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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.

rhurd

  • jayandrews99

    I haven’t spent any time sifting through the Chin Music comments so I haven’t heard the calls for Beane’s head, but that seems totally off-base.

    Chances are a lot of those calls are coming from impatient fans with a short memory for how recently the A’s were a perennial playoff contender and an even shorter memory for how the team developed into a winning franchise to begin with — through young players.

    The A’s took a lot of lumps in the early ’90s while building up the farm system and then developing players such as Giambi, Tejada, Chavez and the Big Three at the major league level.

    Once everything came together Oakland had the foundation in place for a sustained run of success.

    The franchise is going through the same, painful process of replenishing the farm system and establishing a new core of good young players to build a contender around.

    Calling for Beane’s head is absurd.

    But calling for the team to spend a second offseason in a row seriously assessing what’s going wrong with the training and maintenance of the players’ health is more than reasonable, it’s essential.

    There’s always going to be some dumb luck associated with keeping players healthy, but what’s happened to the A’s over the past few years is beyond bad breaks.

    Something is fundamentally wrong with how the A’s are preparing and handling their players.

    On the outside looking in, I don’t have any easy solutions to the problem, but I don’t doubt for a moment that the problem will be addressed by Beane and Company when they have a chance to assess the season once it’s over.

    As a small market team they just can’t afford (literally and figuratively) to have so much of the roster miss so much of the season year after year.

    Mr. Hurd, will you be following this issue up with the A’s coaching staff and front office? I’m sure A’s fans would love to hear what their take is on the seemingly endless rash of injuries.

    Keep on bloggin’ Rick, it’s a good read.

  • Goldenstatenative

    Its the same every year with beane! I have NEVER been on the beane band wagon unless u like guys who walk a lot but bat .220!!!! Last time they went to the palyoffs was on good pithing and a guy named Thomas. Even teams that arent good (including the A’s of the 90′s) can hit a little. Bring back Ruben Sierra! ( i never thought I would be saying that!)Even if guys can hit A.K.a Barton eventually thay will buy into the money ball thing and be more concerned with walks than hits. I think its time for Beane to move along and take Geren and Vanberkleo and Co. along with him. Lets make dave stewart or someone like that the Boss, G.M whatever. Even if you dont have $ you dont give up when your 6 games out!!!!!

  • Bill S.

    The only one who stunk was the GM Bean brain who is rebuilding , er I mean destroyed, the team he built in the first place. I guess either he’s an idiot or Arizona’s, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox GMs are all geniuses! Note the 3 teams this idiot Bean sent Haren, Harden, Gaudin, Swisher to – ALL 3 are in 1st place!

  • Xolotl

    I would have to dissagree in just about everyway. The A’s were able to steal talent due to the “Money Ball” workings that Beane was able to do early. Things have changed though, people aren’t going to let him rob them the way that he could before the book came out. People are a lot tougher now than they were due to the fact that they don’t want to get burned. This leads to people being harder on the A’s than they would be on other teams, other than Haren who have we gotten lately that really took off?

    Also, When you are loosing guys in the middle of a playoff hunt it just seems like the team doesn’t care about winning. It makes it look to me like they are just banking on the new stadium making them money, not the product on the field. It seems if they are out to just keep the team above the bottom but not at the top. They want an almost-there team.

    As fans we should, and i think a lot of us do, demand something better from out team.

    Lastly, the whole “small market” thing is BS. The Bay Area is huge! The A’s can pull from every were in the Bay, and in the past they have. In the late 80′s i knew people coming from San Jose, Napa, the Penninsula and even out to Sacramento and Tracy. Don’t tell me if the A’s were in the playoffs and you had players that people grew to care about that they would be amll market, that is just small thinking.

  • Bill S.

    jayandrews99

    WAKEY! WAKEY!

    Haren, Harden, Gaudin, Swisher etc. ARE YOUNG!

    Emil Brown, Jack Cust, Mike Sweeney, Alan Embree, Frank Thomas are NOT!

  • Bill S.

    jayandrews99

    WAKEY! WAKEY!

    Injuries? Like other teams don’t have them?

    So what if an A’s .240 hitter is on IR, you replace him with another .230 hitter like they’ve been doing.

    This team 2 years ago with a young team and Frank Thomas won their division and beat the Twins. So he lets Frank Thomas leave and starts trading young pitchers and Swisher away. Remember how many HRs Thomas and Swisher had combined with one protecting the other in the batting order? This idiot signs Chavez who alwqays gets hurt but lets Tejada and Giambi leave. He does not have a clue. A’s never won a World Series title with him or even made it that far.

    This was an excellent team, it is oe of the worst in baseball today after what Beane did to it.

  • Bill S.

    He also fired his division winning manager Ken Macha who forgot more about baseball than both Beane and his close friend the current manager of the A’s who he hired to replace him. Compare this manager’s record with the A’s to Macha’s!!!!!!!!!!

