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The Kendall Dilemma

The A’s had a very impressive weekend against the Giants despite the loss to Matt Morris yesterday. And their starting pitching continues to simply remain the best in all of baseball, statistically speaking. The A’s starters are the only staff in baseball with an ERA under 3 at 2.71 and the lowest batting average against at .225. The closest to them in terms of ERA is, surprise, surprise, the Angels at 3.37.

I would say that the credit deserves to be spread around from the pitchers themselves to Curt Young to Billy Beane and yes, to Jason Kendall as well. Kendall has been quite the offensive albatross on the A’s for the last three years, albeit not nearly as big as he’s been so far this year. Yeah, he had a miserable beginning to his A’s career in 05, but once May hit, Kendall did at least get his OBP up above .300. He’s yet to come close to a .300 OBP in either April or May this season. And really, that’s all Kendall has left to contribute offensively is his OBP. At least Geren has had the cojones to put Kendall in the ninth spot in the lineup more often than not this year, but that basically has pretty much made the A’s a National League team with about as much production out of that spot as many NL pitchers provide.

It can be argued that the A’s starting pitching would likely be doing what they’re doing regardless of whether or not Kendall was behind the dish, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he does call a solid game and has been a big part of the starting pitching renaissance this year. But I’ve been wondering, especially since so many younger players have already broken into the green and gold so far this year, how long will it be before the A’s call up Kurt Suzuki?

Suzuki is having a fine year at Sacramento. He started out a little slow, but in May, he’s been batting over .300 for the Rivercats with an .804 OPS.

I’m not suggesting that the A’s replace Kendall right now because I honestly think Kendall will turn it around and start to hit better. Not only that, but the A’s theoretically might need the catching position available once Piazza returns from injury given the way Cust has hit as the A’s DH so far. And from what I’ve heard from a few different people, Cust is miserably bad defensively and will hurt you in the field. I don’t really want to see Piazza behind the dish and it wasn’t really what Mike signed with the A’s for, but things change and players have to be flexible. And the A’s could really use Cust, Piazza and Dan Johnson all in the lineup. And when Kotsay comes back, the A’s will essentially have too many players for a few spots, in particular the DH spot. Maybe you platoon Cust and Piazza, but I also don’t really like that idea either. It becomes quite a quandary.

If the A’s were to call up Suzuki now, it could just wind up being a bigger issue down the road with shuffling players, especially if Suzuki performs immediately. But I do believe that the A’s will be going with Suzuki as their new catcher in 2008 as Kendall’s contract is finally up after this year, so it would be in their best interest to get Suzuki some experience catching some of the pitchers and seeing some of the AL pitchers. That being said, the time isn’t right yet for the A’s to get young Kurt up with the A’s. Give him more time at Triple-A.

Ultimately, there isn’t much that the A’s can do about Kendall. He’s a smart player who has been a master of getting on base in the past, but that hasn’t held true in the beginning of 2007. He always seems to be in the middle of amazing moments with the A’s with the head first tag and the interference calls to end games. But Kendall’s time should be short with the A’s, despite his pleas to be with the A’s until he hangs up his cleats. It’s just a matter of when. I would argue for something more immediate if there was a solution, but since there isn’t, Kendall will continue to be the guy behind the dish for a while longer, like it or not.