Taking a moment to look back at a month in the land of green and gold.
* CESPEDES TIME: Oakland came from out of nowhere to land Cuban free agent center fielder Yoenis Cespedes. It’s a wild, brash move by general manager Billy Beane and I love it. There are plenty of risks involved in giving a kid who’s never seen big league pitching $36 million with the freedom to walk away as a free agent after 4 years but there’s also a huge reward if he makes good on his off-the-charts physical talent. In 4 years the A’s could have a perennial All-Star on their hands and new ballpark that puts enough money in their wallet to keep Cespedes around. Of course, Cespedes could also turn out to be a total bust or a smash hit who turns into just another trade chip.
* MANNYWOOD: Well, the A’s did it. They signed everyone’s favorite flaky, over-the-hill, drug-suspended slugger to a bargain-rate deal. Even if the old man never gets a hit for Oakland he’s already been good for plenty of headlines. As Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra points out CBS Sports’ Scott Miller thinks the whole thing is “unconscionable” for some weird reason. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser has Beane saying that even though Manny wasn’t brought in to mentor Cespedes it’d be nice if it happened but colleague John Shea says it’s probably not a good idea to put their lockers next to each other. We’ll see if Manny is an asset, a distraction, or a non-factor for the 2012 A’s. At this point anything is possible which is part of the fun of spring training.
* TUNED IN AND TURNED ON: For one amazing week, 95.7 FM The Game actually felt like the A’s flagship radio station when they camped out in Phoenix and chatted it up with the A’s. There are plenty of highlights from the week including Scott “Game Winning Home Run in Consecutive Win No. 20” Hatteberg recalling the hilarious details of his first Major League hit. Of course, now the 95.7 crew is hanging out with the Giants in Scottsdale so it feels like I’m tuning in to KNBR every morning on the way to work but at least they gave the A’s a week of their time.
* IT HURTS: All it took was the first spring training workout to take the wind out of the team’s sails when third baseman Scott Sizemore went down for the season with a knee injury. Right now it looks like catcher Josh Donaldson is going to get first crack at the job which could lead to a great story but speaks to a bigger problem with the A’s which is a failure to have a young, long-term solution in place or any real depth in case of a problem like this. Best of luck to Sizemore for a speedy recovery and to Donaldson as he gets at least a few weeks to stake his claim to the hot corner. You have to figure there’s at least a trade or waiver claim on the horizon to give the A’s some more depth at third which seems like too little too late to me.
* DUDE, WHERE’S MY BALLPARK? On Christmas Eve USA Today’s Bob Nightengale Tweeted that the A’s would likely get approval to move to San Jose in February. As you might imagine, I was thrilled. Of course, as I probably should have assumed after all these years of being in ballpark limbo, February came and went with no conclusive news on the A’s quest for a home in the South Bay (unless something crazy happens after I hit the “Publish” button).
I’m not calling B.S. on Nightengale, far from it. I don’t think you hit the “Tweet” button unless you trust your sources and you’re confident that what you’re publishing has legs. I’m sure someone high up the food chain in Major League Baseball passed on some info to Nightengale and I’m willing to guess that at the time February looked like a firm date for something to be resolved with the ballpark situation.
I’m just curious about what happened between Christmas Eve and the end of February. Was it something small that delayed an announcement that the A’s can go to San Jose or was there a seismic shift that threw a major wrench in Bud Selig’s plan to give his old frat boy pal Lew Wolff the green light to back up the moving truck and take the A’s to the South Bay? I’d love to see some kind of followup from Nightengale since his 140-character blurb the day before Christmas got a lot of buzz and riled up a lot of A’s fans dying to finally learn whether the team is staying put or putting Oakland in its rear view mirror.
The only shred of news this month came from the Chronicle’s Giants beat writer Henry Schulman who spoke to Larry Baer who seems to hint around that the wheels are still slowly turning but he’s none too eager to hand over the rights to the South Bay. In other words, nothing new on the most important issue facing the A’s.
Take your time Bud. No rush. You’re just letting a franchise rot away while leaving a fan base that deserves far better twisting in the wind.
BLIPS ON THE RADAR
* In other February news, Rich Harden is out for the year. The sad thing is that really feels like something you can safely cut and paste into any blog post about Harden once a year. Slusser got some additional details on how Harden’s doing and I tip my hat to the guy for pitching hurt for so long without ever making excuses for himself. I’d love to see him try and make a comeback with the A’s as a relief pitcher. If he can make a full recovery that fastball-changeup combo could be devastating in short bursts at max effort out of the ‘pen. I think everyone has always been curious what he could do for one inning at a time a few times a week and this may finally be the right time in his career to find out.
* Former A’s general manager Sandy Alderson hit Twitter and he was hi-freakin’-larious with quips such as “Will have to drive carefully on trip; Mets only reimburse for gas at a downhill rate. Will try to coast all the way to FL.” I’d love to see Beane hop on Twitter and show us the fun side of his personality. You know the guy is whip smart and he’d probably have some fun things to say. He could be the Brandon McCarthy of GMs in the Twitterverse.
* Adrian Cardenas, acquired with Josh Outman and Matt Spencer for Joe Blanton in 2008, was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. With Spencer out of the A’s minor league system, this winter’s trade of Outman to the Rockies means Seth Smith is the only thing Beane has left for shipping Kentucky Joe out of town. I would assume that in a few months to a year Beane will flip Smith in another trade and we’ll be able to play Six Degrees of Separation from Joe Blanton for several more years.
ONE MORE THING
I had an opportunity to record a podcast with Brian Sullivan at Fan Sports Podcast to talk in general about the A’s and if you have 35 minutes and 37 seconds to spare please check it out. It looks like the rest of the staff at Swingin’ A’s will be offering their insights to the podcast so be sure to check in every week for the latest from me, Joseph, David, and Devin.
The main thing that hit me after recording a podcast for the first time is I wish I had a cooler voice. Why the heck can’t I sound like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman? I could even settle for sounding like Christian Bale when he’s in the Batman costume. I haven’t been this disappointed in a voice since I was a kid and I heard Dave Stewart speak for the first time. That legendary Death Stare had me expecting something tough and deep like Rickey Henderson’s voice and, as we all know, Stew’s voice is anything but tough and deep.
Oh well, Stew may not have the baddest voice of all time but the four consecutive 20-win seasons and World Series MVP award does all the talking for him.