Diving into the depths: Oakland Athletics

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Oakland Athletics
Rotation
1. Justin Duchscherer
2. Dallas Braden
3. Brett Anderson
4. Trevor Cahill
5. Gio Gonzalez
6. Dana Eveland
7. Vin Mazzaro
8. Clay Mortensen
9. Lenny DiNardo
10. James Simmons
Particularly since Duchscherer is such a question mark, the A’s could still really use another starter, preferably a durable one. Jarrod Washburn would make quite a bit of sense, considering that they’ve assembled an outstanding outfield defense.
The pickup of another starter would allow them to choose between Cahill and Gonzalez for one rotation spot. My preference would be to see Cahill get some Triple-A time. He’s still a fine bet for the long-term, but he has some things to work on. Also, Gonzalez has nothing left to prove in the minors. It’s time for him to sink or swim.
Bullpen
1. Andrew Bailey
2. Michael Wuertz
3. Brad Ziegler
4. Craig Breslow
5. Joey Devine
6. Jerry Blevins
7. Brad Kilby
8. John Meloan
9. Marcus McBeth
10. Henry Rodriguez
11. Sam Demel
12. Bobby Cassevah
The A’s expect Devine to be ready for the start of the season after Tommy John surgery last April. If that’s the case, he could overtake Ziegler for a setup role awfully quickly.
The big question here is whether the A’s will carry three left-handers. Breslow seems like a lock, and Blevins and Kilby are both deserving. I see this as a very strong top seven. However, if the A’s feel they need a long reliever, perhaps Eveland, then someone is going to get pushed back to Triple-A.


Catcher
1. Kurt Suzuki
2. Landon Powell
3. Josh Donaldson
First base
1. Daric Barton
2. Jake Fox
3. Eric Chavez
4. Chris Carter
5. Dallas McPherson
Second base
1. Mark Ellis
2. Aaron Miles
3. Eric Patterson
4. Gregorio Petit
Third base
1. Kevin Kouzmanoff
2. Eric Chavez
3. Jake Fox
4. Dallas McPherson
5. Aaron Miles
Shortstop
1. Cliff Pennington
2. Aaron Miles
3. Eric Chavez
4. Gregorio Petit
5. Corey Wimberly
The addition of Kouzmanoff settled Oakland’s lineup by sending Chavez to the bench and taking Hairston out of the outfield equation. I’m still not convinced it was the right direction for the team, but it cleared up some of the playing-time issues.
The A’s will have to figure out how to use Chavez and Fox now. Fox figures to play strictly against lefties if Chavez is healthy. He can get starts at first base over Barton and DH over Cust. Chavez apparently will be in the reserve mix at first base, shortstop and maybe in the outfield.
Left field
1. Rajai Davis
2. Jack Cust
3. Eric Patterson
4. Travis Buck
5. Matt Carson
Center field
1. Coco Crisp
2. Rajai Davis
3. Ryan Sweeney
4. Eric Patterson
5. Michael Taylor
Right field
1. Ryan Sweeney
2. Travis Buck
3. Jack Cust
4. Michael Taylor
5. Eric Patterson
Designated hitter
1. Jack Cust
2. Jake Fox
3. Eric Chavez
4. Landon Powell
5. Chris Carter
6. Dallas McPherson
I really didn’t think Davis would last as a regular over Hairston. Now he has a chance, though Patterson is another potentially superior option in left field. Also, Taylor could hit his way into the picture by June or July. He’ll probably play right field once he’s ready. If Sweeney is performing well enough to stay in the lineup, he can move to left.
Oakland’s bench is still up in the air. Powell is guaranteed a spot, and Fox should be. The Kouzmanoff addition would seem to suggest that McPherson won’t be a candidate for a job, even if Chavez starts off on the DL. It’s possible the A’s will just go ahead and release Miles, allowing them to keep both Chavez and Patterson. Chavez would serve as the backup shortstop and Patterson the backup second baseman in that scenario.

Joe Morgan is asking Hall of Fame voters to keep PED users out

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Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has never equivocated on his belief that users of performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Whenever he has been interviewed on the subject he has been steadfast in his stance that PED users are not worthy of induction.

This week he has taken a further step: he has sent a letter to all of the Hall of Fame voters, asking them to keep PED users out.

In his letter — the entirety of which you can read over at Joe Posnanski’s blog — Morgan says “if steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.” By “we,” he’s clearly referring to Hall of Fame members. While he does not name any player he would like to see voters keep out, he spends a lot of time talking about how PEDs are bad for baseball, PED users cheated the game and how he and many other Hall of Famers do not want to see them elected. He invokes “youngsters” and refers to the Hall of Fame as “special” and speaks to the “sanctity” of election. It’s the moral argument against PED use we’ve been hearing for a goof 15 years or so.

It’s also hopelessly naive and comes far too late in the game to be a useful plea.

As we’ve noted many, many times, there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamine users to be sure, but even if you want to give them a pass, there are steroid and/or HGH users too. In case you forgot about that, allow me to remind you about the time Hall of Fame voter Thomas Boswell appeared in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning” and explicitly said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer drink a PED-laden shake:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December, but he has never backed off the claim either.

Less reliable, but still never refuted, were the stories of Patty Blyleven, former wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who said that she knows of a Hall of Famer who took PEDs as well, and who continues to nonetheless publicly rail against PED use. There are likewise other Hall of Famers of whom baseball writers are strongly convinced — or know for a fact — took PEDs but about whom they’ve never reported because no one would go on the record about it or corroborate it in a way that satisfies prevailing journalistic standards. Go ask a BBWAA member about why it took Jeff Bagwell so long to get into the Hall of Fame. Or simply go back and read what they said about him a few years ago.

Going beyond those cases are the cases of a host of players — players who have been on the ballot for years —  about which we’ll never, ever know. Do we know for sure that any of the guys currently on the ballot who played before drug testing never took PEDs? Of course not. In light of that all Morgan can ask is for voters to keep players of an entire era out. Which is a completely unreasonable and unfair request.

In the absence of guidance from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, BBWAA voters were somewhat inconsistent with alleged PED users for a time, but they’re beginning to coalesce around a set of rough standards:

  • If you tested positive for PEDs or were disciplined for PEDs after the testing program was fully online like Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro did, you’re not getting in. Figure Alex Rodriguez will fall in this group one day too;
  • If you were strongly and convincingly associated with PEDs in the pre-testing era like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the road you have to go down is going to be pretty bumpy, but you may, possibly, get in one day if you were an overwhelmingly great player;
  • If you were seen as one-dimensional like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa and either admitted to PED use or were suspected of it, welp, sorry. We’ll leave why Sosa is suspected of it to another post.

All of this is will likely change slightly over time. Bonds and Clemens have recently gotten over the 50% voting threshold and could gain some steam with the voters. Alex Rodriguez was good enough and his post-career image rehabilitation has been such that he may get more support than most post-testing PED guys one day. Maybe McGwire and Sosa will get new looks down the road by some iteration of the Veteran’s Committee. After that, there aren’t a lot of guys who are seriously in the Hall of Fame discussion with credible PED claims against them.

Which is to say that history is sorting itself out, for better or for worse. Sorting itself out in a way that renders Morgan’s views on the matter — whether you consider them well-founded or otherwise — too little, too late and, given what we know and do not know about PED users, rather useless.