Outgoing interim assistant editor or whatever he is Jason Wojciechowski is an A's fan who will be at tonight's Dodgers game. You can ask him about either, or the infinite other topics the world has provided us.
Jason Wojciechowski: Hello. I am here for something like an hour to talk about the things that interest you as well as the things that interest me.
The Dude (Couch): When's the BP Annual drop? Have you taken Ben Lindbergh's place as resident BP bow-tie model?
Jason Wojciechowski: BP 2K15 should hit the shelves around the same time as last year, early-mid-February. The Amazon link right now says February 10th, which seems about right to me. Also, look at that awesome green on the cover. Preorder now! We guarantee at least 500 jokes.
As to the bow ties, frankly, it was a little insulting all along that Ben got asked to model and I didn't. I mean, yes, he's more handsome than me, he's a better writer and analyst than me, he's been on TV and radio more than me, he's a better podcaster than me, and people actually know who he is, but dang it, if there's one thing I'm good at, it's wearing bow ties.
Paul (Ohio): Will you root for Addison Russell to become a star because he and you used to be tight, or will you root for him to fail so you feel better about the trade? I'll assume you said the second and go ahead and call you a monster and a illogical psychopath.
Jason Wojciechowski: I actually feel relatively indifferent toward Addison Russell now. I'll root for a lot of players who get traded from the A's on the basic ground of familiarity, but I never really formed an emotional bond with Russell. It didn't take very long for me to start thinking of him as yet another Cubs prospect, and I, outside of general feelings of empathetic sadness when players are themselves sad, don't really care whether Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara and Kris Bryant succeed or fail. In my heart, Russell joined that group pretty quickly.
William (Boston): Does Billy Beane's long tenure make him more or less essential to the A's?
Jason Wojciechowski: This question was submitted quite early (thank you, William!) so I've been trying to wrap my head around it for a while. I think it has layers and I'm afraid my answer is going to be superficial, but I'll try.
On the one hand, a byproduct of Beane's longevity (and his Moneyball fame) is that he is the A's in a way that many general managers are not their teams. He's also a part owner of the team. A very small part, but it's something that enmeshes him more than someone who's a "mere" employee might be enmeshed.
On the other hand, I'm not sure whether Beane's level of essential ... essentialness? has changed in 15 years. He's still smart, creative, apparently fosters loyalty (David Forst turning down opportunities to leave), but is he more (or less) those things now than he was in 2002? And if he is, is it because he's better (or worse) at his job now or is there something inherent in his length of tenure?
One wonders, actually, whether Beane has been with the A's so long now and been identified as the A's for so long now that the team is essential to him. Could he really just up and roll out to Boston the way he almost did over a decade ago? Would the distraction of the move be worth it? Beane might be with the A's until he's out of baseball at this point.
Shawnykid23 (CT): Congrats on your new job!
Jason Wojciechowski: Thanks!
Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Jason, This may not mean much, but with the change in affiliation of Sacramento from Oakland to SF, the A's have decreased their organizational presence in Northern California while the Giants have increased theirs. Do you think that signals a possible future move from the area given the roadblocks to moving to San Jose?
Jason Wojciechowski: I don't, oddly enough I guess?, follow these types of issues nearly as much or as well as, say, Wendy Thurm or newballpark.org. From what I read, though, Sacramento desiring to swap to the Giants was really just about Sacramento desiring to swap to the Giants and we shouldn't take a lot of larger meaning from it.
And the comments I've read from Lew Wolff in the last few months give me some hope that in the next 10-15 years, everyone will come together on a new ballpark in Oakland. I'm not a "stAy" person, and I've never lived close enough to the team to go to the games, but I still think it would be neat for them to be in Oakland.
Colin (WI): Why does God hate the Athletics? Is this payback for the Bash Brothers/ terrible uniforms in the 70s? Also, does San Jose really want another franchise that can't get it done in the playoffs?
Jason Wojciechowski: The best answer I've got on this is that the A's unleashed Tony La Russa on the world and are paying the price for it ever since. I think this is plausible. I know he started with the White Sox as a manager, but his rise to prominence was with the Bash Brothers A's. Plus the Kansas City A's signed him as a player and it seems unlikely he's ever a big-league manager if he hadn't played pro ball first.
Also, the '70s uniforms were amazing, you hush.
I'm guessing the San Jose reference is to the Sharks in the stickpuck league, which I can't really competently speak to. I hear they have a guy who isn't the captain anymore? I really live in my baseball bubble a lot. Like a lot a lot.
brewdrown (Chicago): I know minor league stats aren't everything, but Albert Almora didn't have the impressive numbers last season that other Cubs prospects did. Is his stock dropping at all or is he just as valuable an asset as he was heading into 2014?
Jason Wojciechowski: I'm going to answer this because I feel bad ignoring a question even when I don't know the answer, but I'm going to say: I don't know. I wish I did know, but my information would all be second- and third-hand and I'd probably bollocks something up in trying to translate what I've heard into my own words.
Jordan Gorosh is scheduled for a chat next Thursday and I think these prospect questions would be perfect for him.
Sharon (East Texas): In one of the articles I read about the mlb.tv blackouts lawsuits, it said that baseball would avoid going to court because it didn't want to risk any decision overturning the legality of its antitrust exemption. How flimsily is that exemption held up? If a judge ruled any part of it illegal (in a specific case like this) would the whole thing fall apart or can it be ruled legal or illegal in certain situations without affecting other ones?
