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This trade can be a winner for Oakland, even if they don’t win it all.

Jul 31, 2014, 11:12 AM EDT

I’ve seen a lot of people noting that the Athletics getting Jon Lester is specifically designed to — or definitely will — help the A’s win the World Series. To overcome the shortfalls they’ve had in the past couple of postseasons when the Tigers’ rotation outclassed the A’s. To give the A’s the kind of ace that wins tight playoff games.

This is true. Lester will definitely help in this regard. But as we all know — and as Billy Beane himself once famously said — the playoffs can be a crapshoot. The Phillies didn’t win a World Series with Roy Halladay, the Braves only won one with two Hall of Fame pitchers and one who will likely make it. Stuff happens and even if Lester goes all Doyle Alexander in 1987, it doesn’t guarantee the A’s anything. If you doubt that, just go as Doyle Alexander and the 1987 Tigers to show you the World Series trophy they won. I’ll wait.

But even if the A’s fall short of the champagne, this deal can still be a success for them. Because, looking at the standings today, I see a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim team a mere 2.5 games behind Oakland with a lot of baseball yet to be played. The World Series is no guarantee. Heck, the division isn’t either.

The A’s clearly don’t want to be a wild card team. No one does, given that it puts you in a one-game playoff. That’s especially important given that the one-game playoff could be against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. Or a team that, somehow, picks up a David Price. The playoffs as a whole may be a crapshoot, but the wild card game itself is even a crappier shoot.

So Lester is not just for October. He’s for August and September too. And the trade can be considered a success for them, even if crap happens in the playoffs.

  1. senotonom205 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I guess I just don’t see how you could still consider this a win for the A’s if it results in another ALDS exit. They gave up a starting OF and a Compensatory pick for a guy they can’t afford to resign in the off season. How is it possibly a successful trade if they are bounced in the playoffs again?

    • unclemosesgreen - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      As a smart Strat-o-matic guy in this space likes to say – 20’s happen. In other words – you can do everything possible to swing the odds in your favor and still get beat in the playoffs.

      You can’t judge a trade by playoff wins or losses. That is the worst kind of ex post facto reasoning. It’s mentally lazy, illogical, and unfair.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        In other words – you can do everything possible to swing the odds in your favor and still get beat in the playoffs.

        Like hitting a double into the RF corner, the RF overthrows the cut-off man, and the guy on 1b should have scored but decided, inexplicably, not to slide…

        The amount of times the A’s have gone out in the deciding game is bordering absurdity.

      • senotonom205 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        How do you figure. How is this possibly successful for the A’s if they lose in the ALDS? No one is blaming the A’s for making the trade, but it doesn’t change the fact that they will lose this trade if they do not win. You are really defensive for no reason today, it’s not lazy, it’s not illogical or unfair and it is most certainly not ex post facto resoning, when we are setting the parameters today. It’s simple, the A’s win the whole thing, the gamble was totally worth it, if they don’t it’s not. I think it’s awesome they made this trade, but i’m not going to pretend a good regular season record is a success for a 3 month rental.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        In other words, “Great trade until the A’s lose in the playoffs again, and then, pay no attention to that.”

        I hope you only have two sides of a mouth out of which to speak.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        There’s something adorable about how game you are despite being totally overmatched. Sad and delusional, but also adorable.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        You’re like the tea party-wingnut types. They’re like shooting fish in a barrel who, like the dead salmon that still lights up an MRI, refuse to admit they’re dead. Ditto on you.

    • sportsfan18 - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      @ senotonom

      Nothing is known ahead of time. Billy is TRYING. He knows he has a very good team and even with having a very good team, he is not standing pat.

      There are NO guarantees. Many teams try and don’t succeed. This isn’t a terrible risk or gamble.

      If you’re only way to judge it is whether they don’t go out in the ALDS, that is short sighted.

      Does THIS move improve their chances at moving beyond the ALDS? Yes it does.

      It does NOT guarantee that they’ll get beyond the ALDS though.

      No move guarantees that.

      All the front office may do is put together a good to great team and then it’s on the coaches and the players to do their part.

