Thursday, January 3, 2008

Another One Gone

Darn it. Another Oakland A's star shuffled off, sacrificed to the great economic mismatch that is Major League Baseball.

This time it's Nick Swisher, a popular outfielder with some pop. Don't fool yourself into thinking the A's traded Swish because they thought the deal would build a better team. They did it because Swisher will someday be too expensive for the A's to keep. He's signed through 2011--but whoever employs him inherits a contract worth more than $25 million over that period.

Add him to the list: Haren, Mulder, Hudson, Zito, Tejada, etc., young Oakland talent gone for greener pastures, either as free agents or in trades before they could escape via free agency.

Swish was a perfect fit for the Oakland ballclub, both in terms of his approach to the game (patient hitter with power--he's the team's all-time home run leader among switch-hitters) and his image among the fans (hairy dude with a big smile and a big heart).

I know the A's got some fine prospects from the White Sox. But I also know that if those guys turn out to be any good, they'll be gone soon enough, too. See, the problem is baseball's economic structure. They can lie to you all they want about a "luxury tax" and a "salary cap", but the stark reality is that about a half-dozen big league teams can afford to set the market for everyone else.

The A's aren't one of the "haves", and they won't ever be unless baseball cares enough to undertake true economic restructuring. And trust me on this one: that won't happen before Nick Swisher's wearing a crewcut.

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