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The A's Problem: Just Too Many Ways To Lose

These last 11 games, in which the A's have lost 8 times, have been a true microcosm of the unsolvable problem facing the A's and their wily GM, Billy Beane. The A's just have too many ways to lose, which means that any attempts to trade the team into contention could be like plugging up all the holes on the right side of a colander; the left side will still leak, so how much did you really accomplish?

As the A's saw at Shea Stadium, their offense is all too capable of getting shut down longer than Joe Blanton can fire goose eggs. But as the A's saw at Jacobs Field, taking a lead into the late innings is not always enough these days either. And as we saw again last night, any time Joe Kennedy or Lenny DiNardo starts you have a great chance to lose the old-fashioned way: outscored by the other team even when you hit a bit and have your best relievers ready at the helm.

It may seem like bad luck, where, "Man, when we get a great effort from Blanton we don't score, and when we hit that's the night DiNardo gives it up!" In reality, the A's have serious holes in three serious places--the rotation, the bullpen, and the offense--meaning three chances for a failure that can offset all the other good work. None of the weak areas is too horribly awful, mind you--there's a reason this team is over .500 and not ready to become "sellers" just yet--although the current bullpen is close. (DiNardo, Lewis, Flores, Marshall? I'm surprised we didn't put in Oquist.)

If the bad news is that the A's have serious flaws in three key areas, the worse news is that reinforcements are not coming nearly as fast, nor as furious, as once hoped. Bradley will not be strengthening the middle of the order and Duchscherer will not be augmenting the bullpen. Piazza (where do you play him?) and Harden (how long until he breaks again?) are hardly "the answer". That leaves us waiting for Loaiza and Street to turn a .500 team into a .600 team, and by the time we see them we may need a .650 team.

The bottom line: This Oakland team needs more help at more different places than a "buyer" can acquire without foolishly mortgaging the team's future. I wouldn't waste Daric Barton's service time in the hopes he can outproduce the suddenly hot Dan Johnson, and I wouldn't trade Suzuki or Melillo to try to get better a little faster. I'd do what Beane is doing, and that is to wait for Loaiza, wait for Street, wait for Piazza and Buck, throw Harden on the alternate Tuesdays and partly-cloudy Fridays that he feels good, and then really pin your playoff hopes on the off chance that the whole lineup, or the whole rotation, or the whole bullpen, or the whole danm team, just might get hot at the same time, or at least the right time. The odds aren't great, but they're better than the odds of plugging up one hole and doing more good than harm in the process.