The con is kaput, the game over. A's ownership, having run out of patience, isn't even pretending to care about competing, much less pleasing its fans.
Dedicated first and last to themselves, the owners have upped the ante. In their desire to leave Oakland, they've stopped waiting for or pleading with Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, as well as anyone else who was listening.
They have moved into the next phase, one of such utter defiance that it stomps all over the ideals of the game.
By trading the players who have represented Oakland in the last three All-Star games, all in a three-week span, the A's are announcing they're packing it in for 2012 and maybe even 2013.
They're quitting, backing away from the 2012 season so early and so emphatically that even Pete Rose, the disgraced hit king, has to scratch his head and wonder, once again, what is the definition of "integrity of the game."
It wasn't long ago, after all, that every authority figure in the game was complicit in committing the great baseball crime of using advanced chemistry to inflate statistics. The game went on, shamelessly promoting itself as healthier than ever, avoiding labor strife and racking up record revenue.
And now MLB has an ownership team brazenly deciding to "throw" a season three months before opening day.
The A's have made a series of dramatic moves over the past 20 days, effectively demolishing any pretense of trying to win and simultaneously sending the message that until they get the trade they really want -- trading Oakland for San Jose -- they'll just keep making a mockery of the game.
The A's are doing this under Selig's nose, practically waving the white flag in his eyes. Any high-minded rhetoric about integrity from the commissioner has to be considered disingenuous at best, downright fraudulent at worst.
How can such a naked exhibition of surrender not hurt the game?
Moreover, how can it not crush to a fine powder a fan base already so battered that it collectively flinches every time managing partner Lew Wolff so much as levels his gaze?
Closer Andrew Bailey, 27, was traded Wednesday, as fully expected. The two-time All-Star (2009-10) was sent to Boston for two prospects and a backup outfielder. Five days earlier, left-hander Gio Gonzalez, their lone 2011 All-Star, was dealt to Washington for prospects. Two weeks before that, right-hander Trevor Cahill, a 2010 All-Star, was moved to Arizona for prospects.
These prospects, of course, won't remain in Oakland very long. Their future is limited to two options. One, produce in Oakland and get traded in a couple years. Or, two, produce in Oakland and be a part of the team's fantasy move to San Jose.
That, of course, is something Wolff has pined for ever since he joined the organization nine years ago, hired by then-owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann to, um, study all viable geographical options for the team.
Wolff, who along with John Fisher bought the team in 2005, has numerous real estate holdings in San Jose and longs for the support of the corporate base that exists in the South Bay. Even as he talked about a future in Oakland, he already was on record -- before being hired by the team -- saying he would move the A's to San Jose.
So there never has been any confusion about his desires or intentions. And there isn't any now. Wolff and Fisher even bought off team president Michael Crowley and general manager Billy Beane, giving each a fraction of ownership. All four are rowing one way, beautifully in sync.
The iceberg in the water, however, is the Giants, who own territorial rights to San Jose. This alone makes movement a daunting endeavor, for Selig is big on ownership consensus. And that simply doesn't exist between the Wolff-Fisher A's and platoon of Giants owners represented by CEO Larry Baer.
Consider these moves an A's shortcut, their intent to drive their plan over the few curly hairs remaining atop Baer's head. Few men in baseball can force an issue as vehemently as Beane, and Selig and Baer and all of us can see he's on a mission.
So Bailey had to go, just as Cahill and Gonzalez did. Billy the Part-Owner is better served by moving them, even if we all know Billy the G.M. likes their talent.
The A's will say they are fiscally barren and competitively invalid, that they were forced into these actions.
But they'll offer no apology about abandoning their loyal but dwindling clientele. They don't want you visiting their shabby little yard, no matter how long you've cared, so they're informing everyone their shop is closed -- even though the doors are wide open.
Your move, MLB.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.