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Ellis Comin' Round the Mountain?

The A's signed Mark Ellis to a contract extension somewhat similar to the contract they signed Scott Hatteberg too when he had a contract with the A's. The truth is that it isn't a lot of money (comparative to what Ellis did last year - the question is can he ever duplicate it?) as it's $2.25 million this year, $3.5 million next year and a $5 million club option for 2008 (and a $250,000 buyout option).

Ellis has been a huge disappointment so far this year. No one expected him to repeat his marvelous performance from the second half of 2005 when he was a better offensive player than Vlad Guerrero (OPS-wise). His OBP is under .300 for the year and his batting average is a full .100 points below where he finished last year. Ellis was the A's best offensive player for the A's last year in a stunning turnaround from his shoulder problem that caused him to miss all of 2004.

All of this while Ellis plays gold glove caliber defense at second base. I'm a huge Ellis fan, but he absolutely needs to be better at the plate if the A's are going to continue to pull away in the AL West race. Remember, this is a player who was essentially handed the A's leadoff position during spring training by Ken Macha. And I think for the first time ever, the A's have actually made the statement that a hitter is being "too selective".

"I love Ellis' defense," Macha said. "Ellis' problems are with hitting the ball away. A lot of time he has a bad angle with the barrel [of the] bat underneath his hands and he ends up popping the ball up. [Hitting coach] Gerald [Perry] mentioned that he takes a few too many pitches."

That's fascinating to me because I didn't think the A's ever felt ANYONE took too many pitches. Any way, it's also interesting that it was on a night when Macha made it a point to bring up Ellis in his pregame chat that Mark had one of his best games of the year. Conspiracy theorists could go wild on that one, but a few stories said that Ellis didn't know about the Macha discussion before the game.

Ultimately, if the A's get someone like Ellis hot to add to the pop Bradley, Payton and Thomas are providing, the A's offense could be much, much better.

By the way, on a side note, whereas the Angels avoided the Devil Rays stud pitcher Scott Kazmir, the A's will be facing the youngster in his first start coming off the DL on Friday night. That's exactly why you can't assume that the schedule favors the A's down the stretch. The Angels avoided the kid in Tampa and the A's are going to get him. Figures. How much you wanna bet Liriano makes his next start in September against the A's?