Thick as a Brick
Really don't mind if you sit this one out.
My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT.
I may make you feel but I can't make you think.
Oh boy. Where to begin? I have so many thoughts rolling around in my head, and some of them even qualify as halfway coherent. The A's stumble into the All-star break in a tie for first only by the grace of God. But let's make no mistake about it: The A's are a truly BAD team, and will likely finish the season ten or more games out of first place. This is a truly uninspired bunch, but worse, it's a truly talentless bunch. I do look forward to the first one or two games after the break, when after we relinquish first place (for good), I will no longer be forced to listen to the "But we're still in first place!!" crap that the apologists have been spewing for the last thee weeks. That is literally the most meaningless and rhetorical drivel I've heard in a long time. Yeah, great, so it's technically true. So the fuck what? It was also technically true that Enron's stock was still worth a lot of money. It's not about where it WAS, it was about where it was GOING. As in, straight to the gutter. Kind of like the A's.
At least this season is no longer Macha's fault. Before the year, I thought we had an above average team that he would turn into an average one. But it's clear now that we have a terrible team whom he is turning into a slightly more terrible team. Now mind you, Macha is still part of the problem; just not as big a problem as he was for the last three years. The A's could and should do a lot better with their manager, and if I were given the choice between Macha managing the team or a hobo living under a bridge somewhere in Berkshire, I would choose the hobo without a second's hesitation. However, what is Macha to do? The team sucks. The team is just truly god-awful, and you can see it in their eyes that they've simply given up on the season. Now, Macha still pulls his crap like he did on Thursday, bringing Halsey into the game to face three right handed batters in the 7th inning, when he should have just gone with Calero-Duke-Street to close out the game and not bother with the scrub relievers, but whatever. It's not like this is a playoff team by any stretch of the imagination.
The Poet and the painter casting shadows on the water --
as the sun plays on the infantry returning from the sea.
The do-er and the thinker: no allowance for the other --
as the failing light illuminates the mercenary's creed.
So how can we fix the A's? Well, it's not going to be easy. But one thing is clear is that the team needs an overhaul from the very top to the very bottom. The team hasn't been drafting well, they haven't been signing good players, and even Billy Beane's trades have been less than spectacular lately. Outside of the highway robbery that was the Mark Mulder trade, most of Beane's trades since he got Foulke have been positively Bavasi-an. That's a problem. What do we attribute this to? Luck? A change of fortunes? Neither, says I.
The A's are suffering from what many economists term a "brain drain." Since 2001, this team has lost Grady Fuson, Paul Depodesta, and Rick Peterson. All three were largely credited, along with Billy Beane, as being the reason why such a small market wonderdog could compete with the big boys. However, since they've left, the drafts have been uninspiring (you can only hide behind Huston Street for so long), the free agent signings have been as befuddling as they've been terrible, and our pitchers can't stay healthy for more than 9 minutes at a time. The A's don't go headhunting for other teams front office commodities like they should. Look at Logan White down in Los Angeles and what he's done with their farm system. He's got a price. Find out what it is. You just can't keep promoting from within, because eventually you'll find out that while you might have the best gosh darn mail boy in the city, he's a little overmatched as a COO. So go get yourself a new COO.
This is a problem. This is a big problem. An organization stretches from top to bottom, and if you have incompetence at any level, it's a big hindrance. The bottom line is that the A's with Kubota, Forst, and Young are not the same as the A's of 2000-2003. And worse, if you'll read between the lines of this article that FM reader Justin recently sent me, the A's had to make a choice between Ken Macha and Rick Peterson after 2003. I won't spoil the ending for you, but it's pretty clear that the A's chose wrong. The iocane powder was in the other goblet.
The resurgence of the A's starts with getting a new assistant general manager, director of scouting, and pitching coach. It might also include getting a new general manager. I'm on the fence on that one, a stark contrast from the guy who was practically in tears when Billy briefly left for the Red Sox. But yeah, it might be time for him to go, too. I'll put it this way: If Billy retired tomorrow, I don't think it would really bother me.
The horses stamping -- their warm breath clouding
in the sharp and frosty morning of the day.
And the poet lifts his pen while the soldier sheaths his sword.
You need to have superstars to win. Or, if you can't get superstars, you need superstar performances from good players. The A's are getting neither. Yes, they expected better from the likes of Crosby, Ellis, Kotsay, etc, but nobody was ever predicting silver sluggers from any of them. You need a guy who goes into every season as a silver slugger candidate. The A's haven't had that since 2001, which was not so coincidentally the last time they fielded a good offense. Billy needs to quit wasting money on middling players. It's time to put all of your eggs in one basket, and then just fill out the roster with whatever. Who is the superstar we should or could get? Ya got me. It should have been Vlad in 2004; if he was willing to sign a reasonable contract with a loser franchise like Anaheim with its loser fanbase and Disneyland stadium in the worst city in the country, he would have signed with Oakland. But instead, we get David Justice. Or Erubiel Durazo. Or Scott Hatteberg. Guys whose best case scenario represents only "ok."
If you can't sign or trade for superstars, you need to draft them. And the A's drafts over the last 5 years have been patently average, especially considering the number of picks they've had. And don't give me this bullshit about not having the money to sign these guys. If your whole philosophy involves building your team through the draft, don't complain if the owner isn't willing to give you a million bucks for your 18th round selection. You have a budget that consists of a final bottom line. So don't waste the money on garbage, spend it on the draft. But most of all, don't come crying poor to me when you draft crappy players. Justin Smoak should be in our farm system right now. Can anybody stand in front of the mirror and tell themselves that he wouldn't have signed for what we wasted on Jay Witasick? Or what we wasted on Jay Payton? Efficient allocation of resources is an important part of running a business, and right now it seems like we've got a bunch of fucking monkeys doing that job.
