The Angels’ Toxic Stew

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The Angels are in flux and trying to change on the fly with remnants of the old and facets of the new creating a strange brew that didn’t work in 2012 and is unlikely to work in 2013 and beyond. They have decided to move forward with manager Mike Scioscia after a disappointing and expensive season, but he has still been marginalized in influence. Hiring the best qualified and most impressive people isn’t always the best policy when maintaining what was already in place. GM Jerry Dipoto thinks differently from the manager, field staff and minor league personnel he inherited, but is stuck with them due to contractual obligations and apparent attachments.

On and off field changes are taking place in the aftermath of the $151 million club missing the playoffs while the Athletics—built similarly to the way Dipoto would build his clubs—made the playoffs with a $53 million payroll. Ervin Santana was traded to the Royals; Dan Haren will learn his fate—trade, contract option rejected or exercised—today; Zack Greinke and Torii Hunter are free agents; and in an under-the-radar, behind the scenes decision that might have consequences, longtime minor league manager and scout Tom Kotchman left the organization.

They’re walking the line between the past and the future, but that future is saddled with players like Albert Pujols who will turn 33 in January and is under contract until 2021; there’s a lack of definition in what they are and what their strategy will be.

Scioscia preferred his teams to be old-school and resistant to slumps with deep starting pitching that gobbled innings; a versatile bullpen with a hard-throwing closer; a lineup that hits home runs, but also speed to play small ball; and a very good defense. How much of that is present now with the departure of Santana and possibly Haren and Greinke? The lineup is not adhering to the same template Scioscia wanted. They’re not the same team, but have the same man running it on the field. The remaining bitterness between the manager, the GM and an irritated owner creates an antagonistic atmosphere. This type of dysfunction can work, but it certainly makes life easier for everyone if there isn’t such an obvious split in how things are run.

It extends to everyone. Arte Moreno is a well-liked and committed owner who tries to do the right thing. He encouraged stability with his manager, gave his baseball people free rein, and spent money. But when hiring someone with the mindset of Dipoto, inserting massive stars the level of Pujols into the mix, and essentially castrating Scioscia, the situation spiraled quickly when they didn’t win. They righted the ship to a degree and got back into playoff contention, but it was too late. For a club that was widely expected to win a championship, an 89-73 season doesn’t warrant excuses especially when a team like the Athletics blew past them like they were standing still and infighting, hoping no one would notice and sheer star power would carry them through. They made the mistake that other teams have made thinking that having good people means they’ll be able to work together and ride talent to waltz into the post-season. They didn’t. Now they’re moving forward with the same people that couldn’t get on the same page last season.

If Moreno wanted to go with a different GM, then he would be better served to let that GM hire a manager he wants. That is clearly not Scioscia. This is not an indictment of Scioscia, nor is it a defense of the longtime manager. It’s fact. His overmanaging and strange strategic maneuverings have hindered the club in the past, but at least everyone was in agreement as to the Angels’ way of doing things and they succeeded or failed as one. Now that’s not the case. Now there’s known fracture that’s not being repaired. With the structure in disarray and an ongoing struggle; a very rough AL West; and aging stars, it’s a hard formula to make work.

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American League West—2012 Present and 2013 Future

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I examined the AL East here and the AL Central here.

Now let’s look at the AL West

Texas Rangers

The Rangers are heading for the playoffs again and are a legitimate threat to win the World Series. The one question they have is in the same area that cost them the World Series last year, the closer. Historically, Joe Nathan is good during the regular season and struggles during the playoffs, especially against the Yankees.

The roster has playoff experience; the hitters can mash; Josh Hamilton will want to have a big post-season to increase his paycheck as a free agent; their starting pitchers aren’t expecting to be pulled because of an arbitrary pitch count and have the strikeout capability to get out of trouble and pitch confidently with a great defense behind them.

Whether they win the World Series or not, the upcoming off-season could be one of transition for the Rangers. In addition to Hamilton being a free agent, so are Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, and Ryan Dempster. This can be seen as a negative, but it’s also a positive. They have flexibility to do a great many things, the nerve to follow through on them, and the farm system to make it possible.