      I think their chances are better with Lester than without. That’s why it’s a win.

      NO move would bring them a guarantee.

      • senotonom205 - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        I’m going to try really hard not to sound like im attacking you, but did you even read any of the things I posted. I completely agree there are no guarantees, all I am saying is that this is an all in move. Beane pushed all of his chips to the middle, and if it doesn’t work out in the end, the trade is not a successful trade for the team. In no way do I blame him for doing it and I actually applaud it, but if they flame out in the playoffs like they have done in the past few seasons, then yes this trade was not successful because they gave up a player for 3 months of nothing.

  2. barrywhererufrom - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    The A’s traded one of their best hitters for a rental. The A’s were making the playoffs without lester. They are all in and if they don’t win it all and Lester walks the genius Billy Beane will come out looking like a fool.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      With a 2.5 game lead, and 50 games left on the schedule, they have not sewn up anything. As the article states, getting a wild card spot is nowhere near the brass ring that winning a division is.

      Of course, only one team ends their season happily, and the A’s have as good of a shot as anyone to be that team. But saying “World Series or Failure” is kind of a miserable fandom.

      • nbjays - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        “But saying “World Series or Failure” is kind of a miserable fandom.”

        Haven’t Yankee fans been riding that “World Series or Failure” donkey for decades now?

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 31, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        How many happy Yankees fans do you know?

      • nbjays - Jul 31, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        Good point, Sabathia. So shall we just assume that Yankees fans are not happy unless they are not happy?

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 31, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        Let’s put it this way: with the perpetual expectation that the Yankees are World Series champs or failures, most seasons feel like failures, thus leaving the fans feeling miserable. When they DO win the world series, it tends to be more of a smug satisfaction of accomplishing the missions, instead of pure joy. WS or bust is a bit of a lose/lose mentality.

    • unclemosesgreen - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      Most of the people who hate on Beane (and President Obama for that matter) just hate intelligent and successful people. From your user name to the low quality of your comments, you fit this mold perfectly.

      • senotonom205 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        NO ONE IS HATING ON BILLY BEANE. Sorry, I don’t think you are getting the point so I figured caps may work this time. He went all in, and if it doesn’t work out, it was a failed gamble. His legacy is not going to hang on this trade at all so stop making this argument that if you think the A’s lost this trade, it means that Billy Beane is a terrible GM. No one is saying that.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        barrywhereufrom, to whom this comment was addressed – is certainly hating all over Beane. He despises success which comes from superior intellect and performance.

        Your “analysis” is lazy and unfair. Even though you “set the bar” now, you set it at a lazy and unfair height. That is the very definition of ex post facto analysis, even if you say it ahead of time.

        Saying “it’s only a good trade if x happens,” when “x” is subject to so many variables outside of anyone’s control, that’s lazy and just plain bad analysis. Totally useless.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        Then why do they hate you, seeing as neither excuse prevails?

      • senotonom205 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        I guess you just can’t argue with fans.

      • barrywhererufrom - Jul 31, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        You my friend are a special kind of jackass..Billy Beane is a great GM. My point was that if traded for a rental and you pay a heavy price for it you are all for a championship. Remember you the A’s mortgaged their future in trading for Smarjadza. Finally the POTUS is a complete failure I am not alone in that observation. That really has nothing to do with the A’s and since you brought him up you received the bonus reply!!

      • unclemosesgreen - Jul 31, 2014 at 3:26 PM

        I didn’t bring him up. Your stupid username brought him up. Your sad, constant regurgitation of Faux News is fun to rip. Still waiting for the impeachment …. waiting …

    • Wesley Clark - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      According to Fangraphs, Cespedes has it stipulated in his contract that he was to be non-tendered,if he isn’t extended. That seems to be pretty key as it would have resulted in Cespedes leaving without any compensation at the end of 2015. The A’s traded from a strength, offense, to build a pitching staff for the post-season. I like the fact that they went all in this year. You don’t contend like this every year, and they want to win the division and avoid the wild card.

      PS – Barry Bonds was born in Riverside, CA. Hope that helps.

