What was shaping up as a potentially exciting July in these parts has been dulled by the home team's recent slide, leaving Athletics Nation to entertain itself.
About two months ago, many A's fans were circling the dates of July 5-7 in anticipation of Braden-Rodriguez II, with the former's Perfect Game on May 9 turning things up a notch on the salivation scale.
But then Dallas slumped- he's still winless since his date with immortality; life can be cruel that way- and is now hoping he won't have to miss another start due to tightness in his left elbow. Even if he is able to pitch- he is slotted for Saturday in Cleveland- he will almost assuredly miss the Yankees' series. Braden, being the warrior that he is, remains optimistic, and says the upcoming Break should keep him off the dreaded disabled list:
"Fortunately, the All-Star break coming up [is] a blessing in disguise [because] our day off just before the All-Star break [on July 8], that allows us some rotational comfort," Braden said. "The All-Star Game being an additional four days, that's a lot of rest if manipulated correctly ... that I could have without being forced on the DL."
Speaking of the ASG, it's looking like for the sixth straight season that only one "A" will make the trip. Not since Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in 2004 has Oakland sent multiple players to the Mid-Summer Classic. The pitchers were subsequently traded at the end of the season.
Billy Beane won't likely be making that sort of splash come the deadline on July 31, mainly because, as FanGraphs so eloquently states, "the A's lack a plethora of sought-after assets." But that doesn't mean we should sleep on Beane, because he has been known to surprise us. Even if the man himself says otherwise:
"We've got the youngest team in the league, and we're not going to be trading our young players," Beane said. "I wouldn't anticipate us being overly active because the team's so young, and we have no interest in handing off any of those guys."
FanGraphs' Matthew Carruth echoes Nico's sentiment that "the Athletics have an unholy amount of payroll space freed up in the future", even after the expected wage increases:
Many of their players are arbitration eligible and therefore will see some raises but it's difficult to see that adding more than $20 million to the books which still leaves Oakland with something in the vicinity of $25 million to spend in this coming offseason assuming the same budget room.
There's concern among Athletic Nation's hierarchy that the A's have fallen into some sort of baseball purgatory, and can't get up. Sez Blez:
I've always said the worst thing a team can be is mediocre.
Because if it never truly bottoms out, you never get a chance to get those top round draft picks that are almost always the sure things. Ask the Rays about having a lot of high draft picks. Ask the Nationals.
It's, in some ways, why I didn't really want to see the team try and be competitive on the field last year in signing some vets and getting Holliday, etc. I would've rather just gone with kids and let the team bottom out. I know it's not in Billy's nature and I'm sure Lew Wolff doesn't want that, but let's face it, there's hardly anyone coming to the Coliseum any way.
Suffer through a couple of really bad Pirates-like years and then hopefully your draft can help and when you need it, then you bring in the Sheets and Hollidays of the world to round out the younger team.
And this from Nico, in last night's recap:
A .500 team that isn't good enough to contend or bad enough to draft well just went out and got another "ok" player (Conor Jackson) that blocks the addition of a "good" player in LF, making itself even more "really mediocre but not terrible" for now and for next year.
Ah, but there is reason to give hope, sort of:
The A's were never built to run away in 2010, but rather to take a stab at a winnable division but bide their time for the future. They are going to miss the brass ring, but the future still looks intact.
Or does it? There seems to be an unsettling dependency on Michael Taylor and Chris Carter to save the day, at least from a power standpoint. Beane admits as much, even as Taylor and Carter struggle in the minors- "There's really no choice"- so the A's, as currently built, will continue to scratch-and-claw for their runs. Or hope the opposition self-destructs every four games or so.
In the meantime, it's business as usual, which is part wait-and-see, and part sniffing around:
"I think our biggest thing is being patient with some of these young guys and also waiting for some of the guys in the Minor Leagues," Beane said. "I don't think we're going to go out there and add payroll, necessarily. We're not going to add a player for short-term satisfaction. That would require giving up some young talent. When we acquired Conor [Jackson], we had it in mind that he, himself, is still very young at age 28. So I don't see us adding short-term help.
"In this job, you're always looking for opportunities," he said. "If you're not buyers and sellers at all times, you're probably not doing your job. You're always speaking to other GMs. You're always going to have conversations at certain times of the year. But it's just too early to make any evaluations when we don't know where we're going to be in a month."
And so it goes.