There’s been talk that they might be willing to trade Elvis Andrus to make room for Jurickson Profar, but I think it’s more likely that they’ll entertain trade offers for Ian Kinsler, play Profar at second base, and try to get Michael Young’s contract off the books in the deal. They’ve had interest in Ike Davis in the past and the Mets are going to be willing to make drastic moves.

They won’t break the bank for Adams and they have starting pitching to let Dempster go. They’ll set a price for Napoli and if another team surpasses it, will let him leave. I think he ultimately stays.

That leaves Hamilton.

The Rangers are not going to give him $200 million. I wouldn’t expect them to want to give him $140 million, nor would they like to commit to him for 6-8 years. The question becomes: Will there be a team that’s willing to pay Hamilton anything close to his asking price?

I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t. The teams with the money—the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies, Cubs—either don’t need Hamilton at that price or wouldn’t risk putting him in their towns with his history of substance abuse problems.

The Tigers have been mentioned, but I don’t see that either.

What then?

He won’t get 8 years, but I can see the Rangers going to 5 with an easily reachable set of options if he’s clean off the field and healthy on it to make it a 7-8 year deal. The Rangers have other choices such as B.J. Upton or Shane Victorino or by making a trade. Hamilton doesn’t.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s accumulated a lot of young talent last off-season as they cleared out Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey—that was known. But no one could’ve predicted that their young pitching would come so far so fast; that Yoenis Cespedes would be the impact bat he’s been; that Josh Reddick would become a 30 homer man; or that they’d be on the cusp of making the playoffs.

The financial and ballpark problems that made it necessary for the A’s to restart their rebuild and make those trades are still present. They need a new ballpark and don’t have a lot of money to spend to bring in players; in spite of their good play, they’re still only 12th in the American League in attendance. With that young pitching and the concession when they hired Bob Melvin to replace the overmatched Bob Geren that not just anyone can manage a big league team and be successful, they have the talent to be at least respectable and possibly very good for years to come.

Stephen Drew and Brandon McCarthy are free agents at the end of the season, but both have a good chance to stay with the A’s.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

They have a chance to salvage 2012 and make it to the Wild Card play in game. With a veteran team loaded with starting pitching and power bats, once they’re in the playoffs they’re a threat.

That doesn’t gloss over the management issues that aren’t going to go away.

Mike Scioscia is not the right manager for a team loaded with power hitting stars. He wants to hit and run, play defense, and rely on his pitching. The front office has a new, stat-based, “my manager will take orders” GM Jerry Dipoto, and an owner Arte Moreno who may be tired of making the playoffs just about every year and losing in large part because of his manager’s stubbornness in doing things his way in spite of talent and reality.

Scioscia is signed through 2018 with an opt-out after 2015, but if he wants to leave or they want to fire him, that’s what will happen. It’s not easy to function when one’s power is essentially taken away and that’s what happened with Scioscia. There’s been talk that he’d be a possible candidate to take over for Bobby Valentine with the Red Sox, but since the Red Sox are going back to their own stat-based roots and have publicly said that Bill James will take a larger role in putting their team together, Scioscia would be in the same situation in Boston that he’s in with the Angels. Forget it.

I have a hard time seeing Scioscia managing the Angels next season no matter what happens this season.

On the field, they owe Vernon Wells $42 million through 2014; Torii Hunter’s contract is expiring; they have a team option on Dan Haren; and Zack Greinke is a free agent.

The Angels will look markedly different in 2013, probably with a new manager who’s more in tune with strategies that fit the roster and what the front office wants.

Seattle Mariners

Getting rid of Ichiro Suzuki was a major step in a positive direction. But years and years of losing is finally taking a toll on their attendance figures. The Mariners fanbase is loyal and ten years ago, they had the highest attendance in the Major Leagues. Now they’re tenth. Until they start winning, that’s not going to improve.

They’re loaded with young pitching and led by a true megastar Felix Hernandez. They have some talented bats like Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, but are plain woeful offensively. Once they have some hitters to go along with that pitching, they’ll be a viable threat, but this ineptitude at the plate is going back a decade just like their attendance decline.

Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez are owed a combined $15.5 million in 2013, but if they take a bad contract and some money (Jason Bay?) maybe they can clear those players and try something different. Apart from that, they have money to spend and prospects to trade to pursue bats such as Justin Upton and B.J. Upton; Mike Morse; Justin Morneau; or possibly try to trade for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Unless they find some people who can produce offensively, the results are not going to change.

