A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Friday, October 08, 2004

Last Weekend

Last Saturday night was my 20 year High School Reunion at Anoka High School in Minnesota. Friday night was the Homecoming Football game, and it seemed like a good idea to go to the game. Friday October 1st in Anoka and at about 9 pm I would guess the temperature was 27 degrees. Makes me glad I live in California now. The Anoka Tornadoes played the Blaine Bengals and it was tight throughout the game 13-7 Blaine at the half. In the 4th quarter the Tornados drove the field and scored the winning touchdown. At the end of the game Blaine had a chance to win on a field goal. The kicker missed, but there was a penalty, roughing the kicker so they got another chance and missed that one too. Anoka wins 14-13.

Then we hurried to the hotel to watch the A's, but they were already behind 4-0. On Saturday, the reunion was at a hotel right across the street from the Mall of America, which stands on the exact spot of old Metropolitan Stadium where I used to go watch Rod Carew. The first game I ever went to there was with my dad, in about 1973 and it was against the A's. I still remember the yellow and green uniforms.

The reunion started at 5 and dinner was at 6:30, but at 6 my wife and I were still in the room watching the A's. Barry Zito pitched great. Looking back, maybe Macha could have left him in longer, but then again, if Barry had had a meltdown, we'd all be saying he should have been pulled. I thought Rincon was the best one to go in there to pitch to Erstad, and Erstad crushes the first pitch he sees from him. What are you gonna do? Tip your hat to those Angels. We watched til the bitter end, and it was so sad for me. Ever since I have been an A's fan they have always made the playoffs. It seemed like their birthright. I felt most sad for Bobby Crosby, he's seen these A's, his parent team, go to the playoffs every year too, but the year he gets the chance to go, they don't make it. Next year for sure, Bobby.

So I went to the reunion. It was sci-fi for me. It was as if you take the kids I knew 20 years ago and added old makeup to them. Wrinkles and gray hair everywhere, and most of them gained a few sizes. One guy remembered the football practice when I broke my collarbone, even remembered the guy who hit me, Greg Taylor. And they all were Twins fans. They love the Twins and hate the Yankees. They were pulling for the A's to win Saturday so the Twins might get to play Boston. I decided that is my team now. Win Twins. I am not buying the notion that I should love the A's and hate all the other teams. I love the A's first, but I love baseball too, and there is still some good baseball to be played even if the A's aren't playing. The Twins have a song that everyone in MN knows, here are the words:

We're gonna win Twins, we're gonna score
We're gonna win Twins, watch that baseball soar
Let's here it now for the team that came to play
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Minor roster move

The A's picked up reliever Tim Harikkala off waivers from the Rockies and, to make room for him on the 40-man roster, designated Kirk Saarloos for assignment. Other than the fact that both of these guys have cool names, I don't have any strong feelings about this transaction. I guess I don't really think Harikkala is as likely to help the team next year as Saarloos, but maybe the A's think they can pass Saarloos through the waiver process and stash him at Sacramento for another year.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

2004 Minor league wrap-up

It was a good season for A's farm teams. Every Oakland affiliate but Double-A Midland made its league's playoffs, and two of them took home league championship trophies: the Sacramento Rivercats won the Pacific Coast League (AAA) and the Modesto A's won the California League (A+). In addition, the A's had three players named their league's MVP: 1B Dan Johnson in the PCL, OF Brian Stavisky in the Cal League, and OF Javier Herrera in the Northwest League (short-season A).

As far as individual prospects go, it was a mixed bag. Bobby Lee has written up his organizational review of the A's top 25 prospects over at AthleticsInsider.com; I urge you to check it out. I won't bother with duplicating his work, but here are some notes and observations of my own, particularly as regards to the guys who might be playing in Oakland in April.

While I love the fact that the A's have a successful and productive farm system, I'm not in a huge rush to annoint most of these guys as 2005 major-league replacements for A's who will not be returning. In particular, I agree with Mad Dog that Dan Johnson should not take over at 1B/DH for Erubiel Durazo or Scott Hatteberg. Durazo is headed to arbitration, but I think we should just pay him--it won't be a tremendous amount. He only made $2.1M this year and while he had a fabulous season, easily the best of any A's hitter, he didn't reach milestones like 25 homers or 100 RBI that will impress an arbitrator. In other words, I think the market will still undervalue him (my guess is something like $4M, a bargain price for one of the 10 best hitters in the AL) and therefore he'll be worth keeping. Especially since I don't think we've seen his best yet--he hit .321 this year, but where are the walks? He walked only 58 times compared with 100 last year. Since Hatteberg is under contract for one more year, he's not going anywhere; I say let Johnson go back to Sacramento and see if he can improve (.300/.400/.540 is a good, but not great, line for a 1B prospect in the PCL).

Nick Swisher is going to be the starting RF in Oakland, no doubt about it (the notion of the A's picking up Jermaine Dye's $14M option year is beyond laughable). If he gets some practice playing 1B again (his college position, though he hasn't played it at all in the minors since being drafted), he can occasionally spell Hatteberg next year while somebody else (Kielty, I guess) steps into a corner outfield spot. Now, I have low expectations for Swisher (maybe .230/.340/.450), but he's dirt-cheap and will produce close to league average for his position.

Joe Blanton is the other guy being talked up for a promotion from Sacramento, but there's a bit of a logjam in the starting rotation...


The A's are going to have to move at least one of these guys. Saarloos can probably be stashed at AAA again until he's needed, and Duke can stay in the pen (although I bet he would have trade value to a team looking for a decent fourth or fifth starter). But Blanton is ready (don't be fooled by his ERA--his DIPS numbers were very good, so just pitching in front of the A's defense instead of the Rivercats' should help a ton), so one of the lefties has to go. (There is no way they would trade Hudson or Harden, and rightly so.) An intriguing alternative is to trade Duke and then slot Blanton into his long-relief role. Earl Weaver favored this strategy of allowing rookie pitchers to get their feet wet pitching in relief; it might be worth a try. By 2006 there will certainly be a rotation spot available to him.

On to the bullpen. I think both Jairo Garcia and Huston Street should be in the major league bullpen next year. Jim Mecir has talked about retiring, and Chad Bradford is a free agent; that's two righties we need to replace. Arthur Rhodes is signed for two more years, but if they can get him straightened out he's a fine 8th-inning guy. Rincon is around for another year as the one-batter lefty guy. Hammond is a free agent, but they really didn't use him that much anyway; Justin Lehr or anybody else could take his job and not really hurt the team. That leaves Dotel. I think because of the high ERA and the blown saves, he too will not fetch a huge sum in arbitration (but maybe I'm wishcasting); if that's the case, they should sign him and run him right back out there in the 9th inning. With such a tremendous K rate, there's no way he'll give up as many hits next year.

One final note: I officially predict that Jason Windsor will skyrocket through the A's system next year like Blanton in 2003 or Harden in 2002.

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