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A Flawed Rebuild

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UPDATE: I hit send on this at 9:30am EASTERN TIME! Lesson: I neglected to check it had been posted. Care of the free airport WiFi here it is. Sorry everyone :(

There is a lot of debate within our community of A's fans here that is oftentimes started with a commenter's simple suggestion/lament etc that "we have been rebuilding for years". I take this typically to assume after 2006, when we went into a fuller rebuild and actively stopped believing the AL West Crown could be ours. But just as people question whether our economy is still in a recession (does the Dow matter, how can we have an improving economy with joblessness, etc?) it is fair to ask when did this rebuild end?

While some think it hasn't, I feel it ended in 2009 when we went out and got Orlando Cabrera, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday via free-agency and one noteworthy trade. One can argue whether or not it was a good idea to get Holliday etc, but regardless that isn't the move of a team that is rebuilding. 

Coming into 2009, it seemed like Brad Ziegler could be a potential shutdown closer. Prior to Spring Training at least Justin Duchscherer looked to be healthy and lead an emerging A's staff that had some players picking Brett Anderson or Trevor Cahill as a possible AL Rookie of the Year winner. The team had at least a smattering of people picking them to win the AL West though easily 90%+ picked the Angels. 

2009 did not work out as well all know. The A's performed horribly, dealt Holliday who failed to hit to St. Louis, sent Cabrera packing to Minnesota, released Jason Giambi and saw Garciaparra quite literally limp into retirement at season's end. The A's finished last at 75-87 despite an 81-81 Pythag record that gave us the sense things weren't perhaps as bad as they'd seemed (this is of some consolation to some of us - sometimes - sort of - OK it isnt).

2010 came along and the team while offensively challenged yet again finished 81-81 on the back of top-notch pitching and their of-little-consolation-Pythag record was at 85-77. In other words, the rebuild was producing its first "results", perhaps not as good as we'd hoped but results nonetheless. But that set us up for 2011, where we were supposed to contend and alas we didn't.

Now let's talk botched rebuilds. There was one key error by Billy Beane that was made. Many may say they are multiple but I want to reduce it to one. In 2011 the A's, as a small-market/low-revenue whatever you want to call it club were poised to compete. Yet just seven months later we were set to lose an entire outfield. Even if you consider Hideki Matsui or Conor Jackson one of the three outfielders we were set to lose them too. Outfields traditionally provide a lot of offensive punch to any club, and on our team the outfield was again poised to do a lot of heavy lifting. How on earth can you compete for more than a year when you need to replace an entire outfield? It was apparent in 2010 that Carter's fielding would be seriously suspect. It was apparent in 2010 that Taylor may not be a readily available solution. To have no continuation there for the team was a bold miscalculation. In many ways the poor 2011 season masked that flaw. It would've been one thing to win the division and say "crap! Now we are losing all these guys?" whereas when you finish flat and in third place its more "big whoop". 

It looks like we'll undergo a "full rebuild". I didn't think the one we endured (and I know this will spark debate but isn't that the point?) was a partial or "half-assed" one. Full means, everyone is on the table. Everyone. It isn't fun, and bad news but it doesn't always work either. But the window of contention for us which seemingly was 2009-2011 in retrospect, wasn't really an exciting period - but there was no long-term vision on this. Leaving your entire outfield primed to depart isn't building for a window-of-contention it meant that really despite our incredible pitching, we were going for broke in 2011. Pretty sad to think that in retrospect.

I'm travelling back to SoCal from Thanksgiving, so won't be able to join the conversation like I normally would want to. To all others travelling home, have a safe trip!