A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Friday, January 14, 2005

Durazo re-signed; Bobby Smith acquired

The A's have inked DH Erubiel Durazo to a one-year contract extension, avoiding arbitration. The linked article does not disclose financial terms of the agreement, but I've seen elsewhere that the contract is reportedly for $4.7 million, a hefty raise over the $2.1M he made in 2004. That seems like a pretty good deal for the A's from my perspective, since this is a guy who is one of the 10 best hitters in the AL, and he's still reasonably close to his prime years. The deal leaves Eric Byrnes, Juan Cruz, Octavio Dotel, and Bobby Kielty as the remaining arbitration-eligible players who have yet to come to terms with the team.

In other news, the A's also signed outfielder Bobby Smith to a minor league contract. Smith isn't young (30), nor is he particularly good, but he's really only there to provide depth in the outfield. Last year, Smith had a big season for White Sox affiliate Charlotte in the International League, hitting .272/.333/.518 with 28 homers. He also had some decent years in the Tampa Bay organization, but overall his minor-league numbers are distinctly unimpressive.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

How is Randy Moss like Randy Johnson?

There were two incedents this week which I'd like to address. Randy Moss' TD celebration and Randy Johnson's pushing a camera out of his face. Two seemingly totally different incedents. What was the same about them was they were honest expressions of individuality. What was also the same about them is that ESPN had a segment where one of their talking heads condemed each action, Berman on Moss, Pito on Johnson. Maybe ESPN isn't the worldwide leader in sports, maybe they are the world police for bad behaving athletes. ESPN is acting an awful lot like the Man. I like both of those guys, and I enjoyed watching both clips because they both were things that I found funny and refreshing and individual. It is sad to see later both of them appoligize for being themselves.

I like RJ. I hate to see him go to the Yankees. One could make the case that he should expect cameras in his face in NYC. OK, fair enough, but on the other hand, I knew he was surly bastard, I thought everyone knew he was a surly bastard. Did you see how close that camera was to his face? Way too close, that cameraman is lucky he didn't get punched. I think that is exactly the attitutude you want from a power pitcher. It appears to be exactly what the Yankees need. New York should be worshiping this guy, not trying to make him look bad.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Yabu signing official

Here's the A's press release. Major-league contract, 1M in 2004 with a 1.25M option for 2005 and 300K in performance bonuses.

I still dislike this signing. His Japanese stats are really unremarkable, with a kind of low walk rate the only real positive (and it's not even that low), he's old (so he's unlikely to outperform them), and he's not really supposed to have great stuff. In Billy We Trust, maybe he knows something we don't, but I just don't see the point of this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Case for Keeping Eric Byrnes

I have read a lot of rumors on the net about the A's possibly trading Eric Byrnes. I understand the A's principle of selling high and buying low, moving a player who is overvalued and trying to get a player who is undervalued. But here are some reasons to keep Byrnesy for at least 2005:

1) I don't believe he is in line to make a really large amount of money and what we can expect him to produce is probably still a bargain.

2) Even though he had 20 bombs last year, and expecting that again is pretty optimistic, I believe his upside may be worth the risk of him flopping and having his value plummet.

3) There are already questions in the OF with Dye gone, and the A's have had plenty of trouble fielding 3 good outfielders in the past few years, these new players and Swisher may be great but they may struggle. Right now the A's have 2 proven outfielders, Byrnes and Kotsay. I can't believe anyone in the A's organization thinks Bobby Kielty has the potential to be as good as Byrnes was last year. I sure don't.

4) Byrnes stole 17 bases in 18 attempts in 2004. This is monumental by A's standards, and Beane has said that SBs are not valuable because getting caught hurts more than the successful steal helps. Byrnes made his steals valuable by being successful 94% of the time. He has wheels and he uses them for valuable additions to the team.

5) It is not that I don't believe there is some stud out there the A's could get in a trade for Byrnes, it is that statistically I see the chances that the player Beane gets in trade being better in the short and long term being slim, or at least slimmer than 50/50 that this presumably cheaper younger player will pan out, because I am making the case that Byrnes is a proven commodity.

6) The player who potentially becomes an A may not like playing in Oakland. Johnny Damon said it took him a while to get used to playing in cool Oakland, being from Florida. Eric Byrnes is from the bay area, loves it here, and the fans love him. I think as fans we have weathered enough popular players leaving for one offseason.

