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Use Rich to get Richer?

OK, here’s my question? Do the A’s trade Rich Harden? Dominant again today in a win over Philadelphia. Always a guy who leaves you wondering if the next pitch will be his last.

I’ve been pondering this question for, oh, about two years now and after much thought and research and many questions, I have the same answer now that I did then: I don’t know.

On the one hand, he’s the single biggest trade chip the A’s could put on the market. And if Billy Beane got such impressive talent for Dan Haren, and an emerging stud for Nick Swisher, imagine what he could pilfer for Harden.

On the other, the A’s continue to hang around the wild-card race, and the addition of another stud pitcher — C.C. Sabathia anyone? — could ensure their season-long presence in the race. And, should the A’s stun the masses and get into the playoffs, Harden can win a series by himself.

Peter Gammons breaks it down pretty well on his ESPN blog. What is Beane going to do? What would you do? 

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X-rays could rid game of defective maple bats

Saw an interesting USA Today story yesterday regarding the maple bat controversy. There is a portable CT scanner that will soon be made available to major league teams. Apparently the device can “x-ray” a bat and detect flaws in the wood that the human eye misses. The idea is that defective bats could be identified in advance so players won’t use them in a game.Who knows how many teams might invest in one of these scanners (maybe MLB should require them). All I know is I get to watch a lot of games covering the A’s on a daily basis, and it’s scary how many bats are shattering and hurling everywhere _ toward players on the field, toward fans, toward players in the dugouts. What’s most dangerous are the shattered bats that fly directly toward the pitcher’s mound. It’s the pitchers who are closest to the batter, and probably in the worst position possible to defend themselves, depending on how off-balance guys are in their follow-through.

It’s amazing to me how infielders are able to side-step a shattered bat and field a grounder all in the same sequence. Not exactly a skill they teach in Little League.

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Go Bulldogs

The A’s had their huge-screen plasma turned to the College World Series before stretch time Wednesday, so figured I could use that as an excuse to give a plug to Fresno State. I started my career in the Central Valley, so I have a soft spot for the ‘Dogs, and I’d love to see them finish off the fairy tale.

One of the occasional commenters on here, Proxl, is a good friend of mine who lives in Seattle. He’s an FSU alum, so give him some karma and put your good thoughts into Fresno State’s drive.

As for life in the majors, a couple of things to report. Frank Thomas will rejoin the team during the team’s visit to Anaheim next week and have his injured quad examined again. And Eric Chavez is tentatively slated to start at DH tonight. Manager Bob Geren said Chavez “would let him know” the state of his sore right shoulder after batting practice. Poor Chavez. I’m afraid he might be at the stage of his career where his physical ailments will never go away completely.

Anyway, go (FSU) ‘Dogs.

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Justin All-Star

Gotta admit, I didn’t catch much of the A’s this weekend. Spent it sweltering in Arizona, visiting relatives _ love you Preston and Judy _ and limited to box scores and game stories. But I can picture what Justin Duchscherer must’ve looked like today. He’s been the same all year long, and now he’s the best starter on the staff.

I suggest he become a closer someday, so he can be the only pitcher ever to be an All-Star as a starter, setup reliever and closer. OK, that might be a reach, but dang. Nobody, I mean nobody saw this coming.

To me, Duchscherer is the A’s All-Star. Huston Street blows too many saves. Mark Ellis is great, but he can’t control a game like Duchscherer can. Jack Cust? No. Eric Chavez? Once upon a time. Bobby Crosby? I’d rather see Duchscherer.

I’d rather see him, because he’s a good dude. I’m divorcing right now, and it’s a miserable experience. Duchscherer has taken the time, twice, to come up to me, unsolicited, and ask how I’m doing. If you’re around these athletes enough, you realize only a precious few have that quality. In general, players and execs are the most self-centered, all-about-me individuals you’ve ever met, and it really sticks out when you meet a guy who gets it.

That’s why he’s my vote. What do you guys think?

 

 

 

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New Kid in Town

A promotion worth noting: Switch-hitting infielder Jesus Guzman was bumped up from Double-A to Triple-A Sacramento and has started the past two games at third for the River Cats.  Guzman, 24, signed in November as a free agent from the Mariners’ organization.  He busted out for 25 homers and 112 RBI in Single-A ball in 2007 after not posting double-digit HR totals in any of his first six professional seasons. He began this season on a tear in Double-A and was hitting .359 with 13 homers and 69 RBI when he was promoted. The A’s are trying to find a third base prospect to groom for the future, so surely the front office is watching Guzman closely. 

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Ain’t easy catching these Fish

Back in March, a three-game series between the A’s and Florida Marlins had the makings of a snooze-fest. Suddenly it’s a very intriguing series between two young teams playing better than anyone could have expected. The Marlins weren’t considered much of a preseason contender in the NL East, but they’re hanging in there.

