There's not much to say here, and I really don't want to dwell on tonight's game. Greg Smith has a narrow margin for error, and he was hit tonight, period. Things started out great - four outs in his first seven pitches. But Greg has earned his nickname, "Nibbles", for good reason - he has to nibble to be an effective big-league pitcher. He will never be a pitcher who can simply let fly and challenge hitters with little regard for where he's throwing in the zone. Tonight was proof of that - when the ball was left over the plate, he was crushed - by Blalock, and then by Teagarden as well.
Then I was forced to suffer through saw Jeff Gray pitch for the first time, and understood quickly why he's viewed with shrugs around AN. His cheap salary (400K) and contract flexibility (he can shuttle between Sac and the big club for all of '09 and '10) are attractive, but his pitching assets aren't really. His fastball hovered at 91 and his curveball didn't have enough bite. I hope it was an off night for one of those two pitches because if it wasn't, he isn't long for the big leagues.
Jeff Baisley played some first base and doesn't look like a terrific athlete by the professional athlete standards, although I'm told he plays a decent third base. He hit a few soft liners and remains hitless in his big league career.
On that note, there are a LOT of young players getting nice opportunities to play right now, and I can't say I'm not disappointed that literally none - none! - of them have taken the proverbial bull by the horns. As much as we bemoan Brown (.682 OPS), Crosby (.662), and Hannahan (.648), the A's have literally given more than 1,250 at-bats to guys with worse statlines than theirs. To a man, Barton/CarGon/Pennington/Murphy/Buck/Bankston/Patterson/Conrad/Murton, and now Baisley, have really not impressed. And I realize that's a very wide spectrum of prospectdom and age, all the way from potential star to utter fringe...but the point is, isn't it kinda sad that all 10 of those guys have gotten/are getting a wonderful opportunity to establish themselves as big leaguers, and none of them has done it? Don't most teams have at least one guy, even a fringy guy, who comes up and suddenly hits a few bombs and plays over his head? Or a prospect who's there just to audition, and mashes for a few weeks or month until the league figures him out? Where's our Chris Davis/Ryan Ludwick/Jorge Cantu/Josh Hamilton?
Of that group of would-be A's role-fillers listed above, we were 0 for 10 on that front. You'd hope for a little bit better "hit rate" than that. You look down our team stats page, and the base of it is a fringe prospect morgue, filled with .500 OPS's, .200ish SLG and OBP lines. I wanted one - just one! - of those 10 guys to break out or surprise.
Taking a step back from the ledge...
I'm pleased that Suzuki has established that he belongs. And that Jack Cust has proved that he wasn't a fluke. And I love watching Rajai Davis play, because his defense is literally the highlight of A's baseball for me right now, and I'm pulling for him to succeed more than anyone, and his defense was great again tonight. But there isn't much else to be happy about here, and again, you'd hope for more than that.
On the plus side, both Sacramento and Stockton moved within a game of winning their respective AAA and high-A championships with wins tonight. The Rivercats now lead their series 2-1, while Stockton heads to the road with a 2-0 series lead in their best-of-five.
Sacramento seems destined to win its second straight PCL title, buoyed by the fringes of the A's 40-man roster past, present, and future: Denorfia, Cargon, Murphy, Petit, Bankston, Buck, Putnam, Conrad.
This season has once again reinforced that the A's probably have the best 21-40 depth on their 40-man roster of any team in baseball. The drop-off in their "replacement level", from starter to backup to third stringer, is remarkably low.
The problem is that their best 1-20 players are about the worst in baseball. There's not a single one far-above-average player to carry this team - and for them to be good again, '09 and beyond there will probably need to be. Starting 1-2 average players, and 7 players that are somewhere between slightly below average and sucktacular, is not ever going to get it done.
For the (somewhat) younger group of hardcore A's fans on this site, it is time for us to earn our stripes. AN's more experienced fans, like onewonlostwon and 67MARQUEZ, have lived through plenty of ups and downs in their lifetime of fandom. I've only known the A's as a playoff contender in my adulthood, and this is the sour with the sweet, and I don't like it.
So forgive me when I occasonally indulge in Fremont/2014 Free Agent fantasies. :)
15 of these left. You gotta figure some of the guys in the A's locker room are counting them down, too.