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The Harden Non-Trade and the 2011 Season

UPDATE 11:40AM: RHP Brad Ziegler has been dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for 1B Brandon Allen and LHP Jordan Norberto. 

Greetings Athletics Nation,

I am excited to be the new "Sunday (SUNDAY! SUNDAY!) guy" here at Athletics Nation. I guess a little about me and where I am coming from, I was a long time lurker and really always enjoyed reading everything and everyone's opinion here. Busy with work all the time, I never really decided to get involved and just would sit at home and watch the games (often several hours or days late) and read as much news and blog posts and comments I could consume but that was it. I've always enjoyed writing, and this year one of my New Year's resolutions was to share my love of baseball and my many opinions on it by creating a blog. I started commenting on here, and then right after the New Year started my website the Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan. Really I had the idea months earlier to start a blog but wanted to wait until I had a name I liked. Therefore once I got one, I could pawn off crappy work and say, hey at least the name is cool. To this day I still think most people like the name more than the content, but I'm fine with that. At that point I also became a more frequent poster and commenter on AN (though my posts until now) have been far more infrequent than my comments so many of you will be seeing me for the first time here.

In terms of baseball philosophy, I lean stathead but really value things like happy clubhouses and other psychological factors. I feel more confident talking about roster construction than in-game strategy because I think that ultimately the stats say more about roster construction than they do about how to play certain scenarios. I tend to be more optimistic than pessimistic (though this post may counter that view), and ultimately at the end of the day I just enjoy the game. Ever since I opened up my first pack of baseball cards of which I can still remember many of the contents, (it was that great wood-grained 1987 Topps set) guys like Wayne Tolleson, Expos Manager Buck Rodgers and the checklist on the back, Wally Backman and more, I've been hooked on the game. Hopefully I can share my passion for baseball with all of you. Now onto the trade that wasn't!

Yesterday evening during the game it was reported in numerous locations that the A's and Red Sox had agreed to a deal that would send Rich Harden to the Red Sox in return for Pawtucket (AAA) first baseman Lars Anderson. Anderson has a little problem breaking into the Red Sox lineup for the near future so I am sure he was happy about the trade, but the Red Sox ultimately were not happy with the medical report they got on Harden (is this really that surprising?) and nixed the deal.

To me this non-trade sort of encapsulated our entire season. Anderson might've been no good but still, a Northern California native, he was described in this scouting report at the Sons of Sam Horn Wiki as,

"Tall slugger with a great hitter's frame, excellent present power, and an elite power ceiling. Extremely smooth and fluid swing. Impeccable batting eye with very good patience at the plate, he actually could stand to be a little more aggressive. Hits especially well to the opposite field, but can also pull the ball on occasion."

He sounded like the type of guy the A's would love to have, especially when we are decidedly low on people with "excellent present power" and certainly have few anyone would ever use the words "elite power" with. But instead of unloading an asset we really didn't need for a stretch run that will be likely without a playoff berth (nor sniff at one) and getting an asset that has the potential to be just what we need to solve a problem, the deal is off, we keep Harden and poor Lars gets to show off his stuff for the good people of Rhode Island. Disappointing to us who know we need hitters and that losing Harden didn't represent mortgaging our future. Everything looked good, then it turned bad. That sort of is 2011 to me.

I, like many here, loved this team's chances going into the season. We had great pitching and even if Trevor Cahill regressed because his BABIP would climb, Gio would do better, we had depth in our rotation, our bullpen was going to solve any problem our rotation might ever get into, Josh Willingham was going to come and give us a legitimate power threat along with an aged like a fine wine Matsui who still would be more Godzilla and less Geico Gecko, Daric Barton was going to learn to hit with more power and new addition David DeJesus would be up there hitting .300 and being a doubles and triples machine. While if someone told me that we would be having Guillermo Moscoso and Graham Godfrey in our rotation for a time in April I'd have said, wow we are screwed, ultimately even that didn't fell our chances.

We simply couldn't hit. It wasn't just a a few points behind their career averages type of thing. We had tons of guys who had career worst years simultaneously. Mark Ellis was worth as many WAR as an offensive player (0.0) as Brett Anderson. Moscoso (0.0) and his striking out 2-of-3 times he went to the player was worth more offensively than Barton (-0.3). It seemed that every guy on the team endured long stretches where their batting averages in the .100's were more like the ISO's of Rangers bench players. In a year when we thought we'd contend, we didn't. We spent a lot of time instead in fourth place.

That's how this deal sort of sums up this year. The tease of something better, the ultimate inexplicable failure to get whatever needed to be done done. The trade deadline is this afternoon at 1PM PDT - there is still time for Billy Beane to make a move or two. There are many great things about baseball, the crack of the bat; sitting in glorious sunshine on a Sunday afternoon (after reading whatever I've written going forward); the fact that you can't run down a clock and need to face the music and get 27 guys out; and the fact that ultimately there is always next year.