You didn't think you'd get through the whole season without one of my tiresome blackjack analogies, did you? The Angels, who have, in the season's first five weeks, lost 6 straight, won 5 straight, and managed only a split at KC, are looking like a dealer holding a 17: decent, vulnerable, and better than the 16 you're holding right now. Time to "hit," and if you've ever hit on 16 you know that as you hit, you expect you will probably bust. But you "hit" anyway, because if you don't "hit" you will definitely lose, and you would rather "probably lose" than "definitely lose".
That's pretty much what Billy Beane has been forced to do this year. He must feel like a Fantasy Baseball owner, combing the list of available "undrafted" players and finding that the top choices are Ryan Langerhans, because he is hitting below both the Mendoza Line (.200) and the Perez Line (.100), Jack Cust, because players who haven't succeeded in the major leagues throughout their 20s rarely start doing so in their 30s, and Chris Snelling, who has actually been less durable than Harden or Bradley. Have you been that Fantasy Baseball owner, looking hopefully at the player listed between Snelling and Langerhans, and cursing when you see that it's Cust and not A-Rod or Travis Hafner? Where's that hidden jewel that somehow everyone else overlooked, that guy you can snare for a player named Later or Cash, but who will still turn your meager offense around?
Beane has done well. He used Langerhans to get Snelling, which is more than anyone expected from Langerhans--a guy who may wind up as the most valuable .000 hitter and .500 fielder the A's have ever had. Beane has added, in Snelling, a guy who is actually talented enough to hit major league pitching well and just needs to be a better health story than Harden or Bradley. Could happen; probably won't but could. In Cust, he has added a guy who, like Youkilis, is a God of walks of some culture and just needs to convince major league pitchers not to throw so many strikes that he has to actually swing. Worth a shot for a few weeks.
Will the A's be ok? The half full version says that as one door (Piazza) closes, two others (Swisher and Bradley) are about to open, and that in hitting on 16 not once but twice (Snelling and Cust) Beane has "two to make one" to try to draw a low card that can beat the dealer. No, the odds aren't great, but at least Beane is playing them. No one can accuse the A's of throwing in the towel on the 2007 season--if the A's go down, they will go down still digging furiously at the bottom of the scrap heap searching for a speck of gold.