We once had a regular here. Well, if you call four different stints in an A's uniform "regular". But he is soon to be an HOFer and many of us believe him to be the greatest Athletic-- and certainly Oakland Athletic-- there ever was.
But his era ended at 39 years old in 1998, and if there is a single position that best describes the cash-poor "get 'em when they're young and cheap or old and fading" approach that Billy Beane has been forced to take, it's left field.
So after Rickey was done being Rickey, we have seen the following:
Ben Grieve: 1999-2000. Rickey's exit allowed the A's to make an obvious move and get Grieve away from a position he had no chance of fielding well-- right field-- and over to a place where he would do less damage. But can't you just remember the classic Grieve play-- backing up to the fence on a long fly ball, then making a leap of about 6 vertical inches, and missing the ball by more than a foot to either side??!!
he did hit Ok, though, including some towering blasts to dead centerfield, but after the Yankees (remember the advance scouting edge they have. it may come in handy again this year) absolutely schooled him with 10 or more strikeouts in the 2000 ALDS including 4 in the final game alone, Beane knew he had a talent that would not get better and he had to move.
The Grieve-Hinch-Berroa for Lidle-Ellis-Damon 3 way deal was a signature Beane effort, and to this day is one of his most inspired moves, even though Lidle and Damon are long gone and Ellis only was able to hit well two of the past 5 seasons.
Why beane and Howe elected to keep Terrence Long in CF for even part of the time with Damon aboard in 2001 is a mystery, but obviously that ended with Dye's arrival and I will repeat the contention I made earlier-- that defense was actually good as Long was better suited for left than either center or right.
In 2002 Damon left, Long went back to CF (unfortunately) and the A's got a twilight version of David Justice to handle left field most of the time, filling in with Mini G until his welcome wore out, and then perpetual platooner Adam Piatt and John Mabry, Beane's seemingly desperation pickup for Jeremy when he cleaned house in May, who proceeded to have a 275-322-523 line.
In 2003 justice had retired and with Singleton aboard, TLong played more in left along with Eric Byrnes and Billy McMillon.
In 2004, of course, Long had been traded after a slow but steady decline from his rookie numbers, and now Byrnes and new acquisition Bobby Kielty shared the time along with, on occasion, McMillon.
Last year it was a 3 headed monster of Byrnes, Kielty and, after the Byrnes trade and payton acquistion, Jay Pay.
This year JayPay, Kielty and Swisher are the 3 headed monster, particularly as Milton Bradley has gotten healthy and now plays nearly everyday in right.
The bottom line is that but for Grieve's first two seasons, no one has owned this position since Rickey. I just listed 12 different players who have played most or a big part of at least one season in left over the past 8 years. And that doesn't count other "cups of coffees" such as (remember these guys) Tim Raines, Rich becker, Ron Gant,Robin Jennings, Charles Thomas, david McCarty and Jason grabowski, who all played some time in left field.
Maybe Swish will play there if bradley is back next year, and maybe not. One has to wonder if Beane missed a beat by trading away Andre Ethier and his .330 batting average, even with the leadership, defense and spark provided by Bradley. But apparently Beane believes Travis Buck has as much upside of not more and maybe we'll see him patrolling in left before long.
But if ever there has been a revolving door in the A's firmament over the past 8 years, it's "left out" or "left over" field.
Hits for Beane:
Grieve, for what he was.
Trading Grieve (four stars)
Mini G-- for a while, until a series of decisions beginning with the non-slide and extending off-field got him run out of town
justice was a wash given expectations.
Piatt unfortunately never worked out and his health was a big part of that (meningitis)
gant was OK and delivered one key HR to help win a playoff game.
McMillion never did much.
Kielty has been a mixed bag.
We've discussed Long and Damon in the context of CF.
Which leaves Eric Byrnes. Overall-- love him or hate him-- I'd say the A's got pretty decent value for him, including acquiring Joe Kennedy in his trade. And the fans got even more, but for one bad mistake in Fenway Park.
Overall Beane Grade for Left Field: A minus. He has pretty made the most of what was given to him, and adjusted at least three times on the fly to a good end.