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Friday, April 30, 2010

Brad Ziegler, Ryan Howard, and A's Attendance

A couple days ago Brad Ziegler made some comments on Twitter about attendance at A's games.  The comments were his initial reaction to the idea of a boycott of the Diamondbacks because of Arizona's new immigration law.  To be clear, he wasn't trying to make a statement on Arizona's immigration law (even though the topic is increasingly germane to a baseball blog.)  In both his initial comments and in a clarifying letter, he expressed his feelings about playing in mostly empty stadiums.  Obviously, players want to be playing in front of packed houses and I'm sure it's frustrating when there's no one there to support you. 

I totally understand Ziggy's general premise that it sucks that the A's don't draw bigger crowds.  What I don't understand is the extent to which people pine for roster stability when they talk about attendance at A's games.  Maybe I just shouldn't look at the reader comments on certain websites because knowing what some A's fans are thinking stupefies me.  I get that fans want to root for the same players year after year.  I sure as heck would have loved for the 2005 A's to have had Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Giambi, Tejada, Chavez, Damon, and Ramon Hernandez.  But I know what I'm getting being an A's fan, and short of having a team full of superstars, I want a team that can win.

Which brings me to Ryan Howard.  Tens of thousands of words have been written about his 5-year $125 million contract, and there's no better piece on the deal than Jonah Keri's. The part of Keri's post that got me thinking about the A's is the difference in opinion between analysts and Phillies fans, even those who are analyst-oriented.  By any objective measure, Philadelphia is overpaying for Howard.  The only real question is how bad of a deal did they get.  Many Phillies fans though, even smart ones, don't necessarily hate the deal.  Why not?  Well, because Howard's a really good player and it's fun to have really good players on your team. And, who cares how a bunch of multi-millionaires spend their own money?  Fans' criticisms of the deal smartly focus on how devoting so much money to Howard may impede their ability to keep the Phillies' other stars. 

You see, the Phillies can pay for Ryan Howard and, for now at least, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, and Roy Halladay.  Maybe they won't be able to afford Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino in a few years, but a team of Utley, Howard, Hamels, and Halladay is as good of a core as you could hope for.  The A's simply don't have the resources to pay for four superstars.  No amount of shopping at the Gap or going to games or buying jerseys is going to fix that.  Even a brand new ballpark won't fix that.

It's foolish for A's fans to expect to sign all of the good players they produce to long term contracts.  It's just as foolish for me to try change other fans' expectations for how the team should act.  However, I think that we should be able to agree that the A's should do what gives them the best shot at winning.  And for the A's, that means roster turnover and a lot of young players.  I just wish that A's fans longing for roster stability would understand that this would mean rooting for a team full of Bobby Crosbys, Kirk Saarloos', Scott Hattebergs, and Jason Kendalls.  Sure we'd be familiar with the players, but we'd be complete strangers to the idea of post season play.

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