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The Grades Are In

Thank goodness it’s over!

That’s about the best thing you can say about the A’s season, especially the second half. It’s been miserable to watch, so I can only imagine how much of a grind it’s been for the players involved. Incidentally, the final numbers: 75 victories (their fewest since 1998); 51 players used, including 24 pitchers; and 11 rookies who made their debut. No matter how you slice it, that generally does not add up to a lot of success.

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Winding down …

A’s-Rangers just got underway here in Arlington, where it’s pretty toasty but not nearly as hot as many games here. The A’s sort of lucked out, coming here twice before June and then not returning until September. They missed the brutal part of the Texas summer.

A couple of thoughts that didn’t find their way into today’s paper:

– How about Carlos Gonzalez’s throw last night that nailed Milton Bradley trying to stretch a single into a double? If you missed it, Gonzalez, playing center, went far into the right-center gap to field the ball, stopped his momentum and threw a strike to second base to get Bradley. Impressive arm strength, even if Gonzalez shows it off unnecessarily at times. I’m a little surprised he’s gotten just two starts in eight games since he’s returned from the minors. Bob Geren has said he wants to play the combination of outfielders that gives the team the best chance to win, and he certainly has a surplus to choose from. But wouldn’t you want to gauge the progress of your top prospect after sending him to the minors? I wouldn’t read too much into this decision in regards to next season’s plans. I think center field is Gonzalez’s to lose.

– I wonder how much the A’s front office noted Hank Blalock’s performance Monday and Tuesday? Oakland could use a boost at both corner infield spots, and Blalock will be available this winter if the Rangers don’t pick up his $6.2 million club option. Yes, I realize the last thing the A’s need is another player with a questionable health history. But Blalock will be just 28 in November. The A’s could use him most at third base (can’t assume Eric Chavez will return healthy enough to play there). Of course, Blalock isn’t even playing third for the Rangers now. He’s at first. But it’s something to consider, particularly if his asking price is driven down because he’s missed so much time the past two seasons.

Would you like to see Blalock in green and gold next year?

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The 40th Anniversary “Gala”

I grew up within five minutes of the Oakland Coliseum. Joe Rudi’s catch in the 1972 World Series was my first baseball memory. I had season tickets during the Bash Brothers era. And I covered most of the 20-game winning streak. So I think it’s fair when I say the A’s have had a huge place in my life.

Given all that, I could not be more embarrassed at their inability to put on even a decent ceremony involving some of their former greats.

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Duchscherer still hurting …

Body language can indicate a lot, and Justin Duchscherer’s told the story during his ultra-short simulated game this morning. After just 10 pitches of a session that was supposed to go about 25, Duchscherer spiked the ball as he walked off the mound and made a beeline for the A’s clubhouse. Bob Geren told reporters that Duchscherer’s right hip started hurting as he pitched out of the stretch. That means Duchscherer won’t start Saturday (as the A’s hoped if things went well today) and Geren said he’s doubtful to return at all this season. We have yet to get Duchscherer’s take on things. By the time he went into the clubhouse, it was within an hour of first pitch, the cut-off for media access.

With just 10 games left, obviously it’s not a huge blow for the rest of this season. But you have to wonder if the hip issue will linger into next spring. Definitely not the scenario Duchscherer or the A’s hoped for today. No word yet on Saturday’s starter, but Geren said it would likely be Gio Gonzalez, Dan Meyer or Kirk Saarloos.

That’s all for now … Denorfia gets a start in right field. This makes two straight games Carlos Gonzalez isn’t starting since he was recalled from the minors. Geren loaded the lineup with righties with lefty Joe Saunders on the mound for the Angels.

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Make some room …

The A’s clubhouse is taking on that crowded look of spring training. Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Denorfia were recalled before tonight’s game against the Angels. Neither is in the lineup tonight, but Bob Geren said he’ll do his best to spread out the playing time between the seven outfielders he has now. It’s eight if you include Jack Cust, who’s been the everyday DH.

Remember that it’s dangerous to glean too much from these final few games of the season. Just too small of a sample size. But I’ll be interested to see how Gonzalez and Travis Buck respond to major league pitching this time around. Buck’s good showing last night landed him in the leadoff spot tonight. And when you look at the A’s offensive struggles this season, I don’t think you can overlook the fact that they didn’t have a consistent leadoff presence all season. Rajai Davis is a natural leadoff guy, but he’s not even assured a roster spot for ’09 at this point. Buck was penciled into the No. 1 spot to start ’08, but he couldn’t hold onto it. Let’s hear some thoughts on whether you think Buck can be a long-term answer as a leadoff man …

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Ellis shut down …

Word out at the Coliseum today is that second baseman Mark Ellis will miss the remainder of the season with his right shoulder injury. Details are scarce right now, but Ellis is scheduled to visit Southern California-based doctor Lewis Yocum. Surgery is a possibility. That means the opportunity continues for Eric Patterson and Cliff Pennington to prove themselves at a position that could be wide open if Ellis doesn’t return in 2009. He can become a free agent at season’s end.