Those Damn Angels. No, not because they're holding a grip on first place. Their grip may, in fact, be slipping. The Mariners, that same Seattle team that is in town for a four-game series starting tonight, are only 3 1/2 games back. And unlike last season, the Mariners actually know how to beat the team in green and gold this year. They've currently 4-1 against the A's in 2007.
The Angels have slowed down to a crawl over their last few weeks. Why am I complaining that the Angels are losing? Well, simply because I think it might make the decision a little more difficult to start a bit of a youth movement in Oakland. I know, I know, the youth movement has already started with Travis Buck and Kurt Suzuki. And the A's always seem to be in some kind of minor youth movement any way. But over the season, the A's haven't decided to try throwing a guy like Shane Komine out to take someone like Joe Kennedy's spot. The answer was always, at least during spring training, Kennedy has the experience starting at the ML level. Yeah, that's fine, but he's basically had one good season over his career.
His ERA has gone up every month, pretty much reflecting what most of us thought at the beginning of the year. He also has allowed 43 walks and only struck out 38 this season. He is the type of guy who probably should be replaced in the rotation. But the A's don't have a lot of great options in the minors right now. They could've used Braden, but he seems to have adjusted (and quickly) to a nice role in the bullpen. Dan Meyer has been up and down quite a bit in his first full year back in baseball after a myriad of horrid injuries. Komine could very well be that option, but he wasn't exactly lighting it up at Triple-A.
The thing is Harden is supposedly coming back to start a game on Saturday. I'm not holding my breath that even if he does start that he's going to last. But if he somehow can get it going and be successful, the A's then have a pretty damn fine rotation, minus the fifth starter. DiNardo is probably better as a reliever and Kennedy might be as well. Perhaps it's time to see what the A's have in someone like Komine. Let him go out there and start a game or two.
And while we're at it, bring up Barton and give him a crack at being the DH or 1B for now while Piazza is still working his way back. Throw Cust in the outfield (GASP!) if you want to play DJ at DH.
I know eight games isn't insurmountable, especially the way the Angels have suddenly gone into the tank. The A's just haven't played well enough in recent games to make anyone think that they could come back from the deficit. I know, you're probably saying that I'm giving up too early. The thing is, I'm not really giving up. My thinking is that you don't have much to lose right now by seeing what you have in the youth. Billy Beane is always fond of saying that he's always building toward the future with keeping his sights set squarely on today. That's how I view a few small tweaks to the roster right now. Trade Kennedy. He isn't going to be here next year and some other pitching-starved club could probably use him. I'm not saying trade him to get anything in return, really. Just trade him to make the fifth spot in the rotation an audition of sorts for some of the young pitchers like Braden and Komine. You do run the risk of Harden hurting himself again, which is pretty much inevitable at this point, but it'd be good to figure out what you have. Maybe Harden can at last long enough to see Loaiza make his 2007 debut. And in the meantime, you find out if one of the young guys has what it takes to be a starter at the big league level. Then you sit in a very comfortable position with almost TOO many arms.
The A's probably wouldn't do something like this unless they fall 12 or maybe 15 games back. My feeling is, why wait? If you find out that Komine can be an adequate fifth starter, then you have a problem solved for 2008 already. AND he can help keep the A's in it right now.
Maybe this is just an overreaction to Kennedy's worst start ever, but I don't think so. Kennedy's stats have been pointing to a meltdown for a while now. I'd like to see what one of the younger pitchers can do. The pitchers who actually have a future in green and gold. I'd like to see what the kid at Triple-A can do who hit .500 in June can do against ML pitching.
Am I jumping the gun on this? Probably. Fans have been known to do that from time to time. Me included. I just want something that's going to excite me a little more than a guy pitching for a big contract at the end of the year. The Cust and Buck stories have been the best things that have come out of 2007 so far, in my opinion. And I'm hungry to see more of that. I honestly wouldn't even care so much about the standings if the A's were to call Barton up and he was to succeed. And Suzuki plays more and succeeds. And the A's find out that Braden or Komine or Meyer has the stuff to be a big league starter. Because that would mean that the team could continue to compete this season while setting themselves up perfectly for 2008.