New Year’s Eve is here and it’s that time when people around the world make some resolutions as they turn the page on the last 12 months and crack open a new calendar.
Here’s my run through resolutions members of the A’s organization could, or should, be making tonight as they pop some champagne and ring in 2012 with their sights aimed high at self improvement.
• Jemile Weeks: I will stop sliding past second base so often.
Luckily the exciting young second basemen knows it’s problem which means a solution is sure to come relatively soon. It should be fun to see how many bags Weeks steals this season. I don’t anticipate a lot of power out of the heart of Oakland’s batting order so Weeks should have the green light to run as often as possible to create some desperately-needed scoring opportunities.
• Kurt Suzuki: I will get back to being the hitter everyone knew and loved in 2009.
It’d be nice to see that bat show a little more life wouldn’t it? Personally, I think the man needs a lighter workload behind the plate to keep his legs fresher in the latter part of the season.
An offensive revival by Suzuki would be good for him, good for Oakland’s offense and good for a front office desperate for as many trade chips as possible.
• Scott Sizemore: Somehow, some way, I will learn to hit right handers because my career may depend on it.
The man in line to be Oakland’s starting third baseman in 2012 has a career line of .222/.314/.362 vs. right handers compared to a line of .274/.361/.423 vs. southpaws. If he doesn’t improve his numbers against righties quick he’ll fall into a platoon at the hot corner before finally drifting into being a journeyman utility player.
I’m pulling for Sizemore to figure it out and run with the golden opportunity sitting in front of him.
• Chris Carter, Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue: I will stop striking out so much. I’ll finally realize that I’m strong enough to sacrifice a little power in exchange for more contact and still hit a lot of homers. The improvement in batting average and on-base percentage will give me a career in the big leagues.
One of these big guys is going to get it, right? Oakland may be the land of frustrated fans and outraged media pundits but it’s also the land of opportunity for young players.
Smart money says the Kila Monster simply is what he is and he’s not going to be a factor in 2012 or beyond but Allen and Carter have a chance to be decent players for the next few years if they can find a way to cut their strikeout rates.
• Bob Melvin: I will briefly break out of my usual nice guy mode by blowing a fuse and turning over a post-game spread at some point in the second half of the season to spark the team to a strong finish.
I’ll admit it, I’m a BoMel fan. He seems like a good guy with a positive outlook and a passion for the game and the winning history of the A’s. Melvin appears to be a good fit to guide a young club through a rebuilding effort. But I can eventually see him having to steal a scene out of “Bull Durham” and scare the kids into playing better ball.
The A’s will be young and overmatched in 2012 but it doesn’t mean they can’t take a big step forward in development and sneak up on people down the stretch. Crazier things have happened and one of the most beautiful things about baseball is the endless supply of unexpected surprises.
• Fautino De Los Santos: I’m taking the bull by the horns and forcing my way into the closer’s gig this season.
Smart money says Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes will at least split closing duties up to the trade deadline because of Melvin’s affinity for veterans and the organization’s inclination to pump up their trade value in the endless quest to acquire prospects.
But eventually Balfour and/or Fuentes will be out of the picture and it’ll be an open race for someone to take the closer’s gig and run with it and I’m betting on De Los Santos stepping up and being “The Man.”
There’s millions of dollars waiting for someone who can put “Proven Closer” on their resume and general manager Billy Beane can reap the benefits of polishing a shiny new trade chip.
• Billy Beane: I will redeem myself. This rebuild, not “Moneyball,” is my real legacy. Unlike the post-2006 ALCS rebuild, I’m going to make this one work. I’m going to trade for the right guys, I’m going to draft like the genius I was made out to be on the big screen. I know what I’m doing and it’ll all work out exactly as planned by the time we get to San Jose.
I’ll freely admit to being a recovering unapologetic Beane apologist in the wake of the success the club had with the Big Three, Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada. I rode out the last rebuild but it failed and now Beane is doing the same thing all over again.
My gut feeling is any other GM would have been fired for tearing apart a team that just went to the ALCS only to emerge years later as one of the worst teams in baseball. But Beane has the luxury of being a part owner working under a boss more interested in moving than winning. It’s hard to fail in a “unique”/warped small market environment where there are no expectations to win from ownership.
I still believe that Beane is one of the brighter GMs in baseball but he just doesn’t have many resources to work with. When you put the fate of the franchise in the hands of young players you can end up flirting with disaster if they don’t pan out.
Hopefully Beane strikes gold in his second consecutive rebuild because if he doesn’t you might as well start fitting Cisco Field (or whatever they’ll call a potential ballpark in San Jose) for an upper deck tarp right now.
• Lew Wolff: If my wildest dream comes true and I get to move the A’s to San Jose I’ll stop trashing the Coliseum, Oakland and the fans. I’ll open up my wallet and let Billy go wild in the draft and international market in the next few years so we can be in position to go for the throat and field a winner in the South Bay. I’ll spend big bucks on some free agents when we move and give fans a reason to get excited and believe in the A’s again.
Wolff has followed in the footsteps of one frustrating A’s ownership group by apparently doing everything he can to make it appear that Major League Baseball can’t thrive in Oakland. If MLB finally says the A’s can move then it’ll be time for Wolff to zip it and shell out what it takes to build a winner.
We’ll see how that pans out. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, I just don’t think he’s been a very good owner so far. He still has time to redeem himself.
• John Fisher: If MLB says we can spit in the Giants’ eye (while paying them millions for the privilege) and move to San Jose I will finally step out of the shadows and speak. I’ll make it clear that the past several years and the next 3 or 4 have been frustrating for everyone but ownership is committed to fielding a winner and being one of the premier franchises in the league now that we can bank on a new venue.
I assume that it’s Fisher, not Wolff, who is the real money behind the A’s. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to finally hear from the man. Everyone has a drive, a passion, right? Why own a professional sports team if you don’t care about winning and being the best?
If Mark Cuban owned the A’s he’d be shelling out millions left and right to field a winner ASAP. He might even be out on the field kicking dirt onto umpires over close calls in big games. I think Cuban is kind of nuts but it sure beats having a seemingly passionless ghost like Fisher signing checks from an ivory tower.
2011 opened with high hopes for the A’s making a playoff run but 2012 starts with the franchise at its lowest point in recent memory.
Will the A’s get a new ballpark? Will the latest youth movement work? Only time will tell how these issues will play out and the next 12 months should finally provide some long-awaited answers.
Happy new year and best of luck to everyone in 2012. Let’s cross our fingers that the Mayans were wrong about that whole 2012 apocalypse thing and we’ll be sitting here in a year fired up about a new ballpark being under construction and prospects like Michael Choice and several of the players recently acquired in trades delivering on the promise of a bright future for the A’s.