The plan coming into this season was very clear: take a hit in starting pitching, but compensate with a strong defense and an upgraded bullpen. I was very optimistic about this plan. It made a lot of sense. Me likey.
The young pitchers would benefit greatly by having an outstanding defense behind them. Gappers would be cut off. Double plays would be turned. Hot shots would be gobbled up. And as a result, our young pitchers' confidence would be built up. They would trust their defense and, more importantly, trust their stuff. The strong defense would allow the starters to stay around the plate, limiting those pesky walks.
There was no reason to believe that the defense, which was tops in the league in 2004, would significantly decline on it's 2004 performance. Mark Ellis, who was a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman before suffering a labrum injury that kept him out all of 2004, was set to return at 100%. Charles Thomas, aquired in the deal that sent Tim Hudson to Atlanta, had the reputation of being an excellent defensive outfielder and was scheduled to compete with Eric Byrnes (a below-average defensive outfielder) for playing time in leftfield. Jermaine Dye, who played an excellent right field for the A's last year was being replaced by rookie Nick Swisher, who was a legitimate centerfielder. With Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby and Mark Kotsay already in the mix, all the pieces seemed to be in place.
The brilliance of the first part of the plan was well illustrated in Spring Training when Eric Chavez robbed Aramis Ramirez of an extra-base hit.
"I thought it was a double, for sure...I'm not going to punch out 15 in a game like [Rich] Harden. So I need a good defense back there."
The strong defense would, in theory, result in strong pitching, making the downgrade from Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Mark Redman to Dan Haren, Joe Blanton and Dan Meyer (who's a different topic for a different day) less painful.
If, by chance, the strong defense failed to bail out a struggling starter, the new and improved bullpen could be counted on to keep the game close. I was super stoked about this bullpen. I absolutely loved the way it was constructed. I felt that having four converted starters (Duchscherer, Yabu, Calero and Cruz) available to go multiple innings every night would prove to be invaluable to the development of the new starters. There would be no need for any of our starters to "take one for the team" and save the bullpen. Not with about 600 innings worth of relief pitching readily available. Macha could afford to have a short hook every single night if need be.
The plan was good. The plan was feasible. All that was left was the execution of the plan.American League Standings
.............. W. L .PCT
Chicago Sox.. 33 15 .688
Baltimore.... 30 16 .652
Minnesota.... 27 19 .587
LA Angels.... 27 20 .574
Texas........ 27 20 .574
NY Yankees... 26 21 .553
Toronto...... 26 21 .553
Boston....... 25 21 .543
Cleveland.... 21 25 .457
Detroit...... 20 25 .444
Seattle...... 18 28 .391
Tampa Bay.... 18 30 .375
Oakland.... 17 29 .370
13 34 .277
Easier said than done, I guess.
There's a variety of reasons why the plan didn't work. Injuries being the main culprit. There's also a number of guys underperforming. And then there's that small issue of having a moron for a manager. The execution of the plan has failed. It's time for a new plan.
It's time to wrap a pretty pink bow around this season and start Bondermanning it.
Rumors are floating around that Erubiel Durazo is headed for the disabled list and that reigning Pacific Coast League MVP Dan Johnson will take his spot on the 25-man roster. With Nick Swisher freshly off the DL and Bobby Crosby coming off in the near future, I'd say now's the perfect time to let the kids play. At this point, "sticking with the hot hand" or "playing the percentages" is a waste of time. We aren't going anywhere this year. Might as well throw the kids into the fire and see what they're made of. If they fail, it won't kill their confidence. Trust me, it won't.
So here's my suggested everyday line-up:C. Kendall
RF Swisher2B Ellis
If Byrnes continues to swing a hot bat (he IS hitting over .300 for the month of May), I say trade him. If Dotel and Durazo come back healthy and productive, I say trade them too. I don't think there'd be much interest in Hatte or Ginter, but if there is, trade them as well. If not, move them to the bench. At this point, they're just in the way.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Billy should gut the team just to make room for the kids. I'm saying trade that Billy should trade them for players that will make the team better going forward. Getting the kids some major league experience is just a bonus. Right now we're in a position where we can trade away some of our more productive players without getting much worse. We can't possibly get much worse.
We aren't going to get much better either. Not this year. The injuries are too numerous. The defense isn't as good as advertised. The managerial moves that have cost this team half a dozen games can't be undone. The hole is too deep. About six feet too deep.
I hate that it's come to this so soon. Reality has kicked me in the nuts. It's probably better this way. I have no more false hopes. I have no more expectations.
Stick a Milo on me, I'm done.