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American League West—Buy, Sell or Stand Pat?

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We can tick Edwin Encarnacion off the board of potentially available players as the Blue Jays signed him to a 3-year, $29 million extension. I’ll discuss that in an upcoming post. Now let’s have a look at the AL West and which teams should buy, sell or stand pat and what they should be looking for.

Texas Rangers

They’re heavy buyers.

I’m not discussing any Cole Hamels rumors from now on. He’s going to be the hot topic and used as an easy “news” story designed to garner webhits. But the Rangers are absolutely going to pursue him and will make the decisive move to get a starting pitcher from somewhere. Roy Oswalt’s had two bad starts and two good starts; Neftali Feliz is on the 60-day disabled list. It’s no wonder they’re pursuing Hamels, Zack Greinke and will undoubtedly be in on Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and anyone else who’s available or not available like Felix Hernandez.

The Rangers will get a starting pitcher.

They’ll also try to bolster their bullpen with an extra arm or two like Grant Balfour, Jose Mijares or Joe Thatcher.

Los Angeles Angels

Talk of another starting pitcher, on the surface, sounds like overkill. But it was put logically recently (I’m not sure where I read it) that since Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have club options at the end of the season and neither have pitched very well, they’ll have the money free to go after Hamels or Greinke. The Angels like pitching.

If I had to guess now what they’re going to do at the end of the season, they’ll decline Santana’s option and exercise Haren’s if he’s healthy.

Since they’re 8th in the American League in runs scored, the on-the-surface suggestion would be that they’ll need a bat. But the early season horrible hitting cost coach Mickey Hatcher his job and they began to score once Mike Trout was recalled and Vernon Wells got hurt. The Wells situation will have to be resolved when he returns from the disabled list. I would think the last and possibly only resort is to eat the $42+ million remaining on his contract and dump him.

They could use a lefty specialist like Mijares or Thatcher and if the Brewers make Francisco Rodriguez available, a reunion with his former team would be a positive for both sides.

Oakland Athletics

Who would’ve thought the A’s could legitimately consider being buyers at mid-season? Certainly not me. Credit goes to Billy Beane for getting solid youngsters from the Diamondbacks and Nationals in off-season trades. Yoenis Cespedes is another matter since he’s supremely talented and injury-prone.

They’re not going to buy and they’re not going to clear the decks of everything from the roster to the light fixtures to the sinks.

Balfour will be in demand; perhaps they can get a couple of minor leaguers for a team that needs a back-end starter in Bartolo Colon (how about the Mets?). I’d probably find a taker for Daric Barton. It’s not going to happen for him with the A’s and he does have some attributes.

Seattle Mariners

According to Geoff Baker in The Seattle Times, “…the Mariners do not appear to be gearing any efforts towards contention before 2015.”

Jeez.

Baker’s column was in reference to the suggestion that they pursue Justin Upton, but if they have no intention of contending until 2015 they not only shouldn’t buy, but they should look to trade Hernandez. What good is going to do them if they’re not going to contend for another two years?

Whether it’s ownership interfering with GM Jack Zduriencik or not, it can’t be ignored that the Mariners’ offense is historically awful with four regular players batting .203 or below and all four—Brendan Ryan, Miguel Olivo, Justin Smoak and Chone Figgins—were brought in by Zduriencik.

2015? The Mariners have a loyal fanbase, money to spend, a horse at the top of the rotation and young pitching on the way.

If this is true, then they should sell any player making significant money and that includes King Felix. As it is, they’ll look to move Brandon League and listen on Jason Vargas. Anyone want Figgins? I thought not.

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Are the White Sox Rebuilding or Not?

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White Sox GM Kenny Williams uttered the unutterable word after the club’s disappointing 2011 season ended and manager Ozzie Guillen had been traded to the Marlins when he said, “rebuilding”.

After following the win-now edict and acting accordingly by relying on veterans and mostly ignoring the farm system as anything other than a means for immediate help or to trade for veteran players, they hired a neophyte manager in Robin Ventura; traded closer Sergio Santos; and allowed veterans Mark Buehrle, Ramon Castro and Juan Pierre to depart via free agency.

