A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Byrnes to Pittsburgh?

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that Eric Byrnes could be traded to the Pirates within the next week, with the A's selecting two players from a list of minor-league prospects. The Pirates system is pretty barren, so don't expect a swindle. This is pure speculation, but a player the A's might be interested in is Nate McLouth, a CF who played last year at AA, putting up a .322/.384/.462 line at age 22. He hits for a high average and draws his share of walks, so his high OBP might be what the A's are looking for.

Seems like our main farm system need right now is a high-level outfield prospect, with only Swisher being an outfielder of the future, and with Robnett and Herrera (and Danny Putnam) still far away. Meanwhile, the infield seems pretty set with Chavez / Crosby / Ellis -> Quintanilla / Johnson for a few years, there's a logjam at catcher, Harden/Haren/Blanton/Meyer will all be around for quite some time (though you can never have too much injury insurance), and the bullpen has Street, Duke, Garcia, Cruz, and Calero all under control for some time (not to mention that acquiring relief prospects is a poor strategy.)

It's really amazing how many good players the A's have now who they control until 2008 or beyond. Three cheers for Billy.

You Got it Wrong, Buster

Has anyone notcied how bad ESPN has gotten lately? From not covering that Vikings playoff game to lambashing stars, to covering the war, to picking Ramon Hernandez as the best plate blocker, to getting rid of John Sickels, to ending free access to Rob Neyer???

Their metamorphosis is complete. Buster Olney says the A's are the 18th best MLB team going in to the season. 4th best in the AL West. This is as big a slap in the face to Billy Beane the GM who works wonders, as anything I have seen. I guess Buster doesn't believe in the revamped rotation, because it sure appears to me that everything else about the A's has gotten better. I'd put a lot of money on the A's NOT finishing last in the division.

But I see the world as green and gold. Maybe we should be at peace with this prediction. The A's seem to be the little engine that could every year, and now they are the little engine that ESPN doesn't seem to believe has any steam left. This story would make a nice post in the 2005 A's locker room. Nothing like a little "you can't do it" to make a team go out and do it.

Friday, February 18, 2005

For Those About to Rock

What is the point of Barry Zito Forever? Someone asked me that the other day. I can't speak for Joon or Mad Dog, but I think the point is to spread the gospel of the A's far and wide. If we can write something original and interesting about the A's, that's awesome. If we convince someone that this is THE TEAM to be rooting for, all the better. If the posts can be funny, that's cool too. I love baseball, I think the world would be a better place if more people were interested in baseball, and truth and justice and not so interested in War with Iraq. Why is it that ESPN is showing me footage from Iraq anyway? I don't go to the War channel for my sports updates. I guess trying to convince people in the red states that they are wrong is outside the scope of this blog. But I'd like to think in the tiniest way, the existence of Barry Zito Forever makes the world a better place. As the big Wiesey said, "I don't just want to win, I want to change the world." Not a bad goal.

Right now is a tough time to be a baseball fan. There isn't much happening, and I just can't wait for spring training. I gotta pimp XM radio cause supposedly they are going to give me all baseball all the time. Every MLB radio broadcast from every game, including whatever is broadcast from spring training. My wife has XM in her car, I imagine I'll ask to use her car to go somewhere and just parking it to get my fix of baseball.

The name Barry Zito Forever might make people think it is a shrine to Barry Zito. Since Ken stopped posting here, the Zito-ness of the site has diminished a little. I am hoping to do an interview of Z and post it here in the near future. Because Zito is the most interesting player in the game. I fully expect him to put up monster numbers this year. It seems like he excels as the pressure increases. He has no fear out there and does well in Yankee Stadium, the den of the Evil Empire. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

These new starters are going to be great to watch, and the revamped bullpen seems extremely interesting. The offense looks better. Are they going to dominate? Are they going to be a bust? The AL West seems to have gotten better, are the A's ready to take on these guys? Are they truly worthy? The anticipation is killing me. Bring on 2005. Let's go Zito, let's go A's, let's go Baseball.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Top 20 Prospects

Prospect guru John Sickels, over at his new blog, has posted his top 20 list for the Athletics organization. Without further ado:

Dan Meyer LHP A-
Daric Barton C A-
Huston Street RHP A-
Nick Swisher OF B+
Joe Blanton RHP B+
Omar Quintanilla SS-2B B+
Richie Robnett OF B+
Jairo Garcia RHP B+
Dan Johnson 1B B
Kurt Suzuki C B
Javier Herrera OF B
Danny Putnam OF B
Brian Snyder 3B B-
Landon Powell C B-
Tyler Johnson LHP C+
Andre Ethier OF C+
Brad Knox RHP C+
Jason Windsor RHP C+
Brad Sullivan RHP C
Ryan Webb RHP C

The top of this list reflects similar opinions to the ones expressed in Sickels' top 10 hitting and pitching prospects for all of baseball, which I linked to a couple weeks ago. Nevertheless, I'm still a little bit surprised--Swisher behind Street? I realize that Swisher is already almost 25 and hence has a pretty limited upside, but he looks like a lock to be an above-average major league regular for the next five years or so; Street, on the other hand, is a reliever.

