Some thoughts on the big trade today:
- The Innocence of Sports Fandom. The A’s traded Jose Canseco in the middle of a game in 1992. I was 9 years old and it made absolutely no sense to me. How could Jose Canseco play for another team? He’s an Athletic!
I had the same feeling this morning, but I wasn’t the only one. When I told my 5 year-old daughter that Cespedes would no longer be on the A’s, she was really sad. Cespedes has only played for the A’s and it’s really hard to imagine him in another uniform. How could he play for a different team? He’s an Athletic! Why would the A’s do that? It was hard for her to process. She loved watching him, and it’s hard for her to accept the idea that the guy that solidified her A’s fandom with his exciting play is no longer on the team. Silly me for buying her a Cespedes shirt last season, I guess.
- The Excitement of Yo. Something you have to remember about being an A’s fan: we don’t get players like this very often, so we hold on a little more tightly when we do. In Oakland, we are used to being The Island of Misfit Toys, our roster often filled with players that no one else wants because of salary restrictions. But Cespedes was different. Cespedes was the G.I. Joe action figure that all our friends kept asking about. Yeah, come look at this guy! He’s sweet! Yes those are real sunglasses. No, you can’t borrow him, I’m playing with him right now. He’s awesome. I don’t care if he can’t pick things up with his hands, he’s G.I. F-ing Joe! I’ve never had one of these before.
- The Complexity of the Game. Canseco being traded was my first understanding that there is a business side to professional sports. In baseball, you can only have 25 players on your major league roster, so when you want to pick up one guy, you have to lose another. You can only afford so much salary, so if you want a good player, you’ll have to spend less elsewhere, maybe letting guys walk. And then there are other factors to consider, like contract demands, age, fit, and windows of opportunity (clearly a huge factor in the Cespedes/Lester trade). Understanding that these factors are a part of the game had two effects on me. First, it confused and depressed me. But then it made me love the game even more for its complexity.
- The Challenge of Responsibility. So, given how many factors there are in trying to win a World Series, I have to repeat the mantra of so many A’s fans: In Billy We Trust. Billy Beane is the one who has to make difficult decisions, and having been in charge of numerous sports teams on a much, much smaller scale, I know that the right decisions for the team are often unpopular at the time. But he’s not making this trade just for fun. He wants to win, which is what the fans want, too. He’s got a program of thinking, and he’s sticking to it. He’s responsible for whether or not the A’s are in a position to win this year, and he’s doing what he thinks is right. Cespedes was good, yes, but Jon Lester could be the difference on the mound in a critical game. So we have to accept that Beane has thought this through.
- The Fun of the Game. Still, we all loved watching Cespedes. And yes, I know his stats are pretty pedestrian for a so-called star outfielder, and I’m all for using numbers to get a better picture of performance. But as a fan, how could you not love the athleticism he displayed? I was there for his first game when he hit a line-drive double off the Tokyo Dome wall. I saw his monster homers. And who can forget the throws? Sometimes as a fan, you love players like this, even when you know they’re not statistically the best, because they make the game fun to watch from day to day.
- The Worst Thing. As my daughter got in the car today, she said: “Maybe we can cheer for the Red Sox now.”
Finally, thank you to Yoenis for giving us a fun-filled two-and-a-half seasons. We were supposed to be horrendous in 2012, and we made the playoffs. We weren’t supposed to repeat in 2013, and we did. We were predicted to finish 3rd in the AL West this season, and we currently have the best record in baseball. Now, let’s hope the A’s close it out and get Cespedes a ring for his efforts.
Thanks for the memories, Yo!