So much Rich Harden. So much for Nick Swisher. And so much for the big, bad Angels. Nice, isn’t it, that there were more than a couple of A’s-related items going on in the opening round of the baseball playoffs. Here’s my take on them:
The release is on the A’s Web site. Starting pitcher Joe Blanton goes to the Philadelphia Phillies for three prospects that casual fans have barely heard of, if at all. Two of them, second baseman Adrian Cardenas and outfielder Matt Spencer have not played above Single-A. Oufielder Matt Spencer just reached Double-A.
In other words, this is a deal for 2010, one that will supplement the deals that already have been made for 2009. Not an easy time to be an A’s fan, to be sure, but the A’s charted this course over the winter, so if anybody is shocked about this, they don’t know this team.
I understand the annoyance felt by A’s fans. It seems that as soon as a player gets good enough for fans to latch onto, he’s dealt. But I honestly don’t think it’s that the A’s don’t want to win. In fact, I know that’s not the case. General manager Billy Beane is as competitive a guy as I’ve ever met in my life; you don’t get to where he is in life without that streak and he would not stay in a place where winning is not the ultimate goal.
But one other thing about Beane is that he’s a realist. And what is happening here is that he has determined that the A’s as presently constructed are unlikely to do special things. Therefore, the emphasis is on trading guys at their peak value. If the A’s had a young, dynamic lineup that was scoring five runs a game, I guarantee Dan Haren would still be here, and so would Blanton.
I asked assistant general manager David Forst on the conference call what he would say to the fans, and to paraphrase him, he essentially said that A’s management is “not immune” to the feelings of their fan base, but that the desire is to build a team that’s really good for a really long time. That was the thinking back in 1999 when the A’s made some trades to add to a foundation that eventually made four straight playoff appearances.
Forst also said the A’s like the team they have now, one that should get a lift from the returns of Frank Thomas and Mike Sweeney from the disabled list by the end of the month. So don’t be shocked if the A’s go out and add somebody. But the bottom line is that the team they had was six back of the Angels in the American League West, and as Forst said, “we want to be the team being chased.”
Does it take faith to feel OK about what’s happening. Darn right it does. But Beane does not whiff on deals very often, and I like that the A’s are adding young hitters to the mix. The lineup they’ve trotted out recently could match the ol’ 1978 and ’79 A’s for sheer impotence, and there’s nobody in the minors that’s going to make that a lot better anytime soon. So the A’s need to add some offensive talent. Whether they’ve done that here, who knows, but I don’t blame them for taking a shot at it.
Tell me A’s fandom, what’s your reaction?
I’ll blog more later, but just glanced Buster Olney’s ESPN blog, and it appears Joe Blanton could be the next Athletic on the move. Phils are apparently interested. Anybody on the Phillies big-league roster that you guys would want in Oakland (besides, of course, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, none of whom would be on the move)?
I’ll be back this afternoon with my thoughts on the second half.