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Bay Area Baseball

A Long Road Ahead

Good News! Eric Chavez is back. His June line reads very nicely: 1219 OPS and 7 home runs in 70 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he's only one man, and the A's are 10 games behind the Angels. Luckily, the pressure on the A's to compete is about 100 times less than for the Giants, so we can always look to next year. Let's check in on Billy Beane's off-season moves:

1. Tim Hudson for Dan Meyer, Charles Thomas and Juan Cruz

Meyer has been brutal in AAA (6.62 ERA) and is on the DL. Charles Thomas hit .109 and was demoted to AAA. Cruz throws hard but put up an 8.49 ERA and is in Sacramento along with the other two.

Hudson has maintained his ground ball rate with Atlanta, and has kept his ERA low despite a low strikeout rate. He signed a big contract extension but finds himself on the DL for the second year in a row.

Oakland: 0 for 1

2. Mark Mulder for Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton

Mulder: 90.2 IP, 27 BB, 51 K, 4.27 ERA
Haren: 87 IP, 31 BB, 67 K, 4.14 ERA

Calero has been bad, while Barton has yet to develop any power in the California League. But even ignoring future value, this trade goes to the A's, who saved $6 million on the deal.

Oakland: 1 for 2

3. Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes for Jason Kendall

Kendall has been bad, bad, bad, while Redman and Rhodes have been unexpectedly good. Who could have known? I can't recall anyone panning this trade after it happened.

Oakland: 1 for 3

And there you have the A's season in a nutshell. They had to go 3 for 3 on these trades to have a chance to win the division in 2005. It was a worthwhile bet on the way to building a better team in 2006 and beyond, but it was a risky one nonetheless.

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You know who else is bad? The San Francisco Giants pitchers! In the first 17 games of June, the offense has put up a slightly above-league-average 4.7 runs per game, but the pitching staff has given up 6.5. Ouch. The culprits? None other than Brett Tomko, Jason Schmidt, Noah Lowry and Kirk Rueter, who combined to give up 57 runs in 71 innings over 13 starts -- 7.23 runs per nine innings. As a group, they made only two good starts over that time frame -- Tomko gave up one run over 7.2 innings against the Mets on June 5th, and Schmidt shutout the Tigers for 8 innings on June 17. Ouch again.

If there's a bright side, it's that the Giants finally gave up on June 11th. No more deluding themselves into believing that Marquis Grissom, Edgardo Alfonzo, Ray Durham, Michael Tucker, J.T. Snow, Matt Herges and Jim Brower formed the core of a World Series winner. Those guys are all either benched, "injured", on the trading block, or available for free. And so the youth movement begins, with a big but…

BUT with few hitting prospects, the Giants don't really have the youth necessary for a youth movement in the field. They did a great job in the 2001 draft, picking pitchers Brad Hennessey, Noah Lowry, Jesse Foppert and outfielder Todd Linden with their first four picks. In 2002, they drafted pitcher Matt Cain and outfielder Fred Lewis -- Cain will probably see some time in the majors this September, while Lewis has stalled in AA. In 2003, David Aardsma was their most notable pick, but he's with the Cubs now. Despite his past drafting success, Brian Sabean intentionally gave away his 2004 and 2005 draft picks – but they wouldn't have helped in 2006 anyways.

In all, the Giants don't have even one young position player who makes a veteran player expendable or makes future free agent acquisitions unnecessary. Linden is blocked by Alou and Bonds (fingers crossed) and Yorvit Torrealba is blocked by Mike Matheny's contract, while Jason Ellison and Lance Niekro don't inspire much long-term confidence from management. So barring a miracle (or a buyout of Alfonzo's contract) the defaults will return to six of eight positions next year, and the Giants will look to trade surplus pitching or sign a free agent to shore up centerfield and first base on the way to their last shot at the title.

So hopefully, the Giants will have a good 2006 -- and hopefully fans will enjoy it -- because we've already seen how bad this team is without Barry Bonds. It takes money, smart drafting, shrewd trading and high return free agents to win a title these days. Brian Sabean has the necessary budget, but has been deficient in the other three categories for several years. It's going to be a long road to build the next winner.