I wish the A’s could develop some hitters — for Oakland

And now, for your reading pleasure, the most depressing thing I’ve ever worked up for this blog …
The season keeps rolling along for the Oakland A’s and even though they’re actually playing some pretty respectable baseball the offense is simply atrocious most of the time. 
The fact that there are a decent number of former A’s raking for other teams definitely seems to have a lot of fans/columnists/bloggers taking dead aim at general manager Billy Beane for somehow missing the boat on the long list of ones that got away.
Here’s a quick look and an off-the-cuff take on some guys who are thriving outside the dingy confines of the Oakland Coliseum.  
The common thread running through this post is that I am thoroughly drunk on green and gold Kool-Aid after sizing up this whole mess.
Andre Ethier — Traded to Dodgers in 2005 for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez.  
The game plan at the time seemed to be to sell high on Ethier in an win-now move for the A’s since Travis Buck was also in the picture as an outfield prospect. 
In return the A’s got an established outfield bat (Bradley) and a young offense-first backup infielder (Perez).
Bradley hit .276/.370/.447 in 96 games with 14 homers and 52 RBI in 2006 and Ethier hit .308/.365/.477 in 126 games with 11 homers and 55 RBI that season. 
Perez isn’t really worth going into but if you have to know he hit a Keith Ginter-like .102/.185/.204 in 57 games with a whopping 1 homer and 8 RBI.
Did the win-now move work for Oakland? Sure, you can’t argue with the overall results at the time.  
The A’s won the AL West and made it out of the first round of the playoffs for the only time in the Beane era before losing to the Tigers in the ALCS where Bradley provided the only offense for the A’s (.500/.500/.944 with 2 homers and 5 RBI).
Of course, now they’re losing and Ethier has been a young, cheap offensive force for the Dodgers.
You would think that after all that the A’s would make more of an effort to groom Buck into a successful big leaguer just to prove that they weren’t total idiots but instead the organization has locked him in the dog house for the most part.
And when he has gotten a chance to play he’s either been injured or unproductive.
The Travis Buck Stockton Ports bobblehead on my bookshelf looks a little more worthless every day.
Final call: Time to take a big swig of green and gold Kool-Aid here …
The A’s made it to the ALCS which means the win-now move technically worked so I can painfully live with this trade as long as I ignore Dodgers box scores for the next few years.
Carlos Gonzalez — Traded to Oakland from Arizona in 2007 with Brett Anderson, Chris Carter, Aaron Cunningham, Greg Smith and Dana Eveland for Dan Haren and Connor Robertson.  Gonzalez was then was traded in 2008 to Colorado with Huston Street and Greg Smith for Matt Holliday who was eventually traded to the Cardinals for Brett Wallace, Shane Peterson and Clayton Mortenson. Brett Wallace was traded in 2009 to the Blue Jays for Michael Taylor who is now one of Oakland’s top prospects and best hopes for a middle-of-the-order power hitter (let’s ignore the fact that he’s had a mediocre season for Sacramento).
In my book the A’s rushed Gonzalez to the bigs and soured on him way too soon but it’s not like they’re the only organization that missed the boat on CarGo considering that the D’backs whiffed too.

Then again, it doesn’t say much when the only way to give the A’s a break on this deal is to use the D’backs’ enormous stupidity as a defense.

