I enjoy our back and forth Q&A's with Athletics Nation a lot more than I enjoy chasing their team. I exchanged questions with Alex Hall yet again, this time focusing on what the A's have done in the past month and where they're going through the rest of the season.
Check out Athletics Nation for my answers to Alex's questions later today.
LL: There were rumblings that Addison Russell was offered to Tampa Bay for David Price before he was dealt for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Which deal would you have preferred, and how concerned are you that the A's are pushing all of their chips in for this year?
AN: It depends on which interests you more -- increased depth or a higher-quality ace. At first, my position was that I only wanted to trade Addison if he returned Price or Troy Tulowitzki, neither of which I thought would actually happen. However, that's because it didn't even occur to me that he might return two quality starters. Shark is obviously a step down from Price, but he's still good enough to match up against other top pitchers in the playoffs and he could battle with Scott Kazmir to start Game 1 of a given series. And now, by adding two starters instead of one, the team is even further protected from the inevitable injury bug that has already struck down so many other contenders this year. I'm happy with the return Oakland got for Russell, and now I don't have to hold my breath through every Price start hoping that his elbow doesn't tear and leave the team with nothing to show for the best prospect its had in a decade. Even if Shark goes down, we still have Hammel, or vice versa. There's value in that trade-off.
As for going all-in, I couldn't be happier. A's fans have spent the last 16 years with one eye on contending for a title but another eye permanently glued to restocking for the future. It's hard enough to do one of those things right, and it's nearly impossible to do both at the same time. Billy Beane has never gone all-in to this degree, even when he's had legitimately great teams, and I think we're seeing a bit of the frustration he's built up by failing to reach the World Series since he took over in 1998. Oakland won't get a better chance at this -- the indisputably best team in baseball through 92 games, with the top record and run differential and hitting and pitching, a team with a half dozen All-Stars and some other role players playing out of their minds, in a season where parity reigns and there are no other clear-cut favorites (at least, outside of Southern California). If you don't go for it now, then why are you here? How will you ever convince me that you truly want a title if you don't put everything behind this opportunity? I'm excited that Billy is taking this leap and putting everything he's got behind this chance to win. There's no guarantee it'll work, but at least Billy has done everything he can -- and the fans know it.
Josh Donaldson already has 3.4 fWAR, due largely in part to his massive 12.5 UZR. Do you feel his defense is really as good as the metrics say, or will things normalize closer to last year's 9.9 in the second half?
Donaldson is the real deal. Don't be fooled by the high error total; yeah, his cannon arm can get a bit wild at times, but he only racks up those errors because he gets to so many balls that others can only watch streak by. He throws his body all over the infield dirt, makes diving stops on screaming liners and grounders, sprints 100 feet into foul territory and falls over the rolled-up tarp to make a highlight-reel catch on a pop-up ... the dude is legit. Unfortunately, his offense has fallen off a cliff since June 7 (.158/.205/.263), but on Thursday he hit an impressive opposite-field homer in AT&T Park (which has a tough right field porch) off of Tim Hudson (who never gives up homers), so hopefully he can build off of that and get back to playing at an MVP level on both sides of the ball.
Kyle Blanks disappoints for over four years as a major league hitter, and then promptly starts crushing the second he's traded to Oakland. Why does this stuff keep happening to the A's and never the Mariners, and will they please stop it?
Billy Beane > Jack Z.
It's really that simple. Also, Bob Melvin knows how to fit together the pieces that Billy gives him, and Billy knows how to get the pieces Melvin needs to complete the puzzle. There must be a fantastic working relationship between the two, because they seem to be on the same page to a degree that we're not used to seeing from a manager and a GM. It's basically the opposite of the caricatured relationship between fictional Art Howe and Beane in the Moneyball movie.
But don't worry. Blanks is already on the DL with a torn calf muscle and no timetable for recovery. Not everything goes perfectly for the A's. Just most things. Like Nate Freiman stepping in and picking up right where Blanks left off.
The A's winning percentage sits at .626, their highest since 2002. Do you, or the city, generally feel like this is the team's best chance to advance past the first round for the first time since 2006? Where is the confidence level compared to years past?
When the 2012 and '13 teams didn't advance, it was a bummer. You kinda understood, though, that they had flaws and matched up horribly against the Tigers team that they unfortunately saw twice in a row. The confidence was there, but not through the roof. If this A's team doesn't advance past the first round, it will be a downright tragedy. Unforgivable. This team needs to at least make it to the World Series, even if some random NL team gets stupid hot and steals an undeserved title as usually happens. My confidence has never been higher in an Oakland A's team since 1990.
This is 150 percent speculation, but many of us on AN are wondering if this is Billy gearing up for his swan song. He's had nearly two decades at the helm and he can't be GM forever, and it seems like he's grooming assistant David Forst to take over before some other team poaches him. He's gutted the farm system like never before and left himself nothing for 2016 and beyond, which is usually what GMs do when they don't think they'll be around long. Perhaps Billy rides out this competitive window and then calls it a day, hopefully wearing the ring he so richly deserves. But let me make perfectly clear that that's just me talking. Pure speculation.
Do you see the A's making any more major moves at the trade deadline, or have they already made their moves?
Major moves? Nah, there's nothing left to trade. Billy won't draw from this perfectly constructed Major League roster to make improvements, not when it's all fitting together so seamlessly. And there are just no prospects left who could return a major piece. However, I have no doubt that Billy will still make one or two minor moves, probably to acquire an under-the-radar second baseman (he was apparently denied in his attempt to add the Cubs' Luis Valbuena, a favorite target of mine, in the Shark trade). There won't be a Zobrist or an Utley or a Murphy, but there will be someone you've never heard of who will hit .300 for the rest of the season. He only has to be better than Eric Sogard. But if this was it, if this turned out to be the final product, that would be fine as well.
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