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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Should Oakland have fired the manager and kept its best player, Josh Donaldson?

The 2014 Oakland Athletics finished ten games behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, right, 88 wins to 98?

Athletics Pythagorean W-L: 99-63
Angels Pythagorean W-L: 96-66

San Francisco v. Kansas City: what would Pythagoras think?  Friday, October 17, 2014

I compared actual regular season wins with the number estimated by Pythagorean winning percentage.


teamWinsPythW-PWCseries 1series 2
Angels98962
Baltimore Orioles96942Bal beat Det 3-0
Detroit Tigers90864
Kansas City Royals89845KC beat OakKC beat Ang 3-0KC beat Bal 4-0
Oakland As8899-11
Washington Nationals9697-1
Los Angeles Dodgers94922
St. Louis Cardinals90837StL beat LA 3-1
Pittsburgh Pirates88871
San Francisco Giants88871SF beat PitSF beat Was 3-1SF beat StL 4-1


At a minimum the Athletics and Angels were much closer than ten games.  The eleven game gap between expected and actual Oakland wins was by far the biggest deficit of any 2014 tournament team.  Such a gap usually suggests bad luck and/or bad managing.  Either way you would stay with your players.

So why would Oakland general manager Billy Beane trade his best player, third baseman Josh Donaldson?  To plan for the future?  We've had a few days to consider the trading of Donaldson.  There has been speculation but the best that Beane gets is that he should be trusted.

Beane may be a bit too full of himself and fears that if he doesn't continually draw attention with moves like this the movie Moneyball will somehow retroactively replace actor Brad Pitt playing Beane with a less substantive actor.

When faced with the choice of firing a manager or eliminating a top player, how often does a team eliminate the player?  And Donaldson was an innocent bystander.

This reminds me a bit of this infamous trade: Rocky Colavito April 17, 1960: traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn.

In 1959 Colavito had tied Harmon Killebrew of the Washington Senators for most home runs in the American League (AL) with 42.  Colavito was the young 25 year old star of the Cleveland Indians.  Colavito's 1959 batting average (BA) had dropped to .257 from .303 in 1958 when he finished one behind Mickey Mantle for most homers: 42-41; Mantle had two inside the park homers.  Colavito was a rising star.

28 year old Harvey Kuenn had the highest 1959 AL BA: .353.  Cleveland GM Frank "Trader" Lane was responsible for removing Cleveland's star player.  Have Cleveland's fans recovered?  What Cleveland player has superseded Colavito as a home grown fan favorite?  GMs seem to never consider fan interest in players.  Oakland fans must have developed a bond with Donaldson even after only two years as a regular.  With Donaldson removed with no comparable player in exchange, how will Oakland fans bond with a clearly inferior third baseman received and some nameless minor league players?  This reminds me of the Yankees trading Rickey Henderson: June 21, 1989: traded by the New York Yankees to the Oakland Athletics for Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk and Luis Polonia.

The lesson I learned: never trade a somebody for a bunch of nobodies.  Josh Donaldson was somebody in Oakland.  And who was the manager and who will remember the manager's name in two years?  Billy Beane, I guess.

2 comments:

Cliff Blau said...

On the other hand, in May 1989, the Seattle Mariners traded their best pitcher, Mark Langston, for a bunch of nobodies: Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Randy Johnson.

In 1966, the Cubs traded veteran pitchers Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl for a group of unknowns: John Hernstein, Adolfo Phillips, and Ferguson Jenkins. There are a lot more examples.

Kenneth Matinale said...

Both examples deal with part time players: pitchers. Pitchers were traded for other pitchers, two of whom developed into stars. It suggests another idea: don't trade young Hall of Fame players, especially if they are lumped in with nobodies.

Gene Harris and Brian Holman were pitchers; I had to look them up. Philips: OPS+ first two seasons in CF with Cubs: 120, 136. In 1966 Buhl was 37, Jackson 35; don't know what the Phillies were thinking.