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One Team, Two Views
2007-09-27 21:39
by Philip Michaels

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Gary Huckabay returns from the funeral for baseball analysis -- in lieu of flowers, please donate generously to the relief fund we've set up for PECOTA and WARP-3 -- to interview two nameless, faceless baseball executives, one from each league, about the travails of front office life and how it's hard out there for an assistant director of player development. But before all of that, Huckabay asks his two John Does to name the front office that's done the best job in the season that was.

Your Hometown Heroes, the anonymous National League executive answers brightly: "They've been destroyed by injuries, and they're within breathing distance of .500... That's good work, no matter what the results end up being."

The scoffing of the masked American League executive can practically be heard through your LCD.

AL Exec: I see it another way. Two ways, really. They were in trouble because of some really bad contracts. Kendall was a total disaster, and if they'd done their homework there, they wouldn't have gotten him. I know the perception's different, but Beane's hurt himself with some pretty bad contracts. Remember Terrence Long?

GH: What's the other way?

AL Exec: Not valuing durability highly enough. It's a good thing to have a bunch of talent, but you've got to have dependability, too. It's not surprising to see Crosby, Harden, and Chavez out with injuries, is it? If you have a portfolio of six guys that are very good but fragile, that might be enough, but it might not. Everyone knows Chris Snelling can play if he's healthy. And everyone knows he'll never be healthy. He's just not.

To answer that question about whether it's surprising to see the aforementioned A's out with injuries -- no, as an alarmingly handsome and debonair man of action wrote back in May, it most definitely is not.

And yet, I fear that when the A's brain trust gathers to assess the 2007 season, they will whole-heartedly endorse the unnamed National League executive's review of their performance -- that the past 162 games have not been a case of the debilitating chickens coming home to roost but just plain ol' bad luck that they soldiered through as best they could. Who ever would have thunk that the guy who's been battling injuries since 2005 would suddenly not play very well? Or that someone with chronic back problems would, out of nowhere mind you, be felled with a bad back? Or that when you trade for a guy whose injury history inspires adjectives like "horrific" and "career-threatening", he suddenly, mysteriously injures himself after just six games? Oh Lady Luck, how ever hath we offended thee?

Here's another theory. It's not as comforting as that "Darn the luck!" hypothesis that's sweeping the nation or as popular as the notion that Larry Davis, after 10 season as the A's head trainer and 23 on the team's medical staff, has suddenly become Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber and has determined that Rich Harden treat his assorted maladies with leeches and bloodlettings. But I'm just going throw this out there, just for the sake of argument:

The A's relied too heavily on players either with foreseeable injury risks. And when those risks panned out, Plan B apparently involved adding more, equally brittle players.

I think Billy Beane is a swell guy with a dazzling smile who probably doesn't litter or go into the express lane with more than 15 items. He's better at his job than two-thirds of his counterparts. And in 2007... he did a really awful job putting a team together.

So please, A's brain trust -- ignore the kind words of your secret National League colleague. Instead, heed the stinging rebuke of the American League Executive Who Must Not Be Named -- carve his words in three-foot letters stone and begin each morning between now and the Winter Meetings by reading them aloud until you can recite them from memory. Then go, and sin no more.

Gary Huckabay insists at the beginning of his article that he won't reveal the identities of his two clandestine baseball executives. I suppose it's two much to ask that the A.L. executive picks up his paycheck at 7000 Coliseum Way. With my luck, he probably works for the Angels.

2007-09-28 10:48:57
1.   olmedotimes
The Kendall comment is pretty stupid. Would you rather have had him for the last 2.5 years, or Redman and Rhodes? The mistake was signing those two guys in the first place. The AL Exec is right, Beane has made some bad contracts.

If the AL Exec had said that they should have promoted Suzuki from the start of the season or that the A's shouldn't have been a slave to their bad contract, that would have been a more astute criticism.

I think what the NL Exec was trying to say was that the A's did a great job filling in all of the holes in the roster. The question was which front office did the best work in 2007. Most of the criticisms that you can leverage against the A's front office comes from the moves they made before the season started, like relying on Harden, Loaiza, and Bradley, and replacing Thomas with Piazza. During the season, the front office coped pretty well with all the injuries. The A's were never going to be in the playoffs with all the injuries, but how many other teams can you imagine doing this well in these circumstances?

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