See ya later La Russa, hello November


Battling my way through the last stage of a nasty cold while taking a moment to look back, look ahead, and fire off some random observations as I turn the page on the calendar to November. How the heck did November get here so quickly? Ferris Bueller was right, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

LOOKING BACK

* Former A’s skipper Tony La Russa won it all with the Cardinals and called it a career. A tip of the hat to one of the best managers the game has ever seen. Anytime you can take the Bill Walsh approach and go out as a world champion you should take it and consider yourself lucky to be leaving the game on your own terms.

I’m sure La Russa will get a nervous tick next year and break into a cold sweat when he’s forced to simply watch games as a fan without the power to make 9 or 10 pitching changes.

* Former A’s coach Ron Washington got within one out of winning it all with the Rangers and came up empty for the second year in a row. Tough break Wash, but if any club is poised to make at least a couple of runs to the World Series in the next several years it’s the Rangers. My gut tells me Wash will be soaked in champagne after the last game of the season in the near future.

* Did anyone else get sick and tired of the “La Russa’s playing chess/Wash is playing checkers” storyline in the World Series? La Russa isn’t that brilliant and Wash isn’t that dumb. La Russa’s comedy of errors in Game 5 proved that he’s not a genius. Albert Einstein? Yeah, that guy was a genius. Tony La Russa? Really, really good baseball manager. No more, no less.

* Former A’s skipper Bob Geren landed on his feet with the Mets where he’ll serve as manager Terry Collins’ bench coach in 2012. New York’s front office is stocked with former members of the A’s organization (Sandy Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta) which probably didn’t hurt Geren’s chances to get the job.

Even though there’s probably no love lost between A’s fans and Geren (there’s an understatement), I wish the guy the best of luck. If his career is going to go anywhere he’s going to have to get out from under general manager Billy Beane’s shadow.

* Curt Young returned to the A’s after a 1-year, chicken-and-beer-filled detour through Boston. Welcome back to the pitching coach who never should have been allowed to leave in the first place. Here’s hoping recently dismissed A’s pitching coach Ron Romanick hooks on with another organization soon.

* If there’s one thing I took away from the World Series (aside from being thoroughly entertained) it’s that I was often grateful that I wasn’t a Rangers or Cardinals fan because I think I’d have a head full of gray hair and an ulcer right now. I don’t think there’s anything more excruciating and exhilarating than playoff baseball at its best.

I’m looking forward to the day when the A’s finally put me through that kind of agony again. Of course, at this point it feels like my hair will be gray from old age by the time that happens. As always, I hope to be proven wrong by the game of baseball.

LOOKING AHEAD

* Now that the World Series is in the books, the Hot Stove League can finally get fired up. Has there ever been an A’s offseason as unpredictable as the one Oakland’s entering? Last season you knew Beane was going to try to load up for a playoff run but this time around everything is up in the air.

The team will reportedly go into rebuilding mode if MLB commissioner Bud Selig ever gets off his … er … well … “brain” and rules that the A’s can move to San Jose. But if everyone’s favorite former car salesman continues to leave the franchise twisting in the wind or quashes owner Lew Wolff’s dreams for a South Bay ballpark then the A’s will basically tread water this winter.

Not exactly the most inspiring options for a fan base tired of losing.

* With that being said, what do I see in Oakland’s offseason? As usual there won’t be any big-name free agents coming to town (but that’s a no-brainer). I could see Beane signing or trading for a warm, largely uninspiring body with a short-term contract to hold down third base/give Scott Sizemore a platoon partner (Wilson Betemit?) and center field (Nate McClouth? Endy Chavez?) for one season.

I could also see him rounding up some journeymen to add to the mix of players competing for those spots in spring training. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see some low-budget long and short relievers signed to Major League deals or invited to spring training on make-good contracts to add depth to the big league and Triple A pitching staffs.

But you never know what kind of surprises Beane has up his sleeve. The free agent market for starting pitching is pretty thin which means it wouldn’t be totally crazy to see a blockbuster trade built around Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill materialize if Beane thinks he can get a young stud hitter in return.

I don’t think that’s likely to happen but I certainly wouldn’t be left with my jaw hanging on the floor if something big went down between now and spring training if the opportunity presents itself to Beane.

* Rumor has it that Mike Aldrete of the Cardinals is in line to be Oakland’s new hitting coach and it’ll be nice to see a fresh face and a former Athletic in that position. It seems like hitting coach has been a gig with a decent amount of turnover and lackluster results over the past several years. Hopefully Aldrete can be a long-term solution and a valuable addition to the staff. Next assignment for the front office is to find him some more hitters to work with.

Until Aldrete’s name started coming up in association with the coaching vacancy in Oakland, the last time he showed up on my radar was when I saw him managing the Lancaster JetHawks at a game in Modesto many moons ago. It’s always cool to see guys work their way up the coaching ladder after their playing careers end. Shows a real love for the game.

* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: My lofty goal for the 2012 A’s is a .500 record, development of young players and at least a cup of coffee for Michael Choice, Grant Green and Sonny Gray when rosters expand in September. Let’s throw in a return to health for Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson and you could have the makings of an encouraging season with something exciting to build on heading into 2013.

TOTALLY RANDOM

* Gotta say that after a while I got pretty tired of all the “Moneyball” hype. It’s nice that all the racket has died down.

* You know what the playoffs were missing? The Dave Stewart Death Stare. Hopefully it’ll finally rub off on Trevor Cahill one of these days just in time for an A’s playoff run.

* You know what the playoffs had too much of? Joe Buck. Smug, annoying, full of hot air. I’m probably one of the few people out there who didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy inside when he made the game-ending call in Game 6 of the World Series which speaks to just how much I dislike him as a broadcaster.

I love me some baseball but the last out of the Fall Classic always means a welcome break from Buck and his partner in broadcasting crime Tim McCarver.

* I won’t pretend that this is the winner for best Game 6 call but at least Gary Thorne isn’t robbing his father’s grave to capture the spirit of the moment.

I will now go take a chill pill and find a proctologist and an exterminator to get this king-sized bug out of my butt and kill it.

* Free Chris Carter. I just have to slip that in there any chance I get.

I no longer have wild, crazy expectations of what Carter can be but I do think the A’s have to hand the kid everyday at-bats for at least the first half of 2012 to see whether the big guy has anything to offer the franchise.

If he gets 500 at-bats in 2012 and hits around 25 homers with a .250 average and a ton of strikeouts I think that would be more than good enough for the No. 5 or 6 spot in the batting order on a rookie’s salary. It sure beats signing someone like Hideki Matsui for around $2 million to eat up playing time at designated hitter.

If Carter flops by the time the All-Star Break rolls around Oakland can demote him to Sacramento and open up more playing time for Brandon Allen, Kila Ka’aihue or whoever happens to be on a hot streak at Triple A.

* Remember “Revisiting the Rebuild,” that four-part series I was going to hammer out? Parts 3 and 4 are coming, I swear. Life’s been crazy for the past few months and when push comes to shove, blood comes before blogging. At some point family life will settle down enough to let me crank out those last two posts.

Of course, if MLB gives the A’s the green light to move to San Jose soon Beane could be hunkering down for another rebuild which will leave me with a neverending feature to play with here at Swingin’ A’s.

But considering how slowly Bud Selig moves I’m pretty sure time is on my side to complete my little series.

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