Coco Crisp

Could such a punchless A’s team win the AL West?


If the A’s bring in Chone Figgins to replace Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base, they’d enter the season with a lineup that looks something like this:

3B Chone Figgins
RF David DeJesus
1B Daric Barton
LF Josh Willingham
DH Hideki Matsui
C Kurt Suzuki
2B Mark Ellis
CF Coco Crisp
SS Cliff Pennington

My 2011 projections call for that group of nine to hit 102 homers. Here’s the breakdown:

Figgins – 2
DeJesus – 11
Barton – 14
Willingham – 19
Matsui – 17
Suzuki – 13
Ellis – 9
Crisp – 10
Pennington – 7

Of course, the 2010 A’s hit just 109 homers. Kouzmanoff, who would presumably be shipped off in a Figgins trade, was the team leader with 16, followed by the also departed Jack Cust and Suzuki with 13 apiece.

The A’s were one of three teams last season to have no one hit 20 homers, the others being the last-place Mariners and Royals.

In the last 20 years, only one team has reached the postseason without having a 20-homer guy: the 2005 Padres pulled off the feat, claiming the NL West with an 82-80 record before getting swept by the Cardinals in the NLDS.

Since then, one team has reached the postseason while hitting fewer than 135 homers: the 2007 Angels. Here’s a list of the postseason teams with the fewest homers from the last five years:

2006 Twins – 143 HR
2007 Angels – 123 HR
2008 Dodgers – 137 HR
2009 Dodgers – 145 HR
2010 Braves – 139 HR

And for what it’s worth, those five teams went 2-5 in the postseason, with both Dodgers teams winning one series and then getting eliminated in the NLCS.

So recent history certainly hasn’t been kind to teams that can’t knock the ball out of the park about once per game. Odds are that someone on the A’s will get to 20 homers this year — Willingham should if he stays healthy enough to reach 500 at-bats — but the pitching is going to have to be excellent if the club is going to overtake the Rangers.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.