Billy Beane Plans No Radical Changes for Slumping Athletics
After the Reds completed a three-game sweep in Oakland on Wednesday, dropping the A's a season-worst six games under .500, general manager Billy Beane said he does not hold the manager responsible for the club's failures.
"I think under difficult circumstances he's done a good job," Beane told FanHouse. "Having the youngest team with the lowest payroll in the league is a difficult challenge for any manager, and given the amount of injuries that makes it that much more difficult. I think you have to be realistic with what you are given to start and ultimately what you have to work with, and quite frankly, he hasn't had a whole lot to work with."
The A's are headed toward their fourth consecutive losing season, all under Geren's watch, after eight consecutive winning seasons. As Beane pointed out, the A's have had injury problems every year. This year they've used the DL 15 times, lifting the total to 79 since 2007. They've had at least seven players on the DL every day since April 21. They've had at least three on the DL every day Geren has been manager.
"I'm more disappointed that we've had to battle through these injuries," Beane said. "We've never really gotten a chance to see what the guys we started out with could do over the course of a season. It's been an uphill battle just trying to field a team."
Ironically, one of the players who has been healthy from his first day in an A's uniform has been Ben Sheets. That's one of the reasons that Beane said he's inclined to hang on to Sheets, rather than trade him.
"He's been a great influence, a great competitor," Beane said. "It's been good for some of the young guys to see how he goes about his business. I think he's done what we want him to do, which is anchor a spot in the rotation and give us some innings. With the injuries in our starting rotation, we're lucky to have him. ... Those things are valuable, whether you are in June or September, regardless of where you are in the standings."
Sheets is 2-7 with a 4.95 ERA. Since May 8, after Sheets reportedly learned that he had been tipping his pitches, he's 4-5 with a 3.79 ERA. He's pitched at least six innings in all nine starts over that span.
If the A's aren't going to trade Sheets -- and don't take that to bank, because a lot can change in six weeks -- they don't have too much else to offer on the trade market. Coco Crisp, who just came off his second trip to the DL, is a possibility. Michael Wuertz has had an awful season, but he's got a good track record and, if he can get on a roll, might be attractive to a team needing bullpen help.
Beane said the A's also aren't interested in being "buyers" to salvage this season.
"I don't think we're interested in any short-term fix that will impede the development of the club overall the next couple years," he said. "We are not necessarily in the buying mode, nor are we in the selling mode because we have such a young team."
The A's were in first place when June began, but they have lost 16 of 22 games so far this month, including 10 of the past 12. They have not won a series this month.
The A's have gotten to this point -- the nadir of their season, to be sure -- because an offense that looked to be challenged from the start hasn't been able to overcome injuries to the pitching staff.
"We're not a dynamic offensive club, so any leak in the pitching chain has an impact," Beane said.
Justin Duchscherer, who the A's actually had hoped would finally be healthy, pitched in just five games before having season-ending hip surgery.
Brett Anderson has been on the disabled list twice, and the current best-case scenario is that he will be back around the All-Star break.
The bullpen, which was the best in the league last year, has not been nearly as good. Joey Devine, expected to come back from Tommy John surgery, hasn't come back at all. Wuertz, one of the best setup men in the league last year, has a 7.11 ERA.
And this was the staff that was supposed to support a team that relies on guys like Ryan Sweeney, Kurt Suzuki and Kevin Kouzmanoff in the heart of its order. They're all quality major leaguers, but not middle-of-the-order hitters on a good team.
The A's 3-6 hitters have a combined OPS of .701, which is second-worst in the American League. (Not surprisingly, the only team worse, Seattle, is the only team below the A's in the AL West standings.) The 21 homers the A's have gotten out of those spots are the fewest in the league.
"We are getting some hits, but the Achilles' heel, even coming in for us, was the lack of power and slugging," Beane said. "In this league it's very difficult to compete day in and day out when you don't hit more homers. That's not something we were unaware of, but there's not a whole lot we can do about it."
Chris Carter, the A's top power-hitting prospect, has 15 homers at Triple-A Sacramento, but he's also hitting .238 and he's struck out 82 times in 260 at-bats.
"He's doing some good things down there, but he still needs some time," Beane said.