Shipping Gonzalez to the Rockies can’t be fully judged until we see how Taylor and the other prospects acquired for Holliday pan out. 
If Taylor can mature into a player similar to Jermaine Dye and Mortenson and/or Peterson contribute in any notable way to a playoff-caliber A’s team in the near future then the deal won’t look so bad.
Don’t get me wrong, the deal will still look bad … just not quite as horrible as it looks right now.
The only thing I can point to that could indicate that Gonzalez would never have become an offensive juggernaut in Oakland are his home/splits with the Rockies.  This season he has out-of-this-world numbers at home vs. pedestrian stats at sea level and last season he hit .305/.361/.582 at Coors vs. .263/.344/.467 away from Denver. 
Even with all that in mind the trade looks embarrassingly bad for Oakland as Gonzalez tears up the National League as a five-tool stud.
Final call: Can’t make one until we see how the prospects acquired for CarGo pan out but I have all the faith in the world that Taylor and Co. are gonna be great.  
Mmmmm, that Kool-Aid is so cool and refreshing!
Nelson Cruz — Traded to Oakland from the Mets in 2000 for Jorge Velandia. Traded to Milwaukee in 2004 with Justin Lehr for Keith Ginter.
Hard to believe a guy who is killing the ball for Texas was traded for lightweight middle infielders like Velandia and Ginter.
When I started drafting this post I didn’t have a problem with Cruz being traded because I assumed he struggled in Oakland’s minor league system but a quick look at the Baseball Cube (http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/C/nelson-cruz-1.shtml) shows he had a monster year before he was traded. 
Cruz hit 26 homers in 2005 with an OPS of .989, .919 and .824 at three minor league stops.
My guess is that Cruz’s 149 strikeouts against 51 walks in 2004 coming on the heels of a 116 strikeout/25 walk effort in 2003 had Oakland’s front office thinking that he had too many holes in his swing to cut it in the big leagues.
Combine that with the fact the Oakland was finally ready to make a strong run at the playoffs and they decided to cash in a minor league trade chip to add a backup player like Ginter who could conceivably contribute immediately to a contender.
Ginter was coming off a 19 home run season when he was traded to the A’s and at the time I thought that he looked like a nice addition to the bench.  Unfortunately he hit just .161 for Oakland in 2005 and ended up being a nice addition to the bench in Sacramento.
Once again the only way to cut Oakland a little slack in letting Cruz go on to hammer the ball for someone else is to say that the Mets and Brewers also screwed the pooch on this one.
It’s hard not to look at the numbers Cruz is putting up for the first-place Rangers and keep thinking, “Keith Ginter? Seriously, Keith F’ing Ginter?”
The more research I do for this blog the more my head hurts.
Final call: Keith. Ginter. Need I say more?
Carlos Pena — Traded to Tigers in 2002 with Franklyn German and Jeremy Bonderman for Ted Lilly, Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin.  Lilly was traded in 2003 to the Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty.  Griffin was traded to the Jays in 2003 for Jason Perry who was traded to the Tigers in 2007 for Jack Hanahan who was traded to the Mariners in 2009 for Justin Souza.
Whew, I need to catch my breath now.
Oakland got some good seasons out of Lilly while they were a contender and they got some useful at bats out of Kielty. 
The trade of Pena also yielded one warm body still toiling in the A’s minor league system (Souza).
Pena ended up drifting from the Tigers to the Yankees and Red Sox before finally finding a home in Tampa Bay where he’s been crushing the ball and striking out ever since.
Final call: Lilly and Kielty were valuable players on A’s playoff teams so I have no problem with Pena finding success elsewhere.
Bobby Crosby — Just kidding. 
He sucked in Oakland, he sucked in Pittsburgh and he recently got waived in Arizona.  
Just wanted to see if you’re still paying attention as I ramble along.
Marco Scutaro — Traded to the Blue Jays in 2007 for Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell (aka a pile of magic beans).  
And who the hell is Graham Freakin’ Godfrey?
Scutaro is a sentimental favorite but I can understand Beane trading him when he was up for arbitration in the 2007 offseason.  What use did a rebuilding/payroll slashing team like the A’s have for a relatively expensive 30-something backup infielder?
Scutaro ran with the starting shortstop job in Toronto last season, hitting .282/.379/.409 with 100 runs scored, 12 homers, 60 RBI and 14 steals.  
Beane tried to lure Super Marco back to Oakland with a pile of cash when he was a free agent in the offseason which seems to shout to the baseball world, “We screwed up, please forgive us and come back!”  
Scutaro wisely chose to sign with Red Sox for big money and a legit shot at a World Series ring.  
Anyone who followed the A’s while Scutaro was on the roster has to be happy for the man.  Take some time to watch “A Player to be Named Later” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0450366/) and you’ll realize that he’s more than earned a shot at the big time.
Final call: Super Marco wins, the A’s lose and I couldn’t be any happier for him.  Scutaro got the last laugh and the A’s didn’t even get an interesting prospect out of the deal.
Brett Wallace — His path to Oakland and on to Toronto is documented in the item on Carlos Gonzalez.  Wallace was shipped to the Astros recently for Anthony Gose.
Wallace is settling in as Houston’s first baseman and hasn’t done much at the plate so far. 
Even if the big lug puts up monster numbers for the Astros over the next several years it’ll be hard to totally rip Beane considering that the Cardinals and Blue Jays have also felt comfortable trading the kid after getting a chance to get a good look at him.
Final call: I’m OK with Oakland trading Wallace but this is the second trade in this post that hinges on what kind of player Michael Taylor becomes.  No pressure kid. 
Ryan Ludwick — Traded to the Rangers in 2002 with Jason Hart, Gerald Laird and Mario Ramos for Carlos Pena and Mike Venafro.
Isn’t it amusing how muddled and intertwined all these moves become?
Gonzalez, Wallace and Taylor are all tied together and now we get to the Ludwick/Pena connection.
Ludwick bounced from Texas to Cleveland to St. Louis before finally establishing himself as a big league slugger.
He put up some nice numbers for the Cardinals and now he’s helping the Padres make a run at the NL West title.
Final call: Another deal I’m OK with.  Ludwick is a late bloomer who wouldn’t have contributed to the A’s contending teams back when he was traded.  He helped the A’s acquire Pena which led to the acquisitions of Lilly and Kielty and some exciting playoff runs in Oakland.
One more quick item to note when it comes to young sluggers with an Oakland connection thriving elsewhere, power hitting youngster Mike Stanton in Florida (No. 76 overall selection in the 2007 draft)  was drafted after Oakland selected Grant Desme (No. 74 in 2007).  
Desme ditched baseball to become a priest leaving the A’s with nothing while Stanton stayed on the pro athlete career path and will be crushing balls for the Marlins for the next several years.
Just another one that got away.
Would an outfield of Ethier, Gonzalez and Cruz with Ludwick off the bench look good right around now? How about Pena instead of punchless Daric Barton at first base? Would Wallace look good as a dirt-cheap, potentially high-upside DH in the place of Jack “Called Strike Three Looking” Cust?  Would it be nice to have Stanton in the outfield picture?
Yes on all counts.
Cranking out something for this blog is usually fun but this was actually pretty depressing the further I got along.
I don’t think I’ll ever do another blog like this one again.  
It just hurts too damn much.
Where’s that damn pitcher of Kool-Aid when I need it?

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