  • jayandrews99

    “Wakey Wakey” C’mon dude, you’ve gotta be kiddin’ me.

    That’s a strong hint that this may not be the forum for a reasonable discussion about the A’s.

    I’ll be the first to admit that it’s painful to watch the A’s get their head kicked in every day and it’s annoying to see Harden finally enjoy good health for another team. But don’t forget that Haren, Harden, Gaudin and Swisher were with the A’s last year and the team finished next to last.

    Yes, those players are all with contenders now because contending teams are the ones that are willing to give Billy Beane a large haul of prospects for established players. The relative youth and affordability of Haren, Harden, Gaudin, and Swisher is what made them attractive enough to other teams to bring Oakland as many prospects as they’ve acquired since last season.

    As far as Beane “letting” Giambi, Tejada and Thomas leave, he did nothing of the sort. Ownership wouldn’t shell out the money to match what big market clubs were willing to give those players on the open market. And let’s face it, Toronto was nuts to sign Big Hurt to a lucrative long-term deal.

    Oakland is a small market club, that’s just the reality of the situation. No small market club can keep it’s entire roster together indefinitely because of budget constraints and the escalation of free agent salaries. Small market clubs have to make painful decisions when it comes to juggling being competitive with a relatively small budget.

    As far as Chavvy goes, yeah that contract is an anchor around the franchise’s neck at this point. But when he signed the deal he had no injury history at all, he was entering what should have been his prime seasons with a long string of Gold Glove and strong offensive seasons under his belt.

    It wasn’t crazy to give him a long-term contract at the time.

    The one time Beane had the opportunity to shell out big bucks on a homegrown player and it blows up in his face. It ain’t pretty, but it happens.

    Look around baseball, there are plenty of teams saddled with bad contracts. It doesn’t make it any more appealing to have Chavvy making big bucks while looking like a cripple but it shows that Oakland isn’t alone in dealing with this sort of mess.

    Look at the Giants and the Barry Zito contract.

    Comparing Macha’s record to Geren’s just doesn’t make any sense because Macha got to enjoy the final seasons of the Big Three while Geren is struggling with the early seasons of a rebuilding project. I haven’t seen anyone knocking down Macha’s door to manage or even coach in the big leagues again.

    If you’ve been an A’s fan for a long time then you know what they’re going through now is exactly the same painful process they went through before they enjoyed a long ride of success with the Big Three and Company. Back then they were an also rans for a very, very long time because they held on to the core players from LaRussa’s teams for too long.

    Beane’s taking the opposite approach and tearing a declining team apart sooner rather than later so the A’s, with a plan in place, can bounce back quickly as one of the best teams in baseball. The master plan is to have that team in place by the time the franchise moves to the new ballpark in Fremont which will provide the revenue to keep homegrown stars when they reach free agency.

    Time will tell how well that plan pans out. Beane isn’t perfect (who is?) but the man has earned the benefit of the doubt.

  • Bill S.

    This team was 4 games out of 1st when the idiot Bean traded Harden away. You know how happy the Brewers players and fans were when they traded for Sabathia? Cubs players and fans too were thrilled. Jets players and fans were thrilled their management traded for Favre. Beane could have strengthened the A’s when they were 4 games out instead of destroying the team and its’s morale and the fans morale.

    A’s record after trading Harden away was 50-42.

    A’s players reacted to trade of Harden by going 7 wins and 27 losses out of their next 34 games(and counting).

    A’s record today is 57-69.

    Praise Billy Beane so more you airhead!

  • Bill S.

    Correction

    This team was 4 games out of 1st when the idiot Beane traded Harden away. You

    know how happy the Brewers players and fans were when they traded for

    Sabathia? Cubs players and fans too were thrilled when they got Harden. Jets players and fans were thrilled their management traded for Favre. It means to them that their owner is sparing nothing to win. Beane could have strengthened the A’s when they were 4 games out instead of destroying the team and its’s morale and the fans morale. Angels even strengthened their team at deadline.

    A’s record after trading Harden away was 50-42.

    A’s players reacted to trade of Harden by going 7 wins and 27 losses out of their

    next 34 games(and counting).

    A’s record today is 57-69.

  • Bill S.

    A’s after the Minnesota series defeat now have lost 11 series in a row. This losing streak starting from Day 1 of the series vs. the Angels in which Gallagher first replaced Harden in the rotation. The last time the A’s lost 11 series in a row was 1960 when they played in Kansas City.(The owner was getting ready to move the team then TOO).

  • Bill S.

    Plain and Simple!

    On July 10th A’s were 50-42, less than 4 games out of 1st in the division, right in the wildcard race , they should have been in the BUYING not the SELLING mode as the first trade deadline approached. Just like all those other teams in similar positions did. The only teams who are in the SELLING mode at that time of the year are teams ompletely out of any playoff race.

