I’m very excited for all three of the Oakland franchises’ futures, more so than I have been for long while. I feel weird, because I’m not expecting/demanding playoff runs from any of them, but instead am just happy that all three franchises will be worth watching for the next couple of years, which is more than I can say for the last two years. It has been a downtime for all the Oakland sports area the last few years in terms of success, so naturally, there’s really only one way to go, up. So this three part series will be about why the fans of Oakland’s franchises can finally be optimistic about the future! Let’s start with the Oakland A’s, since their season is still going on, and everyone overlooks them outside of the Bay Area, and even in their area they are under covered because of the recent Giants success.
Today it was reported that our highly touted prospect, Chris Carter, is going to be called up to join the Athletics roster in Seattle tonight. I couldn’t be more pumped. Even if they weren’t planning on it, the injuries to Barton and everyone in the outfield made it a necessary move. I thought this would happen sooner in the season, but now is as good of a time as any with the DL getting even more crowded adding Matt Watson yesterday. Although I don’t see this move getting us to the playoffs this year, it will give us a better idea of what we have waiting in the wings for next year, and this is a move that has rejuvenated my enthusiasm that much more for the A’s. If you didn’t know, Chris Carter is the best power hitting prospect we have in our farm system, and we got him as part of the Dan Haren trade to Arizona that keeps on giving (we got Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Carter, Gregg Smith, as the major pieces that have made an impact so far). I hope Carter hits a few bombs, and supplants Cust as the DH/Platoon LF for the rest of the year.
Oakland currently sits in 2nd place, 7 ½ games back of Texas in the AL West. They still play seven more games against Texas this season, and have a mild shot at weaseling out an AL West title or maybe a Wild Card spot if Tampa Bay falls apart. Not that I see that happening, but I can always hope that the standings tighten up a little as we get closer to the end of the season. Seriously though, with close to 50 games left, a there is room for movement! Texas is heading to NY, BOS, TB, BAL, and MIN. The A’s meanwhile head to SEA, MIN, TOR, TB, and CLE. I view the Rangers schedule as harder (feel free to disagree I’d like to hear that argument), so we could conceivable be 3-6 games out going into our next series against Texas. If Texas starts faltering, the A’s could sneak up on everyone! Also, this season has made me like our manager, Bob Geren a little bit more. I’ve never been a fan, but seeing how he’s kept this youthful team together through tons of injuries over the last couple years, you have to give him some of the credit no matter how many of his late inning moves I don’t agree with.
I’ve been surprised with the A’s results this year, because they’ve been hanging around or over the .500 mark all year, which is what I thought was a best case scenario when the season started. Also, we’ve had the second most injuries in the league, and are still exceeding my expectations! We’ve had lots of no name players out there for most of the season, and they’ve somehow worked well together. Our biggest offseason acquisitions Crisp and Sheets, haven’t really been in the lineup for most of the year. Since Crisp has been back, he’s been leading this young team. There’s NOT much to dislike about Crisp. I remember exchanging some texts with MCeezy the day he came back, and we were both loving what he was bringing to the table. He’s been tearing it up since he came off the DL, and yesterday came through with a huge run saving wall grab in the outfield, and then followed it up with a clutch RBI to help the A’s to a 3-2 win over division leading Texas. Trevor Cahill threw another gem in the same game, and it’s scary that I expect that now from our 22 year old ground ball machine. Cahill has been phenomenal this year, and has a streak going with 19 straight starts of giving up six hits or fewer with five or more innings pitched per game. He’s second all time to Nolan Ryan at 20 straight starts. He has been their rock all season long, and has pitched 8+ innings in all of his last three starts. After Brett Anderson gets himself healthy and right, we have a very good top of the rotation without even factoring in Gio Gonzalez (MCeezy’s man-crush for awhile there) who seems to have figured it out this year leading the team in inning pitched. Braden, Mazzaro, and Ross, are all viable options to fill out the rest of the rotation, and we will see if they add a veteran this offseason. They are one of the most talented rotations in the league, and if you take out Sheets and Duke, they are probably the youngest. They are currently fifth in the entire league in ERA, and first in the AL in that category edging out Tampa Bay’s highly touted staff.
Another reason I’m more excited about the A’s future than the past couple years is that they will have some money to spend next year. With Eric Chavez ($12.5M), Ben Sheets ($10M), and Mark Ellis ($5.5) coming off the books, we can actually be a player on the free agent market. I’m just assuming we will opt to not to pick up Ellis’s option since a guy like Orlando Hudson didn’t come close to making the same amount as Ellis, and the O-Dog IS a better player. I’m thinking even if we decline Ellis, he may come back just like Jack Cust did for a discount this year. If all three of those guys are off the books, we are down to $28-$30M in payroll (lower than SD this year). Since we’ve spent as much as $75-$80M (not saying we will), there’s hope that we could make some major offseason moves to help out this solid base of young players that we already have in place. I’m not saying we are going to lock up Carl Crawford for $130M, but we could add through free agency opposed to signing an aging past their prime veteran like we usually do that has had varying results (David Justice, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas, Mike Sweeney, etc.) We could even add through a trade without having to worry about the money matching up nearly as much as we did in the past. Or maybe we won’t make any drastic moves, since we have to highly overpay guys to come here (see Sheets, Ben). If we don’t make any huge moves, I don’t think I’ll be overly mad, but that’s ONLY if we end up like the Padres did this year! Either way, good things are coming for the A’s in the next couple years!