Monday, January 10, 2005

A's sign Japanese pitcher

Accourding to Japanese media outlets, the A's have signed Keiichi Yabu, a right-handed starting pitcher from Japan. This move comes as something of a surprise to me, since I hadn't heard anything about the A's being interested in Japanese players. But it doesn't strike me as being a bad move, as it provides the team with extra starting pitching depth (although you kind of wonder if there was already too much) at a fairly low-cost.

Yabu is a 36-year old veteran of the Japanese League, having pitched for 11 years for the Hanshin Tigers. His career record is only 84-106, but his ERA of 3.57 is quite good. Yabu is very stingy with both walks and home runs (he's an extreme groundball pitcher), which enables him to compensate for an unspectacular strikeout rate. Jim Albright, over at baseballguru.com, has posted a translation of Yabu's past 5 seasons to their major-league equivalents. I have to say, it doesn't look that impressive--definitely back-of-the-rotation caliber.

This latest move gives the A's a ridiculous depth of starting pitching both in Oakland and Sacramento. As I see it, the obvious rotation candidates are Zito, Harden, Haren, Meyer and Blanton, but perhaps this latest move will allow the A's the luxury of starting Meyer out in AAA, where he has only 2 months of experience under his belt so far. Given the way things might work out in Oakland, I could see Sacramento having a pitching staff to rival some of the lower-tier staffs in the major leagues:

Oakland rotation: Zito, Harden, Haren, Blanton, Yabu
Oakland bullpen: Dotel, Cruz, Calero, Bradford, Rincon, Johnson

Sacramento rotation: Duchscherer, Meyer, Saarloos, Etherton, Rheinecker
Sacramento bullpen: Street, Garcia, Mabeus, Harikkala, Flores, Reames

That, my friends, is pitching depth. Five starters and four relievers in AAA who are probably capable of performing at or above an average level for the majors. In fact, it's so much depth that I fully expect Billy to be on the phone working out some kind of trade whereby the A's can upgrade at some other position. Justin Duchscherer in AAA? What a waste that would be.

[Added 5:25 pm: I'm an idiot--Duchscherer is out of options, so he can't be sent back to Sacramento without clearing waivers. Not that it would be a good idea to send him back to the minors anyway, since he's clearly a valuable pitcher at the major-league level. Thanks to Paul for pointing out my negligence in the comments section.

Nevertheless, this just reinforces the notion that the A's will move one or more of their current major-league pitchers. According to the rumor mill, it will probably be Juan Cruz, but he may be the most talented of the new acquisitions. Either way, it's a situation worth keeping an eye on.]

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Post on the Minnesota Vikings

There is very little baseball news lately. I went to Cabo for 6 days and came back and there were no new posts. So I thought I'd go off-topic with a post about the Vikes. First of all, football is not nearly as great a sport as baseball, so when I watch football, I watch to be entertained and not so much to see quality play. I have been a Vikings fan all my life, and this year's model, while not being particularly good, has been very entertaining. They play a lot of high scoring close games.

Against the Packers today, I was pretty optimistic, Green Bay is also not a really good team and they also lean more towards offensive quality than defensive. The Vikings have been terrible down the stretch for 2 years now, losing 7 of their last 10 this year. But they made the playoffs, and went into Green Bay the decided underdogs. And they dominated. The Vikings made 4 interceptions and played about as good a D as they can play.

Randy Moss caught 2 TDs and at the end of the 2nd one pantomimed mooning the Green Bay fans. Joe Buck had a tizzie fit about it being classless. And then Fox replayed it a few times on the postgame show, and Howie Long said, "This just proves that skill does not mean class." Hold on there, skill and class aren't the same thing?? And FOX playing it and talking about it so much, are they really outraged, or are they trying to milk some controversy out of a game that wasn't very close? When they interviewed Moss after the game, everything he said was intelligent and appropriate. He said, "We didn't just come in here and steal one, we beat their Ass!" And then FOX bleeped the "Ass" I thought that was an ok word. Randy said, "I was having some fun with the crowd, but if it comes to that I'll take the heat." Perfectly sensible. Anyone who has watched Randy Moss play knows what he does. He plays well, he showboats, he gets penalized for childish stuff. That's what he does, do we really need to change him? Doesn't he add something to the NFL for being Randy Moss? The dude was in jail repeatedly before he made it to the NFL, and something like 19 teams passed on him out of college and the Vikings took him and were willing to deal with his antics to get his great plays. I thought it was a fair tradeoff then and I still think it is a fair tradeoff. Spare me the mock outrage and enjoy the show.

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