I just wrote a long comment in the "let’s fire the hitting coach diary" and I thought it might make an interesting diary of its own. Since Oaktoon no longer posts here, I figure that somebody needs to be the AN Pessimist, and I’m happy to give it a shot. So here goes. By the way, please be gentle, I think this is only my second diary.
In the let’s fire the hitting coach thread, somebody pointed out that the A’s have had three different hitting coaches in the last three years, and in each of those years, the hitting has been less than stellar. The question then becomes why? While it’s easy to blame the hitting coach, or even Geren, I’m not sure that is the answer.
I think the honest answer is, by any objective, or even subjective measure, the A’s hitters are just not that good. It sucks to type that, but unfortunately, it’s true. I mean, would a single hitter on the A’s crack the Yankees starting lineup? Probably Swisher, though only because the Yankees, rather uncharacteristically, are weak at first base (though some of you may remember my slight admitted Josh Phelps fetish, which I’m now in counseling for). Also, maybe Milton, maybe. That’s probably it. Now admittedly, the Yankees have one of the best lineups in the league, but isn’t that the point? Run through this exercise with a couple of other teams. Hell, run through it with the Rays, it’s not a pretty picture. I'm not sure a single regular in our lineup would crack the Brewers starting lineup. In fact, I'm relatively positive that they wouldn't. The Brewers. Who last made the playoffs in 1982 or something. This is, needless to say, a problem.
There is another problem. It’s one thing to have a lineup full of league average (at best) players. It’s another to have a lineup full of league average players that can execute the fundamentals of baseball. I don’t mean Joe Morgan fundamentals of baseball, well, mainly, because only Joe Morgan can even see when those fundamentals are executed properly or not, I mean the obvious stuff. Moving runners over, hitting a sacrifice fly, getting the bunt down on the rare occasion that you’re asked to bunt, taking a pitch against a struggling pitcher, touching home plate instead of getting up and pushing the catcher, running all the way to home plate instead of stopping halfway (ok, those last two were cheap shots, but c’mon!!). The A’s just are not good at these things, either. Stranding Buck at third a couple of nights ago was unacceptable. It actually made me mutter "Sometimes, I hate the A’s." Who watching the game was confident that we’d get Buck home? Exactly.
Where does the blame lie, though? I’m not sure, but I’m starting to think it must properly lie with Beane. You cannot be mad at a player for not being that good. I’d love to be a professional baseball player. I’m not that good, though (not even close). It would seem odd if I sat at my desk all day made at myself for this. If you want a depressing exercise, think of all of the best hitters in the league, and ask yourself, how many of those players could you see the A’s either drafting or signing and then developing? Any toolsy somewhat raw hitters are probably out, right? The A’s have what, one, in their system in Javi Herrera. This is pretty strong circumstantial evidence that the A’s shy away from guys like Beltran, Crawford, Reyes, Soriano, etc. A category that overlaps with this category would be Latin American players. The best are expensive to sign, see Miguel Cabrera, and the A’s don’t seem particularly astute in this area, whether it be lack of resources, or something else. This hurts our team. Period. By not taking chances on these types of players, the A’s will never have superstars of that caliber. We certainly cannot sign them as free agents. Another category of impact bats are the high draft pick, expensive, high school kids. I’m not even sure that I need to discuss this, as it seems self-evident that the A’s don’t draft Griffeys, ARods, Uptons, or Delmon Youngs. In my mind that pretty much leaves one category, the "lucky" guys. The Albert Pujols, the Mike Piazzas. Obviously, the A’s have a shot at these kinds of guys, heck, Giambi probably was one these types of players.
Referring back to the Bible, I mean, Moneyball, illustrates my point. There’s a player that Beane loves. That he covets. That he was unable to acquire. Man, he really wanted this guy. Who was it? ARod? Nope. Beltran? Nope. Kevin Youkilis? Yep. Don’t get me wrong, Youkilis is a solid baseball player. Hell, he may even be a pretty good comp for our "top" prospect, Daric Barton. I will say this with 100% certainty: Kevin Youkilis is not a superstar. He’s probably not even an all-star. Beane’s other "Holy Grail:" Erubiel Durazo. We saw how that worked out. These kinds of players are probably good additions to a lineup that has a Giambi or Tejada already, but the A’s don’t. Furthermore, there’s none on the way. I like Buck and Barton, and I’d rather see them out there than about half of our current hitters, but I’m on the record numerous times with my preference for young players over league average (or worse retreads).
So, to sum up. I think the A’s need to take some chances in the draft and/or in signing young foreign players. Why let players like David Wright slide past us, due to signability? Why not draft a toolsy outfielder every once in awhile who might end up being Carlos Beltran or Carl Crawford? Ask yourself this, would the current Beane regime have drafted Rickey Henderson? I’m not so sure. Is that a good thing? I’m pretty sure that it’s not.