Oakland Athletics: Back on the Beane

Time goes by like pouring rain: Pitcher Brandon McCarthy reached the majors as a 21-year-old with the Chicago White Sox. Since then his value has dropped like his curveball. He’s 27 now, with his third team and with only 20 wins to his credit. Many of his problems have been injury-related — he’s never topped 101.2 innings or 22 starts in a season and he’s made new teammate Rich Harden seem like a rotation anchor. But those problems that haven’t been physically related have been home run related — he’s thrown 55 in 372.2 innings — or one every 6.8. If nothing else, Oakland’s big park should help that.

I feel I’m knocking on heaven’s door: Shortstop Grant Green won’t be closest to the majors when the season starts — fellow shortstop prospect Adrian Cardenas will be closer, if not up — but Green is the most likely to stay when he gets there. He’s a power-hitting shortstop out of Southern California who was the A’s first-round pick in 2009. Cliff Pennington is manning the spot, but Green, who hit 20 homers and slugged .520 in Class A last year, should be along. Be forewarned, though: Green’s numbers were California League-inflatable, and he hasn’t read Money Ball — he walked only 38 times vs. 117 strikeouts.

What is this man doing here? Guillermo Moscoso put up a 5.18 ERA in AAA last year, and the Rangers designated him for assignment. For some unexplained reason, the A’s not only traded for him, but reserved a spot on the 40-man roster. Moscoso is 27 and gave up 142 hits and 17 home runs in 123.1 innnings last year — in the minors. How’s he going to get major league hitters out if he can’t get AAA hitters out? Sometimes, Billy Beane, the obvious is just the obvious.

 Outlook: It’s fashionable to tease Beane and deride the whole Money Ball mindset of the last decade. Not here. And not now. Yes, the A’s have been mediocre, and boringly so, over the last four years, but they shouldn’t be either this year.

Beane spent the winter collecting relievers and designated hitters and now has a team that could win the AL West, especially if the Rangers assume championships not in evidence. The A’s may have another young Dan Haren-Mark Mulder-Barry Zito like rotation, if Brett Anderson can complement Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez with more than 19 starts; Beane also has rehabbing starters Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy and hopes for a high reward from one.

Beane backed up Andrew Bailey in the bullpen with Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes, added Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham to the left field/DH spot, and added David DeJesus and Connor Jackson to the middle of the lineup. He has potential in rookies Michael Taylor and Chris Carter, and just enough platoon pieces in the infield.

And Beane has one more thing going for the A’s about now: the Rangers acting smug.

Remember when: Once the Athletics were the best team in baseball , and one of their pitchers started the World Series by setting a record for strikeouts. Only it wasn’t Stewart or Hunter or Blue or even Lefty Grove or George Earnshaw. Surprise starter Howard Ehmke fanned 13 in Game 1 of the 1929 Series vs. the Cubs, starting the A’s to a 5-game win. His record stood until Carl Erskine fanned 14 in the 1953 Series (and then Sandy Koufax with 15 in 1963 and Bob Gibson with 17 in 1968). Ironically, Ehmke only pitched four more games — one in the 29 Series and three in the 1930 season.

Next: L.A. Angels

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