Athletics

Yankee Stadium a monument of greed

915123.jpg

Yankee Stadium a monument of greed

There is a lesson in the sudden caverning of Yankee Stadium. Well, there are lots, actually, but the first is this.A ballpark is not architecture, or sight lines, or concession stands. A ballpark is the people and the show inside it.When Detroit Tigers left fielder Quentin Berry dismissed the new Yankee Stadium as a an excellent place for quiet contemplation, he made sure to compare it to the crowds in Oakland, which he described as rowdier.And he meant it as a compliment. The gray old dowager with the dirty green frock, a cooler place to play than Yankee Stadium perfect.Now the Coliseum didnt change. The fans did. They finally overcame their revulsion at years of being told their team, their stadium and their very presence was unfashionable, and went to see what all the fuss was about. And they had a hell of a time, so much so that they even celebrated Justin Verlander dry-cleaner-bagging them in Game 5 of the AL Division Series.And it isnt their fault that they didnt come before the end of the season. It is never the customers job to support the entrepreneur, and never has been. It is the job of the entrepreneur to attract the customer. It has always been so, and anyone who believes the inverse is, well, an idiot.Or a real estate hustler.Or both.By the way, we would be remiss if we didnt mention that losing Derek Jeter would buzzkill any crowd, so were not savaging Yankee fans here. Theyre entitled to make their noise when they feel like it, too.The fact is, the fans in Oakland made Oakland a cool place to play the last few weeks, not out of obligation, but because the players taught them how to overcome their annoyance at the people who run the franchise. And it certainly wasnt out of anticipation for a new stadium somewhere, either.It was the moment that made the ballpark, and the comparisons with Yankee Stadium have never been more apt.Yankee Stadium has been a monument to the outer limits of greed from the moment it was imagined. Its parking company is going broke because people discovered that its easier to take the train. The deafening noise that once poured down upon visiting players in the old park flies off into the stratosphere in the new one.This brings up one other thing which typically gets forgotten in all the talk of ballparks and land deals and moving things to different placed. When you change location and you change pricing, you change your fan base. The Giants fan base now is radically different than the one they had in 1999, and they did it by design. Thats another part of the As San Jose plan. They know moving will be changing their fan base, decided it is worth it to do so, and the fan base they have now knows it and rightfully resents it.But they came out down the stretch anyway, helped in a small but growing way to overwhelm the Angels and Mariners and Rangers down the stretch, and nearly swallowed the Tigers with their fervor. They arent as strong as Verlander, true, but no fan base is. When hes dealing, everyone is at the table, and everyone goes home broke.Thats the baseline lesson here the fans come to see the games, and the games are made by the players. The players create the atmosphere, the fans stir it, and before you know it, you get left fielders from other teams comparing the allegedly downtrodden As fan with the swells in New York, and doing it favorably.You can have all the pretty colonnades and displays and 40 beer kiosks and platinum-inlaid urinals and waiters for every seat to take your grub order and the tax breaks up the nostrils to make it all a windfall for the owners. But a ballpark is a useless waste of public space if not for the show on the field, because a ballpark is still ABOUT THE BASEBALL.Which, in his own way, was what Quentin Berry was saying all along. Atmosphere is not dictated from the board room, and never has been. Building plans may excite the kids down at the union hall, but they mean nothing if what youre putting on inside the building is not consistent with its mission, which, in the case of a ballpark, is ball.So thats one more thing to keep As fans warm this winter. They throw a cooler party than the people at Yankee Stadium, just because theyre there to make it happen. So never mind your spread sheets and land deals and architectural niceties. The people throwing the party is really how this works in the end.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

marcell-ozuna-marlins-ap.jpg
AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

khris-davis-funnylook-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.