Beane likes the possibilities in A’s position player prospects

Matt Olson is part of one of the most promising classes of A's position players in more than a decade.

Matt Olson is part of one of the most promising classes of A’s position players in more than a decade.

After a long drive down from the Bay Area Saturday, Billy Beane dropped by the A’s workout Sunday at Fitch Park and looked every bit like someone who liked what he was seeing.

Asked about the group of young position player prospects who may well be on the cusp of breaking through in Oakland – third baseman Matt Olson, shortstop Franklin Barreto, first baseman Matt Chapman, first baseman Rangel Ravelo, second baseman Joey Wendel and third baseman/first baseman Renato Nunez – a broad smile ensued.

Manager Bob Melvin had talked Saturday about that group, saying it was the best he’d seen since he’d joined the organization mid-2011.

Beane, who is closing in on two decades at the help of the A’s, first as general manager and now as executive vice president, was able to pinpoint a comparable group.

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Generalissimo Y takes center stage in Oakland

It’s way too early to know if there is a new Mr. October on Oakland’s horizon, but it’s at least worth keeping an eye on the A’s Yoenis Cespedes this month.

In Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Tigers Friday, the A’s left fielder shrugged off the effects of a sore right shoulder to triple and hit a two-run homer, producing the only runs the A’s scored in a 3-2 loss.

He came back Saturday with a pair of singles, the second of which touched off the winning rally that culminated with Cespedes scoring from third base on Stephen Vogt’s bases-loaded single for a 1-0 win.

Those were the sixth and seventh games in Cespedes’ admittedly short post-season career. But they are built upon a base that has the chance to be molded into a towering legacy in baseball’s center stage month. He’s the personification of Generation Y in Oakland. Call him Generalissimo Y.

He’s hit in all seven games while averaging .370 with an OPS of 1.006. Small sample size or not, those are impressive numbers.

There are some players who are just built for the spotlight, and Cespedes seems to be one of those. He floundered most of the year, but when there was a chance that the A’s might not make the playoffs, Cespedes shrugged off September shoulder issues to average .314 with six homers. For a little perspective, his best average in the five previous months was July’s .237.

In his first September pennant drive in 2012, he had season monthly best of seven homers and 19 RBIs as the A’s chased down the Rangers.

There are some classically great hitters who have wilted on the big stage. Just last year Robinson Cano of the Yankees was a woeful 3-for-40. A’s RBI machine Miguel Tejada was 2-for-23 after having racked up 70 extra base hits and 106 RBIs in the 2003 season. Manny Ramirez drove in 165 runs in the 1998 season for the Indians, then went 1-for-18 in the playoffs.

Not to tell A’s manager Bob Melvin how to work his lineup, but he’d be well advised to support Cespedes by keeping Seth Smith in the lineup as the DH for the next few games. Smith had two hits Saturday, both following Cespedes hits and the second setting up the winning run, and Cespedes could use the threat of a hot, productive bat behind him to get better pitches to hit.

All Smith did was hit .393 in September, even when he couldn’t get in the lineup every day. He only played in 15 games and started just seven of those, but .393 is .393, and is going to get respect from the other side. That can only help Cespedes.

(Not that it particularly means anything, but while writing this I went back and looked up what A’s starters did when Smith was hitting behind them during his September hot streak. They went 12-for-23, .522. Add in Cespedes on Saturday and it’s 14-for-27, .518).

Whatever the A’s can do to get Cespedes to get better pitches to hit is a terrific idea.

After all, it’s October. It’s the Generalissimo’s time.


Scratch Adrian Beltre off A’s list of third base candidates

47 days and counting until A’s pitchers and catchers report … Here’s a few baseball tidbits in case you’re suffering bowl-game overload …

–Numerous outlets have reported details of Adrian Beltre’s deal with the Boston Red Sox. Looks like he’s getting a one-year contract for $9 million, with a $5 million player option for 2011. I don’t think he was a realistic option for the A’s at that price, but regardless, that’s one less free agent third baseman available. The A’s still want to find an insurance plan at third in case Eric Chavez isn’t healthy. What would you like to see them do? Dip into their past and sign Miguel Tejada, as they did last winter w/Jason Giambi? Give prospect Adrian Cardenas a crack at third? See if Adam Kennedy, still unsigned, would re-consider playing third again? None of the above?

–Speaking of former Athletics: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Mark Mulder is close to signing with the Brewers.

