Did the Oakland A’s demote two stars over fan protest?

Things have not been going well for the Oakland Athletics for a few years now and they seem to only be making things worse for themselves.

On Monday, the team sent outfielder Esteury Ruiz down to the minors despite his excellent start to the season. Ruiz, who led the American League in stolen bases last season with 67, was hitting a team-leading .429 in three games and had an OPS of 1.232, second on the team.

A’s general manager David Forst, however, said that Ruiz actually needs to get on base more.

“We saw some better at-bats this spring, but the reality is, to use his skills, he needs to get on base,” Forst told reporters on Monday. “He needs to be able to do that on a consistent basis.”

To some observers, it sure seemed like he was doing that, not to mention that Ruiz had sparked the team to victory on Sunday against Cleveland.

Another player who has seen his playing time downgraded is Brent Rooker, who was the A’s all-star representative in 2023. He has played in just three of the team’s five games this season.

Last Dive Bar, a group that has been an organizer of fan protests against team ownership over the past year, provided one possible explanation for the demotions.

In a post on X, the group showed pictures of the two players wearing wrist bands with ‘Last Dive Bar’ on them. The caption read: “Rooker benched, Ruiz sent down. One has to wonder why…”

While it is a solid conspiracy theory, Ruiz’s demotion could be chalked up to less sinister but still shady reasons: MLB service time manipulation. While he “develops” in the minors, the clock is stopped on his accrual of time in the majors and, in turn, that sets back when he’ll be eligible for free agency and bigger contracts.

Rooker hasn’t been lighting it up so far, either. The outfielder has gone 0-for-11 to start the season with nine strikeouts.

Fans in Oakland have been protesting the ownership’s refusal to work with the city of Oakland to build a new stadium, with the team now set to relocate to Las Vegas. The move has been met with derision by many and an A’s exhibition game played this spring in the desert oasis was moderately attended.

Fans have been staying away from the Coliseum as well, however. After drawing 13,522 fans for the home opener, attendance for Friday’s game was just 3,837 – a number that counts tickets sold and not the fans actually in the building.

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