Here is a link to my Tuesday column about the Oakland A’s, whoever they are. The full text runs below:
I went in search of a player I knew.
A’s Media Day. In a fancy club at the not-so-fancy Coliseum.
The players mingled. So many new faces. So many new players. A whole new team. No one wore nametags. Who’s that guy standing over there? Who’s the bearded one at the table?
You got me.
It felt like the first day of grade school, everyone milling around, strangers getting to know each other. Who gets what desk? Whose coat goes where in the wardrobe?
Who are these guys?
You got me.
Are the A’s a good team?
Double you got me.
Everybody says general manager Billy Beane is a genius. Maybe, although he never won anything. And he’s had enough time. I know — the poor guy labors under a crummy salary number. His problem. Not yours. Can he deliver?
When I was a kid, I traded baseball cards. I’ll give you one Mickey Mantle for a Stan Musial. With Billy forget all about baseball cards. This lucky stiff gets to trade and sign and dump real-live people. For him people are cards. What fun.
Billy Butler walked in. First baseman, designated hitter. Him, I knew on sight. Played for Kansas City against the Giants in the World Series.
Billy, do you know your new teammates?
“I’ve had interactions with some of them.”
“Interactions” is so nonspecific. It could mean Butler spit on Coco Crisp’s shoes one time, or Butler invited Scott Kazmir to his home for dinner. He said he knows Crisp and Kazmir.
He tried to name other A’s. Tried hard. “We made so many moves I can’t remember who we all are.”
Butler’s lack of intimacy with his intimates didn’t bother him. He referred to the Billy Beane Factor. “It means a lot to me a guy with his pedigree and knowledge and just talent at being a GM wants me to be in an A’s uniform. That goes a long way. I’m here for a reason.”
Tell yourself that, Billy. Make yourself feel at home. In a year or so, you’ll be gone for a reason.
Ike Davis, who do you know on the A’s?
“I only really know (Eric) Sogard. Really, that’s about it. Billy Butler has reached out to me. This is the first time I’ve really met my teammates.”
I pointed to Josh Reddick sitting at our table, reading his phone. “Do you know Reddick?” I asked Davis.
“We only really met yesterday.”
Reddick looked up. “We played against each other for a few years,” he said.
“When you play against each other do you talk?” I asked.
“We do,” Davis said, “but it’s not like actually getting to know anybody.”
“It’s baseball talk,” Reddick said.
“Like first base,” Davis said. “You talk. That’s the way you do it at first base. Sometimes, it’s just clear the air. It’s boring over there and you just talk. But you don’t get to know anybody because anyone could say anything to you in five seconds and you never know who they are. I’ll go, ‘Nice swing.’ He’ll go, ‘Thanks, man. How’s life?’ ‘Pretty good.’ ‘OK.’ Then it’s over.”
Now you know what players talk about at first base.
“The A’s are definitely proactive in the market,” Davis said. “With their salary they do a lot of different things. Billy’s obviously done a very good job. They put a competitive team out every single year. No matter what. With a low salary. Which is impressive.”
“So, this team will bond in spring training,” I said.
“Spring training is made to mingle and get to know your teammates,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t consider you really get to know each other until the season starts. I wouldn’t say until the All-Star break you actually get to know each other. During the season, you really can tell who is who when the slumps happen and good and bad happens, how people deal with it and how they act toward other teammates. That’s when you know who everyone is.”
A.J. Griffin, how many teammates do you know?
“Obviously, I know the guys that have been here, but I’m getting to know the other guys. Seems like a fun group.”
When did you meet the new players?
“I guess Saturday. A lot of guys got in Saturday. I got to talk to Billy (Butler) and Ike a little bit.”
Nate Freiman, when did you meet the new guys?
“This has been my first opportunity to meet most people in this room. I mean yesterday at Fan Fest. It’s been a great experience.”
Butler and Davis and Griffin and Freiman sure seem like nice guys. My advice to them, please don’t get attached to anyone in the clubhouse. It could lead to hurt feelings and deep insecurity and a pessimistic attitude about life in general.
Because Billy Beane will trade you as easily as breathing. He’ll build a new team from scratch. It’s what he does.
“People come and go so quickly here,” Dorothy said in a more famous movie than “Moneyball.” It applies to the A’s. Always applies to the A’s.
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