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A Case For Eric Sogard On The Opening Day Roster


Eric Sogard is not a .538 hitter, nor does he play one on TV. If you believe that 39 spring training at bats in a hitter-friendly environment will give you a ton of reliable data to carry forward into April, then you are probably still steaming over the lost opportunities that were Todd Linden and Randy Elliott.

However there is, in my opinion, a perfectly good case to be made for Eric Sogard to make the Opening Day roster. And I want to be crystal clear about this: I am not -- repeat not -- stealing the first part of this analysis from baseballgirl, who did not make this point to me at a social gathering earlier this afternoon. OK maybe a little, whatever.

You want players to come to spring training feeling like there's a chance that if they acquit themselves especially well perhaps they can change the depth chart and even change your "best laid plans". The mindset you'd like to create is, "I may not be the front-runner, but I can be the dark horse," not "They made up their mind about me in January -- heck, I can hit .538 and it won't make a darn bit of difference."

Now, baseball is a business but it's also a game highly influenced by motivation and attitude. Next year, and the year after, and the year after that, players will come to camp as only a longshot to make the team. Will they look back at Sogard's spring and see that by golly he put himself on the map and on the roster against all odds? Or will they look back at Sogard's spring and see that quite frankly, it didn't matter what he did because it was never going to be good enough? That message might be worth something.

In any event, some stars are also aligning to make Sogard's inclusion on the roster less and less of a stretch of strategy. Two key middle infielders, Scott Sizemore and Hiro Nakajima, have shown that their readiness for a major league roster come April 1st is very much in question. Meanwhile, Jemile Weeks profiles as the poorest defensive 2Bman of the remaining pool that includes Sogard, Adam Rosales, and Andy Parrino.

I could see a scenario where the A's, aiming to put a strong defensive team up the middle to back their young pitchers, see a platoon of Sogard and Rosales being very solid defensively at 2B, and palatable offensively -- especially if it's only for about 3 weeks. That leaves Lowrie as the starting SS, with Nakajima and Sizemore sent down for a bit more time to get ready for prime time. In this scenario Weeks is also optioned, meaning perhaps Sizemore gets a few reps at 3B or maybe those guys rotate into the DH spot now and again. It's only 3 weeks if all goes well.

Heck, this model even allows Nakajima and Sizemore to play together up the middle as the DP combination that might be seen in Oakland at times from May-Sept. But neither has shown that April 1st is that time and the trio of Lowrie, Sogard, and Rosales is stronger defensively and the A's may feel they will get enough hitting from the OF and the corners to go "defense first" up the middle.

Granted, a platoon of Sogard and Rosales has a chance still to be pretty weak offensively. But for a short stretch, where you know you will get solid defense at a key defensive position, where you don't thrust Sizemore or Nakajima into the fray precipitously, and where you make a statement to young players today and tomorrow that there's always something to play for, that if you "just kill it" enough you can't be ignored? I could see it.

See you at 1pm for the A's and the Dodgers. Their payrolls are very different.