A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Chavez Extension Imminent?

There's been a strong buzz going around Arizona for several days now that the A's and Eric Chavez are on the verge of announcing a 6-year, $66 million contract extension that would keep Chavez with the team until 2010. Supposedly the team is going to announce it on Thursday after the final details have been worked out; apparently the last major sticking point was not between the A's and Chavez (or his agent, Dave Stewart) at all, but with an insurance company. (Smart teams pretty much never sign anybody to a long-term deal without getting some insurance, but smart insurance companies don't insure contracts beyond the third year.)

I'm sure most A's fans will agree that keeping Chavez is a good thing. Chavez is an outstanding player already, even though his hitting hasn't developed one bit since we all thought he was going to become a monster four years ago. Defensively, he's a joy to watch and his fielding numbers are starting to border on the ridiculous; according to BP, he's the best defensive 3B of the past twenty years.

The best part of all is this: Chavez is only 26, and the extension will last until he is 32. 32 isn't young, but it's definitely young enough that he's likely to still be a very productive player. This is totally different from the Giambi situation, where he was coming off two huge seasons but was already into his 30s and with a creaky back. Giambi is still a fine hitter, but the Yankees are on the hook for 5 more years and something like $75 million; they don't care about the money, naturally, but does anybody think he'll still be worth $15M at age 37?

Tejada is another case entirely. It's not as clear-cut as with Giambi, but I think the A's definitely did the right thing by letting him walk, because 1) nobody's really sure whether he's actually 28 this year, and if he's older, he's a much worse investment; 2) unlike Chavez, he's overrated by conventional baseball statistics (BA, RBI, MVP awards) since he's merely a good--not ridiculously great--defensive player who doesn't walk that much; and maybe most importantly, 3) the A's already have a cheap, home-grown replacement in Bobby Crosby. I think Crosby won't be Tejada's equal this year or next, but he'll be very affordable for the next six years and it might not be that long before he's the more productive of the two players.

(Of all the departed free agents in recent years, the one I most wish we had been able to keep is Keith Foulke. But since he left, I'm absolutely thrilled that the A's were able to nab Arthur Rhodes to replace him at 1/3 the cost, since Rhodes has proven himself to be one of the nastiest, most dominant relief pitchers in all of baseball; the only reason he's not getting the same elite level of compensation is the lack of saves on his career resume.)

Getting back on topic... does the Chavez extension signal a sea change in the mind of Billy and his assistants, that the A's window of contention doesn't just run until 2004 or 2005 but could very well last the whole decade? Should we be hopeful about the situations of Hudson and Mulder in 2005 and Zito in 2006? Hudson and others have been talking about how keeping Chavez in the fold would "send a message" about the A's commitment to keeping the team together, but rationally, I wonder whether "sending a message" is the thing to focus on rather than "tying up a lot of payroll."

Here's a thorny question: I've already stated why I think keeping Chavez is better than keeping Giambi or Tejada would have been... but if it comes down to Chavez vs. Hudson, or Chavez vs. Zito... if you couldn't afford to have all of these guys into and past their peak years, in what order would you prioritize them?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Has Baseball Changed?

I don't think baseball has changed much over the last 30 years or so. A couple of nights ago the 1969 WS game 5 was on ESPN classic. The footage was great and the game looked very similar to games of the last few years. A few notes:

1) Right when I turned it on Cleon Jones was up, I wondered if this was the game and the AB where the ball hits him in the shoe, and then they get the ball, see the shoe polish and award him first base. Within seconds of me thinking that, it happened. But the announcers said that wasn't the first time that had happened. That 1969 shoe-polish play was a plot point in the movie "Frequency", which is pretty good.

2) The pitchers were Dave McNally and Jerry Koosman. 2 lefties who looked really good. I don't know if they had speed guns back then, but just from watching, I am pretty sure they could pitch in the majors today.

3) What the heck was all that trash on the field? The Shea Stadium field seemed to be covered in wrappers, and napkins and paper. I couldn't beleive it. Why wouldn't there be a bunch of ushers cleaning up after each inning. Every time a ball went into the OF, the fielders seemed to be running through trash. Crazy.

Then the Mets won and the fans stormed the field. The other time I saw a huge storming of the field was after the 1977 Yankees championship. I guess no one storms a field like New York.

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