Billy Beane and the Shadows of 2005


Feb 18, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane speaks to the media during MLB media day at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Have we reached event horizon?

For those who operate from a less than celestial perspective, an event horizon is simply the point of no return. My two-part question in the correct context begs to ask whether Friday’s groundbreaking trade of Josh Donaldson signifies yet another rebuild, and judging from the mass reactions on Twitter does it make you question your Oakland Athletics fandom?

Speaking only for myself, I offer an emphatic no to both. While Donaldson’s departure seemingly came out of left field, the constant of roster change and ultimate dismissal of another talented player with an escalating salary was inevitable. Of course, many of us had seen it all before. While the more experience fans are able to remove themselves from the emotional ties to their respective favorites, neophytes are left clutching their number twenty shirsey and threatening to cancel their spring training plans.

In the heat of the moment, words like “rebuild” and “fire sale” are strewn about the social networks, as general manager Billy Beane described as nothing short of the resurrection of Mussolini in a Lacoste polo shirt. But heed my advice Oakland fans, back away from the ledge. From my perspective, there are too many parallels to the winter of 2004-2005 and thus pushing the panic button before winter’s end may be premature.

Like the 2014 team, the 2004 Oakland Athletics suffered a heart-wrenching collapse during the season’s final weeks and this time there would be no second Wild Card in place to bail them out. Heading into the final weekend, Oakland blew the first two games of a take-all three game series to the Angels and it was all over before the faint hymn of the Autumn Wind could seal it’s grip on the Coliseum. The death blow of which, came during a massive failure during the penultimate game much like the 2014 Wild Card. On that season’s final Saturday, Oakland pitching failed to hold an eighth inning surrendering three runs and losing in grand fashion much to the shock and disturbance of A’s fans everywhere. Sound familiar?

The ensuing offseason brought initial rumors of potential rebuild highlighted by the expected separation of the Big Three – Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder. A November addition of All-Star catcher Jason Kendall momentarily quelled such thoughts similar to signing of Billy Butler ten years later, leading some to believe that Beane had all intentions of extending the competitive window for at least another year. But alas, like Donaldson and apparently Brandon Moss the A’s foundation was shaken in a mere weeks time with the trades of both Hudson and Mulder.

With the end result being more of a reloading than a rebuild, as the 2005 iteration fought for a playoff spot until the season’s final weeks before returning to postseason a year later on the strength of an infused roster made possible though many of the moves that were chastised earlier. While it may seem like a hopeless cycle, it’s times like this to remind yourself of the process and economic reality of baseball in a small market. So my only advice is to smile in the face of inevitable personnel loss, and enjoy the spontaneity of an ever-changing roster.