Everybody's frustrated right now. I get it. So am I. There's a very stark contrast to the excitement and enthusiasm that was prevalent here in the early part of the season, and the despair that is common right now. That early excitement and enthusiasm wasn't unwarranted, but I do feel that it is time to take a step back and try to objectively assess what is happening and where this team is going and when.
Rebuilding - some thoughts about various aspects of this rebuilding and observations I've made of the team and the fans...
Was it necessary? I'm not entirely sure it was, at least to the degree that it's been implemented, but at the same time I realize that this team does have fiscal constraints that other teams don't and cannot just go out and buy what they need, so I'm on board. And no, I'm not into feel-good euphemisms and hyperbole like "reloading". It is what it is... rebuilding.
Is the excitement and enthusiasm misplaced? Will this team be like the forever-rebuilding Royals or Pirates, or the rebuilding Marlins that can pull off the occasional coup and get a world series title out of it? I'm hoping against the former, but I'm having my doubts. History isn't encouraging in that regard. Rebuilding itself is most often a never-ending vicious circle. Lowell Cohn almost nailed it when he said "...Beane’s philosophy is like communism. It never ever works in the present but it will work in some far-off mythical moment that never comes.", though I don't think it's Beane specifically, but rather the unavoidable nature of rebuilding itself. How many teams pull off what the Marlins do? Seriously, how many? For every rule any contrarian can point out exceptions to the rule, and the Marlins are an exception. Most teams who win consistently don't rely on consistently reinventing themselves, they have a plan and/or the money to make it happen and keep it happening. The A's did well at building a team 10 years ago... their record with rebuilding has been less than impressive.
What happened last time? Losing players like Giambi, Hudson, Mulder, etc., got us players like Swisher, Blanton, Haren, and other serious prospects as either draft picks or in trade. How did that work out? How many have actually panned out? A few, but the ones who really did, the one's I mentioned, are now gone.
Which brings me to my next point... Six years. So many people keep talking about how we're going to have these new guys for six years. Are we, really? Why do we say that? Did Billy Beane say we would? I don't recall him saying that, but even if he did, weren't we led to believe that about Swisher and Haren and Blanton, et al? We were supposed to have them (cheaply) for six years, also. To paraphrase Dr Phil, How did that work out for us?
Which brings me to yet another point... What happens if (read: when) all these great prospects don't pan out? Think about it, what's the success rate for prospects? I don't know exact percentages, but it's not anywhere near the excitement I read on these boards. To hear people here tell it, this team is going to be so great when ALL these guys mature. We'll be damn lucky if as many as half of them actually pan out and only half flame out. Referencing the trades and draft picks above, we should be worshiping Barton and Meyer now, but we're not. Why is that? What happened to half those guys in that great draft that everybody was oohing and aahing over several years (2002?) ago? Sometimes it's unforeseen injury, but sometimes it turns out they're not really as good as projected. I feel good that we have many legitimate pitching prospects, so if only half of them succeed we'll still be doing well. I am not so confident about hitting. We have so few, that if even one fails, this team will be in a world of hurt, offensively. This organization has HUGE holes at various positions. Rebuilding only works when needs are filled.
Last point... I didn't believe we'd make the post-season this year, but I thought we'd be serious and respectable. Some great young players playing and learning how to play and how to win. Something to build on. I was excited about our prospects for 2009. I thought we had a legitimate shot at the post-season for next year. Now, I'm not so sure. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with trading Harden and Blanton. I feel, given the overall pitching situation, that we could afford to let them go. I am disappointed, though, that immediate and short(er) term needs weren't addressed in those trades. Instead of getting a return that could help as soon as 2009, everything was pushed back even further. Just as a good mid-season trade can inspire a team I feel that a questionable trade can deflate a team, and that's at least part of what I think has happened to this team in the last month. They were told, in essence, wait another year.
Maybe the title of this post should have been... Rebuilding: It's always a day away.