      • jfk69 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        Billy is no fool. Just got a serviceable Fuld back to cover the outfield in case those nagging injuries become worse.

    • bisonaudit - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      They only would have had Cespedes for another year max anyway. The rental angle is over played.

    • sportsfan18 - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      @ barry

      one of their best hitters…

      let’s check on this. only looking at stats from players with 150 or more at bats this season so there are no guys here with say 41 at bats mucking up the numbers.

      Cespedes is 10th in on base percentage on the A’s this season

      Cespedes is 6th in Slugging percentage on the A’s this season

      Cespedes is 7th in batting average on the A’s this season

      Cespedes is 8th in OPS on the A’s this season

      A lineup, in the A.L., has 9 hitters due to the DH.

      Cespedes is 6th in offensive WAR on the team and he has 399 at bats.

      Vogt only has 151 at bats and his offensive WAR is 1.7 to the 1.9 of Cespedes.

      If Vogt had had say 50 to 75 more at bats, he’d still have way fewer at bats than Cespedes but he’d have a higher offensive WAR.

      Based on OPS and offensive WAR among other things, Cespedes is only producing as their 6th best hitter or so this season.

      6th out of 13 or 14 non pitchers isn’t one of the teams best hitters and 6th or so isn’t one of a teams best hitters in their 9 man lineup.

      • barrywhererufrom - Jul 31, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        Cespedes is not a big loss for the A’s. This will play out over the end of the regular and postseason. Actually who do they have to replace his presence and production in their lineup?

  3. hojo20 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    It’s great to see the small market teams going for it.

  4. steelhammer92 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    It just has to be a bit worrisome for the A’s, since they traded the guy who was their best hitter the past couple playoffs, followed by Crisp… Now, he’s gone, and Crisp has a lingering neck injury. The other guys are going to have to step up. Losing games 1-0, 2-1, etc to Detroit is still a real possibility the way the lineup looks now. Guys on offense are going to have to step up, that’s what killed them the past two years.

    • jfk69 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      See Fuld trade today. Beane with a 50 to 75 million dollar payroll has the A’s in the post season nearly every year. And nearly every year he is rebuilding or retooling. This year he sees his shot and is going for it. Ask the Nationals how that worked out for them when they tried to protect Strasberg’s arm. The goal is WIN IT ALL

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        That trade is replacement-level semi-crap for replacement-level semi-crap, different positions. Nothing more.

  5. Jack Marshall - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    It’s a good trade for the A’s. It’s an amazing trade for the Red Sox. Worst case, it makes the team better 4 games out of 5. A deadline dump of a player certain to walk after the season that improves the team on the field immediately—how often do you see that? I don’t know if I ever have.

    Lester is over-hyped, and whoever signs him—NOT Boston— will over-pay and take a huge risk. He’s won as many as 19 games once, with a great offensive team behind him most of the time. He was lousy when the Sox desperately needed him to step up at the end of 2011; he was terrible for no good reason in 2012. He was mediocre for an ace last year until the play-offs. And his post-season rep contains a bit of amnesia: he had a three game post-season losing streak going into last year, including Game 7 of the ALCS in 2008 against Tampa Bay. That’s a 20 million dollar a year pitcher? Ridiculous. The odds on a big Lester contract being a repeat of the Beckett fiasco are good…and Beckett had a better track record than Lester. Yup, he’s run off a great two months for a team going nowhere. I could see him leading the A’s to the Series.

    But it’s already a great trade for the Red Sox.

    • sportsfan18 - Jul 31, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      It all depends on the dollars someone signs Lester for.

      You say he’s never won more than 19 games in his career.

      a lot goes into that you know.

      his career winning percentage is a very good .636%

      That places him with the 41st HIGHEST winning percentage as a pitcher in the entire history of the game..

      That’s higher than Justin Verlander’s career winning % and Justin has 1 20 game season.

      That’s higher than Andy Pettitte’s career winning % and Andy was helped by being on some very good Yankee’s teams. Shouldn’t Andy have won a higher percentage of his games on those Yanks teams than Lester did on the Red Sox?

