Closing the book on September and musing on other matters

Taking a moment to look back, look ahead, and fire off some random observations as I turn the page on the calendar to October.

LOOKING BACK

* The A’s followed up a .393 August with a .538 September to close out the 2011 season on a strong note. You have to take silver linings anywhere you can get’em when you end the campaign 22 games out of first and 14 games under .500.

* The A’s finished the year at 74-88 vs. a Pythagorean record of 77-85 which shows that while there may have been some wins left on the table, this team basically got what it deserved based on its disappointing run differential. It ain’t rocket science to see that they have to pick up the scoring and stop booting the ball if they want to move up in the world.

* Do you remember where you were on May 17, 2011? Me neither, but according to BaseballReference.com that’s the 1 day in 2011 that the A’s were a first place team. Who knew that would be as good as it would get for Oakland?

* How about that vanishing act by Brandon Allen? Nothing quite like a .130/.193/.182 September to suck all the excitement out of his first month with the A’s when he hit .290/.333/.551 in August. The man’s strikeout issues were no secret when he was acquired from the Diamondbacks and his 34 whiffs in 23 games in the last month of the season shows that he still has some work to do if he’s going to stick at first base for the A’s.

* Scott Sizemore closed things out with a nice little .263/.364/.461 September. I’m still a firm believer in Sizemore being a decent part of Oakland’s lineup in 2012 once the longtime second baseman gets a lot more comfortable at third base.  I’ll admit that I’m a little worried about his weak career numbers against right handed pitchers but until the A’s come up with a better option at third it looks like Sizemore is the man.

* Could you ask for much more out of Jemile Weeks? I guess you could ask him to stop oversliding second base so much, but aside from that his rookie season was the best part of 2011 for the A’s. Hopefully his .323/.358/.455 September is a sign that the best is yet to come.

* Now that everything is said and done we can look back and see that Bob Geren managed the A’s to a 27-36 record (.429 winning percentage) and Bob Melvin managed them to a 47-52 record (.475 winning percentage). That’s a moderate improvement by Melvin who had to play the same hand that was dealt to Geren. The fact that the A’s played .500 ball under Melvin after the All-Star Break offers hope that he has the team headed in the right direction.

LOOKING AHEAD

* Following up on that last bullet point I believe that the A’s can have a decent year in 2012 if they can finally enjoy some good health, a moderately improved offense and some decent defense. Of course, I’ve been saying that for the past few years and it’s just left me frustrated by the time October rolls around.

* I wish Josh Willingham all the best. He won’t be back in Oakland next season but he proved himself to be a class act and a fun guy to watch hit during his one season in Oakland. All we’ll be left with are the memories of his tape-measure homers and a compensation draft pick.  It hurts to see him go but at this point that’s just standard operating procedure for the A’s.

* Believe it or not, I’m a fan of Hideki Matsui but if he’s wearing green and gold next season and racking up everyday at-bats at DH I think my head will explode. I’m setting the bar at “decent” for next season’s club and the only way that’s even halfway palatable is if they spend the year developing young players who may be part of the next great A’s team. Matsui doesn’t fit the profile.

Even if Godzilla is willing to come back for “just” $2 million it seems like a waste of playing time when you consider that he only hit .251 with 12 homers and 72 RBIs in 2011 and his bat speed isn’t going to get any better when he’s a year older. Save the money and let guys like Chris Carter or Kila Ka’aihue all the playing time at DH. Hard to see the A’s getting worse production out of their DH if they let the young guys play.

If you want to base an argument for bringing Matsui back on his .295/.353/.425 showing after the All-Star Break I’ll point out that those numbers are propped up by a July in which Matsui had a 1.009 OPS. He didn’t crack a .700 OPS in any other month of the season.

It’s time for the A’s to move on.

* Back to Carter real quick: What do the A’s have against the big guy?  They never seem to give the towering, strikeout-prone first baseman a wide open shot at playing time even though he has more raw power than almost anyone else in the organization.  For some reason general manager Billy Beane keeps trading for similar strikeout-prone first basemen such as Allen and Ka’aihue.

You do realize you already have a cheap source of power in Carter don’t you Billy?

Carter’s minor league track record seems to be that he struggles big time every time he moves up a level before finally settling in and going on home run binges.  The A’s should just let Carter settle in as the designated hitter next season and learn once and for all whether he can cut it in the Major Leagues.

In short, Free Chris Carter.

* Beane says he thinks a decision from Major League Baseball on the A’s ballpark situation is coming soon which should be good news. But there’s definitely a slightly depressing angle to the whole thing if you believe some of the reports coming out of Bay Area newspapers.

Rumor has it that the A’s won’t make any moves with their own free agents until they hear what’s going on with the ballpark situation which means you can probably kiss every pending free agent good-bye. If the A’s get the green light to move to San Jose Beane will tear the team down and go into rebuilding mode even though there isn’t much to sell off considering how bad the team played in 2011. And if the A’s don’t get approval to head to the South Bay they’ll basically tread water with moderate, short-term upgrades so they can sell the team.

