forward, it will be crucial to his ability to keep hitters off balance.

Big Things Ahead for Hunter Greene

While people have certainly not forgotten about Greene, the hype train appears to have slowed down. When looking at the numbers, it is understandable. After all, no one cares how hard you can throw if it gets hit back even harder.

Still, despite playing in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, Greene is an absurdly talented pitcher who is still improving. With 24 starts under his belt, he is no longer concerned with making the team. Instead, he is working to amplify his pitch mix that already features one of the league’s most electric fastballs.

The Cincinnati Reds will be a bad team in 2023, that much is almost assured. However, Hunter Greene will be appointment television as he cements himself as one of the best young players in the sport.

The MLB’s New Pitch-Clock Rule Might Just Save Baseball

MLB umpire checks the clock for the new pitch clock rule
Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA Today Sports

For as long as most of us can remember, baseball has owned the trademark of “America’s Pastime”. Baseball is integral to America’s culture, and because of that, there are many generations of baseball fans in our country. Some of those fans prefer their beloved sport to be devoid of change, while many, typically younger fans, embrace it. With that in mind, there’s no surprise that this new pitch clock rule has angered some.

Major League Baseball Is Slowly Dying

Baseball is a unique sport, and it’s always been able to carve out its own niche. Football and basketball have been dominant sports over the last half-century, mainly because of their consistently exciting product. Baseball is unique in the way that it manages to maintain a sizeable audience, one comparable to the top action-packed sports, with a product that involves far more strategy, and less athleticism. It’s always been a game that might not seem attractive to the casual viewer.

Unfortunately, the other major sports in America are slowly chipping away at baseball’s fanbase. The MLB has seen a decline in its attendance, as well as television viewership. Last season’s total attendance of 64.5 million people sure seems like a large number. It is, but it also represents a 5.9% drop in attendance since before COVID existed. Excluding the 2020 season, the MLB has seen a drop in attendance for twelve consecutive seasons.

Now if you were to ask the common, casual sports fan why they don’t like baseball, they’ll typically give you the same answer: It’s boring.

Can you blame them? The young kids who have grown up watching Lebron James and Tom Brady take their breath away simply don’t have the attention span necessary to watch a pitcher shake off the catchers’ sign three times before the batter steps out of the box anyway.

The fan who has watched baseball for multiple decades might not like this move. And that’s okay. That fan will watch the sport no matter the rule change. What the MLB desperately needs is to get the casual fan more invested in baseball as a whole, and the pitch clock rule is a good first step.

Why the Pitch Clock Rule Will Work

Many fans might not know this, but the pitch clocks have actually been in effect in the minor leagues for quite some time now. In 2015, the MLB announced that it was going to experiment with a 20-second pitch clock in the AA and AAA levels.

This resulted in a 12-minute decrease in average game time. That doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a large difference when it comes to watching the game.

There will be some headaches, and it will take time to get used to. At some point during this season there likely will be a close game or two that ends up being influenced by this rule. When that happens, people are going to complain about it, and some might even claim it’s “ruining baseball”.

It makes sense that they would. People who love something the way it is don’t want it to change. Major League Baseball knows that, and they know this decision will irk some long-time fans; yet they also know those fans aren’t going anywhere.

If the MLB can rope in some casual, on-the-fence fans, then it will all be worth it. At the end of the day, baseball needs to grow as a sport. To do that, maintaining a higher level of viewership is a must. By implementing this pitch clock rule, the MLB is finally showing they understand.

Final Thoughts on St Louis Cardinals 2022 Season

St. Louis Cardinals trio Adam Wainright, Albert Pujols, and Yadier Molina in what may be their final season
Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/MLB Photos via Getty Images

After being eliminated by the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night, the St Louis Cardinals 2022 season has come to an abrupt end.

St Louis Cardinals 2022 Playoff Season Review

Farewell Yadi and Pujols (and maybe Waino?)

This season, we were treated to farewell tours for at least two future Hall of Famers. It could be three, depending on whether or not Adam Wainwright hangs it up, and depending on whether or not he gets in. If it was his last, it was not exactly a great end, but that shouldn’t overshadow what was a fantastic career.

That career was spent as part of arguably the most accomplished battery of all time with catcher Yadier Molina. The two set an MLB record this year for the most starts by a battery. Speaking of ‘Yadi’, he capped off his career with a clutch hit that extended the game by another at-bat.

This was a perfect way for him to punctuate one of his most underrated qualities: clutch hitting. Molina gets knocked often for only being average at best offensively for most of his career. This causes his ability to get hits in crucial situations to get overlooked. He got to remind us all of this trait on his way out the door.

Then we have departure of the greatest hitter of the 21st century: Albert Pujols. Having Pujols come back to St.Louis for a swan song season was perfect in itself. He somehow made it better with a miraculous run in the second-half of the season to reach 700 career home runs. It was one of the coolest things that has happened in baseball — and sports in general — in a while.

