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Why Money’s What Talks for the Oakland A’s

When Oakland Athletics fans (well, the ones that are left) walk into the Oakland Coliseum, they see a third deck covered in forest green tarp (not because of rain but because it makes the rest of the stadium “look more packed”) and a team full of super…who’s?

Since 2000, the A’s have won the Western Division four times and the wild card once.

But since 2006, the low-budget ball club has yet to make the playoffs and seem poised for another run ending on October 3 against fellow division bottom feeder, Seattle.

They’ve been a low-budget team for the entire first decade of this 21st century, so why aren’t the A’s winning like they used to?

It seems pretty obvious that the answer to that question is money; actually money the A’s aren’t willing to spend, whether they have it or not.

Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson—those were the names that filled the empty green stands in Oakland.

They brought bigger crowds in and kept Oakland in the battle for the AL West every year.

Unlike the successful teams that made making the playoffs a habit, this new group of makeshift Athletics doesn’t seem to have what the town so hungry for postseason success needs.

Ten home runs (Kurt Suzuki), 39 RBIs (Kevin Kouzmanoff) and a .293 (Ryan Sweeney) batting average.  Those are the leading offensive numbers for the club through 77 games.

The team is ninth in batting average and 10th in hits, but just 27th in home runs and 25th in RBIs.  Their highest-paid starting pitcher, Ben Sheets, also has the highest ERA in a rotation where he’s the vet.

Way to spend wisely, Mr. Wolf and scouting “genius” Billy Beane.

The team’s “big” offseason acquisitions were Coco Crisp and Ben Sheets. I guess Conor Jackson can be added to that list as well.  So much for trying to get back on top.

If the Athletics are going to make an improbable comeback and resurrect one of the most successful franchises in the sport, some money has to be spent.

The franchise once known for its power (i.e. bash brothers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco) is now a team of minor leaguers sprinkled with some talent and warning track power up and down the lineup.

Sorry Jack Cust, you aren’t and haven’t ever been the answer.

Knowing how the A’s front office works, they won’t make a trade to provide hope to an offense with numerous base-runners and no runs to show.  Maybe, if Oakland fanatics are lucky, the Athletics will loosen up their greedy grip on the cash books and make someone an offer.

Until then, like the organization’s stagnant money, the A’s will remain steady at number three in the AL West and number one as the least-watched franchise in California’s professional sports world.

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Evaluating Talent: The Ladder Up to The Bigs

In basketball, the transition from college to the NBA is said to be the hardest for point guards.  

In football, with the exception of great talents, it’s difficult for quarterbacks to come straight into the league and get a taste of success.

In baseball, evaluating talent, especially young talent, is just as, if not more difficult. There will always be exceptional athletes who make grown men plays [insert whatever Mark Jackson joke you’d like here]. 

Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. are two of the few teenagers that have played like Hall of Famers for most of their careers.

Jason Heyward and Starlin Castro are the most recent youngsters to prove their worth and talent early.

Heyward, 20, hits for power, plays solid defense and runs well.  When he figures out the game, there’s no indication that he won’t also hit for a high average.

Castro, the first player born in the 90’s to play in MLB history, has shown glimpses of what the Cubs organization saw when they scouted the young Dominican shortstop.

Today Stephen Strasburg debuts for the Washington Nationals, helping the young franchise sell out a stadium that’s usually emptier than the stands at an under 10 roller hockey game.

A lot rides on the arm of the power right-hander, and from how quickly he’s disposed of every level of minor league hitter, he might not disappoint.

For young power pitchers, scouts and GM’s worry about endurance and longevity.

Scouting young hitters like this year’s No. 1 pick, Bryce Harper, is a difficult task.

Most draft picks coming out of high school and various levels of college ball don’t hit with wood.  They play in smaller fields with aluminum bats that are much more forgiving than the wood, which they’ll have to get used to in every level of professional ball.

Against better pitchers, defense and coaching, many young draft picks don’t excel as much as they probably should, or as much as the team that drafted them had envisioned.

In baseball, like in so many other sports, the list of players that are great talents but not great professionals, is always expanding.

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