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Mythconceptions

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I wanted to address some myths – as I see them – being thrown around by the angry and frustrated. My two cents…

Myth: The A’s never intended to give Todd Linden a shot at making the Opening Day roster.

Truth: The A’s brought Linden in as an insurance policy in case one of the top four outfielders in camp (Emil Brown, Travis Buck, Chris Denorfia, Ryan Sweeney) couldn’t cut it, either via injury or performance. Had Linden batted .280 in the Cactus League and it was Buck, not Carlos Gonzalez, who pulled a hammy, Linden would have had a better chance of making the team than he did batting over .500 with a track record of being a AAAA hitter who will excel against…well, the range of pitchers you see in March, not the ones you tend to see in April. In other words, Linden’s hopes of making the team rested more on whether Denorfia and Sweeney looked “ready for prime time” and whether Brown and Buck were healthy. Just because he did his job and more and still didn’t get the job doesn’t mean that Linden was given a false promise. Being a 6th starter is all about seeing how the five above you fare. So is being a 5th outfielder. Welcome to the big leagues, Todd – or in this case, not.

Myth: Linden didn’t make the team on a small sample but Dana Eveland won the 5th starter spot based on his 15 innings of work.

Truth: Eveland’s performance mattered, but only to the extent that the A’s needed to see that he indeed seemed ready for major league competition. It was Eveland’s spot to lose and the way DiNardo pitched (not to mention the way Greg Smith pitched), Eveland would have lost the spot had he thrown badly – but note that I say “thrown badly” and not “had a 5.00 ERA.” Cactus League stats don’t matter, but the process is watched closely. Eveland showed a good arm, enough poise to wobble through trouble successfully, and good enough command, not to lose the spot. Had Eveland thrown the way he did in his previous major league cups of coffee, and indicated he wasn’t ready for prime time, the A’s would have looked to the next option – in this case DiNardo. In other words, Eveland’s “small sample” was good enough, and Linden’s wasn’t, because Eveland entered the Cactus League as the fifth ranked candidate for a group of five and Linden entered the Cactus League as the fifth ranked candidate for a group of four.

Myth: Emil Brown was signed as filler and doesn’t fit into team that is rebuilding.

Truth:
Sometimes the A’s sign a player because they believe the player is better than he currently appears to be. Coming off a down year, Brown was not coveted by others and was thus available to the A’s cheaply – as were unknowns (at the time) Jack Hannahan and Chad Gaudin. Brown put up a line of .286/.349/.455 with 17 HRs, 86 RBI (and 10 SB) in 2005, then followed it up with a line of .287/.358/457 with 15 HR and 81 RBI in 2006. At 33 years old, the A’s probably feel he has a good season in him – they’re not looking for 4-5 good seasons – and like the balance his right-handed bat will give the A’s lineup. And don’t fool yourself: Billy Beane is never just “rebuilding”. He knows that stuff happens – stuff like John Lackey and Kelvim Escober going down at the same time – and that it pays to set the team up to be as competitive as possible, just in case. If everything breaks right for the Royals, they’ll still lose a truckload of games. If everything breaks right for the A’s, it could be 2005 all over again. And if Emil Brown can make the A’s a couple games better, he’s not “filler,” he’s “a couple games closer to the top in 2008.” Plus, we just like guys named Brown, Sweeney, and Gonzalez, ok?