It's unfortunate that the A's seem compulsive about spotting the division a month of smart play before getting it together, as the prevailing organizational philosophy seems to be, "The first 1/6 of the season is for working hard to put your team in a hole, the next 1/6 is for starting to do what you should have done all along, and the other 2/3 is either for playing .700-.800 ball or trading your good players."
Fast-forward to this week, though, and ignore - as if it were just your worst alcoholic nightmare - April's banishments of Sean Gallagher and Travis Buck, a belief that all running and bunting is "aggressive" and never just "reckless," "desperate," or "flat out dumb," and the conviction that a good insurance policy for a broken player is an even more broken one. There are signs of intelligent life in Oakland right now.
On April 25th, I suggested that in the next two weeks the A's should start working towards a rotation of Braden, Anderson, Cahill, Gallagher, and Gio Gonzalez, because Eveland was neither good now nor was he part of any solid future rotation the A's were trying to build, and because Outman was better suited to throwing hard out of the bullpen than he was throwing "kinda hard but straight" in the rotation. Anderson's blister has complicated things slightly, but with Gio eligible to be called up Monday and Anderson ready to go in the next few days, the A's are now poised to run with this rotation anytime - even as of today, because off days will allow them to use a four man rotation until May 21st, and the rotation is set up with Gallagher, Braden, Cahill, and Anderson poised to make the next four starts.
The lineups are finally making more sense, as Suzuki has been moved up to the #2 spot where he can get 5 PAs a game, and Buck is seeing regular playing time - which he should as a player who offers good defense and does not have large platoon splits in his career. (I'd still prefer to see Cabrera at the bottom of the order, but given how many weak hitters the A's have to start right now I can live with it.)
The bullpen management, which personally I believe has been a strength of Geren's all along in comparison to his lineups, overall use personnel, and offensive strategies, has been smart. A timely example was Geren's use of Bailey for two innings last night. By putting him in at all, the A's were going to lose Bailey's services Saturday anyway and it is always risky to use too many pitchers in a game because of the possibility that any one of them might do exactly what Ziegler did Thursday - which is to "just not have it and allow a crooked number." Rather than rolling the dice with 4 different relievers, Geren let Bailey - who was clearly doing fine - pitch the 9th, and in doing so he has Ziegler available for up to 2 innings today if needed while Bailey rests.
Guys like Dana Eveland, Dan Giese, and Rajai Davis and are "filler" - they're not very good now but they're also not part of any future success the A's will have. This is why it's so crucial for Gallagher, and Gio Gonzalez, and Travis Buck to be in the mix: Because they have just as good a chance of being good now (as however raw they are, they're also far more talented), plus they're the ones who have a chance of being really good later.
The smarter roster, the smarter use of personnel, a smarter brand of baseball - all this could have, and should have, been in place before May 9th. But better now than never and for the first time all season I'm liking what I'm seeing.