A’s Continue Sorry History As Yankee Feeder Team (Special from the IBWAA)
By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in August 2022.
It’s been going on for so long that it’s a wonder no Commissioner has stopped it.
For more than half-a-century, in both Kansas City and Oakland, the Athletics have scouted, drafted, signed, and trained good players and then “rewarded” them with trades to the New York Yankees.
Needless to say, such a system made the Yanks richer and A’s poorer but that’s baseball.
The latest deal made Yankees of Frankie Montas, a front-line starter, and fellow right-hander Lou Trivino, who has a live arm, and left Oakland with a soggy tunafish sandwich even Oscar Madison wouldn’t touch.
The list of similar transgressions is long and sad.
Remember Roger Maris? He not only went from the A’s to the Yankees but promptly won consecutive MVP awards.
A year later, the A’s sent Bud Daley, their best pitcher, to the Bronx.
Hector Lopez, an outfielder-third baseman who was bad defensively at both positions, also rode the shuttle from Kansas City to New York.
Years later, the A’s sent Sonny Gray, a solid starting pitcher, to the Yankees.
By then, future Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and Rickey Henderson had played for both clubs.
The whole thing started when Arnold Johnson bought the struggling Philadelphia A’s and in 1954 moved them to Kansas City, a smaller market but one he didn’t have to share with another major-league team.
Johnson had actually owned part of the Yankees during the pre-Steinbrenner years but he sold his share in order to acquire his own team.
Before Maris was even in the picture, the A’s had established a player pipeline that led directly from Missouri to New York. Such future Yankee World Series heroes as Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, Enos Slaughter, and Clete Boyer suddenly became Yankees. Never mind that the compact Shantz had won 24 games and the American League MVP award for the A’s in 1952.
The deals left the A’s bereft of decent talent. While they were finishing last every year, the Yankees were using the former A’s to win five flags in six years (without playoffs).
Henderson, en route to single-season and career records for stolen bases, went from the A’s to the Yanks in a seven-man swap late in 1984, then went back to Oakland for three years five years later — after Rickey had worn out his welcome in the Bronx. He later stole his 939th base, passing Lou Brock for first place on the lifetime list, against the Yankees. That happened on May 1, 1991.
Even when Charlie Finley was dominating the American League West and winning three straight world championships in Oakland, the shuttle slowed only slightly. He was outspoken about not trading with the Yankees but tried to copy their short right-field fence and borrowed other ideas as well.
Reggie Jackson, who escaped Finley via free agency, was World Series MVP for the A’s in 1973 and for the Yankees four years later. In between, he made a pit stop in Baltimore (after Finley refused to trade him to New York).
The Montas trade is just the latest slap in the face for long-suffering fans of the Athletics. The team ranks 29th in payroll, topping only the Baltimore Orioles, at $45,320,555. Gone from last year are such productive players as Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, and now Montas and Trivino.
Sweetening the deal, from the New York perspective, Montas is under team control through next season and Trivino is under team control through 2024.
The Yankees, seeking their first world championship since 2009, jumped off to a great start this year and entered play Friday with a 70-36 mark, good for a 10 1/2 game bulge over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.
And Oakland? Don’t ask. They’re 41-66, 28 games behind Houston in the AL West, and 16 game removed from the wild-card race — even with playoffs expanded to 12 teams.
Maybe the A’s will move to Las Vegas, reap some of that casino gold, and rebuild to what they once were. But it won’t happen if they continue to send their best to New York — especially with woefully insufficient return.
Their green-and-gold uniforms explain what’s going on:
It seems obvious that the green in their uniforms represents the money the Yankees continue to rake in as the chief beneficiary of Oakland’s largesse. And the gold symbolizes the pot the Yanks will find at the end of the rainbow if they realize their championship dreams.
Maybe the A’s should go back to the red-and-blue scheme they used to wear.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and Sports Collectors Digest.