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.




“A’s” is for “awful?”

The A’s are going to lose at least 90 games next season. If not 95. If not 100.

Anybody out there not drawing that conclusion following the weekend trade of their ace Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a package of six prospects/suspects? If so, you probably believe that everything you hear out of the mouth of a major leaguer in regards to the performance-enhancing drugs in the sport is the gospel.

But how many games the A’s lose next season is not really the point. The real issue, rather, is a) whether the A’s are able to get a new park in Fremont built, b) when such a park will be ready to house the A’s and c) what kind of team the A’s will have when they move in.

At this point, the target date is 2012, and everything the A’s continue to tell us indicates a deal will get done. Personally, I’m optimistic about it, because there are no decent alternatives for the A’s to move, and because owner Lew Wolff has made a fortune out of creating development projects against very difficult odds.

So assuming the A’s will be playing in Cisco Field in 2012, the issue then becomes whether Billy Beane is expert enough to construct a team that’s a duplicate of the early 1990s Cleveland Indians. The Indians, as you’ll recall, were a miserable franchise for about 30 seasons, but especially so once they got word that they’d be moving into Jacobs Field. But by loading up on a boatload of prospects, drafting high (and being able to sign those picks), they put together a powerhouse that made those first few seasons in the Jake as memorable as any baseball team has ever enjoyed.

This is what Beane must do, and it appears his approach will be similar. The more minor leaguers he’s able to collect, the better the chances that one of two of them will turn into studs. And the more the A’s lose in 2008 and ’09, the better the odds of getting a stud or three high in the draft. That’s how Beane built the A’s in the late 1990s — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Eric Chavez were all high picks — and it appears that’s how he’s trying to do it again.

Whether he can is another issue, entirely. It’s one thing to build a team once. It’s quite another to tear it down and rebuild it again. Can’t off the top of my head think of a single general manager that’s done it twice with the same franchise, especially one that’s had the same financial constraints as the A’s.

Thus, the A’s may be awful, but they won’t be boring.

One thing to debate: If the A’s trade Joe Blanton (and who among us doesn’t believe they will?), who becomes the Opening Day starter? Lenny DiNardo?

Here’s a look at the scouting report on one of the six prospects the A’s got in the Haren deal. One thing to remember: Coach’s kids tend to grade out high. 


So much for the trades

Day Three of the Winter Meetings is headed into the evening, and that’s generally when you start hearing about potential action. But as of now, this has become the most-hyped, least-substance event since the Super Bowl. No trades Wednesday (though the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis trade to Detroit was officially announced). Here are some notes from the lobby:

— One A’s official said he’d be “shocked” if the team moves Dan Haren or Joe Blanton before the meetings are over or anytime soon thereafter. When presented with that information, an A’s executive said that’s a “safe” assumption. The Arizona Diamondbacks supposedly had assumed the lead in the sweepstakes for the two pitchers, but apparently there’s nothing imminent.

— One A’s source said the team had no meetings scheduled with any teams planned on Wednesday night. This, of course, could always change. The A’s were scheduled to meet with an agent, believed to be Alan Hendricks, who represents Huston Street.

— Don’t anticipate a Johan Santana trade getting done, even in principle. The Red Sox, according to several sources, has backed down on their interest. One intriguing team linked to Santana is the Seattle Mariners, and they’re reportedly willing to give up center fielder Adam Jones for him. Jones, according to the buzz, is supposed to be another Torii Hunter.

— Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi headed out of Nashville on Wednesday, lessening the chance that a Alex Rios-for-Tim Lincecum deal will be made. The Giants brass haven’t met with the media today, so clearly, they’re busy.


The Big Trade

Thoughts from the Winter Meetings on a bleary-eyed morning here at the Opryland Amusement Park, er Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.

— The acquisition of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis by the Detroit Tigers in the biggest move of the meetings does two things. 1) It puts the Tigers in a class with the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels as the big dogs of the American League, and 2) It increases the necessity for the Minnesota Twins, their fellow rival in the AL Central, to deal Johan Santana. Even with Santana, it’s impossible to picture the Twins hanging with both Detroit and Cleveland; thus, better to get what you can for your best asset. It could portend a trade of Minnesota closer Joe Nathan, too.

— Speaking of Santana, the guess here is that he’ll go to the Red Sox, and that wouldn’t be a terrible thing. Can’t you picture the Tigers potential lineup against a potential Red Sox rotation of Santana, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling in an October showdown.

— Would love to be a fly on the wall to hear the internal discussions the Giants are holding regarding the possibility of trading Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain to Toronto for outfielder Alex Rios. Personally, I wouldn’t move Cain unless I could have the entire Tigers lineup.  Lincecum might be less painful to move, but not much. Keep in mind that Rios would be entering his second year of arbitration this winter, so he’s not nearly the financial bargain that Lincecum is.

— Continue to get the feeling that the A’s are more likely to deal Joe Blanton than they are Dan Haren, and that such a move likely won’t come until the meetings are over. One report says the Diamondbacks are offering a “Herschel Walker-type” deal for Haren, but I’ve heard just the opposite, namely that they don’t have nearly enough. That’s the nature of these meetings: Deciphering what’s true and what isn’t is like reading Beowulf.

— Speaking of the A’s, general manager Billy Beane summed up the nature of the meetings perfectly: “You don’t get any sleep, you don’t eat well, you don’t get any exercise. Everything grinds to a halt and not much actually happens.”


The Winter Meetings

Arrived here at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville on Monday morning, and the joke was already making the rounds. Baseball’s Winter Meetings should be re-named the Santana Meetings, at least this year.

Make sense. A paltable buzz exists as baseball’s collective nation waits to see where Minnesota Twins two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana lands. According to multiple reports, the sweepstakes will come down to the Red Sox and Yankees, with each team upping its ante in recent days. The Yanks reportedly have given the Twins 24 hours to accept an offer that reportedly includes top-notch pitching prospects Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy and center fielder Melky Cabrera.

The Twins’ decision regarding Santana figures to have a direct impact on the A’s, because the loser of the Santana Sweepstakes likely will shift its focus to Dan Haren. If Haren becomes the No. 1 attraction, which he will be once Santana is traded, the A’s can hold out for an even better offer.

It’s early, but it shouldn’t be long before the news starts to trickle in. Stay tuned.