But Williams’s actions don’t imply a full-blown teardown.

Such is the case as he signed lefty starter John Danks—about whom he was listening to trade proposals—to a 5-year, $65 million contract extension precluding his free agency after next season and locking him up for four years hence.

Danks is a good pitcher and if he maintains his performance from the past 5 years, he’ll be a bargain in comparison to what he would’ve gotten as a free agent.

But I don’t understand the dual messages the White Sox are sending.

Are they rebuilding or not?

If they are rebuilding while trying to remain competitive, wouldn’t they have been better off signing Buehrle to a contract similar to what he got from the Marlins and trading Danks for 2-3 prospects? Buehrle presumably would’ve given a discount to the White Sox to stay and Danks is a very marketable arm.

So which is it?

If the White Sox were in the American or National League East or the AL West, I’d say they should start over, but they’re not. The AL Central doesn’t have a dominant team and any team can win it in 2012.

So many things went wrong for the White Sox over the past two seasons, perhaps the managerial change from the controversial and loud Guillen to the calm and respected Ventura, plus a tweak here and there, places them right back in the thick of things.

Given the immovable nature of some of their contracts—Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy especially—what sense did it make to give these mixed signals of their planned course?

There are plenty of “ifs” involved with their 2012 club.

If Chris Sale transitions well to the starting rotation…

If Philip Humber can continue pitching as well as he did in 2011…

If Peavy can return to some semblance of his Padres form…

If Dunn hits better than a moderately threatening starting pitcher who doubled as an outfielder in college…

If, if, if…

But there’s enough talent to contend in that parity-laden division—all the teams have flaws—and with that in mind, what the White Sox are currently doing doesn’t make much sense at all.

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The Joakim Soria Trade Rumors

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Various rumors have suggested that several teams including the Blue Jays and Red Sox have been pursuing Royals reliever Joakim Soria.

According to Jays Journal, the Blue Jays are actually interested in Greg Holland instead of Soria.

With the possibility of adding Yu Darvish and their recent trade for Sergio Santos, the Blue Jays surrendering top prospects from their farm system for Soria would make little sense when they’re also going to need a bat.

The Red Sox pursuit is more logical, but given the past demands of Royals GM Dayton Moore for Soria, it’s not clear what the Red Sox have left in their system to give the Royals to make it worthwhile.

Soria is a very good reliever with a fastball and wicked off-speed curve; he’s signed through 2014 with team-friendly club options at $6 million in 2012; $8 million in 2013; and $8.75 million in 2014. There are buyouts each year at $750,000.

He has a limited no-trade clause that can block deals to the Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Rockies and Braves. Some have suggested that the teams on the list indicate a reluctance to pitch in high-pressure environments; it’s more likely that he didn’t want to sign a long-term deal that that fit into the Royals financial situation and then see that used as a lever to extract a sizable chunk of the minor league systems of the Yankees or Red Sox because of his relatively low salary.

In the past, Moore has implied that the cost for Soria would be steep—two young starting pitchers for example.

The Yankees could absolutely get Soria and pay Moore’s demands, but they’re not going to do it when a package slightly larger than what Moore’s asking for Soria could conceivably pry Felix Hernandez away from the Mariners. The Mariners have steadfastly resisted the Yankees aggressive pursuit of Hernandez, but with the AL West now the home to two powerhouses and the Mariners rebuild going slower than expected, they probably aren’t going to contend until 2014 at the earliest; once they realize they have no chance to win for the foreseeable future, are confronted with Hernandez’s increasing unhappiness and come to grips with the reality that Hernandez is diminishing in value like a new car as soon as it’s off the lot, they’ll be more agreeable to dealing him.

The Red Sox don’t have the organizational depth to get anyone of note anymore.

The Blue Jays do, but Soria would be something of a luxury item for them since they have a closer and other, more pressing needs.

The Royals demoted Soria from his closer’s role at mid-season and signed Jonathan Broxton earlier this winter, so they’re presumably willing to trade Soria; whether the demands have decreased or not and how desperate teams become will determine whether or not he does get moved.

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So Billy Beane Gets Another Rebuild?

