What if I was to come into spring training and slug at a .625 clip and a .438 batting average after leading the PCL Champions in batting average a season ago?
Well, Watson, I would have to deduce that it would give you a decent shot at staying with the big club, would it not?
Yes, don't you think it would? Or at least until a certain prospect with a name that rhymes with Fisher got his swing right and wasn't batting .125.
Sometimes, you have to wonder what spring training is all about. This year, the A's were supposed to be open to so many different opportunities that they hadn't had in years past. Yet Matt Watson was sent down today.
The reality of baseball is that sometimes certain players will get every opportunity while others will languish on the fringe. Just ask my good friend Jason Grabowski.
Grabber is a perfect example. For seasons, he worked really, really hard in the minors for his shot (trust me, the guy works out like a demon). But due to a numbers game in Oakland and the fact that Eric Byrnes performs like Superman on meth every spring and Jermaine Dye's contract forced him into the lineup, Grabber wound up in Los Angeles, reunited with DePodesta.
Grabber basically averaged a little over one at-bat a game in 2004 and had a four-week window to take the starting job (May 04). He didn't perform up to expectations (although he did hit .283 with a .358 OBP and an .892 OPS that month) in that very limited shot so Jayson Werth took over. Werth was the heavily touted prospect, so he got every opportunity to keep the job, which he did largely through a great performance. But Werth struggled mightily in August with a .271 OBP and a .678 OPS, did the job get returned back to Grabber? No. They stuck with the kid.
Here's my point. It's a cold baseball reality, but it's the truth. Prospects who are highly regarded by the front office get every opportunity to stick, sometimes in spite of themselves. So the Swishers and the Werths of the MLB get every opportunity to succeed while the Watsons, Grabowskis, Graham Koonces and Mike Edwards of the world have a tiny crack of an opportunity to succeed. If they don't, the window could slam shut forever.
Truth be told, Swisher and Werth have more upside than the others, but perhaps someone like Edwards or Watson or Grabowski or Koonce would've excelled if given regular at bats for more than a few weeks while the other player develops more in the minors. Unfortunately, in the highly competitive, win-now mentality of baseball the Grabowskis of the world don't have the luxury of time. If you're going to take a chance and have patience, it should be with the highly-regarded prospect.
An exception to this rule? Carlos Pena. Remember how much time Carlos Pena got with the A's? Not much.
Yet someone like Bobby Kielty has been getting shots for seemingly the last 10 years.
I'm not saying the window is closed to a player like Watson. He may get another shot this year if injuries crop up or someone struggles mightily out of the gate. Look at what Graham Koonce is doing this spring in Pittsburgh camp...he's got a 1.200 slugging percentage, has hit two home runs and has a .500 batting average in 10 at bats. Watson can take solace in the fact that there is always a Pirates team out there that may be willing to give him a shot if the A's don't give it to him.
Contrary to popular belief, baseball is not merely a numbers game, but a name game too.
And that's elementary, my dear Watson.