Right now as we approach the inter-league games might be as good as a time as any to look at the key questions for the team for the rest of the 2009 season.
First, the AL West. I may be fooling myself but I still don't see a team that will run away with the division. This makes in my view all of the close losses up to now so painful as I really believe that this season was there for the taking. The Rangers pitchers usually wear down in that heat and the Angels injuries have kept them from rolling. I still think with improved play from Oakland they can battle for a playoff spot.
Second, the starters. I think that barring an injury the A's should stick with the 5 and see how they develop. They were thought to be the biggest weakness on the team in the Spring but they are far from it right now. It will be interesting to see who can improve the most. I really think they can be the start of something special. Will be interesting to see how the AL hits them once they get thru inter-league. For many AL opponents it will be the 2nd 3rd time seeing our pitchers, will our staff keep up the decent work.
Third, injuries. IF ( I know its a major IF) IF Duke, Ellis and Garciaparra can come back and play the 2nd half that would be huge for this team. I think they should put Duke in the pen to pitch in the close ones like tonight. He is a major upgrade over the chumps in the bull-pen. I think both the GM and Manager share in the blame for the selection and mishandling of the bullpen this season. Nomar even if he could play only 2-3 games a week is an upgrade in hitting over Crosby and Hannahan (neither at this point should be considered up and coming talent, thus there is no fear that a rookie is loosing valuable playing time). Kennedy may cool down and thus Ellis can platoon or they can stick one at 3B to upgrade the offense from that spot.
The biggest question however has to (or the 2nd year in a row) be will the team start hitting. I never thought that Giambi and Cabrerra would be so unproductive so far, will they turn it around. If not its another year fighting with the Mariners to stay out of the cellar. Also, Holliday and Cust need to improve as well. Yes, the lower part of the order is killing us (possibly solved with the return from DL of GArciaparra, Buck, Sweeney) but the top of the line-up is not pulling its weight either.
I think that Beane should give the team until the ASB to see if the team can 1- get healthy and 2- start hitting. If so then he should make a move or two to add another piece to the team to see if they can sneak into the playoffs in a weak AL West. Once in the playoffs (heck even with a 85 or so win total anything can happen).