–Speaking of a much lower-profile former Athletic: right-hander Colby Lewis is looking for a major league job after two fine seasons as a starter for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan. You might remember Lewis’ time with Oakland in 2007. He got hammered for 10 earned runs in his first appearance — and only start — against the White Sox, then worked out of the bullpen much of the season. Even with Justin Duchscherer back in the fold, I could see the A’s bringing another veteran to spring training, to at least provide some competition for a rotation spot. Lewis seems like a decent, low-cost option to me, although the above story quotes Lewis’ agent as saying six teams are “aggressively bidding” for him.

Check back w/you soon …


Bummin on Tejada

I’m sad about Miguel Tejada.

See, when I was growing up, I was raised on Joe Rudi. When I was in college, I had season-ticket packages to see Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley. And as a professional, well, you don’t get much better than to be around a guy like Miguel Tejada.

I’ve gone on a lot in other blogs about my lifelong ties to the A’s. You lose those when you become a beat writer, because it’s just a natural by-product of the gig. I knew that going in. But what was new to me was that you’re drawn to players for different reasons than by what they do on the field. Tejada, to put it simply, was one of those guys in the industry who you’d want to introduce to your family (in all the years of doing this; I’ve met about a dozen, but Shooty Babbitt, Mark Ellis and Kirk Rueter head the list). Closest thing to Pete Rose I’ve ever seen in terms of playing hard every single second and loving the game so much.

You know what? I’m more proud today of my affinity for Tejada than I’ve ever been. Watch the video. THAT’S how you apologize for something

(And as for Buster Olney’s point — and I love Buster Olney’s blog — two points of my own: 1. Do we really need to hear what the players have to say anymore? Can’t we just assume most of them, if not all, were doing something?  2. Let’s be careful before we start accusing people of what they’re doing behind closed doors? I mean, maybe Miggy did throw away the steroids he bought. Granted, not very plausible, difficult to believe and only a fool probably does; but we can’t write as fact that it didn’t happen).

More important to me is that he was contrite. He seems to know his actions were wrong. If he could go back and do it differently, it seems he would. I did not come away from the A-Roid interview feeling the same way. And once upon a time, I loved Alex Rodriguez, too.

In 2001, the last A’s season before I joined the beat, I bought a Tejada jersey, just to add to my collection (and I don’t collect much anymore; another by-product of the job). I have that to go with ones of Dennis Eckersley and Dave Stewart (I gave the Mark McGwire one to charity). I’m very glad I have it.


Hey Miggy, you’re so old

This one falls under the category of “ex-A’s,” but since a lot of you have never really lost your love for Miguel Tejada, here’s an interesting item. Tejada now admits he’s two years older than previously thought.

Does this make you change your minds about the A’s decision to let him leave after the 2003 season? Not mine. I always felt that if the A’s kept Tejada and let Eric Chavez depart, they may have gotten over the hump in 2004 or 2005.

Would love to know how the Astros feel about this.


A Giant nothing

A few baseball thoughts while lamenting how the Chargers upset try against the Patriots in the AFC title game was Norv’d (terrible play-calling inside the 10-yard line) , and wondering what happened to the Packers’ Brett Favre in the second half vs. the Giants.

— Slightly less than a month until the Giants report for spring training, and Aaron Rowand remains their only major move. How disappointing is that? Obviously, the Giants will be laying a lot on the line with their dynamite starting staff, but Rowand (while a great clubhouse addition) is not a panacea for the offense. The Giants may be trying to position themselves to win a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games, but if no more moves are made, they’ll find themselves losing more games by those scores than they win.

— The A’s signings of Huston Street and Joe Blanton to one-year deals last week mean nothing in terms of their long-term future in Oakland. But the hunch here is that both will start the season and that both could stick around for a rebuilding effort if the A’s perform better than expected in 2008. We’ll know where they are by the trading deadline, when Blanton, in particular, could really net a lot.

— Had an hour-long conversation with an A’s executive last week, and what I can reveal is that one very interesting question was raised. Of all the A’s who have departed as free agents or been traded since Jason Giambi walked away in 2001, which one or two would you still like to have in 2008? My somewhat-lame answer was Miguel Tejada, but you know what, right now, today, I wouldn’t want him. He’s going to make $18 million this season, he’s lost a ton of range at shortstop, and his best days as a hitter are behind him. Still, I would’ve loved to have seen what the A’s could’ve done in 2004, ’05 and ’06 had they signed Tejada to an extension.

— On that subject, the A’s are promoting their annual FanFest hard, with the key attraction being a tour of the team’s clubhouse. Can just hear it now: “This is where Nick Swisher used to locker. This is where Dan Haren used to locker. This is where Miguel Tejada injected steroids ….”

— On the steroids topic, the back-and-forth between the camps of Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee keeps getting more and more interesting. Can’t wait to find out which one purges himself in front of Congress on Feb. 16. Then again, anybody think Clemens is actually going to show up?