      So he’s doing his part and then some. His winning % is higher than the teams he’s played on

  6. natstowngreg - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Of course, it’s about getting into the playoffs, then getting through the playoffs.

    IMHO, Beane’s legacy is secure, as someone who can assemble winning teams without resources is secure. However, at some point, you have to stop saying it’s a crapshoot because your team failed in the playoffs again. It only takes one season. Look at the Braves’ legacy. All those wins, all those playoff appearances, all those playoff failures. But it all clicked in one season, and the Braves had their championship. Were I a Braves fan (Heaven forbid), I’d be content having seen my team win that one championship.

    I give Beane credit for taking the risk. And will do so, even if the risk fails.

    • senotonom205 - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:00 PM

      Thank you. This is the most intelligent comment here. This trade is not about the GMs or the teams. The A’s are taking a risk (that they absolutely should take) and it might work out and it might not. Good on them and good on Beane for doing it. Trust me if Dombrowski traded the world for David Price today, I would be all about it, even though I am sure we would be mortgaging the future for a year and a half.

  7. irishlad19 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Red Sox fan here.
    Not mentioned is Lester’s superior performance in two post season WS seasons.
    Beane is picking up a proven post-season winning pitcher to avoid the A’s problems of the past in the playoffs.

    • Jack Marshall - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      2008? 2009? Sure, anyone looks good if you ignore the bad stuff. Before last season, Lester was a so-so post season pitcher. After this season, he may look so-so again.

  8. jfk69 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    Why would anybody expect Lester to say anything different like..No I won’t come back. yep I really want to keep it simple. Only three bids allowed for my services.

  9. hunnymoney - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    At the end of the day this trade is a high-risk potential disaster for the Oakland A’s. When Lester goes back to Boston after the season, or even if he doesn’t, this trade becomes Jonny Gomes and a compensatory pick for Yoenis Cespedes. I like Jonny Gomes; he brings an attitude and some toughness. However his production can’t even hold a candle to what Cespedes can produce and likely will now that he’s in a more hitter-friendly ballpark. Any way you slice it, this trade only works for the A’s if they win the World Series. Short of that it is a fail; they gave up an exciting young player for a pitcher they can’t afford to resign and an outfielder that brings little in the way of actual production to a ballpark where it is much harder to produce as it is now. Beane’s been known to be a bit of a riverboat gambler but this move is all-in or bust. Hard to argue with his track record but this one leaves me scratching my head…

  10. lazlosother - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Good trade for the A’s. Whether they win it all or not. No one can guarentee a WS title. If that were the only measure of whether or not a trade was good, no one would ever make a trade. The A’s have won the AL west two years in a row and lost to the Tigers in the playoffs two years in a row, due to Detroit’s superior rotation.

    What Beane has done is maximize Oakland’s chances this year. Atheletes age quickly and no one knows how long the A’s can compete for a title, especially with the financial constrictions they have. Lester and the other trades maximize their chances to win now and this is a team that should be in win now mode.

  11. moogro - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Can you please not have your videos not auto-start and auto-play the next video? Or at least note when there is a video embedded in a link so that opening multiple tabs doesn’t inundate you with all these videos playing. This is very lame and not user-friendly web design.

  12. tmohr - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    I don’t follow the A’s at all, but who will take over in left for Cespides? Sam Fuld isn’t exactly Bucketfoot Al Simmons with the bat.

    • tmohr - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:37 PM

      Nor is Gomes, for that matter.

  13. the8man - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    I’m still overwhelmed. I never, ever, ever saw the As in the mix for Lester. Good or bad trade, I’m still getting past the shock.

    On paper, they are now a juggernaut.

  14. Bob - Jul 31, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    I’m sorry, but any time you make the playoffs, it’s a success, even if it’s the wild-card game. There are only 10 teams that make it every year through a 162-game season, and even teams that look built to win in April can fail based on the randomness of injuries or bullpen performance. The playoffs are a crapshoot so it’s an accomplishment just to get that far.

  15. kingkershaw - Jul 31, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Cause remember, next year will be so much easier if they win a wild card game this year… No wait a minute…

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