Unfortunately, a look around McAfee Coliseum this weekend likely will produce a sea of green. And we’re not talking about rabid A’s fans dressed in team colors, we’re talking about empty seats. Judging by attendance at the Coliseum so far in ’08, the chance to  watch two of baseball’s surprise teams won’t be much of a drawing card. And the Fish are worth watching, particularly slugging second baseman Dan Uggla.

The A’s may have beat up on the Giants, but their interleague slate since then is no joke: Three at Arizona, three coming up against Florida, followed by three against Philly. Yikes …

 

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Facing a familiar face

Went down to the hotel lounge after the A’s 15-1 smashing of Brandon Webb and Arizona on Tuesday and saw a few non-playing members of the organization. And the joke among the group was that given what the A’s did to Webb, they would certainly be shut down by former teammate Dan Haren tonight.

Well, we’ll see in less than two hours. Haren gets the ball for the first time against his former teammates, and the A’s are throwing out the same lineup that has scored 29 runs and gone 4-0 on this six-game trip through the National League West. Haren said he’s having the time of his life in Arizona, and his numbers have been good. No chance he’ll be as bad as Webb was last night (and if, by chance, he is, at least Haren will talk about it). 

Mark Ellis, Haren’s old buddy, gets the first crack at him. He’s hitting leadoff for the fifth straight game, and for good reason. Ellis is 16-for-35 with five doubles, three home runs, 10 RBI and 11 runs scored in his past eight games.

Another eye-popping stat. The A’s six-home run outburst Tuesday ended their longest homerless streak since 1983.

 

 

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Shaking it off

Just watched Dana Eveland field a comebacker and throw out Jose Castillo for the final out of the third inning.  A seemingly routine play, but remember that no comebacker to Eveland probably seems routine right now. Ever since he was tagged on the left wrist by Shannon Stewart’s liner May 29, Eveland hasn’t been the same on the mound. He even said that experience might be affecting him mentally. Castillo’s ball was a chopper, and not hit particularly hard, but Eveland’s soft toss to Daric Barton at first  was very low. His body language walking off the mound almost seemed to indicate a sigh of relief.

Keep an eye on Eveland’s performance over the next couple of starts, and how he handles any hard shots that come his way. The A’s need him to regain his form from the season’s first two months, and shake any lingering mental effects of getting nailed.

 

 

  

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Born to be an ‘A’

Quite a storybook scene unfolded at the Coliseum before today’s game. The A’s agreed to terms with right-hander Tyson Ross, their second-round draft pick out of Cal, and invited him to throw a bullpen session in front of the major league staff and front office. I can’t imagine what was going through this kid’s head. He grew up playing youth baseball in Oakland — he recalls Rickey Henderson stopping by the Oakland Babe Ruth fields occasionally — and went to Bishop O’Dowd High.

Watching close by were his parents, Willie and Jean, his younger sister, Frankie, and younger brother Joe. Jean showed off a baseball card of a 4-year-old Tyson posing and wearing an A’s hat in 1991. It was shot at the Coliseum while the family was attending a game.

“I didn’t even breathe on the mound,” Ross said in explaining Thursday’s excitement. “I dreamed about being out here as a kid.”

Some scouts were concerned leading up to the draft about Ross’ mechanics. He has a noticeably short stride  toward the plate in his delivery, which is unusual for someone with a lanky, 6-foot-5 frame. But one scout said Thursday he put more stock in Ross’ impressive results at Cal than he did in how he looked while doing it.

 Considering Ross’ local ties, the A’s got a long look at him throughout his Cal career.

“He pitched five minutes from  my house,” A’s assistant GM David Forst said. “We’re excited he was available. You don’t take a guy just because he’s from here. But when the talent and that (factor) matches up, it’s certainly nice to have someone from your backyard.”

Ross is leaving for the A’s minor league complex in Phoenix on Saturday. Then he’ll begin his pro career with low Single-A Kane County. (Most draft picks begin at short-season Vancouver). Forst said the A’s feel more comfortable working Ross a little bit harder this summer than they worked 2007 first-round pick James Simmons last season. Simmons started out in Double-A but threw out of the bullpen to limit his innings after a heavy workload with UC Riverside. 

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A Brown out?

Lineup tonight — DH Jack Hannahan, SS Bobby Crosby, LF Jack Cust, 3B Eric Chavez, 2B Mark Ellis, CF Carlos Gonzalez, 1B Daric Barton, RF Travis Buck, C Kurt Suzuki — is the same as it was last night, and pretty much what it’s been for the past week.

Notice anybody conspicuous by his absence?

Yep, no Emil Brown again. Manager Bob Geren kind of stumbled his way around a question regarding the fact that Brown hasn’t started five straight games, but eventually said that Brown will be playing mostly against lefties now. Here are his splits going into tonight.

Anyway, it’s not overly surprising, even though Brown is the team’s RBI leader. The man is as shaky in the outfield as Jack Cust, and after a great six weeks, he’s turning into Emil Brown again. Plus, it gives Carlos Gonzalez and Travis Buck a chance to play everyday, and that’s how it should be.

Nevertheless, it’s not every year when a team’s rib-eye leader can’t crack the lineup.