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Of Rising Stars, the Angels as Champs, Buck's Plummeting Stock and Lew Wolff as Rachel Phelps

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If you haven’t yet read about the ANTS (Athletics Nation Tanzania), you really should. I'm serious. Go read it.

Yesterday's live chat with CSNBayArea's Mychael Urban was interesting, to say the least. It was certainly heavy on the Giants reporting; I suppose understandably, but I raised my eyebrows at the answers to every A's question. Just to be clear, this is not set up to bash Urban; whatever season projections he gave certainly can't be as far off as some of the early PECOTA data, and I am wildly curious about a couple of his outside comments.

Urban answered three different questions about Buck during the chat, he offered an all-but-unsolicited conspiracy theory about the A's as the Indians in Major League, picked the Angels to win the division, and went off the map with the three A's players he picked to have a breakout 2010. It's a bit crazy-town, but it's the best chat to discuss that I've seen in a while.

We all know that there is much, much more than meets the eye regarding the career of Travis Buck, and no amount of discussion will really resolve the question: What could have Travis Buck done personally to turn himself from a promising 23-24 year old rookie into a persona non grata with the A's at the ripe old age of 26?

BuckFan starts the A's questions with:

Urbs- Loved your piece about Buck. What's behind this as far as the A's are concerned? Is this about lighting a fire under his butt?

CSN Mychael Urban:
Thanks, BuckFan. I don't think it's about lighting a fire. Part of it does seem personal, but results are what matter most in this game. Hard to think that if Buck had hit .350 with big power and on-base numbers in Sac that the jerking-around wouldn't stop, right?

Actually, I'm not sure what sort of numbers Buck would have had to put up, because I don't think Buck's absence can be classified as all performance-based.

But we continue with Pete:

Isnt Buck to blame here. A's put a ton of hype on him back in 2008 and he's failed since. Even his "great" rookie season was barely 300 ab's and get got injured then too. IMO he belongs in the bust trash bin just like putnam, robnett, hererra, melillo etc

CSN Mychael Urban:
He openly accepts blame for his early 2008 failures. Says he let the expectations get into his head and handled it poorly. And yeah, the frequent injuries and lack of production give those looking to take the A's side plenty of ammo. He admits that, too. But you don't know the half of it. He's been treated pretty poorly. All of his teammates will back that up.

Yes, Pete. Let's label Buck a bust based on 38 games of data in 2008 and 36 in 2009. Perhaps Pete is being tongue-in-cheek, as he realizes that effectively, that is exactly what the A's have appeared to do. I think Urban's answer is right on the money; Buck did lose the starting job in 2008. But let's be honest; coming from the same team that fielded Bobby Crosby (who was "hyped" way more than Buck ever was) and his sub-.240 batting average for SIX DAMN YEARS, it's laughable, really. Actually, it's not even that funny, but it's pretty clear that the A's have something against Travis Buck.

Urban answers one more question about it, very simply:

I think Buck will end up getting traded.

I certainly hope so, for his sake. And also that he eventually writes a tell-all book.

I feel like the next chat question was merely the vehicle used to get the conspiracy theory out there. It didn't need to be said, but it was, and although Urban denies up and down (both in this question and another part of the chat) that he believe it or finds any credence in it, he still passes it along:

Beanie:
Are the A's wedded to Billy Beane forever? How many missed playoffs and 10K fan days will A's ownership take going forward?


CSN Mychael Urban:
This is a good time to toss out a conspiracy theory I've heard: Maybe the A's don't want to be all that good. Maybe they don't want to draw many fans. Maybe they see it as a way to convince Bud Selig that Oakland is truly untenable and San Jose needs to be opened up. I don't buy it, but I see why the theory exists.

Please take special care to note that the question was actually asking about the A's relationship to Billy Beane, and if the ownership blames him for missed playoffs and the fan attendance, and if they will be making a personnel change. The question is then answered with the plot to Major League. Of course he can't say that it has any kernel of truth to it; none of us can, but it is now in print.

(dramatic pause)

And although AN and PECOTA (more on this Friday) have picked Seattle, the A's, and now Texas to win the West in 2010, Urban likes the Angels. And even gives a reason:

The Angels have four very good starters, the best manager in the game (in my opinion), a solid bullpen and some awfully good hitters in Hunter, Morales, Kendrick, Matsui and Abreu. They're my favorites, still.

Following that, Urban sums up the A's portion of the chat by picking A's players who will have a breakout 2010. I like that he doesn't give the standard "Brett Anderson" answer.

Instead, Urban gives us Devine (even with all of the health concerns), Cahill (who may or may not even crack the starting rotation), and Ryan Sweeney. Bold choices.

Where do we even start? Discuss.