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Let’s take this step-by-step:

  1. 2007-2008 winter: Billy dumps Nick Swisher and Dan Haren for prospects, and publicly acknowledges that the A’s are rebuilding: “Our status quo going into next season was mediocrity at best,
    that’s my opinion. The cost of indecision for us was probably a bigger

    “We don’t want to sit around and pretend. We knew the day was
    coming we were going to start over. If you do it when everyone thinks
    you should, you’ve waited for too long.”

  2. July 2008: Proving that he wasn’t kidding around, Billy trades Rich Harden and Joe Blanton, even with the A’s just a handful of games out of first place.
  3. Winter 2008-2009: Billy acquires Matt Holliday; head-scratching ensues. The A’s also sign Jason Giambi and just miss out on Rafael Furcal, signaling that the rebuilding is officially over.

So what’s going on here? After one season (and one draft), Billy is done with his rebuilding process? After talking about having to “start over,”and doing it the right way? That doesn’t seem right.

But here’s the thing: the financial meltdown in September changed everything. The economics of losing are now very different. It’s a lot harder to be bad now than it was two years ago; attendance could completely fall off the table.

But last time around, I used the Pirates as the example, and said that they were still better off losing in 2009. After all, the investment they would have to make in order to become at least an 85-90 win team would be much higher than whatever the downside risks were.

But the A’s are in a much different position. In BP’s third-order standings, the A’s were just seven games off of the Angels, whereas the Pirates were thirty-three games behind the Cubs. Considering that A’s barely tried to field a team last year, and the Angels were losing significant talent off of their ‘08 roster, Billy probably realized he could have a shot at winning the division. Given the potential downside of fielding a 65-70 win team, it was worth it for the A’s to take a chance.

They would still have to add some talent, but the economy actually helped here too. With the market down, free agents would actually come cheaper. Wheras Jason Giambi may have been out of their price range in a better economic atmosphere, he actually fit in nicely with the market slumping.

Is this what happened? Who knows, but it makes a lot of sense, and it wouldn’t have been that hard to see back in October and November.

And on a related note, PECOTA has the A’s winning the AL West. Color me unsurprised.

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

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  1. on February 11th at 12:34 pm
    Andrew said:

    Regarding the A’s at 40-1: They’re now at 55:1. Go figure.

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