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The State of the A’s Union

Posted By Josh Muller On Jun 30 2011 @ 3:39 pm In Oakland A's | No Comments

It’s been a while since my last post and for that I apologize; I’ve been really busy this past week and was out of town the last couple of nights. So lets do a quick recap:

Since we met last, the A’s [1] haven’t gained any ground in the standings, but have received some really nice starting pitching from some unlikely sources including Josh “The Out Man” Outman, Guillermo Moscoso and Graham Godfrey. I think the A’s are playing with house money here but hopefully it continues. The offense is still as bad as it was a week and a half ago, though. Oh and the last thing is that they swept the World Champion San Francisco Giants [2].

Even though it really doesn’t mean anything, the A’s sweeping the Giants saves me about a year’s worth of ridicule as an A’s fan living in San Francisco.

With that said, it is about time we all take a look and really judge the state of the franchise. Often times, and rightly so, we get so caught up with the rigors of a full major leagues season that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

I believe a major league franchise is comprised of six major components, the most important of which is obviously the performance of the major league club. But the other components are also important and also need to be examined; they are the farm system, the ballpark, the coaching staff, the front office and ownership. Let’s take a look.

The Big Club: I’ve stated my case about this A’s team pretty clearly in the past so I’ll keep this short. This is not a playoff team and I’m not sure they have the trade chips to go out and acquire the pieces to become a playoff team. Injuries to the starting staff have all but taken away the early season hopes but even so, there’s still a slight chance. If the A’s can somehow squeak their way into the postseason, it will likely reflect more on the lack of talent in the AL West than it will about the A’s.

Farm System: Usually the A’s system is near the tops amongst its competitors, but the recent graduations of the A’s young pitchers have taken its toll on the farm system. The A’s have plenty of depth in the minors, but have very few guys who have star potential.

Michael Taylor is having a nice bounce back year but isn’t getting any younger, Chris Carter still has tons of power but plays zero defense, Grant Green looks solid in AA but has committed 20 errors already, and Michael Choice certainly has shown his power but is still striking out at a ridiculous rate. These guys, along with Jemile Weeks who’s earned the starting second base job for the big club, are all offensive players and make up the top five prospects in the A’s system. They are all solid prospects, but there aren’t any can’t miss guys here and all have to make big improvements to stick in the majors. And they can, of course, but can they soon enough to pair with the A’s pitching staff to make this team a factor? That’s a better question.

Of course if the A’s first few picks in this draft pan out, most notably pitcher Sonny Gray out of Vanderbilt, who has big time stuff, this system would look a lot better.

Coaching Staff: Like the Big Club and the Minor leagues, and maybe more so, the coaching staff for the A’s is in a bit of a state of flux.

Bob Geren, who started the season as the A’s manager, has been fired and replaced by Bob Melvin. Melvin certainly passes the eye test, says all the right things, and is a Bay Area guys so it seems a small sense of optimism followed him when he entered the clubhouse for the first time. But he gets an incomplete so far because he has managed so few games. I’m hoping that his fiery persona is more substance than style.

Hitting coach Gerald Perry certainly doesn’t deserve too much of the blame because the A’s can’t hit, but he doesn’t deserve any of the credit either for the same reason. Ron Romanick has done a nice job replacing Curt Young as the A’s pitching coach; the A’s pitching staff has suffered a barrage of injuries this year and is still in the elite category. All in all I think the coaching is fine and might be much better depending on how the team responds to Melvin.

Front Office: There was once a time where I thought Billy Beane could do no wrong, and to be fair, I still almost unconditionally support every Billy Beane move. But now, I’m at least starting to question some of them. The more time that passes between successful seasons, the more I will start to think that maybe in the early 2000s he just stumbled on three great pitchers and a few good hitters.

I know he works in a small market, and I know he has limited resources, and I know that few free agents actually want to play in this ball park (which we’ll get to) but can’t you say the same thing about Tampa Bay, the Marlins and the Twins (before their new ball park)?

I will say this though: He’s put together a front line starting pitching staff and a lock down bullpen. If even a small combination of the minor league offensive talent they have pans out, they will have a serious contender and my faith in Beane will be restored in full.

Ballpark: Overstock.com Coliseum is a joke. I hate it less than most because I grew up five minuets from the Coliseum and it has a lot of sentimental value to me, but the facts don’t lie.

Fans don’t show up, the facilities are outdated, it isn’t appealing to the eye and nobody wants to play there… AND IT’S NAMED OVERSTOCK.COM COLISEUM! The two potential sites for a new ballpark are San Jose and one of several proposed sites in Oakland. I have mixed feelings on this. Obviously I want the team to stay in Oakland but if moving to San Jose would mean more success for the team, I guess I would be on board for that too.

Two years ago Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, appointed a three man committee to decide the location of the proposed future A’s ballpark. Nothing has yet been publicly reported. This uncertainty will continue to loom over the A’s until they have a definitive plan going forward, and quite frankly, it’s getting a little embarrassing.

Ownership: Lew Wolff is the part owner and Managing Partner of the Oakland Athletics. During his tenure he has publicly stated that the A’s cannot survive in Oakland and has publicly criticized the fan base for not showing up. Gee, I wonder why?

For forty years the A’s have made their home in Oakland and investing in the city and the fans would pay dividends. Obviously I’m speaking from a biased opinion, but an owner that alienates its fan base and speaks out against its current city without an alternative option isn’t an owner that is going to be liked. If he had put a winning product on the field it might be a different story, but there we get more excuses instead of results and more tight wallets instead of commitment.

I recently watched a segment on a Bay Area Sports talk show called Chronicle Live about the upcoming “Money Ball” movie. The analysts ripped on the A’s, their stadium, their fans and their ownership. I say that stuff all the time and it certainly isn’t news, but it hurts a little to see professionals speak so harshly about a team I remember being a contender just ten years ago.

The ballpark situation, the threat to move, the low attendance, it’s all gotten so out of hand. The blame has to come from the top and it doesn’t even seem like Lew Wolff is denying it either. He doesn’t care how anyone feels in Oakland because he wants to wipe the Town’s dust of his feet as soon as possible anyway. I wish Major League Baseball would pull a “Dodgers” on him. The worst part is, nothing will change unless the A’s get great (not likely) or they get a new ballpark (less likely).

We just have to hope all those pitchers stay healthy. It’s pretty much the only thing going well for the entire franchise.

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[1] A’s: http://prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/oakland-as/

[2] World Champion San Francisco Giants: http://prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/san-francisco-giants-mlb-baseball/

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