Ratto: Taking A's temperature after two months

June 1, 2011, 5:23 pm
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OAKLAND -- It is June 1, the season is a third done (well, .345679012345679 over, if math be told), and we can make a clear and unambiguous statement about the Athletics.

They will go as far as Billy Beane will take them at the trade deadline.

And since for the As the trade deadline is too late, we can start anticipating some cross-armed toe-tapping as we wait for the As to repair themselves at the first pit stop.

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Oh, we all enjoyed the Bob Geren-Brian Fuentes psychological thriller for the comedy it provided, but the As will not be defined by that unless the As are a lot more trivial than we think they are.

In fact they are more of what we thought they were than when the season started -- a team loaded with starting pitchers, a bullpen that if healthy can stand with any of them (and since they arent ever healthy, we can give them the incomplete they deserve), without a lot of offense and a nerve-wracking defense.

The defense has been worse than we thought, the hitting has been nearly hopeless, and the starters have been exceptional. Indeed, any hopes and dreams they harbor now are based on the fact that neither Texas nor Los Angeles has made a move yet, either. They stand 2 game out of the division lead, 3 out of the wild card.

And nobody looks at this and sees a breakout coming. Of course, they could all be wrong about this, but that isnt the way to bet.

In fact, it looks far more likely that this season will be defined every bit as much by what Beane does to improve it at the same time that every other serious general manager is looking to improve his team, rather than by him being a seller surrounded by buyers.

In other words, unless the As decide to fall out of the race entirely in the next month, this will not be a Matt Holliday kind of year.

Beane has typically done his bargain hunting in the offseason, being bold when those around him are not. Its been a while since he had to throw elbows to clear himself some space below the rim, but if these are the As we will be presented with on June 15 (after all, the real trade deadline moves closer and closer to July 1 rather than July 31), he is going to have to make the kind of choice he usually asks another GMs to make, namely:

The morning, or the future.

Beane is not normally swayed by public sentiment. In fact, if you got him drunk enough, hed likely tell you he hates public sentiment because he knows lots more than the public does. Which ought to be the case, frankly -- either that, or we all have a piece of his salary and club share coming to us.

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But this was the team with expectations. This was the team that was going to Giant-size its way into the tournament. Pitching pitching pitching, and a burst of late-season moves to patch up those plumbing and wiring.

Well, were heading toward the patching part of the season, or at least the part where the phone calls start getting plentiful. And somewhere in the next 61 days, sooner rather than later, Beane will have to decide whether this team can be fortified to make a run, will have to wait yet another year, or be stripped for and sold for parts.

There wont be a press release on it. Itll be a mental calculation he shares with owner John Fisher, front man Lew Wolff, aide de camp David Forst and, maybe, Geren as well. And well know it based as much on what he doesnt do as much as what he does.

So while you think this is a managers disconnect story, it isnt, not really. This is about the moment Billy Beane either has his Eureka moment, in which he makes the deal that says he is going for the gold, or his Yreka moment, in which he does nothing at all and decides that 2012 is a more fortuitous time for a playoff run.

And thats if the Mayans dont kick everyone in the hinder first.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.