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Stray Thoughts (To Be Euthanized If Not Adopted In 7 Days)

Blez’ most excellent interview with Mychael Urban (thank you again, Mychael) generated a couple thoughts I want to share with you today:

Urban’s comments were the most definitive I’ve seen that the A’s seem committed to giving Justin Duchscherer a chance to make the rotation. As someone who truly believes Duke has #3 starter potential, I couldn’t be happier. It does, however, mean the A’s can’t weaken their bullpen any further by freely trading away guys like Brown, Embree, or Street – which is a shame because it appears several teams will have a clear need going into the 2008 season. Detroit leaps to mind, in the wake of news that Joel Zumaya is lost for much of the year in a sad and somewhat freakish accident. (Zumaya underwent AC joint reconstruction surgery on his right shoulder after injuring himself while moving personal items during the California wildfires.) Detroit likes hard throwers in their pen, and in Brown, Casilla, and Embree the A’s have three very “Tiger-friendly” arms.

Still, the rotation comes first and it is foolish to count on Harden as being more than a pleasant surprise. As easily and as cheaply as he added Gaudin, Brown, and Embree, if needed I believe Beane can unearth another good reliever; good starters are another matter. If given the opportunity to start, and if blessed with a functioning back and hip, the Duke will thrive in the rotation and the A’s will ride the Duke Express to Glory: Book it.

Whether you still think he may emerge to match his physical ability (Urban) or feel he will always be mired with unfulfilled potential (Nico), where we can all agree that Crosby has established himself currently as an above-average defender and below-average hitter at an important defensive position. Though you could do better, you could also do worse. The problem with trying to upgrade, if you’re the A’s, is that you don’t actually have holes to fill – you have players like Crosby and Kotsay at key positions where other teams have better players.

It is in this regard that I think Urban’s comparison of Harden and Crosby is well-taken. Both are great to have…if they would just stay healthy and play to their physical ability, which they simply never do. Both are also not easily replaced if they disappoint (Crosby) or disappear (Harden), because that good hitting/good fielding SS, and that front of the rotation starter…well, they’re not on the A’s.

Better to have holes than to have expensive patches over holes. I think Billy knows this, as he has already jettisoned Kendall and Loaiza. It will be interesting to see what's next.