The A's are 43-43 at the All-Star break, a far better record than most pundits predicted for this squad of mostly motley unknowns. With an extra wild-card spot this year, the A's are just 2.5 games behind a postseason spot and they have a real chance to join the wide-open pennant race. The question is, according to the likes of Monte Poole and Ray Ratto today, is this: will team owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff let the A's contend?
In a Wednesday column in the Oakland Tribune, Poole suggests that Wolff and Fisher (or, "Wisher," as Lowell Cohn calls them) have never been committed to winning, and that they are probably surprised that the A's are in the hunt for a playoff spot. He writes:
"They're in it as Wolff and Fisher and even commissioner Bud Selig tell everyone they lack the resources to be in it."
Poole then added that Fisher and Wolff might prefer pulling out of the race and holding yet another fire sale ... "because it would serve their cause, allowing them to reiterate a familiar refrain. Being in Oakland, they insist, conveniently ignoring historical data, only means they're 40 miles north of being able to compete."
He ends his column with a call to arms, saying he wants Wolff and Fisher to encourage Beane to find the magic he last had during the Moneyball years. He writes:
"Such energy and fury have been missing around this franchise, lost to the archives -- and drowned out by the falsetto whine of the Low Payroll Band singing an endless loop of the Territorial Rights Blues."
Ray Ratto, meanwhile, assessed the A's chances in a column and used the occasion to identify the biggest problem with Wolff and Fisher. Ratto wrote that making roster moves with the goal of contending this summer would be "something to take people’s minds off ownership's relentless whining about the South Bay."
Ratto then added:
"... it is time for ownership to face the fact that waiting for a ballpark before they get interested in their primary job is a losers’ proposition. It’s time, but they won’t follow it. They’re pot-committed to San Jose or sell, or maybe even San Jose AND sell, because for them this isn’t a living breathing baseball team, but an asset to be gussied up for market."
So, amid the the A's surprisingly strong first-half and all the fans' optimism, there is an uneasy question: Will Wolff and Fisher -- the notoriously stingy and San Jose-obsessed owners -- spend the necessary money and focus on helping the A's win? The answer will come in the next 30 to 45 days.