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Isn’t the point of stocking the farm system, accumulating pitching that’s young and high-end and signing them to long-term contracts to bypass their arbitration years meant to help the organization win?

The Athletics were picked to win the American League West last year by multiple outlets, in part, because of that young pitching.

But they’ve already traded Trevor Cahill in spite of Cahill being signed to a long-term contract and being a solid—if slightly overrated—innings-eating arm; they’re listening to offers on Gio Gonzalez and, once he proves he’s recovered from shoulder surgery, are sure to part with Dallas Braden as well. (Be funny if he’s traded to the Yankees.)

Am I missing something? How many more times is this going to go on unchecked by the media at large?

And why does Billy Beane continually get a free pass for what he’s doing based on nothing other than the factually inaccurate and twisted tale of Moneyball (book and movie)?

Is it because he’s a guarantee of webhits and attention for those who write about him glowingly? Is it due to his aura of a fearless and ruthless corporate entity that rose from a failed baseball player without a fancy college degree to the top of his industry?

Doesn’t it matter what’s true?

Whether or not Beane is lauded for the prospects he receives in trades is secondary—the objective truth is that he’s been relegated to throwing things at the wall and hoping that they work. Last year it was rely on the young starters, beef up the bullpen and sign affordable bats.

It failed—just as everything else he’s tried has failed since the last teardown in 2007.

We can go through his entire history and find evidence of this type of randomness masqueraded as a “plan”.

It’s a lie.

After repeated builds and rebuilds, the A’s are awful and trapped in a division that contains two powerhouses in the Angels and Rangers; the Mariners are similar to the A’s in that they have an executive who came from the same thought processes as Beane in Jack Zduriencik, but are also a figurative disaster.

Is the absence of a new ballpark the latest reason for Beane to demolish what he built? How many times does the same architect get to blueprint, construct, try to sell and then bulldoze even if he owns 4% of the property (Beane’s ownership stake in the Athletics)?

The A’s aren’t going to get approval for a new park in San Jose no matter who lobbies, cajoles, bribes, takes to the media and whines. It’s not happening.

They’re a ramshackle structure in a dilapidated and unfriendly ballpark trapped in a high-end divisional neighborhood and—Beane or no Beane—that’s not going to change.

In short, the Athletics are an eyesore run by a man with a reputation and backstory with no practical evidence behind the myth. He’s a creation based on having turned market inefficiencies into opportunities; once those market inefficiencies were discovered and exploited, they were copied and he was back where he was when he took over Athletics GM and had to find a different way to compete.

And he can’t do it.

He was an innovator in that he implemented the strategies, but it wasn’t the work of a genius—it was intelligent opportunism. Now he’s manipulating the belief in his “genius” to do what he wants and again endure 2-3 more years of losing under the guise of lack of funds and other issues that the Moneyball character Beane would roll his eyes at and refer to as excuses for being a loser.

Now Cahill (age 23 and signed at $30 million through 2015) is gone. Gonzalez and presumably any other player in whom an opposing club has interest will be out the door as well.

Judgments of the trades and prospects they receive in cleaning house are irrelevant; the A’s are starting over. Again.

Beane’s taking advantage of his infomercial-style reputation to lose, lose and lose repeatedly and few are willing to confront this reality in a nod to selfish interests and it’s gone on long enough.

Once it becomes trendy to criticize him, then the bandwagon will empty.

How many more managers can he fire? Players can he trade? Whisper winking, underlying complaints that the “system isn’t fair”?

The system supposedly wasn’t fair before and that’s how he became famous as the epitome of one who beat a system that was weighed against him to begin with.

The system was never fair. That was the foundation for his rise.

He’s being exposed for what he is and is still given a pass.

When is this going to end? When will Beane be judged for what he truly is? A mediocre GM and crafted entity who’s using that perception to shield himself from rightful scrutiny?

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Don’t Look Behind You; Look West

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Here’s the Red Sox remaining schedule:

3 more games with the Rays in Boston.

4 games with the Orioles in Boston.

3 games in New York against the Yankees.

3 games in Baltimore at the Orioles.

Here’s the Rays remaining schedule:

3 games against the Red Sox in Boston.

4 games against the Yankees in New York.

3 games against the Blue Jays in Tampa.