Jason Wojciechowski: It's incredibly flimsy. The law runs on precedent, which sometimes means blind adherence to decisions that came before even when everyone knows they were wrong because the Supreme Court hasn't actually spoken up yet. There are good reasons for it to be this way, but sometimes it has a result like this. The factual ground of the judicially created antitrust exemption, which was shaky in the first place, is nonexistent now. I highly recommend Stuart Banner's book on the antitrust exemption.
(The one somewhat major counterargument in favor of the exemption is noted in footnote 4 of my article here, which is a not-implausible reading of the Curt Flood Act as implicitly putting Congress' stamp of approval on the exemption as applied to business activities. I'm not sure I buy it, but it's out there.)
I don't think there would be any way to uphold what remains of the exemption for some business activities but not others, e.g. baseball can negotiate blackout-laden TV deals because of its exemption but it cannot prevent teams from moving to other cities because that part of the exemption falls. I think it's a unified whole.
Jim (St Paul): I'm reading a lot of comments that the Cespedes/Lester trade was a bad deal for Oakland. But I still think the Russell/Samardzija trade is the one that will haunt them. Your thoughts?
Jason Wojciechowski: A superficial (but still emotionally compelling) answer is: Lester pitched in a playoff game. There's a decent chance Samardzija never will, either because he's traded this offseason or because the A's don't quite have enough next year, sans a middle infield, a left fielder, a catcher who can be counted on defensively, a center fielder who can play even close to every day, etc. etc. etc. etc.
But more importantly, in the wake of the Cespedes/Lester trade, it became clear that Cespedes wasn't going to be in Oakland in 2015 no matter what. The question was what they could get back for him in the offseason vs. midyear 2014, and while the classic trade would have been to get prospects back for him, it's hardly unforgivable to instead take a two-month maybe-ace and add him to what was looking at the time like a real shot at a World Series trophy.
I'd hope it goes unsaid that all the bunk about how the Cespedes trade killed the A's offense is bunk. John Jaso's concussion and Brandon Moss' hip and Coco Crisp's neck and Stephen Vogt's foot, along with that unfortunate few weeks where both Jed Lowrie and Nick Punto were hurt at the same time all have a lot more to do with the A's regression in run-scoring than the mystical Cespedes and his magical protection abilities.
That said, if Jeff Samardzija pitches 2015 for the A's and pitches it as well as he did in 2014 for the A's (that 8:1 K:BB ratio is incredible) and Oakland gets back to the playoffs again despite looking for all the world like 2014 was the last gasp, then even that trade won't look quite so bad.
Shawnykid23 (CT): Where do you think the A's go from here? Give it 1 more shot, or look to quasi re-build by getting rid of Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, etc?
Jason Wojciechowski: Everybody is bad at predicting what Billy Beane is going to do in a given offseason. We're all horrible at it. I bet even David Forst and Farhan Zaidi have running bets between them about what's going to happen at work that day, and they're even.
So on the one hand, the A's have some serious holes and no obvious ways to fill them because their usual method ("trade all the prospects!" (by "usual," I mean "the last two years" and I'm assuming Beane won't zag just yet, which of course means he will)) is exhausted. On the other hand, the team signed Coco Crisp through at least 2016 (vesting option in '17), and why get the jump on that rather than wait-and-see if you don't intend to take your shots?
So I don't know, but my working assumption is that the A's aren't going to be selling, though I admit some intellectual curiosity regarding how much they could get back for Josh Donaldson, a player with three years of team control left, but no long-term deal signed, a late bloomer (next year is his age-29 season) and so his best years aren't ahead of him, an MVP candidate for two straight years now with a good offense+defense profile. I love rooting for him, so emotionally I don't want him to go anywhere, but if I were a fan of any other team, I'd want to see a trade just for the "what does that prospect package look like?" question.
WIll (Times Square): Trout was 0 for 4 last night. Will he ever recover?
Jason Wojciechowski: He's through. It's over for him. I found a picture of Mike Trout:
HE'S NEVER COMING BACK FROM THIS.
Shauncore (MO): Pronounce your last name correctly please
Jason Wojciechowski: Wellllll. So here's the thing. My name isn't actually super uncommon, even in the U.S., and there's a way that most Americans with the name pronounce it that isn't the way I pronounce it because I've asked a couple of Polish people how they'd say it and then I try to replicate that. But the thing is I'm almost certainly butchering the way they say it because I just don't have that set of sounds in my mouth. So it's sorta more or less
voy ch KOF skee
The O in "KOF" is sorta halfway between long and short. I told you this wasn't easy.
Tommy (Fargo, ND): Will Gray take it to the next level next year, or will he continue being inconsistent?
Jason Wojciechowski: I don't have the fine-tuned scouting eye to confidently talk about why Gray had the rough time he did in a couple of stretches this year. The easy answer is "He's small, he's always going to be small, so he's always going to be at risk of running out of gas down the stretch." The problem with that easy answer is his 5.50 ERA from May 27th through June 28th.
There are also arguments about his inexperience -- he only had one full year in the minor leagues is one thing we could say, so he's still learning a lot of things and has his best years ahead of him, including his more consistent years. On the other hand, he's not 19 -- he pitched three years at a big-time college program.
In the end, while he had some stinkers, he threw 219 innings with a 120 ERA+ and peripherals that don't make you suspicious that it's all a fluke, so, health permitting, and assuming nobody's expecting a True Ace, I think the A's would take that every year through 2019.
JP (TX): Adison Russell, Yoenis Cespedes.
I guess this isn't really a question but whatever.
Jason Wojciechowski: I agree.
Jason Wojciechowski: Thanks for chatting! The cats are giving me serious guff about not having eaten yet, so I'm going to address that problem.