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Disabled Listing
2007-08-04 10:06
by Philip Michaels

So Friday afternoon, I started writing an irritated diatribe about how the A's were handling Eric Chavez's balky back (My take: Not well), inspired by the news in the day's paper, that Chavez had sat out his seventh consecutive game, after only starting three of the last 19. My fury was stoked by comments from Bob Geren in Wednesday's funny pages that there were no plans to put Chavez on the DL since he wasn't going to sit out for enough games to justify the mandatory layoff.

Hey Bob -- I was going to write -- once you've missed seven games, it's easy to make it eight more. Put the guy on the DL already.

So just as I was working myself into full-screed mood, what do the A's do? Put Chavez on the DL.

If you're scoring at home, this is the second time this summer the A's have short-circuited one of my blog entries by taking some sort of action. (The other time was when they nearly made me spike a Milton Bradley bit by kicking him off the team.) Twice is just a coincidence, three times is a trend, so in order to test this out, let me just pre-announce that my next angry diatribe will feature a call for Lew Wolff to abandon his Fremont plans and build the new ballpark next to my house. Try and scoop me on that one, A's front office.

Anyhow, back to the Chavez thing. Well done, A's. Exactly what I would have argued for had I just been able to type faster. My only complaint: Do you think the 15-day DL is long enough?

Let's face facts here -- Chavez has been battling one injury or another since some point in the 2005 season. Back then, it was a disagreeable shoulder. In 2006 and for part of 2007, it was forearm tendonitis. Now, it's a bad back. The guy has been playing through injuries for two solid seasons now, which is certainly admirable, but a little bit maddening when it's so clearly affecting his performance. It's one thing to keep running Chavez out there in the middle of a pennant race -- an argument can be made that his glovework helps the A's eek out wins in a taut battle for the division crown, even as his bat has gone MIA. But when you're a dozen games back in the division and ten back in the wildcard, and there are other, better teams in line ahead of you, what is the benefit of having a clearly injured player dragging himself onto the field? So that can Oakland can finish with 86 wins instead of 77? Better to disable him, for the year if need be, so that Chavez can address these assorted maladies and come back healthy for 2008, when it might actually help the team contend.

I'm not confident that this well happen, however. Can you ever remember the A's being more erratic with how they've managed their resources then they have been this year? Besides the whole Chavez-won't-miss-enough-time-to-go-on-the-DL-oh-wait-yes-he-will shuck-and-jive, there's also the curious case of Mike Piazza's return to the active roster. After recuperating from his shoulder injury, the A's designated hitter was all set to begin a rehab assignment in mid-June when the A's suddenly got the bright idea that maybe he could come back as a catcher instead. Considering that Piazza hadn't caught a game since the previous October and that he wasn't much of a defensive whiz even at that point and that the injury he suffered was to his throwing arm, you could call the decision surprising -- it certainly caught Piazza off-guard.

The catcher-turned-designated hitter was all set to make the 90-minute drive to Sacramento for a rehab assignment with the Triple-A club when the plan suddenly changed - with Piazza receiving no warning whatsoever the switch was in the works.

"That was a little strange," Piazza, out since May 3 with a right shoulder injury, said Monday. "This game is unpredictable at times. I never thought this would be the case, especially at this point in my career, but I learned to go with the flow. Whatever they want me to do. ... I was just as surprised as anybody."

The day the A's clued Piazza in that "Surprise! You're a catcher now!" move, Oakland's record stood at 37-31, six games back of the Angels but ahead of Seattle and still very much in the division race. Trying to get Piazza back up to speed as a catcher delayed his return by three weeks -- indeed, he wound up not starting his rehab assignment until July 14. Maybe getting Piazza back in late June rather than late July doesn't keep Oakland in the hunt, but the way he's swung the bat since returning to the lineup, it certainly wouldn't have hurt.

Then there's Esteban Loaiza who after his rehab start with Sacramento Wednesday will now be... well, he's not sure exactly:

Asked if he would be making another rehab start, Loaiza responded: "I'm going to need another one. Actually, I don't know. It's up to them. I can say something, but it'll be the opposite. It's their decision."

Loaiza pointed to his outing as an example of why he was bent out of shape.

"The day before, they told me I was going to throw 60 (pitches) no matter what," Loaiza said. "Then the manager (in Sacramento) told me I could go 75. But then when he took me out of the game he said, 'If you throw more than 60 pitches, I'll get fired.' Where's the communication at? I really don't know what's going on."

That's three instances -- Trend! -- where plans of dealing with an injured player have changed suddenly and dramatically, and the player is usually as clueless as the rest of us. We could probably dig up more -- anyone heard form Brad Halsey lately? -- but I think you get my point. The A's don't seem to know what they're doing, or if they do, they're doing a fine job of keeping it to themselves.

Milton Bradley ripped Billy Beane in a Carl Steward column today, and while I expect much hay to be made over the casually and recklessly volleyed racial allegations (indeed, that's the only thing some bloggers choose to focus on) the more salient criticisms in the piece are the ones that characterize the A's front office as ego-driven and controlling, poorly communicative, and inclined to treat players like they were nothing more than Strat-o-matic cards.

How accurate is that assessment? Who knows? But the way that some decisions have been handled this year suggest that it's not an entirely unfair critique.

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