Oakland A's

Start of a New Dynasty in Oakland?

It wasn’t a long time ago that the Oakland Athletics had three young starting pitchers with little or no major league experience. They were predicted to be at or near the bottom of the American west division by “professional” baseball analysts. These three starters were relatively unknown to baseball fans but became known as the big three: Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. These three pitchers became the cornerstones of success in Oakland leading to four straight playoff appearances; their ages were 24, 22, and 22 respectively. Now the A’s have one of the big three remaining, Barry Zito and at 27 years old he’s the veteran of the staff. Right behind him is the young fire thrower who finished last year
8-2 with a 3.49 ERA and an impressive .229 opponents’ batting average. After that are three young promising prospects, 24-year-old lefty Dan Meyer, 23-year-old righty Danny Haren and 24-year-old righty Joe Blanton.

Meyer came to Oakland in a trade that sent fan favorite and staff leader Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves. He has relatively little major league experience but an impressive 2.71 ERA and favorable strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 352 minor league innings. He is another of the amazing pitching prospects coming out of the Atlanta Braves farm system.

Haren was acquired by Oakland from St. Louis from the more surprising trade that sent Mark Mulder to the Cardinals. Haren was impressive while pitching in the postseason for St. Louis posting a 2.14 ERA in five appearances.

Blanton is home grown talent, drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft. He put up good numbers in the minors posting a 23-18 record with 338 strikeouts and 68 walks in 365 innings.

On top of acquiring these two fabulous pitching prospects the A’s patched up their main weakness and a major reason they didn’t make the postseason last year, their bullpen. In the trades they also received quality relievers Juan Cruz and Kiki Calero.

Calero, 29, emerged as a dependable setup man (3-1, 2.78, two saves) who could get strikeouts when needed. Cruz, a 26-year-old was 6-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 50 relief appearances with Atlanta last year, allowing a .224 opponents batting average and striking out 70 batters in 72 innings.

These moves look like the A’s are giving up on the 2005 year, but GM Billy Beane is simply making the tough decisions that make being an A’s the hardest in the league. Beane understands that he has to make these moves to stay competitive with the current owners and financial situation. Although Beane knows the A’s lost two important players for the franchise he still think that they came out with some good players in return.

“I’d imagine there’s a lot of GMs out there who would love to have a Zito and a Harden at the front end of their rotation,” Beane says, “and I know there’s a lot of them who would like to have three young, quality kids behind them. Well, we have Zito and Harden. We have the three kids.

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