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Have I Beane Too Critical?

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So I’ve been pretty hard on Billy this year, harder on him than in any other year since I joined AN—or even before (when I typed long essays and emailed them one by one to friends, pleading with them to give me some attention). The handling of Piazza’s return, the process by which Bradley and Loaiza left, and how long it took Beane to acknowledge that the fitness program may not be effective, are some prime examples.

Today, Billy, along with David Forst and the A’s scouts, get their due because when you look through another lens and go position by position, it’s actually remarkable how many good calls the A’s have made—often among the unlikeliest of candidates.

Catcher, Kurt Suzuki: I have no problem going into 2008 with Kurt Suzuki, whose work ethic appears to be outstanding and who has convinced me that a .250 average with 15 HRs and a slew of key hits is a perfectly realistic hope for next season. Since settling into the starting job, Suzuki has been remarkably consistent both offensively and defensively.

First Base, Daric Barton: As if Mulder for Haren alone wasn’t enough of a steal. I am so excited about Daric Barton I can’t tell you, because I truly believe the guy has what it takes to start his career hitting .300 and not look back. And as we’ve already seen, the XBHs are going to come because the guy hits the ball with authority.

Third Base, Jack Hannahan: I’m still not sure how good Hannahan is, either offensively (where I suspect he can hit around .260/.360/.400) or defensively (where I suspect he came a bit overrated), but given the crisis of losing Chavez somewhere between the rest of the season and the rest of his career, how can you not love what Hannahan has done, and how he gives us something to offer hope for 2008 with or without Chavez? Just a great pickup.

Designated Hitter: Jack Cust: I think a .412 OBP with 26 HRs and 82 RBI in less than 5 months speaks for itself.

Left Field, Shannon Stewart: Stewart’s health and performance have met and exceeded all hopes and expectations. Had we been in a pennant race, we would be viewing Stewart as one of the difference-makers who made it possible.

Starting Pitcher: Lenny DiNardo Sure, he’s done a Saarloos, not always getting deep into games, occasionally just getting lit up, and probably not able to sustain it over time. But DiNardo has stepped up where Kennedy, Braden, and Meyer were unable to do so. With 8 “quality starts,” 10 starts of 3 ER or less, and terrific bullpen work, DiNardo has made me regret laughing—literally—when I heard we had picked him up.

And then there’s Travis Buck, another reason to think we might bounce back in 2008. And Andrew Brown, a 2007 addition who could provide important depth to our 2008 bullpen. How nice for Beane and Co. to be able to look at a year of so many mistakes and miscalculations, and still be able to identify so many important good moves.

The A’s are at Fenway to take on the Red Sox at 4:05pm. See you then…