The A’s are going to lose at least 90 games next season. If not 95. If not 100.
Anybody out there not drawing that conclusion following the weekend trade of their ace Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a package of six prospects/suspects? If so, you probably believe that everything you hear out of the mouth of a major leaguer in regards to the performance-enhancing drugs in the sport is the gospel.
But how many games the A’s lose next season is not really the point. The real issue, rather, is a) whether the A’s are able to get a new park in Fremont built, b) when such a park will be ready to house the A’s and c) what kind of team the A’s will have when they move in.
At this point, the target date is 2012, and everything the A’s continue to tell us indicates a deal will get done. Personally, I’m optimistic about it, because there are no decent alternatives for the A’s to move, and because owner Lew Wolff has made a fortune out of creating development projects against very difficult odds.
So assuming the A’s will be playing in Cisco Field in 2012, the issue then becomes whether Billy Beane is expert enough to construct a team that’s a duplicate of the early 1990s Cleveland Indians. The Indians, as you’ll recall, were a miserable franchise for about 30 seasons, but especially so once they got word that they’d be moving into Jacobs Field. But by loading up on a boatload of prospects, drafting high (and being able to sign those picks), they put together a powerhouse that made those first few seasons in the Jake as memorable as any baseball team has ever enjoyed.
This is what Beane must do, and it appears his approach will be similar. The more minor leaguers he’s able to collect, the better the chances that one of two of them will turn into studs. And the more the A’s lose in 2008 and ’09, the better the odds of getting a stud or three high in the draft. That’s how Beane built the A’s in the late 1990s — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Eric Chavez were all high picks — and it appears that’s how he’s trying to do it again.
Whether he can is another issue, entirely. It’s one thing to build a team once. It’s quite another to tear it down and rebuild it again. Can’t off the top of my head think of a single general manager that’s done it twice with the same franchise, especially one that’s had the same financial constraints as the A’s.
Thus, the A’s may be awful, but they won’t be boring.
One thing to debate: If the A’s trade Joe Blanton (and who among us doesn’t believe they will?), who becomes the Opening Day starter? Lenny DiNardo?
Here’s a look at the scouting report on one of the six prospects the A’s got in the Haren deal. One thing to remember: Coach’s kids tend to grade out high.