    What Bean and his owner did reeks of the comedy(but quite true in this case) movie “Major League” and the owner out to chase fans away so a move could be justified.

  • Bill S.

    “Beane’s taking the opposite approach and tearing a declining team apart”

    They were a YOUNG team and he himself built that young team. So he gets rid of all the BEST young players on the team he built AND the manager who won a playoff series with them?

    You are dumber than even I thought you were.

    Have some more Kool-aid!

  • jamesjones22

    Hey, Mr. Bill S., wakie wakie to you too. You sound like a complete jackass bro, go drink some draino.

  • Scott no2

    It was already in the design that this season would not be a good one. Same with next season. Same until new stadium’s first season.

    Beane probably knew he wouldn’t be able to catch the Angels this year anyways. so he’s going to load up for next 2-3 seasons.

    It will hurt for awhile. We have had alot of great success in the previous seasons. This season, it all evens out.

    Though if he keeps trading for the ‘gallegers’ of the MLB, we’re in trouble. But remember what he got from Lidle, Lilly, Hiljias, Sarloos. They all ended up over acheiving.

    I think I can wait another 2 years before calling on Beanes’s head.

  • jayandrews99

    Airhead? Jackass?

    Juvenile name calling … I didn’t miss much today did I?

    Oh well, at least there’s a decent comment from Scott on the discussion board for this topic today.

    I’m definitely going back to reading Hurd’s blog and skipping most of the comments most of the time.

  • http://www.schlink.com Ted Schlink

    The theme of the movie “Major League” says it all about the trades this year.

    Building a new stadium in the south Coliseum parking lot that includes the vacant land that abuts it, is a prudent plan given the age of the Coliseum.

    My full A’s season ticket seat has a gate value of $40.00. The “same” seat has a gate value in Chase Park (Diamondbacks) of $215.00. The same thing will happen in Oakland if a new stadium is built.

  • Bee

    I missed this post somehow when it first came out. I am not willing to can Billy Beane yet. This was billed as a rebuilding year from the get-go. What we are watching is a bunch of AAA players learning how to play in the majors, and that is going to have a lot of stumbles, but these kids will come out of it with invaluable experience that they wouldn’t get at AAA. We’ll reap the benefit in the next year or so.

    As for the veterans, I am sure that Mark Ellis is very frustrated, and I’m not holding my breath that he will be in the green and gold next year. He deserves a chance to play for a winning team. That may be the only way he’ll ever win a gold glove. Not fair, but that’s what it is. Small market teams don’t get enough recognition.

    The rest of the veterans (except maybe Bobbie Crosby) haven’t done what they are capable of this year (I am nopt ready to classify Kurt Suzuki a veteran yet). Thomas and Mike Sweeney were out for most of the year and Big Frank hasn’t found his stroke and may not ever again. but he came at a very low cost and it was worth a try. Sweeney may come back next year and be healthy if he is still on the team.

    Jack Cust has shown us that last year was a fluke and he belongs back in the minors. Emil Brown came out gang busters at the plate in the early going and has slacked off considerably, though better of late, but as you said, Rick, he isn’t going to carry the team on his shoulders.

    So I think that the A’s need to do the following:
    1) Demote Cust and keep Raj Davis in the line up. Raj is showing some pop with his bat lately and can field circles around the “Babe” (not!)
    2) Let Rob Bowen get at least half of the starts for the rest of the season. He has power and is a decent catcher, and playing more regularly will raise his meager batting average.
    3) Try to pick up a few bats in the offseason. The A’s don’t seem to have a lot of power hitters (or even hitters for high average) in the minors since the team has focused so much on pitching. Since we can’t afford a free agent bat, we need to get some minor league bats and it will take a few years for them to show up at the Major League level.
    4) We must figure out why we lose so many players to the DL each year. As you said, Rick, a small market team cannot afford to lose it’s players to the DL. Is there something wrong with the field? The training? The offseason strength and conditioning program? What about having the first and second year players come to spring training a week earlier with the pitchers and catchers to focus on conditioning and hitting only. At least we might be able to keep the young ones healthier longer.
    5) Don’t pick up anymore veterans on the way down unless they are completely healty. Easier said than done, I know, but maybe next year we should go with an all young team and turn them loose and see what they can do. One or two veterans to give them perspective should be enough. I know the rest of you will groan at this prospect, but if we are rebuilding, let’s rebuild. They might surprise us!

    Finally, I’d like to echo most of what Jayandrews99 said. Yes it’s hard to watch losses, but there is a lot of good stuff to watch while it’s happening: Hanny’s two homers and Bowen’ jack yesterday, Eveland’s great pitching performance the day before, Carlos Gonzalez’ amazing catches, and so on–I could name more but I won’t. This already too long. The jury is still out on Billy Beane’s genius or lack thereof. Let’s revisit this next year at this time and see. I am hopeful of the result.