In homage to the Colbert Report, I figured it was time that we look at the A's biggest threats to their postseason chances right now, otherwise known as the Threat Down.
- Ken Macha: I'm not a Macha hater. I've said many times that I think managing a baseball team is the single most thankless job in all of pro sports because when the team loses, "hindsighters" can always inevitably point to something the manager did as the reason why. When the team wins, the manager rarely gets any credit. But Macha has stubbornly been doing things with the lineup lately that befuddle. I'm not sure if it's some unwritten rule in the baseball handbook that you have your highest paid player in the third or four spot in the lineup, but Macha continues to put Eric Chavez there as he did so when Chavy struggled at the beginning of last season even when Eric asked publicly to be moved down in the lineup. Sure, Chavez hit a home run yesterday, but with his myriad of injuries I think the best thing to do is to move him down to sixth or seventh and ride the Payton/Kielty gravy train while it's rolling. You damn well know it's going to end, and probably sooner rather than later. Macha has also successfully Ginterized Antonio Perez, which I still think was one of the biggest mistakes of the year. Perhaps Chavez wouldn't have been hurt to the extent he is right now if Macha had used Perez more regularly and effectively. Now the team feels like it has no adequate replacement for Chavez's glove or bat, so they're propping Number 3 up with popsicle sticks and duct tape and hoping that a strong breeze doesn't knock him down.
- Milton Bradley: I loved the deal for Milton Bradley at the time. I mentioned that I felt Perez was a good hitter with pop for a middle infielder. I felt Bradley was going to have a season much closer to his Indians 2003 year than any of his other ones. Well, I was wrong on the performance front and now he is being successfully goaded by opposition crowds. I'm not going to pretend I know what this feels like because I've never had a stadium of thousands yelling things about my family, so I don't know how I'd react. Bradley did the right thing yesterday in bringing it to security's attention. But it makes you wonder if he can survive all season long when the heckles inevitably escalate. I remember sitting in the right field bleachers of an A's game (at the Coliseum) once and Sheffield was the target of a ton of insults that I couldn't believe I was hearing. Sheffield just played on like he couldn't even hear it, and the thing is, you knew he could. Bradley needs to wear ear plugs or something because the A's need him for this stretch drive. He's too talented and has too much ability to make a huge impact on the AL West final standings. That is, if he can stay healthy. I still love the deal for Bradley (the deal was almost universally praised both here and in the mainstream media - no one thought Ethier would make this impact this fast), but it's times like these that make me wince and beg for him to just play the damn game.
- Viruses and Food Poisoning: First it was Eric Chavez in Toronto, then Nick Swisher visited an Applebee's and made the mistake of choosing the fajita burrito and then Swisher was the victim again in contracting mononucleosis. Frank Thomas even got a spell in Boston. The A's need to be careful what hotels they go to and what restaurants they eat in because these ailments seem to be following them around in 2006. I swear if Mark Kotsay suddenly announces he contracted e-coli from a seven-layer cake at Claim Jumper, I'm officially going to petition Billy Beane to join the team and be the food taster on the road to make sure things are safe.
- BEARS!: No, not actual bears but more so behaving like bears at the trading deadline and going into hibernation. The offense needs an additional stick. That might come in the form of Dan Johnson who appears to have his confidence back. He's played a grand total of five games for the Sacramento club and has an OPS of 1.504. Yes, it's small sample size, but if DJ can become the Dan Johnson of last year, the A's might not need anyone. Unfortunately for the team, the trading deadline is 11 days away and they might not be able to make that judgment in that time. DJ could even be a part of a package to land a bat (how many of you will say it's a bad deal to move him?). It's just too bad that we haven't seen the team healthy up until this point so we don't know if Bradley, Thomas and Chavez can be that heart of the order the A's need. Remember, the A's pitching staff is one of the best in baseball so they just need their offense to provide minimally. I don't believe that it's exactly good enough right now and that the A's will have to acquire some help. The question is where and for whom?
- Los Alamitos Angels of Fullerton: The team has caught fire thanks to a resurgent pitching staff. The Angels offense isn't that much better than the A's moribund bunch, but without Rich Harden in the rotation, the Angels rotation is simply better. The Angels also have Vlad who is a one-man offense. Many folks are afraid that the Angels will deal for Soriano, but I welcome that. Soriano has a career OPS of .392 against Barry Zito and .370 against Esteban Loaiza. He has over 30 ABs against Zito and more than 25 against Loaiza. He has had success against Haren and Blanton, but that is only in a few ABs. I would love it if the Angels mortgaged their future (Wood, Kendrick) to get this guy. Regardless, because of the Angels great rotation, they are going to probably be in this until the end unless Vlad gets hurt.