David Steele: Miggi Must Stay
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Message to A's: Miggy must stay
David Steele, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, November 13, 2002
FOR THE second time in three years, baseball's best players call our humble metropolitan area home. Two years ago, Jeff Kent and Jason Giambi, and this season, Barry Bonds and Miguel Tejada. Two from Oakland, where the clubhouse doubled as an amusement park, and two from San Francisco, home of baseball's own little Berlin Wall.
Who would have guessed that the A's pair would have been the one split before its time? And what odds could you have gotten that neither A's MVP would be around for a champagne bath?
That's the illogical but not impossible scenario the A's face if Tejada's offseason, and upcoming season, follows the path of the past MVPs. Bonds and Kent literally couldn't be kept off each other's throats this past season, yet they remained teammates long enough to get to a World Series together. Giambi, meanwhile, bolted in search of the riches and rings he was sure lay elsewhere. He was right on only one count.
Now, as if the A's don't have enough on their minds this autumn, as if enough critical members of the organization haven't either tested or broken the ties that bind them here, they have to figure out how to keep Tejada, entering the final year of his contract, from skipping out the same door through which Giambi exited.
Here's a hint: Huge piles of money make excellent doorstops. It can be (and has been) argued that it wouldn't have worked with Giambi. To an extent, it will work with Tejada. As he accepted congratulations for his latest honor, Tejada didn't mince words about his desire to stake his long-term future with the A's.
"I don't think they want to make the same decision they made with Jason," he said. Cue the ominous music.
Of course Steve Schott, Billy Beane and Co. are listening. They had to have known this before Tejada even said it. They gambled big on the Giambi negotiations, lost, yet still won. Thinking they possibly could win a similar gamble with Tejada would be, in itself, an even bigger gamble.
Tejada, naturally, observed all the Giambi machinations. Several teammates watched along with him, and now they will watch what happens with Tejada. Just as what Tejada saw will help guide him now, what Eric Chavez and the Big Three pitchers see now will guide them in a few years.
They'll all be watching to see if the A's creep closer to the Yankees -- albeit without the payroll and revenue -- or to the Twins or Marlins or, God forbid, the Expos, producing stars to stock other contenders' rosters in perpetuity while living a wretched existence themselves.
The question is, then, how valuable to the A's is this latest AL Most Valuable Player? By the way, not that anyone asked, but good choice by the baseball writers. Not the one I would have made, because unless Alex Rodriguez alone faced 12-year-old pitchers throwing underhanded every night, 57 homers and 142 RBIs are valuable enough to offset the last-place finish and the envy over his contract. Still, watching what Tejada did day in and day out for the A's this season, it would have been a crime to deny him this prize.
It would be as much of a crime to force Tejada to make the A-Rod choice: wins or money. The A's very well might be able to withstand his departure the way it withstood Giambi's. They've got depth at every position a baseball organization has: team leaders, No. 3 hitters, MVPs, staff aces, farm help, managers, general managers, probably even toddler batboys if the need arose for them.
So yes, they'd find a way to thrive without Tejada on the field. But in the eyes and minds of the players around whom they've built their future the past five years, they could crumble. They should crumble. They'd send a bad message.
They'd set a horrible precedent. They'd take on a very unpleasant reputation. And they'd deserve it.
The stadium situation is largely out of their hands, and they've got fences to mend among still-bitter fans who won't stand to see another MVP leave town and who are near full-rebellion mode against Schott on other issues. Even Beane must know that players can't be expected to turn down the sort of cheddah Beane turned down in Boston.
The latest playoff flop notwithstanding, the A's have as wide a window right now as any team in baseball, yet it's that close to slamming on their fingers in a blink of an eye if things go wrong with Tejada.
Tuesday's vote results reaffirmed the meaning of "valuable." Now the A's are on deck to offer Tejada their own definition.
E-mail David Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org.
| By kbailey3131 on Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 10:03 am:|
Thank you David Steele.
| By dorrit on Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 10:20 am:|
Especially after winning the MVP, the A's management better sign him in order to attract fans to the ballpark.
| By deajay on Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 10:26 am:|
I have read but only a couple paragraphs this a.m., (no time), but Bob Padecky, www.pressdemocrat.com (go to sports columnists), has a similar column, it appears. Sorry for no url, but I'm out of here for awhile with app't.
| By eyleenn on Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 11:23 pm:|
From the Merc: