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Sweeney’s back, Gonzalez sent down

Ryan Sweeney is back from the disabled list and starting in right field tonight against Minnesota. Carlos Gonzalez was shipped out to Triple-A to make roster room for him. Took me by surprise a little bit, considering the season really has boiled down to getting these young guys as much experience as possible. But Gonzalez is  4-for-52 over his past 16 games. You figure Rajai Davis is playing well in center field and Sweeney deserves to re-claim his starting spot in right field. Gonzalez is valuable enough, and young enough, that you don’t want to see his confidence plummet while sitting the bench/struggling in the big leagues.

Considering rosters can expand to 40 starting Monday, the A’s could bring him back soon if they wish. But Bob Geren didn’t give indication that would be the case. “You never make promises in this business,” was the word from the manager.  

How does this move grab everybody?

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Making his pitch

I have to admit, after last season I thought I had seen all I needed to see from Dallas Braden. But the guy has really come on strong with his last few starts. If he finishes this well, you have to consider him a legit candidate for a rotation spot next season. But that depends greatly on whether the A’s re-sign Duchscherer, and that’s a whole separate discussion in itself. Curious how many of you out there are becoming Braden converts. Do you view him as an every-fifth-day kind of guy in ’09?

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Random thoughts

Saw the the E! network was broadcasting Saturday Night Live’s Top 101 moments of all time, so I was inspired to used the “Random Thoughts,” that were so hysterical. Those of you from the Internet age are probably too young to remember.

Anyway, here are a couple of A’s-related things as they prepare to get swept here in Anaheim.

— I was surprised that my game story revolving around Jack Hannahan generated more than a couple of e-mails. I’m wondering if he’s become a bit of a fan favorite. Dude is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and he’s overcome some pretty big demons, so it’s hard not to root for him. I wrote in an earlier post that he “stinks” and maybe that was harsh. I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to A’s third baseman, because they’ve had so many good ones. Hannahan reminds me a bit of Wayne Gross, who perhaps didn’t stink, but did when you compare him with Sal Bando, Carney Lansford and Eric Chavez. Same goes for Hannahan, although so many people are still high on him in the organization that perhaps it’s premature to right him off.

— A small thing, but Daric Barton had five hits over the final three games in Seattle. That was the first time he had five hits in a three-game span since June. Now, this is a guy who has hit at every level he’s ever been, so I definitely think it’s far too early to write him off. He’ll be an interesting guy to watch over the final five weeks.

— Hearing from a couple of insiders that managing partner Lewis Wolff is starting to work his connection with Bud Selig in an effort to gain access to the “territorial rights” the Giants own in Santa Clara. Stay tuned on that one.

— Also, the A’s want out of their Comcast Sports Net affiliation. What do you make of that?

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Leftovers from a rare win

The game story will be posted later, and I wrote heavily about the team’s injury woes. So a lot of the game stuff was overlooked. That’s kind of the way it is this time of year when a team is out of the race. The individual game doesn’t mean that much.

That’s what’s wonderful about the blog. Can get some leftovers in it right here, so away with go.

— Frank Thomas didn’t stick around to discuss his sixth-inning ejection by home-plate umpire Bill Hohn. Thomas apparently wasn’t happy with the way pitchers were being called inside. Looked to me like he didn’t do anything; I had to ask a couple of the TV people what exactly happened, because I didn’t notice anything out of line from where I was in the press box. Bob Geren, as insightful as ever (yes, that’s sarcasm), said: “I’m not quite sure.  It’s still arguing balls and strikes, and you’re not supposed to do that. He’s been around a long time. He knows.”

— Greg Smith had better command, and that’s just what the doctor ordered. Geren said the A’s talked to Smith about strike-zone effeciency between starts, and he wound up throwing 48 of his 90 pitches for strikes. That number doesn’t say a lot, but Smith was ahead 0-2 and 1-2 all night. That seems to indicate he’s not feeling the fatigue of pitching more than 100 innings this season.

— Smith also had the quote of the night, saying, “I think we’re about to come out of our funk.” Yeah, one win in a row. Woo-hoo.

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From bad to worse

OK, last night was extra bad. And in the context of what the A’s are doing lately, that’s really saying something.

In one park, you had Sean Gallagher getting lit up like a firecracker. In another, you had Rich Harden dominating.  That just says so much about the state of the A’s, and why that state would earn an “F.”

It’s not just that Gallagher has stunk lately and that Harden has been outstanding. It’s that Gallagher already has had issues with a sore shoulder (and I wonder if it isn’t bugging him; he just can’t be as bad as he looked last night), and that Harden has had no physical maladies at all since going to Chicago. Even pitching on four days’ rest has seemed to agree with him in a way it never seemed to for the A’s.

Now, if I’m Billy Beane, I want to know why the heck that is? What does that say about my team’s training methods, our exercises, etc. I can’t recall too many teams being rocked this many injuries two years in a row, and it’s not just old, breaking down players who are feeling the pain. Gallagher is only 22. Harden’s ailments were particularly galling, because he just now is approaching 27. It seems that donning an A’s uniform brings any physical issue to the forefront, and at some point, that’s on the A’s and not the player. I think the A’s passed that time a long time ago, and the Gallagher-Harden trade has put it into even sharper focus.

I keep a daily log of stats during the season, and here’s all you need to know about the A’s this season. Of the 25 primary players on the Opening Day roster (and I’m not counting outfielders Jeff Fiorentino and Carlos Gonzalez or pitcher Dallas Braden, because they were included only because rosters were expanded to accomodate the Japan trip), only seven have stayed on the active roster all season. That’s the kind of thing you usually see with clubs that lose 95-100 games, and well, that’s where the A’s are headed.

One of the lucky seven is Mark Ellis, and it kills me him go through this, too. He’s been around long enough that what he’s seeing must seem unacceptable. The A’s right now are overmatched against every team, and it’s a waste for a guy who’s such a winning player to be stuck in such a situation.

As for the other six on the list, here they are: Jack Cust (he was in the minors 10 seasons for a reason), Kurt Suzuki (he won’t hit .290 every year if he’s always playing 145 games, and that’s the A’s m.o. for their catchers), Jack Hannahan (stinks), Rob Bowen (never plays), Emil Brown (better than expected, but you’re in trouble if he’s your main run producer),  Huston Street (a bad, bad season), and Alan Embree (not much better).

So here’s a question. How long does Beane keep getting the benefit of the doubt among A’s fans. I see a lot of comments on here from folks who think Beane should be canned. I’m not of that opinion. But unless this organization solves its health woes, produces some hitters and has acquired some better pitching than we’ve seen, I can’t promise I’ll still feel that way at this time next year.

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Tough one to watch …

Some random observations as the White Sox’s rout wraps up at the Coliseum …

It’s really not surprising to see Gio Gonzalez struggle like he did today. And it won’t be the last time this season we see a young player take his lumps. Expect to see more prospects called up after Sept. 1, and the A’s surely won’t hesitate to let them play. The key from a game like today is what Gonzalez takes away from it and how he applies these lessons in the future. The A’s need his final starts here to be a confidence builder for him to take into the offseason. He’ll be looking to nail down a permanent rotation spot come spring training ’09. …

And while it’s expected that young players will struggle, it’s impossible to ignore that much of the A’s offensive struggles can be pinned on their veterans. Guys like Frank Thomas, Mark Ellis and Jack Cust all have failed to produce consistently with runners on base. This entire lineup, top to bottom, takes way too many careless at-bats, regardless of experience. …

The A’s best defensive play of the White Sox series might have come Friday night, when catcher Rob Bowen made a terrific play fielding Daric Barton’s one-hop throw and tagging out Brian Anderson, who tried to score from first on an errant pickoff attempt. It’s the type of play that hasn’t been made often enough this season. I think the biggest weakness in Kurt Suzuki’s game right now is handling close plays at the plate. Sometimes it seems he’s unsure when to block the plate and when to step out front to take a throw and make a sweep tag. 

Last year, Suzuki’s main goal was learning how to handle a major league pitching staff. This season he’s made great strides in his hitting. I would expect that he’ll arrive next spring looking to improve his all-around game behind the plate. With two former catchers on the staff — manager Bob Geren and bench coach Don Wakamatsu — you can bet that will be an emphasis next season … 

 

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Ziggy’s streak over

Just a quick update: Reliever Brad Zielger’s consecutive scoreless streak is over at 39 innings. The A’s announced they’ll have a $1.01 ticket promotion on Aug. 29 to commemorate the 101-year-old record that Ziegler broke. The Rays’ B.J. Upton was the spoiler, doubling with one out in the ninth to score Akinori Iwamura. A’s trail by a run going to the ninth.

Your thoughts on Ziegler’s streak?