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Russian Players A Concern?

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You know, Russian them to the big leagues, Russian them before they’re ready, that kind of thing…So 111 report cards later, my wrist is insisting that I keep this brief – but I do have a topic to throw out there.

If the goal is to use 2008 to get ready for a return to contention in 2009 (realizing that you never know what can happen in 2008 if everything rolls right and knowing that 2009 may be too soon to come all the way back to true competitiveness), the question becomes “Who can help the big league team win in 2009, and how can we best position those players to be ready to help?”

Carlos Gonzalez is only 22 years old. However, he has also spent 5 years in the minor leagues, including a very successful cup of coffee at AAA. Assuming he shows himself well in Spring Training, will it help him get ready for 2009 more to spend most or all of a season at Sacramento, or will it serve him better to be told, sooner rather than later, “LF is yours, use 2008 to get comfortable and figure out how to adjust back when the pitchers adjust to you”? In other words, to what extent do you treat him like a 22 year old and to what extent do you treat him like a 5-year veteran of the minor leagues?

Gio Gonzalez is also only 22, but can claim 4 years of minor league service – and while he can’t claim any AAA experience, one could certainly argue he should have been promoted from a AA league he mastered, leading the league in strikeouts. With Haren gone and Harden, well, Harden, the A’s look like they could be without an ace until 2010 at the earliest, unless a Gio steps up ahead of schedule. And he’s a better bet to than Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, or Fautino De Los Santos, all of whom were still teenagers when the 2007 season ended.

And so the question is, with the Gonzalez’ and the Ryan Sweeneys (or is there only one of them?), what’s the right balance of cautious patience and, “Welcome to the show – get your feet wet and be ready to rock ‘n roll come Opening Day, 2009, ‘cause you’re it, baby!”