Other little things: Barton is listed at catcher (I guess because technically he still is), but Omar Quintanilla, who plays short but will probably move to second, is listed as "SS-2B." Seven (yes, seven!) of the top 20 were drafted in 2004, further underscoring how great a draft the A's had: Street, Robnett, Suzuki, Putnam, Powell, Windsor, and even Ryan Webb at #20, who was taken in the fourth round out of (*gasp*!) high school. That's literally everybody from the first four rounds except for Michael Rogers, the right-hander out of North Carolina State who was taken in round two.

Still, the one thing to be happy about is that overall the system grades out extremely well. Eight guys B+ or higher is outstanding; by contrast, the Twins and Brewers, generally acknowledged to be two of the top five farm systems in baseball, only have five and four such players, respectively. Having a stocked farm system is so important for a team that is trying to contend every year on a shoestring budget--not only to replace the players that get too expensive, but also to allow the GM to make deals for guys who will improve the team. Witness Bill Murphy and Mark Teahen/Mike Wood, who were flipped for Mark Redman and Octavio Dotel last year. Without impact prospects, Billy wouldn't be able to work his trade mojo year in and year out.

God bless the A's. I can't wait for the season to start.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Oakland 1, Cruz 0

The Athletics defeated RHP Juan Cruz in arbitration today, and he will be paid $600,000 for a one-year contract to pitch for Oakland in 2005. Cruz and his agent had submitted a salary figure of $860,000, but a panel of three arbitrators decided in favor of the club. I don't remember the last time the club went to arbitration with a player, but I'm a little surprised that they won this case. Cruz was extremely good last year, with a 6-2 record out of the bullpen and a sparkling 2.75 ERA with the Braves. Maybe his lack of saves did him in.

That pretty much concludes the off-season for the A's. Everybody on the roster is now under contract for the upcoming season, and pitchers and catchers report this weekend. Training camp opens Saturday. Are you excited?

Skip Carry and Pete Van Wieren

For about the last 15 years, wherever I have lived, I have been able to get the Braves games on TBS. You can love the Braves, you can hate the Braves, I don't have too big a feeling for them one way or the other, I think any baseball is better than no baseball, and any baseball on tv is better than anything else that might be on tv. I watch Mountain View High Baseball on channel 15 if it is on.

Until about 2 years ago, the announcers I used to hear on Braves broadcasts were Skip Carry and Pete Van Wieren, but in the last year or 2 they changed it to Don Sutton and Joe Simpson and I don't hear Skip and Pete anymore. It is a loss for me.

The reason I thought about the Braves broadcasters at all, is Launchcast. Launchcast is a service on Yahoo Messenger where you get to pick songs and listen to your own station. I love my station, and just now it played "Levon" by Elton John. I remember a few years ago Skip and Pete were talking about an upcoming Elton John show in Atlanta, wishing they could go, but they had to broadcast a game that night. Another time they were talking about some player going through a divorce and one of them started talking about his divorce and how bad it made him feel. Now some may think that there is no place in a baseball broadcast for talking about divorce, but I disagree. Baseball has a leasurely pace and it does allow for thoughts and opinions not about baseball. The personality of announcers, especially baseball announcers is important to me. It makes me feel like I know them, that they are talking to me, and I like that feeling. We are all people, and we have our likes and dislikes and if we are lucky we have personality. Those guys have personality and it is good for the game.

Monday, February 14, 2005

A's Bullpen 2005

One of the more interesting battles in spring training is going to be how the bullpen turns out. Here's how I project the personnel:

Duchscherer (R) - Long man. Little doubt on this one.
Dotel (R) - Closer. Ditto.

So now if we assume that the starters may go a little less deep into games, who comes in in let's say a 5-4 game to pitch the 6th, 7th and 8th?

Kiko Calero (R)
Juan Cruz (R)
Ricardo Rincon (L)
Chad Bradford (R)

That makes 6 bullpen arms. Jason Kendall who saw Cruz pitch in the NL says at OaklandAthletics.com "Cruz should be unhittable." That sounds good to me. I am hoping for big things from Calero too. But it appears the A's could use one more arm in the pen. I fully expect Meyer to start in AAA, and Yabu to be in the rotation. If that doesn't turn out that way, there is #7. Otherwise:

Huston Street (R)
Jairo Garcia (R)
John Rheinecker (L)
Tyler Johnson (L)
Tim Harrikala (R)
Seth Etherton (R)

One of these guys might get a spot. That is a huge 6-man battle for 1 spot, with the caviat that Tyler Johnson is a rule 5 and a lefty. It is fun scenario.

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