— Meantime, it seems as if Andy Pettitte is doing some spin control of his own, regarding his friendship with Roger Clemens.

Finally, a Super Bowl prediction, because it’s never too early:

Patriots 52, Giants 10. 


The Congressional Hearings

Lots to discuss from today’s Congressional hearings starring Bud Selig, Donald Fehr and George Mitchell. Now that the home Internet service is back up, let’s get to them.

— So, the Giants should’ve responded to former trainer Stan Conte’s concerns that Greg Anderson was bringing steroids into the clubhouse? Gee, never would’ve guessed. Look, the actual news that Congress was mighty unpleased with how general manager Brian Sabean and owner Peter Magowan reacted shouldn’t really be news at all. The newsy thing is that grown men, with supposedly solid upbringings, could just thumb their nose at ethics. Then again, that really isn’t news, because a) professional sports has been about gaining an edge, and b) the more money your corporation attains, the easier it is to assume that accountability will never come back to you. There’s been many a Congressman (and Presidents) who operated under the same assumption.

— Or, to put it another way: What were the Giants going to do? Bonds was their meal ticket. Say your workplace had an employee so good at what he/she did that no matter his/her personal conduct, the company was rolling in green? Hard to believe the company CEO and the other employees wouldn’t look the other way.

— Miguel Tejda, step right up, you’re the next competitor in the “Amazing Disgraced.” Congress is going to investigate Tejada for perjury, which means it’s probably only a matter of time until he’s forced to confess or stage questionable interviews on “60 Minutes.”

— Speaking of Tejada, it’s now official. A’s fans should’ve stopped watching after the great 1970’s run. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, charter members of the “Amazing Disgraced,” have permanently stained the great teams of the late 1980s (thank goodness those teams were defined much, much more by the classy Dave Stewart than by the Bash Brothers), and now some of the greatest moments of the 20-game winning streak are questionable, too.

— Here’s the amazing thing about Bud Selig and Donald Fehr. The more they spill the rhetoric about wishing they’d known something sooner, and agonizing that they didn’t do more and pledging to be more vigilant in the future, the more you get the feeling that if presented with the exact same set of circumstances again, both would respond the exact same way.


The Hot Stove Heats UP

Two big moves in baseball today:1) Aaron Rowand has signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the Giants to patrol center field. Love this signing. Rowand is the anti-Barry Bonds, and is just what that clubhouse needs. He’ll run through a wall at a moment’s notice, and that’s the kind of fire that’s been lacking there for a long time. It’s easy to hitch your wagon to the home run king, but when that home run kings seems bored and selfish much of the time, that spills over. Good move to change the culture of the team.2) Miguel Tejada goes from the Baltimore Orioles to the Houston Astros in a trade for five players: Not sure what the Astros are thinking. They need pitching, and they traded away some in this deal. The Astros then cleared out the shortstop position for Tejada by non-tendering Adam Everett Wednesday evening. Tejada should put up huge numbers in Houston, and he’s in a better organization, but he may have to put up with another year of losing.Your thoughts? 


Whither Miguel Tejada

One of the rumors making the rounds here at the Winter Meetings is that the Giants will be major players for Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada.

Tejada has been worn out from four years of losing in Baltimore, and some questions have arisen about his attitude. Anybody who saw him play in Oakland will tell you that he could be an inspiration inside and outside the clubhouse once he’s revitalized, and a move to the Giants would do it.

His numbers also slid last year, but again, that’s nothing that a change of scenery couldn’t cure. Losing wears on players after awhile and until proven wrong, it’s worth assuming that four years on a pathetic franchise has done that to Miggy.

Now, logical thinking would indicate Giants GM Brian Sabean would not have to give up either Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum to get Tejada, who could provide a big bat for a lineup that currently has nobody that even accelerates the heart rate. Baltimore reportedly is shopping ace Erik Bedard, so the Giants might be able to consumate a deal using only Noah Lowry, Jonathan Sanchez, Brad Hennessey or any combo of the three as bait.  

Of course, the O’s have proven to be anything but logical over the past decade, but maybe that’ll change with new general manager Andy McPhail. McPhail built winners in Minnesota and Chicago, and now is trying to do the same in Baltimore. The biggest obstacle could be O’s owner Peter Angelos’ love for Tejada, and Angelos is probably the worst owner this side of Al Davis when it comes to negatively influencing what his team does.

And what about Omar Vizquel, you ask? Well, the O’s are selling Tejada as a third baseman, even though Tejada apparently still sees himself as a shorstop. Hard to imagine he’d complain about playing besides Omar Vizquel, though, especially since a trade to the Giants would bring him back to the Bay Area.

Worth keeping an eye on.