Tomorrow, October 17th, will mark the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The other day, I watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “The Day the Series Stopped,” which focused on the memorable Bay Bridge Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants and the chaos that ensued as a result of this disaster. As I watched the documentary, it took me back to that day – which I can remember so vividly. As I watched, I went back to that fear, confusion, and worry that came over me during and after the 17 seconds that the earth shook. I talked about this documentary with my good friend and fellow Oaklander, Sergio Martinez, and he reflected on where he was with the quake hit. Ironically, he was literally 3 blocks away from me. That gave us chills – to know that we were in such close proximity during such an unforgettable experience. Such a small world, I guess. Anyhow, below is my recount on that memorable times. Where were you on October 17, 1989?
There is certainly truth to the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My hope is that the Oakland Athletics organization has understood, ingested, and has made the moral to such a painful lesson a part of their DNA. As a fan, I’m pissed. I love the game of baseball, but find that I cannot watch these playoff games. It’s too irritating. We should be there. We should be having the walk off wins. The shutout games. Poppin’ bottles, etc. I’ve even had friends tell me to come to the “dark side” and celebrate with the orange and black. I can’t. I just can’t. These are not the words of a “hater” – these are the words of a highly irritated Oakland A’s fan. This was our year to no longer be the bride’s maid – you know, the one that is a vital part of the ceremony, but never gets the ring. It sucks, and I’m getting tired of it. Loyal, but tired.
During this season, particularly after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, I found myself analyzing what it meant to be a “fan” of a team. Does it mean that you ride or die with them, regardless of the good or bad? That you never critique them for making poor judgments – I mean even if they are EXPLICITLY poor? After “the trade”, I received some criticism from other Oakland A’s fans about my comments on it, and how I felt Billy Beane made a huge mistake. Folks told me, “one person doesn’t make a team. You’ll be thankful in the post season when we get that ring.” Or, “you’re not supposed to like one player – like the whole team!” And the list went on. But as a fan, I had to be honest. Considering how such shake ups threaten the composition of a team – which this trade did. And especially since I have seen this organization go down the same path over 25 years ago. Remember the 1988-1992 Oakland A’s? 1988: went to the big dance, only to be denied by a “gimpy” Kirk Gibson and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 1989: was a power house team that won it all – but the win was overshadowed by the tragedies of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. 1990: went to the big dance like a house on fire! Sweeping the Boston Red Sox, only to be swept by the Cincinnati Reds. 1991: cellar dwellers – a season plagued with senseless losses. 1992: the dismantling of the “Amazing A’s” was solidified with August 31, 1992 trade of Jose Canseco – while on the on deck circle no less. How cold was that?
Fast forward to the 2012 – the projected 2015 Oakland Athletics. 2012: a bunch of scrappy “no names” lead by Bob Melvin make it to the American League Division Series, only to be defeated by the Detroit Tigers. 2013: the core of these scrappy “no names” remain, and the team makes it to the dance once again, only to be denied by the Detroit Tigers – once again. 2014: the team is a power house! Best team in all of baseball, until July 31, 2014 – Yoenis Cespedes is traded. The two-time Home Run Derby Champ? The potential franchise player? Traded? On his day off no less. The team barely makes it as a wildcard, with the taste of the champagne barely fading from their pallets before they are defeated in a hard fought game against the Kansas City Royals. (Do you sense the pattern here?)
2015: my prediction is that this team is going to be gutted. Just this morning, it was announced that Assistant Coach Chip Hale has taken the head coaching job with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Additionally, of the 40-man roster of 2014, 35 players are signed until the end 2014. 35 players. That’s 87.5% of the team. Folks argued that, “well, Cespedes was gonna be a free-agent in 2015 and he would have wanted a ton of money. So we needed to get rid of him now.” Does anyone think that players Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick, and Sonny Gray will be requesting a big pay day, take a meager salary from the shoe-string budget payroll, or will they walk? Or what about those fan-favorites? The guys whose unassuming true-grit made a huge difference in those close games – players like Stephen Vogt, Jesse Chavez, Eric Sogard, and Jed Lowrie. Will they stay or will they go?
I am not excited to see what Billy Beane plans on doing come the close of the 2014 World Series. If the Cespedes trade is any indication of his thinking, perhaps the 2015 season is destined to be a repeat of the 1991 Oakland A’s. I know, I know – I’m pretty sure that other A’s fans will get on me for doubting Beane’s decisions. Trust Billy, right? Hmm, I guess the same folks are huge fans of Lew Wolff, his comments, and decisions. *crickets chirping*
I guess for me, as a fan, you can support the team through thick and thin, but you do not have to agree with nor support each and every action and decision the organization makes. As an Oaklander, and a fan of all three of our Oakland teams, I cannot help but help but look at the bigger picture, and project what these constant poor decisions mean. Poor decisions lead to poor products, that eventually become unwanted – hence a lot easier for these teams to leave, as a result of elements like fan fatigue and poor political decisions. Think about it. All three teams – the Oakland Athletics, the Oakland Raiders, and the Golden State Warriors – constantly talk about leaving the city of Oakland. With all three potentially leaving, what does that do to the city’s economy? I guess considering sports like baseball, football, and basketball are businesses, those aspects don’t matter much.
But as a fan of everything Oakland, I will continue on this ride. And when I say that it’s hard being an Oakland fan (A’s, Raiders, and Warriors), trust me when I say it. Even though I may be highly critical of their decisions and actions, at least I’m loyal. Tired, but loyal.