an Oakland Athletics Blog:
Pitching, Defense and the Three Run Jimmy-Jack

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Thursday, January 03, 2008



One of the many reasons I started this blog and website years ago was for my own memory. It became impossible to read what the media wrote about games (ever notice that nothing seems to happen between the 5th and 8th innings of a game according to a beat reporter?). Only the box score held some clue, but depending on that source it may have been incomplete as well. What I found was that the more I talked about A's baseball with other fans how much they were not aware of. Many still think the talking heads on TV know what they are talking about. That beat reporters 'report'; not trivialize. That articles are news worthy; not puff pieces.

The media misses the boat on analysis. Even editorials are not much more than a lot of hot air to rile up your indignation (SEE; PED's or what some of you refer to as steroids - again, steroids are not the whole story). Unfortunately fans read the newspapers and watch highlights on ESPN and think they got the information they needed. The A's won or lost, the score was X-Y, so and so got the win, so and so the loss, somebody got a hit.

As bad as the game reporting is the bigger picture and the ebb and flow of a baseball organization is completely lost on the media. They have resorted to starting their own 'blogs' [ED NOTE: the difference between a blog and a newspaper are many] and comments from readers to keep their profession from listing. Michael Lewis gave his version of events regarding the Oakland A's and the media felt spurned. Particularly the much noted lax west coast sports media. Someone scooped them on a story that had been there for years. Lewis didn't get it 'right' so much as he uncovered the tarp acting as a veil.

The big picture is lost as are the details in the media. There really is no forest. There are no trees. There is simply what they choose to tell you.

You should feel insulted by that.

The recent trades by the Oakland Athletics are dynamic and have implication on many levels. The most important is that they are a stinging rebuke of Billy Beane's management of the Oakland Athletics Baseball Club, and if you will - the populist Moneyball theory. Very few 'got' what Moneyball was about. Too many think it had to do with drafting college pitchers, guys with high on base percentages and to hell with input by scouts. Actually, it was about finding market inefficiencies and exploiting them. The problem? The A's didn't do a very good job of exploitation and the draft that highlighted that theory turned into a bust.

Nick Swisher was the embodiment of the draft for Michael Lewis and let's just take it on its face; the rest of the baseball world as it came to Moneyball and the A's. I mean, why fight the thunder and lightning at this point? Swisher was one of several first round draft picks for the A's in 2002. While Lewis spent much of the book explaining (not very well) varying statistical analysis methods the A's purportedly eschewed - Nick Swisher was the player the scouting crowd and stat heads could 'agree' on. The definable stats and the indefinable intangibles and the tools in-betweens were all there with Nick Swisher.

What Swisher became for the A's was a loudmouth, publicity-whore and/or the face of the A's franchise. Swisher was not a disappointment if you read columns by Susan Slusser and Mychael Urban. If you look at the projections based on stats and the hopes based on talent and ability - Swisher had failed, to date, to live up to the expectations of both the stat head and scouting communities. Swisher's ability and talent have deteriorated into 'old player skills'; power, walks, low average, lack of speed. In 2007 Jack Cust clearly showed that those old player skills are not worthy of a 1st round draft choice - they could be had, twice-over, (the A's had Cust in Sacramento for 2005) at the minor league level.

Now. Take that into context. Is that a condemnation of Swisher - or the A's organization? How many other A's players that have been drafted and developed through their system have been able to deliver? Very few. Very, very few. Joe Blanton is a back of the rotation innings eater. But.

Eric Chavez.

Bobby Crosby.

Two good examples. I could list the dozens of failed high draft picks of the A's that never made it to full season in AAA since Billy Beane took over the helm of the Good Ship Athletics...

The A's farm system was as barren as a Transylvania blood drive as recently as a month ago. Suddenly the A's have prospects in the outfield and on the pitcher's mound. To be blunt the trades of Danny (Che) Haren and Nick Swisher were necessary for the A's. Individually Haren and Swisher are beside the point; the A's have failed to draft and develop players at an unconscionable rate. Their farm system was dry. And while they did have players make the 25 Man roster in 2007 - many of those were out of despair and well beyond need. The fact that the A's signed Lenny DiNardo to a one-year $900,000+ contract spelled out how desperate they had become.

These recent trades restock a desperate farm system. However the question remains; why has their draft system, strategy and player development personnel not been sacked? Are the A's glutens for punishment? Does the A's front office really expect to turn it around?

For all the talk of the A's being a 'poor' team in a 'small' market their success had been tied to drafting, developing and even trading for young talent. The A's have tried to fill gaps in their player development ranks and at the major league level with poor decisions on contract extensions and free agent contracts.

Let's look at just one of many scenarios that combines a lot of these strings together:

  • For the 2004 season Billy Beane signed Arthur Rhodes to a 3 year deal. Beane designated Rhodes as the closer. Rhodes had flamed out as a closer in the past with both Baltimore and Seattle. Rhodes was 34 years old, not getting any younger and was now due $9 Million over the life of the contract.

  • Rhodes was horrible as a closer. And did not make any friends in the clubhouse, either.

  • In late June, with the A's 3 1/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West Beane traded for Octavio Dotel.

  • Dotel promptly blew his first save opportunity with the A's.

  • The A's gave up Mike Wood (5th starter) and Mark Teahen (a 3rd baseman drafted in the ballyhooed Moneyball draft of 2002) to the Kansas City Royals. Also involved in the deal were catcher John Buck (from the Astros to the Royals) and centerfielder Carlos Beltran (from the Royals to the Astros). It's safe to say that those four players fared better than Dotel.

  • The A's went 4-9 in the last two weeks of the 2004 season and then Angels overtook the A's in the AL West via a 10-0 romp against an injured Mark Mulder in game 160 and went on to win the division.

  • The A's failure to develop a closer for several years led Billy Beane to agree to arbitration with Octavio Dotel and pay him $4,750,000. Dotel was promptly injured in 2005 after appearing in just 15 games.

  • As the A's had failed to develop a catcher for several seasons (Jeremy Brown - Moneyball draft of 2002) and with Arthur Rhodes contract too deep of a burden following the 2004 season Billy Beane traded for Jason Kendall who was paid more than $25 Million by the A's for 2 1/2 years of some of the worst offensive baseball by a catcher EVER in an A's uniform.

  • Since 2005 Mark Teahen has hit .274/.340/.429 and made $1,076,500.

  • Since 2005 Eric Chavez has hit .253/.331/.451 and made $27,500,000.
  • [ED NOTE: For those wishing to grasp at straws and point out Chavez' two Gold Gloves at 3rd base in 2005 and 2006 - statistics show he was not the best defensive 3rd baseman either year but feel free to make a point that two Gold Gloves are worth more than $25 million.]

  • John Buck has been Kansas City's regular backstop for several seasons. Mike Wood was a serviceable 5th starter. Carlos Beltran has been an All Star the last three seasons and hit .276/.353/.525 winning two Silver Sluggers.
  • [ED NOTE: Okay, Beltran made $39 Million - Kendall and Chavez made more than $50 Million combined]

There's a tale been told about the greatness of Billy Beane for a long time. I hope you have stopped believing what you hear in the media and from the casual fan. Start questioning the validity and base your opinions on the numbers and facts. Billy Beane is not the worst GM in baseball, but it's not hard to pick out better GM's. Even with the A's mythical small payroll. Beane has made some great moves...good moves...not so good moves. The fact remains he has made so many bad moves that his 'positive' moves are really just scabs on the A's organization wounds he himself inflicted.

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