The cattle quietly grazing at the grass down by the river
where the swelling mountain water moves onward to the sea:
the builder of the castles renews the age-old purpose
and contemplates the milking girl whose offer is his need.
Team fitness is a problem. It's been a problem for awhile. Jermaine Dye was pretty much the most useless player in history from 2002-2004. He goes to Chicago, instantly drops about 20 pounds, and becomes the kind of player who would have justified a 33 million dollar contract. You mean to tell me that carrying a bunch of extra weight on a shattered tibia isn't condusive to major league success? Get out of here. Ricardo Rincon was a godsend when he arrived in 2002. Over the last three years, he got fat and out of shape. His velocity decreased, and he could no longer find the strike zone because his stomach kept getting in the way. Scott Hatteberg also looks a lot leaner than he was last year. Yeah, he's playing in the Crapinal League, but his level of fitness has to be serving him well. And then there's Joe Blanton, who is such a fucking disgrace to look at that words actually fail me. And for those that haven't had the pleasure of seeing Blanton at Crogans (his alcoholic ass is there after every home day game), let me assure you that he's even fatter in person. He doesn't belong anywhere near a major league ballfield, and he needs to be running about 5 miles per day so he can avoid tripping over his own stomach.
A pre-game show recently took the viewer inside the A's clubhouse, where it was shown what kinds of snack foods are available to the players. This includes entire freezers full of ice cream, and buckets and buckets of candy. The sodas were in the fridge. What I didn't see (aside from Gatorade) was anything even remotely healthy. No fruits or vegetables. Nothing with antioxidants, or phytochemicals, or vitamins, or minerals, or the kind of substances that provide a player with natural energy for a long season. Just transfatty acid, MSG, and sugar, sugar, and more sugar.
This is a problem. Get rid of the crap in the clubhouse. The A's are a lethargic bunch of assholes because they eat nothing but shit all day. Do you think Justin Gatlin would allow a fucking Klondike bar within 100 miles of his digestive tract? No. The body is a machine, and needs to be treated as such. Put the right stuff in there, and you'll get performance out of it. As I have not seen the food selection in any of the other 29 clubhouses, I cannot comment on what other players feed their teams. But I will say that there is no way it could be LESS healthy than the A's. Your fitness level is directly related to your diet. The A's obviously have a horrible diet, and judging by the number of out of shape players they have, an even worse exercise regimen. And guess what? The team with the terrible diet and exercise patterns also happens to be the team with the most injury problems. This is not a coincidence. Would it kill Joe Blanton to eat an orange and a bowl of oatmeal on gameday? Is the 10 pound bag of Ruffles really necessary?
And the love that I feel is so far away:
I'm a bad dream that I just had today -- and you
shake your head and
say it's a shame.
Fixing the A's won't come overnight. First, they need to sell off all their parts that won't be here next year, and try and bring in some players who will be. This includes Barry Zito, Joe Kennedy (if you can even trade him), Jay Payton, and Scott Sauerbeck. Outside of Zito, you won't get a lot, but perhaps a team will give up on an electric arm with a bout of wildness in their rookie league, or a hitter who hasn't finished growing. Francisco Liriano was once considered an afterthought in a trade. He now just might be the best pitcher in baseball. Guys like these are available. Billy needs to find them.
And here's a thought: How about trading Frank Thomas? The bottom line is that this team isn't making the playoffs, and if Frank is worth bringing back next year, another team will give him more money, and then we can all just complain about being poor again. Our marriage with Thomas was always going to be only one year. He would either be too unhealthy, or too good to afford for 2007. Well, it's the latter. But guess what? He might bring you back a pretty package. Look at the lack of production that Anaheim, Toronto, Detroit, Seattle, and Texas are getting from their DH. There are teams where he'd have value. Or what about the Mets? Big Frank could give Willie Randolph a nice little secret weapon once a game off the bench when anybody except Beltran, Wright, or Delgado are up. Package him with Barry Zito? Now is it worth Milledge and Pelfrey? Maybe, maybe not. But let's explore that option.
Second, they need to get rid of Macha. If a miser like John York can fire Donahue and Erickson with money still on their contract, Wolfe can bite the bullet on Macha. The players don't like him, they don't respond to him, and they clearly don't play for him. Let him refer to some other teams players as a "non-entity," but just get him the fuck away from Oakland.
Third, a new scouting director (or just more scouts) need to be brought in. Have him or them start right away so that the 2007 draft isn't thrown in the crapper the same way the last 4 drafts have been. We can turn this thing around.
And finally, find a superstar by whatever possible means. Teams with superstars win. The Sharks couldn't beat a team of schoolgirls; they trade for Joe Thornton and become one of the better teams in hockey. That's not a coincidence. If it costs, Barton, Windsor, Suzuki, and everybody else in the system, fine. We can no longer sit on our asses masturbating behind the Casino Fantastique billboards waiting for guys like Crosby and Johnson to turn into Mantle and Dimaggio. Go get those players.
The A's are not among the top 10 teams in baseball. They may not even crack the top 15. This season is lost, so it's time to prepare them for the future. Will this organization prepare for the future, or will they continue to be as thick as a brick?
So you ride yourselves over the fields and
you make all your animal deals and
your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.