The New York Post
By Ken Davidoff
Sept. 23, 2012
The infield the Yankees have deployed most often of late — Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez — will earn a touch more than $70 million this season. Substitute the injured Mark Teixeira for Swisher, and that number jumps to $83 million.
Which would be one-and-a-half entire Oakland A’s rosters.
As we have seen first-hand this weekend at Yankee Stadium, the underdog A’s have returned to baseball’s center stage, more than a decade after former Mets prospect Billy Beane first made his mark as the budget-challenged club’s general manager. They spent a few years in oblivion, but they’re back to scaring the daylights out of teams with considerably greater resources.
“We don’t have much choice,” Lew Woolf, the A’s owner, said Friday. “It’s real simple: The rule of thumb is, if you devote half your revenue to major league salary, you’ll break even or make a few dollars. We have never lost any money. We’re supported by revenue-sharing, which we prefer not to be. We have a pretty strict budget.
“I don’t really believe [Beane] would be happy winning the World Series and losing $30 million. I think he’d consider that not a success.”
Beane attained a peak of celebrity a year ago when the film “Moneyball,” the long awaited adaptation of the best-selling book by Michael Lewis, opened to critical raves and drew Brad Pitt an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the A’s GM. But the A’s were terrible, going 74-88 and marking a fifth straight campaign without a winning record.
They responded by trading valued starting pitchers Trevor Cahill (to Arizona) and Gio Gonzalez (to Washington), coming up with an opening day payroll of about $55 million, according to USA Today — sharing baseball’s bottom rung with the San Diego Padres — and aiming to be competitive for the opening of a new stadium in San Jose a few years from now.
That new ballpark still is in limbo, at the mercy of commissioner Bud Selig (a fraternity brother of Woolf’s at the University of Wisconsin) and the San Francisco Giants (who own the territorial rights to the San Jose area). Yet the revamped team has blossomed earlier than expected, thanks largely to the talent the A’s received in those two deals. Friday night’s starting pitcher Jarrod Parker and All-Star reliever Ryan Cook came from Arizona, while starting pitcher Tommy Milone and catcher Derek Norris came from Washington.
The A’s playoff games, should they come to fruition, will be played in arguably baseball’s worst ballpark. Woolf, who made his fortune in real estate and hotels, purchased the A’s in 2005 with the idea that he could use his true expertise to create more resources for the ballclub.
“I think everything that we and the Giants have been asked to submit has been submitted,” Woolf said. “If I would’ve studied this hard in college, I would’ve been as smart as [baseball commissioner Bud] Selig. We’re just waiting for an answer.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll get an answer. I’m not optimistic what the answer is.”
If he doesn’t get the answer he wants — approval to move — “Then we go to plan B,” he said.
And Plan B would be …
“We don’t have one,” Woolf said, smiling. “And I’m serious about it. If you notice, we never threaten to move to another city. It’s just not our way of doing things.”
Woolf came to New York this weekend to support his team. When he looks at the mint that is Yankee Stadium, he said he feels no envy. To the contrary, he draws inspiration.
“I look at the Yankees’ ballpark, the materials they used on it, as being exactly what they should have for the most prominent team in baseball,” Woolf said. “If the Rockefellers lived in a progressive home, we’d all live in progressive homes.
“Housing filters down. There’s a mansion here, [so we should have] a little subdivision house. We all filter down from the Yankees. It’s a monumental tribute to baseball.”
They may reside in baseball’s outskirts, yet those of us who remember those hard-fought Division Series of 2000 and 2001 know how much the A’s can disrupt the village. It’s good to see them raising hell once again.