Sunday, August 1, 2010
10 Thoughts: Oakland A's -- July 2010
July Record: 14-10
Overall Record: 52-51 (2nd Place, 8.5 GB Texas)
The Antithesis of Momentum: On July 30, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the A's were drawing "heavy" interest in LH reliever Craig Breslow, but weren't inclined to consummate a deal. Rosenthal's explanation was that the A's were "serious about building momentum going forward". Depending on whom you believe, RH reliever Michael Wuertz was also rumored to be on the move, but remained in Oakland for the same reason.
If you're unfamiliar with my A's, Wuertz, 31, has posted ONE knock-your-socks-off season (2009) since he debuted with the Cubs in 2004. He was so overworked in '09 that he missed almost all of Spring Training and the first month of this season. His 5.01 ERA is helped by 5-6 decent weeks of work, recently. Breslow's been solid since the A's claimed him off waivers last year. But, middle relievers are inherently unpredictable from year-to-year and eminently fungible. Billy Beane KNOWS this. Hell, early last decade, he entrusted the middle innings (for a consistent contender) to names like Jeff Tam, Mike Magnante and Jim Mecir.
Give our boy-genius GM credit for exploiting the media in an admirable -- but, unsuccessful -- attempt to drive up the value of Wuertz and Breslow before the trade deadline.
The Arms Race: The A's posted a season-best 3.07 ERA in July. M'man Ben Sheets lost two of his three decisions, but contributed with a 2.25 ERA for the month. Just wanted to show y'all that I'm done b*tching about Ben Sheets.
Four More Years: C Kurt Suzuki and the A's agreed to a four-year extension on July 23. The deal locks him up through 2013 with an option for 2014. From a cost-certainty perspective, it's a good bit of business. He's on pace for a 20 home run season and his work with Oakland's perpetually prepubescent pitching staff has been reported into the ground. He's still a little overrated by A's believers and beat writers, but he's arguably the current face of the franchise. (Fun Fact: The A's traded away Nick Swisher just seven months after he signed a five-year extension in 2007. Sigh.)
There's No "A" in "Extra Base": The A's have 266 extra base hits on the season -- good enough for 13th in the American League. Uninformed "purists" insist this team can win with the outdated "small ball and stolen base" formula. My retort: (1) The Rangers have hit the fifth most home runs in the AL and are running away with the AL West. (2) The Angels, who are battling the A's for second place, are sixth in HRs and clearly miss their biggest home run hitter (Kendry Morales, who's out for the season). (3) There have been just two AL pennant winners in the past 25 years who've won with a "small ball" philosophy: the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the 2002 Anaheim Angels. TWO!
More Small Ball and Stolen Bases: On the season, the collective slash line for every hitter the A's have plugged into the leadoff spot is .243/.303/.360 with 37 stolen bases. One of these stats is much more important than the other, y'know.
Cinematic Moneyball: Brad Pitt as GM Billy Beane. Jonah Hill as Assistant GM Paul DePodesta. Phillip Seymour Hoffman as manager Art Howe. Production problems, script revisions and a fired director. Shooting at the Oakland Coliseum began July 26. After 15 years, there may just be a worse baseball movie than The Fan in my lifetime. (Admittedly, I've never seen John Goodman's The Babe.)
The Way to San Jose: Follow the bouncing blowhards -- late last month San Jose mayor Chuck Reed announced he would ask the City Council to put a measure for the construction of a new ballpark on the November ballot. Within hours, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement denouncing the decision. A few days later, MLB contacted the city of San Jose and formally requested that the City Council not move forward with the November ballot initiative, citing the long-ongoing study being performed by a committee Selig created to review the A's need for a new ballpark. MLB even offered to help foot the bill for a special election next spring, if needed. By the end of the month, the city had agreed not to proceed with the ballot initiative. What's it all mean? My uniformed, over-simplified guess: Opening Day in San Jose in 2016.
Sweeney's Knees: It was announced that RF Ryan Sweeney would undergo knee surgery and miss the remainder of the season. Many A's fans steadfastly believe the 6'4", 225 lbs. Sweeney has 20+ home run potential. He's only cleared the fence 13 times in about 1400 plate appearances over his first five seasons, though. With top prospect Michael Taylor waiting in the wings; this could be the end of the line for Sweeney in Oakland. Is Kansas City still the retirement home for unproductive erstwhile A's OFs? It's a rich legacy that includes Dave Henderson, Terrence Long and Jose Guillen.
Fair or Foul?: Speaking of the Royals, in the first game of a three-game set in Kansas City, A's OF Coco Crisp led off the game with a shot down the first base line. It was erroneously called foul before the umpires conferred, determined it to be fair and awarded Crisp second base. Second base! Yes, Crisp almost certainly would've ended up with a double if the first base umpire had got the call right, but stuff like this is the epitome of the slippery slope that replay opponents (and, I'm NOT one of them) will use to keep the "human element" in the game. We all know the human element destroyed the integrity of pro wrestling.
Ben Sheets: In case you missed last week's post in which I b*tched about Ben Sheets. (OK, now I'm done.)