Daric Barton's Struggles Continue

Remember when the A’s began dismantling their highly acclaimed “Big Three,” a rotation that included the likes of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito? If you do, then you’ll also remember that the trade the took Mulder away from the confines of the Coliseum and into St. Louis, was the one that brought Daric Barton and Dan Haren to Oakland.

The deal, much better than the one that sent Hudson to Atlanta, definitely had its perks for the A’s. Haren turned out to be a very solid starter during his time in Oakland, and Barton had a lot of hype surrounding him during his minor league career. Sadly, however, all of that is part of the past now.

Haren, who had three solid years while wearing the green-and-gold, is now a member of Oakland’s AL West rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And Barton, who was regarded as a prime hitting prospect in Oakland’s farm system, is struggling to produce in Oakland’s lineup.

The 25-year old Barton is in his fifth season with Oakland, dating back to when he was a September call-up back in 2007. Initially, Barton lived up to the hype that surrounded his minor league career during his September call-up, hitting .347/.429/.639 with 4 HR and 8 RBIs in 18 games with Oakland. 

Following his explosive call-up, however, Barton failed to produce in 2008 as Oakland’s starting first-baseman. In 140 games that season, Barton hit just .226/.327/.348 with 9 HR and 47 RBIs. Barton’s 2008 campaign was so bad that it prompted Billy Beane to go out and sign veteran Jason Giambi (who’s return to Oakland ended badly).

Barton eventually got his job back, however, after the A’s cut ties with the aging Giambi. In 54 games during the 2009 season, Barton hit .269/.372/.413 with 3 HR and 24 RBIs. Barton had a decent season last year, hitting .273 with 10 HR and 57 RBIs, but still lacked the power that is expected from his position.

The A’s made it clear this offseason that Barton was their guy at first, but given the fact that Barton’s numbers are in a free-fall, Oakland really needs to exercise its options before they fall out of the AL West race completely. Manager Bob Geren has had Barton hit in the No.2 spot in the lineup in all 49 games Barton has started this year.

Oh, and in case you don’t know already, Barton is hitting just .206/.320/.265 with zero home runs and 13 RBIs in 189 at-bats. Geren has had plenty of options for the No.2 spot, a spot that follows speedy outfielder Coco Crisp. The A’s have failed to get on-base this season, and I do place some of the blame on Geren’s frequent lineup shuffling. In this case, however, I guess it’s Geren’s infrequency to change the lineup that is currently hurting the A’s.

Connor Jackson, who is hitting .264 with a homer and 14 RBIs in 37 games this season for the A’s, is a stronger option for Oakland at the moment. Oakland should challenge Barton, and shouldn’t grant him job security for poor play. As Susan Slusser, of the San Francisco Chronicle, points out, Geren could give Barton a routine day off here or there in an effort to kick-start Barton’s slow 2011 campaign.

What do you think? Should the A’s give Barton the boot? Or should they keep Barton in the lineup in the hopes that he’ll turn things around?

Tags: 2011 A's Lineup AL Angels Barry Zito Baseball Big Three Dan Haren Daric Barton First Base Mark Mulder MLB Oakland A's Oakland A's Daric Barton Oakland A's Hitters Oakland A's Offense Oakland Athletics St. Louis Cardinals Tim Hudson

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