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Beane's Quandry: "Street Out 10 Days To 18 Months"

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I smell a diversion: This bullpen mess was obviously manufactured to take our minds off of the offense. Well done, A's, because it's working! So in my noble attempt to wallow in pessimism without solving the problem, today let's look at why the A's options for solving the closer problem right now just aren't very good.

"Closer By Committee"

The main drawback of the "closer by committee" approach is that it never works. Ever. Countless teams have tried it over the years, and if you've tracked the results you know that when a team utters the phrase "closer by committee," it's like the A's front office uttering the phrase "day to day".

The "closer by committee" approach doesn't work simply because inherently, it means you are taking several pitchers who have already been deemed unworthy of closing out games and asking them to close out games. It doesn't matter that they may have the matchup advantage--what matters is that like it or not, the final 3 outs are just different from the first 24 and there's a reason you don't see Embree, Witasick, Calero, and their peer equivalents doing their LOOGY/ROOGY act in the 9th innings of close games. Are the 2007 A's going to be the first team in history to get blood out of a stone? Probably not.

Harden as closer

Sorry, but there's no guarantee that Harden will even return before Street does, certainly not before Duchscherer does, nor is there any guarantee that when Harden returns it will be for more than one inning (in which he will undoubtedly strike out the side and cause much drooling). By the time we can employ Harden as closer, we won't need him as closer.

"Trade for a closer"

Good closers aren't unimportant--they just cost an awful lot, in money and/or talent, to own one. How much talent do you want to give away in order to get someone who is as good at closing out games as Duchscherer is, or as good at closing out games as Street is, when those guys could be back somewhat to very soon? Let's get vivid about it: Are you willing to part with Travis Buck, or Kevin Melillo, or Kurt Suzuki to solve your closer problem for 2-4 weeks, or were you thinking someone was chomping at the bit to acquire Hiram Bocachica?

As an aside, I hear 2002 Koch and 2004-05 Dotel discussed as if they were nightmares, but they are exactly what the A's need right now: someone who may wobble around some and who may not be "automatic" but who will get the job done most of the time. Think of it this way: A healthy Street is equivalent to Foulke, a healthy Duchscherer is equivalent to Koch/Dotel, and what we have right now is equivalent to Rhodes/Mecir. I would love to have 2004-05 Dotel right now. Unfortunately, we don't.

What we do have is the hope that Duchscherer will be back, healthy, within a few days and that Street will be back, healthy, within a few weeks. If that isn't going to happen, the A's simply need to make a trade if they want to compete in 2007. But if Streetscherer is going to be back anytime soon, then at the moment the A's need to do exactly what they're doing: Keep losing in agonizing fashion far too frequently while repeating the mantra, This Too Shall Pass.