Having all of this happen in one year was truly special. It is not something that happens very often. Including a playoff run made it even sweeter. Unfortunately, they were unable to capture the ultimate storybook ending with a ring. That would have been almost too perfect anyway.

Pitching Finally Does Cardinals in

In a three-game series, being out-matched on the mound is basically a death sentence. Starting pitching had been a glaring weakness for St. Louis all season. They added two solid pieces to the rotation at the deadline in Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery. Still, they lacked the high-end starting pitching that the Phillies put on full display this weekend.

Quintana had earned the right to start game one of the series. He pitched well, but his limitations reared their head in the sixth inning. Despite playing great, Quintana is not someone that has earned the trust to face an opposing lineup three times.

He was pulled, and the job for the bullpen proved to be one inning too big. Ryan Helsley and Andre Pallante were shelled for six runs in the ninth. On the other side, Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler was able to lighten the load for his bullpen by pitching into the seventh inning.

Game two is when the pitching disparity became most obvious. Aaron Nola was brilliant as usual for Philly. He went 6.2 shutout innings, gave up just four hits, and struck out six batters. The Cardinals sent out a committee of starters and relievers. Miles Mikolas got the start, but made it less than five innings and gave up two runs before ceding to Montgomery.

The former Yankee finished the fifth and pitched the sixth and seventh, as well. Giovanny Gallegos and Jordan Hicks finished out the last two innings. The game ended 2-0.

The Cardinals pitching staff did not play bad in this series at all. In fact, outside of the ninth inning in game one, they largely kept the team in it. But at the end of the day they just weren’t quite good enough to keep up. Aces reign supreme in October, and St. Louis doesn’t appear to even have one right now.

Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado Need to Step up

This seems silly given the pair will likely finish top-two in the National League MVP voting. Regular season awards are nice, but they mean nothing in October. Both Goldschmidt and Arenado were hardly noticeable offensively in this series.

The former was just horrible, going zero for seven with one hit-by-pitch and four strikeouts. The latter was slightly better. Arenado had just one hit, but if a couple of things went his way, his numbers would have been more respectable.

This wouldn’t be a huge deal by itself. What is alarming is that this seems to be part of a trend. In last year’s Wild Card game against the Dodgers, Arenado was hitless in four at-bats. Goldschmidt was solid in that game, getting a hit and drawing two walks.

However, that was one of his better postseason performances since joining the Cardinals in 2019. He has gone 14 for 60 in the playoffs with St. Louis, which is a .233 batting average. These two have simply not lived up to expectations when it has mattered the most.

Looking back at their pre-St. Louis postseason numbers doesn’t help much, either. Arenado went a dismal 4-for-21 in Colorado. Goldschmidt was decent with Arizona, hitting 10-for-32. These are very small sample sizes due to the fact that the Rockies and Diamondbacks were pretty bad for most of their respective tenures. The ability to play postseason baseball on regular basis is a big part of what brought them to St. Louis in the first place. Now that they have the opportunities, it is up to them to make the most of it.

With the Cardinals’ elder statesmen retiring, ‘Goldy’ and Arenado will become the de facto leaders of the team. What made the old guard so great was their ability to turn it on in October. It has been time for these two to start doing the same. They need to find that playoff magic soon, or they could start to wear out their welcome.

Oliver Marmol is Still Green

There is a lot to commend Marmol for in his debut season. He navigated the hoopla of the final seasons for the team’s stars very well. He also oversaw the emergence of a lot of young talent. Finally, he got a club without an ace pitcher a division crown.

Yet, when the playoffs rolled around, Marmol’s inexperience was felt. Typically, pulling Quintana when he did would have made a ton of sense. In the playoffs, that ‘three times through the lineup’ rule goes out the window. If your starter is dealing, you ride the hot hand. This is especially true when your closer is not a hundred percent healthy.

Trying to pitch Helsley for more than three outs was also a mistake in and of itself. That Helsley implosion is totally on Marmol, and it cost the Cardinals the game — and likely the series. Had St. Louis made it to a game three, they would have gotten to feast upon lefty Roger Suarez, in what would have been a favorable match-up. That one mistake in game one makes the whole thing moot, though.

Looking Beyond the St Louis Cardinals 2022 Season

The Future Looks Bright

While the departures of Yadi, Pujols, and possibly Waino mark the end of an era, a new one is already taking shape. They have several other veterans ready to lead in Goldschmidt and Arenado. There are budding stars beginning reach their prime in Tommy Edman, Brendan Donavan, and Lars Nootbaar. Plus, you have plenty of promising talent ready to come out of the pipeline in Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, and Masyn Winn. They also have a promising young manager who will surely grow into the job.

Just looking at it on paper, St. Louis will only have to replace a catcher, a starting pitcher, and a designated hitter who didn’t even play every day for most of the season. 2023 should be more of a reload than a rebuild.