3 games against the Yankees in Tampa.

Here’s the Angels remaining schedule:

3 games in Baltimore against the Orioles.

4 games in Toronto against the Blue Jays.

3 games in Anaheim against the A’s.

3 games in Anaheim against the Rangers.

Here’s the Yankees remaining schedule:

3 games against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

1 game against the Twins in New York.

4 games against the Rays in New York.

3 games against the Red Sox in New York.

3 games against the Rays in Tampa.

Here’s the Rangers remaining schedule:

3 games in Seattle against the Mariners.

3 games in Oakland against the A’s.

3 games in Texas against the Mariners.

3 games in Anaheim against the Angels.

Here are the standings top-to-bottom:

Tm W L W-L%
NYY 90 58 .608
 BOS 86 63 .577
TEX 86 64 .573
 TBR 83 66 .557
 LAA 82 67 .550
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/16/2011.

At this point, you can toss out tendencies and match-ups; it’s a war of attrition and everyone—everyone—is vulnerable.

Without getting into the percentages and likelihoods of teams making the playoffs, here’s a realistic and hands-on examination of what can happen.

The Red Sox are reeling; the fan base is panicking; the Rays are charging and the Angels are right behind the Rays. Josh Beckett is rushing back from a sprained ankle to save the day; given his history as a clutch pitcher, he might do just that. But his right ankle is his posting/push-off leg and if he’s not healthy and able to give a normal effort, the Rays will let him know early; they’re also going to test him by bunting and running. There’s a time for heroes and a time for prudence; this is a time for heroes and it remains to be seen if a compromised Beckett can deliver that.

The Red Sox are so decimated and desperate that they have no other choice, but if the Rays weren’t the opponent or breathing down their necks, Beckett would probably not be pitching.

What needs to be watched more than the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees is the AL West.

The Rangers and Angels schedules are weak for the remainder of the season; let’s say the Rangers win 7 of their 9 games before ending the season against the Angels; and let’s say that the Angels win 7 of their 10 before that series. The Rangers will have a record of 93-66; the Angels 89-70. The Rangers will already have clinched the AL West; they’ll have nothing to play for in the final 3 games.

The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will be beating up on each other and if there are no sweeps occurring, the Red Sox should be at about 90 wins; the Yankees at 94; the Rays around 87-88 before getting to the games they’re not playing against one another. If the Red Sox take care of the Orioles by winning 5 of 7, they’ll get to 95 wins. The Yankees should take a couple of games against the Blue Jays to get them to 96, putting them in the playoffs; the Rays will be left out with 90 wins.

What the masses—the safe and secure Yankees; the panicking Red Sox; and the rampaging Rays—all have to do is: A) avoid getting swept when playing their divisional opponents; and B) keep a close watch on what happens in the West.

If the Rangers have nothing to play for and the Angels need those wins in the last three games, the Red Sox, Rays or Yankees will need the help of a Rangers team that won’t care one way or the other who else makes the playoffs.

That is the last situation (barring total elimination) a team wants.

It’s possible. I’ve seen it happen.

As the Red Sox have come apart, many have compared them with the 2007 Mets. There are similarities, but the biggest problem the Mets had that year was that the Wild Card option was blocked as two teams were vying for it; the Rockies blazing hot streak catapulted themselves into the playoffs; neither they nor the Padres had the NL West as an opening because the Diamonbacks had already clinched it.

The Mets got bounced.

This could easily happen—if things go a certain way—to any one of the three AL East teams fighting for their playoff lives.

Don’t watch the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees and breathe a sigh of relief with a series of unresolved skirmishes and indecisive ends—watch the Angels and Rangers.

They’re the problems. Or the solutions.

And yes, you should be worried about both of them.

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Billy Beane Is Not Ready For His Closeup

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Tom Verducci took great care to rub Billy Beane‘s ego just the right way in the latest piece to justify Beane’s supposed “genius”—a genius that exists only in the realm of the absurd called Moneyball, coming soon to a theater near you.

More built-in excuses permeate the Sports Illustrated article.

