Oakland Athletics Appears To Vindictively Punish Star Players After They Supported Protests Against Ownership

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Robert McGreevy Contributor
Font Size:

The Oakland Athletics just demoted one of their best players from 2023 and have repeatedly benched another after the players were seen supporting a fan group that organizes protests against the team’s owner.

The team sent star center fielder Esteury Ruiz, who led the MLB in stolen bases last year, to their minor league affiliate Las Vegas Aviators despite the fact that he led Oakland in batting average through the team’s first series.

Oakland’s general manager Dave Forst said the team demoted Ruiz so he could work on getting on base more and reducing strikeouts. 

“We saw some better at-bats this spring, but the reality is, to use his skills, he needs to get on base … He needs to be able to do that on a consistent basis. I’m hoping leading off every day at Triple-A, it’s not a long stay for him down there,” Forst told reporters Monday.

Through the team’s first four games, an admittedly small sample size, Ruiz led the team in batting average, with a .429 clip, and on-base percentage + slugging (OPS). 

The team also benched their best hitter from 2023, Brent Rooker, in two of their first four games.

Both moves could potentially be excused as legitimate baseball moves. Rooker, who led the team in home runs and RBIs in 2023, has yet to record a hit this season. Maybe they’re just trying to rest him in an effort to clear his head.

Manager Mark Kotsay indicated that the team initially wanted to start Ruiz in the minors this year before an injury forced their hand in starting him on the Major League squad. But there’s also another possible explanation: Oakland is punishing their best players.

Both Rooker and Ruiz were seen wearing wristbands supporting the Last Dive Bar, a fan group that has organized protests against the A’s notoriously stingy owner, John Fisher. (RELATED: MLB Pitcher Trashes His Team’s Owner, Retires In Bold Fashion)

The fan group posited a question that seemed to support the theory of the players being punished, tweeting out photos of Ruiz and Rooker wearing their wristbands with the caption “Rooker benched, Ruiz sent down. One has to wonder why…”

Oakland has seen a historically low turnout this year as they trot out a ballclub so cheap that Ebenezer Scrooge himself would scoff at it. Their $61 million payroll is over $20 million cheaper than the next closest team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have a payroll of over $83 million. It’s only 20% of what big money clubs like the Mets and Yankees are paying to field their teams.

Their complete inability to put any effort into producing a compelling product, and a potential fan boycott in the face of the franchise’s impending Vegas move, led to an absurdly empty stadium for the team in their home opener.

Two days later the team announced a shockingly low attendance number just barely cracking 4,000 fans.

The battle between John Fisher and the people of Oakland now appears to be spilling over onto the actual baseball diamond. With the Vegas move not set to happen until at least 2028, this thing could get ugly.