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4/27 Dickey Column

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: 4/27 Dickey Column
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By jenmed on Saturday, April 27, 2002 - 09:35 am:

While some may view him as an apologist for the owners, many of his points are dead on. The one thing he didn't mention is our inability to have a competitive bullpen!

A telling series
A's-Yankees matchup made baseball's inequalities painfully clear

The A's-Yankees series graphically demonstrated the difference between the haves and the have-nots in baseball.

The symbol, Jason Giambi, was at first base. Belatedly aware that Jason had lied last spring when he said he loved all things Oakland and that he had sabotaged negotiations for a new A's contract so he could have his chance to wear pinstripes, the fans lustily booed him at every opportunity.

That delighted A's owner Steve Schott. "I love to see that passion," he said, on the field before the Wednesday night game.

But the booing didn't change the central fact of baseball life: An owner such as George Steinbrenner can spend whatever he likes on the players he wants and still make a healthy profit, while Schott and co-owner Ken Hofmann have to be very cautious with their expenditures to keep the team in the black.

A's general manager Billy Beane and his baseball people have done a great job of assembling talent, but their margin for error is virtually nonexistent and they must cross their fingers that star players stay healthy because there is a huge drop off when one goes down.

When Mark Mulder had to go on the disabled list with a mysterious arm injury, for instance, a crisis was created. Because the top prospects were used in trades that brought in Jermaine Dye at mid-season last year and Carlos Pena in the off-season this year, the A's only recourse was to call up retread Mike Fyhrie from Triple-A Sacramento.

The A's have had good success picking up pitchers who haven't had a decent shot, such as Cory Lidle and Erik Hiljus, but they are at the bottom of the starting rotation, Nos. 4 and 5. Fyhrie has replaced, for at least two starts, the A's winningest pitcher last season and a runner-up in the Cy Young competition. Quite a difference.

The loss of Dye for the first 22 games also has been traumatic. That had forced the A's to play David Justice every day, which Justice cannot do at 36. Predictably, he pulled a groin muscle this week. Dye's absence has also cost the A's their cleanup hitter from the second half of last season.

Eric Chavez has missed five games with back and hip injuries and he's not completely recovered; it was obvious in the Yankee series that he was not able to get his lower body into his swing. He was playing because there's not much behind him. Mark Ellis is a good defensive infielder who hit just .273 last year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Olmedo Saenz no longer belongs on a major-league roster.

Barring a drastic change in baseball's system that would even out revenues (don't hold your breath), the long-term hope for the A's is a baseball-only park in downtown Oakland.

"We need to be competitive, not just on the field but in the hand that writes the checks," Schott said. "A baseball-only park would greatly increase our revenues, which would allow our payroll to go up so we can keep all our players."

The A's and the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) have worked out a five-year extension of the team's lease at the Coliseum which must now go through the often laborious political process before the Oakland city council and the Alameda county board of supervisors.

"Once that's done, we'll sit down and look seriously at the sites that have been proposed," Schott said. "We have to be sure we're all on the same page before we go forward."

At the same time, elected officials are going on two trips to cities that have new ball parks. Mayor Jerry Brown is on the second trip, which Schott regards as a good sign.

Brown has changed his position since February, when he told Schott at a Fox baseball lunch that he doubted that a new park could be built, but Schott believes the mayor is still waiting for the outcome of the Raiders' suit against city and county, which will probably be decided in September, before going forward on a baseball park.

For the moment, the A's are trying to be competitive in the present and near future.

Once they get Mulder and Dye back, they should be poised to make a strong run at the postseason. Longer term, Beane is looking at the upcoming draft, in which the A's have seven of the first 45 choices. "We're really excited about that," he said. "We're working very hard on that right now."

So, for the short run, the A's are still positioned for success, but don't ever doubt that, in a battle with the Yankees, this is definitely David vs. Goliath. Biblical myth tells us David won that one, but realists will always bet on Goliath.

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