Other baseball front offices are using Beane’s innovations, improving and streamlining them and are backed up by big money; the absence of  luxury boxes at the Oakland Coliseum hinders their ability to take advantage of the lucrative ballpark revenue; and limited payroll due to a cheap owner—which was the impetus for him finding other ways to compete at the start—all provide protection for Beane amid the fact that the Athletics were a very trendy selection for the playoffs this season but have again disappointed to the level of embarrassment.

They were picked in 2009 as well.

They were good enough to pick before 2009 and 2011 and when things didn’t go the way they were expected, the “reasons” popped up.

Was the Athletics fetish a byproduct of convenience to the narrative of Moneyball because the movie was on the way? Or did the prognosticators think that this year was when the A’s would turn the corner?

I don’t know.

All I know is that it hasn’t worked.

You can’t say the A’s are going to be good based on Beane’s decisions and then find a multitude of reasons why they’re not good to defend him. It doesn’t work that way.

In 2009, the big trade for Matt Holliday and signings of Jason Giambi and Orlando Cabrera didn’t yield the veteran presence to bolster a young pitching staff. Holliday was traded at mid-season to the Cardinals in the annual Athletics housecleaning and the Cardinals made the playoffs; Giambi was released and wound up with the playoff-bound Rockies; Cabrera was traded to the Twins where he helped them make the playoffs.

At least Beane’s signings helped someone make the playoffs.

Are the Beane cheerleaders going to twist facts into a pretzel to somehow credit him for those playoff berths for the teams that wound up with his refuse?

In 2010, the A’s young pitching took a step forward and they wound up at…81-81.

This, of course, spurred another bout of off-season aggression as they traded for Josh Willingham and David DeJesus and signed Hideki Matsui, Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to supplement the young pitching staff (again) and step up in weight class to battle with the perennials of the AL West, the Angels and the surging Rangers.

What we see now is a team that sits at (54-68) and is falling fast.

I may have given them too much credit in recent weeks when I’ve said that it’s going to be ludicrous for the film Moneyball to open while the A’s are in the midst of a 74-88 season.

They’ll be lucky to finish at 74-88.

Beane fired his “best friend”, manager Bob Geren, not because Geren was a mediocre manager who had lost the clubhouse.

No.

He fired him and blamed the media for taking the focus off the field and making the manager a story that wasn’t going to disappear until it was addressed.

The A’s hired Bob Melvin to replace Geren and Melvin is talking about what he wants for 2012.

Um, so now Beane’s manager has a say in what’s going on? Where’s the middle-managing ideal of a marionette dancing on the strings of the genius in the front office, doing what he was told and liking it? The same storyline and club that diminished one of the best managers in history, Tony LaRussa, to nothing more than a hindrance to that idiotic organizational ideal is going to let a respectable journeyman manager—in the Art Howe tradition—like Melvin have any say whatsoever in team construction? Really?

They also recently hired Phil Garner to work as a special adviser to manager Melvin.

If anyone remembers how Phil Garner managed, he was the epitome of the man who worked from his “gut”—that means “I don’t wanna hear nothin’ about no numbers”.

What’s he going to do over there? I thought Beane was the titular and all-powerful head of the organization who made every…single…decision based on objective analysis?

What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened: they’re desperate; they’re a laughingstock; and they don’t know where to go or what to do next to save their one asset whose end is nearly at hand—Billy Beane.

He’s what they had.

He was their beacon; the one selling point.

Now as the team is atrocious and the movie is hurtling for the remains of his reputation like an out of control train, they know the questions will be asked after-the-fact: if he’s a genius, why’s the team so terrible?

The book and movie are for the masses who aren’t interested in the backstory and reality of what Michael Lewis was doing. The majority won’t know or care that the book is a farce and the movie is a very loose interpretation of that book—“loose” in this instance meaning unrecognizable.

But the knives are out for Beane.

Many people in baseball who were steamrolled by that same train are watching with breathless anticipation for Beane to get his comeuppance.

And it’s coming.

So what now?

As 20/20 hindsight and reality has shown us the flapdoodle (I looked up a synonym for “ridiculousness” and “flapdoodle” jumped out at me) that is Moneyball, how can any mainstream writer like Verducci have the audacity to still try and defend whatever tatters are left of Beane’s reputation?

His team is a joke.

He’s a joke.

The movie’s going to be a joke.

That’s your objective reality, folks.

Flapdoodle.

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