Tuesday, October 13, 2009
10 (Final) Thoughts: Oakland A's – 2009
The A's are DONE in Oakland: The Athletics drew 1.4 million fans to their decaying stadium this year – averaging about 17,300 per game. Of course, Major League Baseball counts "tickets sold" over actual attendance, but even then I'm calling bullsh**. During September, most unofficial estimates had the weeknight crowds totaling less than 3,000 cold souls. There are reasons both economic and sociological for the lack of local fan support, but the biggest hurdles continue to be the team's inept attempts at relocating the franchise and the inexplicable public bashing of the Coliseum by A's ownership. To summarize: the team doesn't want to be in Oakland and can't be bothered to come up with a reason for fans to come out either. The A's recovered from the near-miss move to Denver in 1980 and the five-year nadir from 1994-1998, but they ain't coming back from this.
Jack Cust had better be DONE in Oakland: I've beaten this drum more than once in this space during the 2009 season, so let's get down to brass tacks: .912, .857, .773. Those are Cust's OPS for the each of past three seasons. He's eligible for arbitration and made $2.8 million this past season. He turns 30 next year with this guy as his most age-equivalent comp according to baseball-reference.com. Cust was the A's best hitter for the past three seasons and – to put it succinctly – I'm sick and tired of being OK with faint praise.
Is Rajai For Reals: Which player would YOU rather have?
Player A: 89 games (.323/.374/.459, 34 SB)
Player B: 89 games (.284/.353/.525, 16 SB)
"Player A" is A's CF Rajai Davis (from approximately mid-June to the end of the season) who enjoyed a career year at the age of 29 after spending his entire big league career as a 5th outfielder, defensive replacement and pinch-runner. "Player B" is Rockies CF Carlos Gonzalez (his entire season) who the A's traded away last offseason. He's only 23 and a legit five-tool prospect. Just sayin'.
I'll happily concede that in an otherwise depressing season, Davis' "breakout" was a refreshing change from the lumbering ball my A's usually play. But, let's not un-retire Rickey's number just yet. Davis posted an ungodly .366 BABIP. He only walked 29 times in 432 PAs. And, his SB% was a barely acceptable 77%. Alex Cole and Chuckie Carr were capable of putting together a few hot months, too. Just sayin'.
Enough with the old people: The offseason wasn't even a week old before ESPN.com's Buster Olney was speculating that the A's might have interest in free agents Jermaine Dye and Miguel Tejada. Stop it. STOP IT! If this season taught our boy-genius GM nothing else, it had better be that old ballplayers should be sent before those imaginary liberal death panels – not signed to "low risk" deals worth millions of dollars. 1999 John Jaha is not walking through that door, Mr. Beane. 2006 Frank Thomas is not walking through that door, Mr. Beane. And, that's it. You've hit on TWO of these acts in your 12-year tenure, Mr. Beane. TWO! STOP IT~!
The last word on THAT trade: The A's coaching staff has occasionally been criticized for being unable to "fix" pitchers who struggle after enjoying extended stretches of success. Former ROY Huston Street posted a 3.73 ERA including some EPIC blown saves in 2008 with Oakland, then had a career-year in Colorado after being traded for Matt Holliday. And, the aforementioned Carlos Gonzalez (also part of the package to Colorado for Holliday) dropped this quote after an interleague game between the Rockies and A's, "The [Rockies] always expect to win. I'm not saying Oakland was playing to lose, but it feels a little nicer [with the Rockies]. There's a lot more energy, the expectations are huge."
Wild Thing!: RP Henry Rodriguez was one of the A's many September call-ups. At AAA-Sacramento, he posted one of the most awesome AND awful lines I've ever seen:
43.2 IP 38 H 28 ER 38 BB 71(!) Ks
He made his Major League debut on September 21 in a blowout loss to Texas. His first pitch was clocked at 100 mph. After that, he gave up a single and then a force out followed by: wild pitch, wild pitch, walk, hit by pitch, error (given to the first baseman, when actually Rodriguez was late off the mound and failed to cover the bag in time), deep fly out and a strikeout. Like a 10-car pileup, I couldn't turn away.
Uh oh: In 2004, the A's traded SP Mark Mulder to St. Louis for a package that included super-prospect Daric Barton. Baseball Prospectus hailed Barton as a player who'd eventually "hit for average, draw walks by the bushel and hit for gap power". In 799 big league PAs, Barton's hit a disappointing .249/.348/.394. In 2009, the A's acquired super-prospect Brett Wallace from St. Louis. BP pegged Wallace's upside as "a number-three hitter who [will be] among the league leaders in batting average and on-base percentage, with 20-25 home runs annually". Fun fact: Barton's career OPS at Triple-A is .816. Wallace's is .815. Dammit.
#52 in your programs, #1 in your hearts…: Journeyman middle reliever Kevin Cameron pitched in 11 games for the A's. Not long enough to distinguish himself as anything more than a spare bullpen part, but just long enough for Mrs. Bootleg to score me his jersey-shirt for Father's Day. Look for it in an upcoming edition of the T-Ball Chronicles.
My 2nd favorite A's moment(s) of 2009: Yes, I know he's in it. It's still awesome.
My favorite A's moment(s) of 2009: Everything Jalen-related from here, here and here.
See you in 2010, Oakland A's.