I can’t imagine any prospective owner coming in with their sights set on slowly rotting away in the Coliseum. If San Jose is deemed off limits by Bud Selig and Co. and Oakland continues to spin its wheels with the Victory Court site I would have to assume that a new owner will want to pull the A’s out of the Bay Area.

Even if Selig says the A’s can head for San Jose I won’t get fired up until construction on a new ballpark actually starts. Smart money says the Giants will head to court to fight the relocation attempt and some citizens groups or politicians will probably scream bloody murder about a single dollar of public funds being spent on a stadium.

If Beane is right and a decision really is coming soon the clock will probably start after the World Series ends.  The closer we get to spring training the less optimistic I’ll be that anything is going to happen on this issue in the near future.

TOTALLY RANDOM

* I feel bad for former A’s manager Art Howe and the way he’s handling his portrayal in the movie “Moneyball,” I really do. But pinning the blame for the way he’s being shown as a villain in the movie on Beane is about as absurd as Joe Morgan’s claim that Beane wrote the book “Moneyball.”

Blame Hollywood, Art. It’s the folks in Tinseltown who took the book and twisted it into a convenient heroes vs. villains/good guys vs. bad guys storyline.

If you want to rage against someone, rage against the producers of “Moneyball” who decided to turn the big screen character of Art Howe into something far different from the actual man. A’s fans will always appreciate the winning ballclubs you presided over while you were managing in Oakland.

* Now that I’m attending games as a father I’ve spent an extended amount of time in The Stomper Fun Zone and all I can say is that the A’s should stop kidding themselves and simply call it “The Zone” because I’ve never seen Stomper there and as far as I can tell the place isn’t really any fun. It’s actually kind of dreary, depressing and run down.

There has to be some way ownership can throw some money at that area or drum up some cash from sponsors to spruce it up. On top of that, try adding some more kid-friendly elements at different parts of the stadium.

Trust me, a ballgame can be a painfully boring experience for a toddler and there’s nothing worse for a parent than trying to keep a pint-sized tyke entertained to avoid a meltdown. I want to come to the ballpark with my family and spend some money but I don’t feel like I’m in a position to succeed as a parent and an A’s fan when I come to the Coliseum (that’s right, I still refuse to call it O.co Coliseum).

Note to the A’s: Go walk around Ikea and take some notes. They have little areas for kids all over the store which keeps rugrats from getting restless and flipping out and allows parents to stick around for an extended period of time and spend gobs of money.

* To state the obvious: Trevor Cahill did not have a good year. Plenty of preseason writeups on the A’s predicted that he’d take a step back in 2011 because a lot of his 2010 success appeared to be built on an unsustainably low batting average against him but I don’t think anyone would have expected Cahill to regress to the point that he would put up numbers comparable to his rocky rookie year.

The major thing that gives me hope that Cahill will right the ship is the fact that he’ll only be 24 years old when Opening Day rolls around in 2012. Most kids that age are still working their way up in the minor leagues but Cahill already has 3 full seasons and an All-Star appearance under his belt.

I don’t expect him to ever match what he did in 2010 but if he simply matures into an above average innings eater who can flash some dominance for a month or two at a time he’ll be just fine and the A’s will have the reliable rotation mainstay they expected when they signed him to a long-term contract.

* Does the disappointing season the A’s just finished and their painfully uncertain future have you down? Check out the World Series rings from 1972’73’74 and ’89 for a fun look at how good things have been in the past and could be again for the franchise if things ever get headed in the right direction again.

One of these days, they’ll be blaring Kool and the Gang when the A’s finally clinch a playoff berth again. The big question is when and where. Hopefully the question of where will be answered soon.

* Want to hear my pipe dream?  Selig shoots down the A’s hopes to move to San Jose, Lew Wolff and his sugar daddy John Fisher put the team up for sale and gazillionaire Oracle owner Larry Ellison swoops in to buy the club and uses the hundreds of millions of dollars he has as pocket change to build a new stadium somewhere in Oakland.

Sure, it sounds crazy but it’s my post so I can be as crazy as I want to be.

All kidding aside, the man did make a strong run at buying the Golden State Warriors so maybe it’s not so outlandish to imagine him diving into pro sports ownership the next time a Bay Area franchise is on the block.

* Some things I learned while waiting to interview Brandon McCarthy at the ballpark last month:

1. It takes about 20 straight hours of work to convert the Coliseum from baseball to football and vice versa.

2. Some of the Detroit Tigers take BART to the ballpark so pay attention the next time you’re on a train heading toward the Coliseum several hours before the game. You just might run into a big leaguer.

4. Matsui’s presence on the roster added about 50 extra full-time media members following the team at home and on the road. The man remains a rock star in Japan.

5. A little more Matsui: Last season he participated in a Japanese media vs. the Angels staff softball game which is a cool gesture. Even cooler? He batted right handed. Sorry for calling for your release earlier in the season Godzilla. Anytime the A’s sink far below .500 I get prospect fever.

6. The view from a Major League dugout, even in an outdated facility like the Coliseum, is very, very cool.

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