And so baseball economics hits home again. The A’s have traded Tim Hudson and yet another era comes to a close. Hudson was the cornerstone of the A’s return to respectability. Hudson came up mid-year in 1999 and posted an 11-2 record in 21 starts. I’ll never forget his debut against the San Diego Padres. At the time I was living in a small one-bedroom apartment in South Berkeley. Because the A’s had been terrible for 7 years the game was only being broadcast over the radio. I remember Ken Korauch and Bill King talking about how excited the A’s were about Hudson. In his first ML game, in his first ML at bat, just as Ken was saying that Huddy had been an outfielder and a DH in collage, and had led the NCAA in slugging his senior year, Huddy smacked a ringing double off the wall that missed being a home run by about two feet. Hudson only pitched five innings, giving up seven hits, four walks, and three runs, getting a no decision, but he struck out 11. The next year Huddy won 20 and led the A’s back to the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
Hudson has been the rock upon which Billy Beane has built his franchise. For long time A’s fans he represented the A’s resurgence more than any other player. Now Eric Chavez is the only player left from that 1999 season in which the A’s missed the Wild Card by 4 games. The A’s have lost many a marquee player over the past six years, (if want a full rundown read through the archives at the bottom of the page), but this is a unique case for two reasons. First, this is the first time the A’s have traded a star player rather than try to win now and allow him to leave as a free agent. Second, this is the first time a player hasn’t blasted the team, the city and the fans on his way out of town. Kenny Rogers, Johnny Damon, and Miguel Tejada all made disparaging remarks about Oakland when they left. The grand-daddy of them all of course was Jason Giambi who held a news conference insulting the team, the management and the fans, then went on Letterman and blasted the town. Hudson is a different story. Discussing the trade he said this to mlb.com,
"More than anything, it was sad," Hudson told MLB.com. "I mean, it's not like it was unexpected, what with all the talk the last couple weeks. But hearing it come out of Billy's mouth, making it real, that's when it really just hits you in the face.
"You just kind of realize, 'Man, it's really over.' All the relationships I've built with teammates, with the fans, with people in the organization -- it's hard to think that it's never going to be the same. I'll still be friends with all those people, but knowin' that they're not going to be a part of your everyday life the way they've been for so long, it's definitely sad.
"The fans in Oakland have been so good to me and my family," Hudson said. "All the support they've shown to me over the years, all the nice things they've said to me and the cheers and all that, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. That's one of the hardest parts about leavin', because I'd have liked to help win them a championship.
"But I understand why Billy traded me. I know he has to do what he thinks is best for the team in the long run, and obviously he's doing it. But I'm really going to miss being there.
"I just want everyone to know how much I loved it in Oakland," he said. "In a perfect world, I'd have been able to play there forever, and me and Mark and Barry [Zito] would always be the Big Three. But it ain't a perfect world, and I know that. It's a business.
"So I'll be pulling for those guys no matter where I am, and who knows? Maybe we'll all meet up again in the World Series or something. Wouldn't that be something?"
Class. Much better than Ben Grieve’s “I won’t miss the fans and I won’t miss the city.” And far better than Giambi’s “Have you ever been to Oakland?” crack-back.
In return for one of the best pitchers in the last ten years the A’s got three prospects, one promising outfielder and two pitchers. Both pitchers project as relievers, though Peter Gammons seems to think that Juan Cruz will take the number four slot in the rotation (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/gammons/story?id=1947932). If Charles Thomas is as good defensively as Gammons says the A’s may be able to move the ever promising, but so far disappointing, Bobby Kielty for more pitching, or maybe a backup middle infielder now that Mark McLemore is gone.
But all that is beside the point. Even if this trade ends up making sense in terms of on field production and payroll flexibility the point is that it’s sad to see Huddy go. As the man said, it’s a business. As Seinfeld said, we root for laundry rather than players. It seems that the day is long gone where you’ll ever see a player stay with one team his entire career. So long Huddy, thank you for bringing us back from the dead, and thank you for not dragging us through another protracted contract battle.
PS As I was preparing to post this I logged on to espn.com and saw that the A’s had traded Mark Mulder to St. Louis. Needless to say I’m in shock and my faith in Billy Beane is badly shaken. On top of that I hear that one of my other favorites, Eric Byrnes, a true sparkplug and one of the last true grit, fan friendly, everyman type players may also be on the block. I don’t know what to say. More on this in the days to come.