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Ringolsby and his Backhanded Compliment to the A’s

March 26, 2011

Tracy Ringolsby, who has spent most of his recent years covering the Colorado Rockies and now more national topics for FoxSports, writes that the A’s are the favorites to with this year’s AL West for FoxSportsArizona.com. He writes,

“At the turn of the century, when the Oakland A’s were knocked out in the first round of the postseason four consecutive years, general manager Billy Beane moaned that October success was all about luck.

Oh, for the A’s to be so lucky again…

…The A’s have been victims of Beane’s constant roster tinkering, untimely injuries and a farm system gone fallow.”

I do not often agree with Ringolsby, and today is no different. I take exception to several comments here, number one the playoffs are largely about luck. What it takes to build a team that is strong for 162 games is much different than a team that is built to succeed in the playoffs, look no further than the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, or for pure luck the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. Second, the A’s have been victims of their financial status, not of constant roster tinkering, and if they are victims of constant roster tinkering it is solely due to their financial status. These two problems are inextricably linked just ask the Florida Marlins or San Diego Padres.

There rest of the article does little to explain why the A’s are in fact better than all their AL West counterparts. Ringolsby spends a good amount of time discussing the importance of Andrew Bailey (which I think is overstated, though this April that will be put to the test as its expected Bailey will start the season on the DL) saying,

“Bailey is the linchpin to one of the deeper bullpens in baseball, which combined with a promising young rotation gives the A’s reason to feel their postseason drought is about to end.”

What leaves me questioning why he thinks the A’s are going to win the division, is here is what he says about the Rangers (in its entirety):

“After a couple of months of controversy, let it be noted that Neftali Feliz is still the Rangers’ closer, which is where he belonged all along, and Michael Young is still a member of the Rangers’ roster, although there is still debate exactly where he belongs. With the addition of Adrian Beltre to play third base, the Rangers beefed up their defense, and they now have Young to be a super sub, capable of playing just about any position on the field.

The Rangers did move Josh Hamilton from center field to left field, hoping that will allow him to avoid some of the injuries that have nagged him.

C.J. Wilson was a pleasant development a year ago when he made the conversion to the rotation from the bullpen, but this year the Rangers are asking him to step into the role of ace in light of the team’s inability to retain Cliff Lee, although Lee’s impact does seem to have been overrated. The Rangers were 6-9 in his regular-season starts.”

Let’s recap: 1) Neftali Feliz is the closer and he says that is good, 2) Adrian Beltre beefs up their defense (good), 3) Michael Young is a super-sub (presumably good), 4) Josh Hamilton ought to avoid injuries (good), 5) C.J. Wilson becomes a number one (he sounds lukewarm) but the loss of Cliff Lee, perhaps story line number one isn’t a big deal as his contribution was overstated so let’s assign this a neutral. How this turns into the A’s overtaking the Rangers I have no idea, but I’ll take it. What a strange analysis.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. sc athletics fan permalink
    March 28, 2011 12:10 am

    David,

    I’m have a lot of respect for Billy Beane and the job he has done in building the Athletics organization on a shoestring budget, however there may be a modicam of truth when Ringolsby cites Beane’s “roster tinkering”. Here’s a couple of those tinkers Ringolsby may have been thinking about, which unfortunately have turned into “stinkers”.

    Nelson Cruz: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Justin Lehr to the Milwaukee Brewers for Keith Ginter. (Keith Ginter had a total of 156PA in 2005 as an Athletic for a stat line of .161/.234/.263 and then retired immediately after the 2005 season)

    Carlos Gonzalez: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Greg Smith and Huston Street to the Colorado Rockies for Matt Holliday. (Matt Holliday played 93 games in 2009 as an Athletic for a stat line of .286/.378/.454, all well below his career averages)

    As we all remember, Matt Holliday was in a contract year and had to be traded in 2009 to the St. Louis Cardinals for Shane Peterson, Clayton Mortenson and Brett Wallace.

    Although Peterson is still in the Athletics organization, Mortenson was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Ethan Hollingsworth this past January, and Wallace was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Michael Taylor in December of 2009.

    To summarize, Carlos Gonzalez has yielded the Athletics the following: Shane Peterson, Ethan Hollingsworth, & Michael Taylor.

    Thankfully, Beane has made several good moves to help build this 2011 Athletics team into a legitimate contender (barring injury) for the AL West, and possibly the World Series!!

    • March 28, 2011 8:56 am

      That is a fair assessment.

      When I think of roster tinkering, I suppose I think much more of making little trades for little impact, trading like pieces, such as an outfielder for an outfielder. I think of guys like Kenny Williams and his trades of Edwin Jackson for Daniel Hudson, or his trade of Brian Anderson for Mark Kotsay. I suppose they may feel they are doing what Jonah Keri described of the Tampa Bay Rays in his book The Extra 2% (a must read), but to me I tend to frequently be baffled by the White Sox moves.

      Though the moves you cite above are bad, and I particularly agree regarding the Holliday set of trades (see this piece I wrote up on it) at the time you could see the purpose of them. Agree or disagree, it was clear was the methodology was. To me tinkering, the methodology isn’t entirely clear. Edwin Jackson for Daniel Hudson, I get from the Diamondbacks position (Hudson is cheaper, cost control, you aren’t competing) but why the hell would the White Sox want him?

      Even the Ginter trade made some sense on the face of it. The A’s hadn’t had Ellis in Oakland at all in 2004, likely weren’t sure of his contribution in 2005. Mark McLemore who handled a good chunk of the infield backup position was gone and there was a hole. It didn’t work out, as many trades don’t but you can see what he was getting at, and in Ginter’s previous two seasons with the Brew Crew he wasn’t half bad (.259/.342/.454 with 33 home runs).

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