Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Oakland A's Monday #20

I decided to treat myself to one of those "teacher's vacations" and stretch my holiday from work for a few more days. Today, the wife and I took the boy to the Wild Animal Park and spent several hours staring at somnambulant species under overcast skies. Of course, you can't visit one of San Diego's most famous places without passing the largest mall in our city's north county, so let's just say it was a full day for The Cam Fam.

We got home, I fired up the laptop and found several variations of the same mocking e-mail subject in my inbox:

Oakland Triple-A's!!!

Seems my baseball team up and traded their best hitter from the past two years, OF/1B Nick Swisher. He went to the White Sox in exchange for LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Fautino De Los Santos and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

Gonzalez and De Los Santos are considered the top two prospects in the White Sox's systems, while Sweeney, by most accounts, was their top prospect entering 2007 before concerns that his power development had peaked during a 10 HR season at Triple-A.

As for Nick Swisher, he reminded me a lot of erstwhile A's outfielder Eric Byrnes: loved by the casual fan for a lot of things that have nothing to do with winning (long hair, goofball personality, nice to kids and old ladies). His stats are nothing to sneeze at – 28 HR/season average, career OBP of .361, SLG of .464 – but, like Byrnes, his game is at least a little overrated.

Swisher gets into extended stretches where he tries to hit everything 10,000 feet, rolling over on mediocre breaking pitches and harvesting strikeouts in bunches. Worse, his "baseball IQ" leaves a lot to be desired as Swisher is from the "dive for the sake of Sportscenter" school. And, I've seen enough of him in the field to know that the next cut-off man he hits will probably be the first, to say nothing of his knack for throwing to the wrong base in the late innings.

Swisher wasn't a top tier player, despite the high-pitched howls of the teenaged harpies who infest the A's primary message board.

I guess I'm OK with the trade. The A's weren't going to the playoffs next year with him (and/or SP Dan Haren). I can't vouch for any of the kids we got in return, but the arms seem to have high ceilings according to every Minor League Baseball analysis site I've visited in the past six hours. Oh, shut up.

And, also, "shut up" to everyone already labeling this team "Florida Marlins West".

I've bashed A's GM Billy Beane a-plenty, but he's the only baseball executive on erf with the vision to acknowledge this team's near-term limitations and barren cupboard of prospects by blowing things up so spectacularly, yet so obviously rebuilding with a plan in place – develop a winning team to debut in their new stadium, expected to open…well, sometime.

The fact is, I've been a fan of this team for about 25 years and this has always been the way they operate. In 1984, they traded a 25-year-old Rickey Henderson to the Yankees for truckload of young talent. Some of those guys played key roles in bringing the team back to contention in the late '80s and one or two were later flipped, themselves.

The recently-expired eight year run of success was built (and re-built) the same way.

Well, I guess this is goodbye, Nick. I'll miss your 5'6" midget ways at the plate, but I've gotten used to rooting for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.

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