How The Oakland Athletics Exposed MLB Teams In 2002
The 2002 Oakland Athletics did something that to this day no other team has done in the sports world as they took their salary of just a small payroll of $40,004,167 into a 100+ win team with several players who were considered unathletic when it comes to appearance or playing style, a bust or even washed up.
The 2002 Oakland Athletics were led by General Manager Billy Beane who did something called ‘Moneyball’ where the office of the A’s went after players to sign and trade for those that had a high on base percentage (OBP%) no matter what their batting average was (BA) or what position(s) they stood as. Many people including fans and media and almost all of the Oakland A’s front offices were asking questions as “Why would the team go for unathletic looking players?” “The team must want to lose with these little signings” and even “The players are too short to play” along with many other things that targeted how the players themselves play even if they were successful. The biggest question that was asked though that truly made people think was “Why?” The 2001 offseason featured many notable free agents but the A’s went for all underdog players to fill superstar spots on a team that just won 102-games.
Now overall that could be considered pure discriminations inside of the MLB as players still to this day will never get a fair chance like the ones on the ‘02 A’s due to the system that MLB teams ride on, now I’m not saying everything should be equal for everybody but the fact is so many players will never get a chance to this day due to a flaw or just not them looking the part along with other reasons that have nothing even do with their performance.
The Oakland Athletics were trying to replace star 1st Baseman Jason Giambi who won the AL MVP in 2000, Jason Isringhausen who posted a 2.65 ERA through 71.1 Innings Pitched (IPs) and Johnny Damon who also left via free agency and signed with the Boston Red Sox, he was the A’s star outfielder but had a batting average below .260 on the season. The A’s went into the 2001 offseason with very little money available for big signings, but had to stay competitive amongst the other teams but mainly the New York Yankees. If the Oakland Athletics played like the New York Yankees in the office, they would lose to the New York Yankees out on the field. The Yankees had a payroll of $125,928,583 which was top in all of baseball that season, the A’s payroll was just a measly $40,004,167 which was 28th in baseball out of the 30 MLB teams, only 24.1% of the entire Yankees payroll.
The A’s could not replace Giambi, Damon or Isringhausen with the payroll they had so they looked at the ‘misfits’ of the league, players that got on base or pitched well but were overlooked due to appearance or playing style.
The A’s signed relief pitcher Chad Bradford who originally played with the team in 2001 where he went 36.2 IPs out of the bullpen and posted a 2.70 ERA, Bradford was criticized and overlooked massively by the other MLB teams due to his exotic pitching windup as he threw from the side. Little was it known though that the pitcher with the funny looking windup ended up being one of the most effective bullpen pitchers that 2002 season as Bradford posted a 3.11 ERA through 75.1 IPs and the team got him for just $235,000.
The A’s then went for Scott Hatteberg who was expected to be a unsigned free agent due to a nerve issue that prevented him from throwing hard and sometimes even at all, as a catcher that spelled an end of a career for Hatteberg who was in the MLB from 1995-2001 with the Boston Red Sox. Hatteberg did not hit well in that span as he had a combined .267 BA but also had a very high .357 OBP% through 1,508 plate appearances. The A’s saw Hatteberg for his true worth and signed him for $900,000 as a 1st Baseman, up to that point Hatteberg only played 3rd Base for a total of one game back in 1999 with the Sox, he had virtually no baseman experience, but he got on base.
The A’s would also go for seasoned veteran David Justice who played Outfield with the New York Yankees the previous two seasons after coming up into the MLB back in 1989. Justice was on the decline of his career due to age and George Steinbrenner wanted to get rid of him and was even willing to eat a big part of his contract to do it, the A’s got the veteran outfielder who had a combined OBP% of .358 the last two seasons for just 7,000,000.
One of the last ‘big’ signings featured Jeremy Giambi, brother to Jason. Jeremy had a negative history of immaturity which had many teams were put on the fence about making him part of their club which would been seen as unfair treatment, overall Giambi played great defense and had a respectable batting average from 1998-2001 as he batted .272 along with a .369 OBP%. Giambi, just like Chad Bradford, both played baseball in Oakland in 2001 but their true potential was not unlocked until 2002. Oakland got Giambi for $1,065,000 after paying him just $282,500 a season before. Jeremy was traded mid-season on May 22nd to the Philadelphia Phillies for John Mabry.
These signings not only gave the players what was a true career revival, but it also exposed the other 29 other teams as the A’s showed that, for an example just because someone looks unathletic does not mean they cannot play the game. The Oakland A’s single handedly gave players that were considered ‘washed up’ a second chance. The Oakland A’s would go on to win 103 games, only losing 59 and went on a historic 20-game winning streak which had the 20th win capped off via a walk off home run by offseason addition Scott Hatteberg.
The A’s would win the AL West with a 4-game lead over the Anaheim Angeles to make the playoffs, sadly though they lost to the Minnesota Twins in five games in the ALDS, eliminating them from the playoffs
The Oakland A’s and Billy Beane showed the world what true talent looks like without having to pay players $10M+.
Chad Bradford stats - 75G / 4-2 W-L / 3.11 ERA / 75.1 IPs
Jeremy Giambi stats - 42G / 187 PA / 157 AB / 43 H / 27 BB / .283 BA / .391 OBP%
Scott Hatteberg stats - 136G / 568 PA / 492 AB / 138 H / 68 BB / .280 BA / .374 OBP%
David Justice stats - 118G / 471 PA / 398 AB / 106 H / 70 BB / .266 BA / .370 OBP%
Total money spent on Bradford, Giambi, Hatteberg and Justice - $9,200,000
Average money spent on a New York Yankees player (MLB) in 2002 - $4,161,429 ($112,358,583 total) The Yankees also lost in the ALDS Despite having $75M+ more than the A’s