Friday, January 27, 2006

The A's Sign Heavy Hitter Frank Thomas

Receiving news that has most likely come as rather a surprise for A's fans, Billy Beane has signed Frank Thomas as DH for the A's. Why this may be surprising is the fact that the A's were plagued with players on the DL for the year, and was sited as one of the major reasons why the A's struggled during last season. Or, as Beane puts it, "It turned out that we had one of the worst injury seasons we've had since I've been here and this is my 18th year." So, why would they sign Thomas, who in the past 2 years played a whopping total of 108 games, sidelined both times by a fracture in the left ankle. Ouch. However, let's look at his stats a little closer:

During that 108 games, he had a batting average of .245. Also during those games he had an OBP of .427, and scored 72 runs. That's impressive. Lets look at his OPS, which everyone seems to be talking about: .995, lets repeat that, .995. Yikes, higher than McGwire, Mantle, and DiMaggio, he rates 10th in baseball history. Wow, he's a DH dream come true. But what about those injuries? He's been plagued by injuries lately, and it seems we just dumped Durazo for injury related issues as well.

Here's what's been said about all the injury issues:
First off, he's going to be in DH mode, and his pay will be based on his performance, (half a mil starting pay) with extra bonuses (a total of $1.4 million in incentives for his left foot alone) for staying off the DL. Also bonuses for hitting a plate count of 550.
Also, Beane says "He has a very good chance of being ready in April. He believes he'll be ready in Spring Training, we're just taking a conservative approach mentally." (which means to me that Billy has his fingers crossed and is repeating 'please don't get hurt please don't get hurt' over and over in his head while they wrap Thomas in heavy foam padding and wheel him in a wheelchair from place to place.)
"Billy Beane's offseason reading has been nothing but medical reports. First, Milton Bradley's and now, Thomas." yeah, that's one mental health report, and one pack of left ankle X-rays. I'm sure that statement has one heavy ring of truth in it, and I am sure that Beane has been consulting numerous doctors regarding Thomas' health. Again, I am sure Beane has done his homework well.

What it seems to boil down to is that Beane was looking for the gold cap on a strong hitting lineup, and he was willing to gamble. I think he's found it with Thomas, and I am sure that Thomas will bring an enthusiasm for the team, and also be a driving force to help the A's go all the way in 2006 (something that I believe will quite possibly happen). Durazo's situation was slightly different, as he was more integral to the progress of the A's to the Playoffs, whereas Thomas is one of many strong hitters.

Here's hoping that Thomas has a great season with the A's and that he makes Beane's gamble pay off. If his ankle has healed then we've got a great hitter to finish our lineup, and it looks to be a great season overall. I've got some metal plate and a welder to help shore up that ankle if you want, Thomas, just give me a call.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Athletics Nation interviews Billy Beane

Great interview, as always, from Blez at Athletics Nation.

Part I here.
Part II here.
Part III here.

Some quick notes:
On the 2005 season: "...we achieved what we wanted to achieve. That was to become a younger team, and this next statement is kind of redundant from me, but whose future was brighter than its past."

On Dan Haren's performance: "I don't know that I've ever seen a young guy mature into a major league pitcher so quickly. "

Regarding Joe Blanton: "He has a linebacker's mentality on the mound. He's a quiet guy off the field, but an aggressive pitcher on the mound and the belief is that he took this year and I don't think any of us expected it and I think it's a real testament."

Why they took so many high school pitchers in the draft: "We just felt like there was a lot of value in the high school pitcher and that's why we drafted so many after that round. As far as their experience and our evaluation of that draft, I think we were very excited about the kids we got. As far as raw ability, this is as good a group of power arms as we've had in a long, long time. We've had a tendency of drafting the very polished college pitcher and we've had success doing that, we just didn't feel like those guys were out there when we were drafting this year. "

Why they acquired Esteban Loaiza: "He provides innings, he strikes guys out and since he's developed that cut fastball in the last couple of years he's been a completely different guy. We found out last year that not having depth in the rotation can be very difficult on our franchise."

Joking about Swisher at 1B as his "double agent": "If you know Nick, having someone to talk to is a prerequisite for his sanity. So having him at first base, he can work as a double agent for us. He's going to want to talk and he'll drive people nuts. They won't want to get to first base if he's there. (laughing)"

On nabbing Antonio Perez in the Bradley deal: " It was important. We really like Antonio. We like his bat. This is a young middle infielder and it was prerequisite of the deal."

On letting go of Hatteberg: "I just think so highly of him as a person as well as a baseball player. As far as the front office goes, Scott has the ability to do so much when he's done playing. He wants to keep playing and I think he will. But with a guy like Scott, he could probably come in and do anything he wanted to and we'd welcome him in with open arms."

Read the whole thing.

Updated the 2006 Roster link

Check the link to the right for my own version of the unofficial 2006 roster. There are some names missing from the A's official website, but I am not counting them in just yet in case there are some last minute changes.

Numerous Athletics named to rosters in the World Baseball Classic

I was checking out the rosters for the World Baseball Classic coming up in March and noticed a number of A's players are participating, although I was a bit surprised when I saw which countries they were playing for:

Kiko Calero - Puerto Rico
Eric Chavez - United States
Danny Haren - United States and Netherlands !? (I didn't know he or his parents were Dutch)
Esteban Loaiza - Mexico
Victor Moreno - Venezuela
Kirk Saarloos - Netherlands (Another Dutchman?)
Marco Scutaro - Italy and Venezuela
Huston Street - United States

And guess who else shows up on The Netherlands list? That's right, our very own Big Three power lefty, Mark Mulder!

I guess in Danny Haren and Marco Scutaro's case they are on both rosters in the hopes that if 1 team doesn't choose them the other will. From my understanding, the posted list is only a list of the players who have agreed to play if they are selected to play for their respective country's team. So what happens if someone like Danny Haren gets picked for both team's countries? He will have a big decision on his hands.

Half of me wants him to play for the Netherlands, Kirk Saarloos too. A lot of my friends and colleagues are rooting for the U.S., Dominican Republic, or Japan. Not one person I have spoken to have shown the slightest interest in The Netherlands. I have always liked the underdog and enjoyed rooting for them, so until The Netherlands plays the U.S., call me a fan of the Dutch! Go Saarloos, Haren, and Mulder! Not a bad rotation for the Dutch, eh?

Yes!! Cuba will play in The World Baseball Classic is going to happen after all!

The Bush Administration has decided to let Cuba participate in the World Baseball Classic, thereby ensuring that the World Baseball Classic would be sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation. It also averted fears of Puerto Rico dropping out, who said they would not play if Cuba was not allowed to participate.

However, it appears that Cuban defectors will not be playing for team Cuba. Regardless, it should be exciting to watch, I for one can't wait for it to start.