Maybe They Should Just Trade Stomper Too

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Five different baseball mascots pose around Pen Harshaw
The author poses with Stomper at the 2008 MLB All-Star Game, at the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. (Courtesy Pendarvis Harshaw)

Has anyone checked on the A's mascot, Stomper?

Asking because his team, the Oakland Athletics, is at it again.

You know their M.O.: trading their star players to top-tier contenders, instead of paying them the big long-term contracts they deserve, and simultaneously planning an escape route to relocate the entire franchise because their new stadium plan isn't panning out exactly as they wish.

It's kind of masterful how this franchise has committed to mediocrity and distanced itself from the claim that it's "Rooted in Oakland," again and again.


The headlines this week—"A's Ignite Mother of All Baseball Fire Sales with Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt Trades," to quote the San Francisco Chronicle—give us long-suffering fans another example of why the team being represented by a white elephant—an unwanted gift—is an all-too-apt, self-fulfilling prophecy.

So yeah, someone check on Stomper, and make sure he's OK.

He's seen this scheme every six or seven years. The team gets some great young prospects and raises their skill levels and name recognition over a few seasons. The team plays well—sometimes even making it to the playoffs—only to fall short and leave fans wondering if it will ever find that one piece it always seems to need to turn into a serious title contender.

But during the offseason, and sometimes even mid-season, instead of buying in, the A's front office sells out. They get rid of talented players and replace them with more prospects, journeymen, and utility players in order to keep the payroll low. There's a whole movie about it.

After this offseason, when Major League Baseball's owners locked out their players over labor disagreements, I see things haven't changed much.

Just this week, the team got rid of superstar third baseman Matt Chapman, sending him across the northern border to Toronto. His corner-mate over at first, Matt Olson, was sent south to the Atlanta Braves. One of the team's top pitchers, Chris Bassitt? Sent to the New York Mets.

These names follow behind the likes of all-stars Marcus Semien, Josh Donaldson, and many more who came through The Town bearing gifts, only to be passed to the next team.

Who could forget when Yoenis Cespedes was traded just before his T-shirt giveaway game at the Coliseum? [Damn, you're killing me. This one was heartbreaking.—Ed.]

Yeah, there's plenty of reasons not to give the A's your money.

Pen Harshaw with the A's mascot, a giant elephant, poses for the camera
The author with Stomper at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, circa 2007. (Courtesy Pendarvis Harshaw)

Especially when you consider all they've done to move closer to downtown—a move that isn't looking too promising after this week's vote by the Seaport Planning Advisory Committee, who recommended that the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission maintain the Howard Terminal waterfront site for maritime use. It's not the final straw for the plan, but it means that the future of the A's in Oakland boils down to yet another hearing, this time on June 2.

In an interview, team president Dave Kaval told ABC 7's Casey Pratt of a backup plan: The team is getting close to picking a site for a stadium in Vegas, because, you know, this is business.

I bet it'd be hot as hell in that elephant suit in Vegas. Really, has anyone checked on Stomper? I'm worried about him. No one has seen more players come and go than my gray pachyderm friend.

He was there for the crazy joy and playoff heartbreak of the 2012 and 2013 seasons (damn you, Verlander). In 2002, he was in the building for Tejada's MVP season and the 20-game winning streak. For the evolution of Hudson, Mulder and Zito. And for the emergence of the latest crop of stars the team didn't hold onto.

Stomper is just a youngster in baseball history terms, making his first appearance in 1997—a down period when it really needed his help. But he's part of the Athletics' history that starts in Philadelphia in 1901, where the team got the "white elephant" tag soon after its inception.

John McGraw, an early manager of the then-New York Giants baseball team, said the Athletics, who were ironically signing big-name players at the time, wouldn't make any money and would have a big "white elephant" on their hands.

The team flipped the insult, adopting it as a mark of pride, and ran with it as their mascot.

Players notoriously have pre- and post-game rituals. They eat specific meals or write messages on their cleats. It's reported that former A's star Mark McGuire wore the same jockstrap from his high school days, up until it was stolen.

So I really think we should get Stomper on the phone. Because if I were that big smiling elephant, I'd feel some sort of guilt about seeing so many players come and go. I'd feel like I was the reason the A's have had so much turnover. Not the insufficient, anarchic business model that leaves fans unfulfilled, no matter how hard we cheer for the team. It's like the Babe Ruth curse. Baseball superstitions aren't about logical conclusions.

Nope, let's address the elephant in the room—we can look past the many issues of billionaire team owner John Fisher, but we can't look past the fact the mascot of the team is obviously bringing the A's some bad energy.

Check on Stomper. He might be next on the trading block—because it'd be easier to get rid of him than to throw out an owner and president who obviously don't care about The Town.