Denial is a very interesting thing.
If there was one thing that struck me more than any other during the A’s annual media luncheon this afternoon, it was that. The A’s always kick off 2008 by stuffing the scribes and trotting out the manager for a Q-and-A session, and it’s always interesting to hear what the skipper thinks. And after all of five minutes, I was left wondering, “What is he thinking?”
Here’s what he was saying:
On the perception the rebuilding A’s may struggle (OK, stink): “The perception is not accurate. We’re going to try to win every game.”
On the expectations created (OK, devalued) with the trades of Nick Swisher and Dan Haren: “I don’t feel like just because we traded a couple of our players that it’s going to make that much of a difference.”
Like I said, denial is an interesting thing.
Now, I understand that Geren shouldn’t be condemned for airing feelings that go so far against the conventional wisdom. More power to him, in fact.
That said, it is fair to wonder if has a true grasp of what’s happened this winter. The reasons Billy Beane gave for making the trades that robbed Geren of his staff ace and his second-most productive hitter were that 1) he didn’t feel like this team could win enough if returned in tact and 2) he wanted to get younger and restock the farm system. Given that reasoning, you’d hope Geren would realize it enough to separate what’s best for the future with what’s best for the present.
Example: A young pitcher (say Gio Gonzalez), gets lit up early in a start during April. Does Geren stick with him to see how the starter handles such a thing at the expense of trying to win that game, or does he yank him early? Or say, Daric Barton goes into a titanic slump in May? Does Geren give him at-bats in clutch situations with a game on the line, or does he pinch-hit for him? And if it’s the latter, what kind of message does it send?
Anyway, these kind of questions will iron themselves out once the season begins, but it will be worth following. Geren must maintain his credibility in the A’s clubhouse after a 2007 campaign in which he struggled to do so, and a few silly moves could cause him to lose the respect of the few veterans who remain.
Meantime, here are some of the other things Geren said during the luncheon:
— Joe Blanton and Rich Harden will be the first two starters in Japan. Of course, this is dependent on both of them still being on the roster come the season-opener.
— He will emphasize winning in spring training, because he doesn’t want all the talk about rebuilding to leave a message that the A’s shouldn’t try to win. That’s kind of a tweak on his above quote and seems reasonable.
— Third baseman Eric Chavez has started baseball activities and has “absolutely no set-backs” from three offseason surgeries.
— Justin Duchscherer is “going to have to prove” he belongs in the starting rotation. Duchscherer, who had hip surgery last season, reportedly has had no set-backs.
— Dana Eveland, one of six players acquired from Arizona in the Haren deal, has a motion and stuff comparable to David Wells. Let’s hope he won’t have that body shape, either.