The Fake First Base Race and What Becomes of Chris Carter?

OAKLAND CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Chris Carter #22 of the Oakland Athletics rounds the bases after hitting his first major league home run against the Chicago White Sox at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 22 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

First of all, I have to point something out. For all of the complaining I do about the Oakland A's organization and the way it treats its fans (and don't get me wrong, the complaints are valid), I figure it's only fair to give credit when credit is due. And it was due Tuesday night.

Remember the rain-shortened, miserable game on Tuesday night?

Ticket holders from Tuesday night's rain-shortened 3-0 loss to Kansas City will have a chance to return to a future game -- compliments of the Oakland A's.

The A's announced on Wednesday that ticket holders who attended Tuesday's game will receive a free field-level ticket to a future game of their choice this season, scheduled on a Monday through Thursday, excluding games on July 2-4 and July 19.

"This gesture serves as only a small token of our appreciation towards our die-hard, rain-soaked fans who attended last night's game at the Coliseum," A's executive director of ticket sales and operations Steve Fanelli said. "Despite the less than ideal baseball conditions, our fans were tremendous in their loyal support of the team. We look forward to welcoming them back soon."

Cynical as I have been at times, I thought that was a pretty nice thing to do.

I have been mulling over this post for a week now, ever since Bob Melvin's quote:

"From this point on, we expect Daric to be the everyday first baseman," manager Bob Melvin said. "We feel confident about it, or he wouldn't be here at this point."

I'm not disagreeing with the call; assuming all else is equal (and there isn't an upside to Kila or Allen that we just haven't seen), Barton should easily have the edge with his defense and batting eye. However, why bother setting up a first base race at all? Because from the way I saw it in the papers, live at Spring Training, and from all of the usual A's sources, the A's were holding auditions for first base this Spring.

Apparently, Allen was set up to fail on Opening Day; he went 0-4 with 2K's, but he was facing Felix Hernandez! (Spoiler Alert: So are the A's tonight.) And then he was designated for assignment, and Barton was given the job, as if it was his all along. Was there any chance for Kila or Allen to win the job out of Spring Training or was it a foregone conclusion when Barton came back? And if Spring Training isn't enough to decide you are any good, is it really enough to determine if you are bad? And if the A's were sold on Barton, why did they take two months and a whole lot of red herrings to announce it?

This quote from the same article just seems...what's the word...mean?

"It was a tough decision," Melvin said. "I've grown pretty close to Brandon here in a short time. The start he got off to was terrific, and then he went a little downhill. This spring, we asked him to do some things offensively, do something different in his swing, while he was trying to battle for a spot, which is difficult to do.

So let me get this straight. The A's asked Brandon Allen to do something different in his swing during the Japan-shortened Spring Training, and subsequently judged him on this, plus seven regular season at-bats; most of them against one of the best pitchers in the world, and all the while, he was battling for a spot that was never up for grabs in the first place. And then he was DFA'd.

I don't think Brandon Allen was the first base answer, but I don't know for sure. I'm lacking sample size. I'm not sure Kila is the answer either, but I don't have enough information to judge that either. Heck, I'm not sure there is a current first base answer. Obviously, I'd like it to be Daric Barton; the only horse in the race that wasn't sent to the glue factory, but only time will tell.

It's the method I have a problem with, and the A's do it all the time. You want to know if a player is any good? I can tell you how they won't be good. Bring them up from Triple-A. Tell them they better succeed, or they are going back down. Let them play a game. When they go 0-4, sit them for the next game. Give them another try. When they fail, sit them again, and eventually deem them a failure and ship them back to Triple-A. See: Carter, Chris, graduate of the Dread Pirate Roberts school of baseball.

I think at some point, you have to figure out what you have. When do the A's bring Carter up? And do they give him a guaranteed spot? What would it do for a young, presumably-talented player if the A's said, "0-4 game or not, you are our everyday starter from now until the end of the season. Let's see what you got in a real sample size.". If Barton is succeeding, does Carter DH? Will he eventually take over first base? Or is it too late, and will he, too, eventually be let go?

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