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We could be wrong, of course. It could be 2011 that can't come too soon. With the A's, there's no telling anymore.
Of course, this isn't about Vin Mazzaro, who has been owning the Pacific Coast League for two months and is the fourth wheel of a day-care-center rotation that includes Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Josh Outman. Mazzaro is the latest addition to a group that the A's desperately hope will be the Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and TBA of the future.
That's the key term here: the future. The decomposition from the end of 2006 continues unabated, the future seems too far away, and the present is being undercut by a overwhelming sense of ... well, nothing.
They'll outgrow this phase at some point, because whether the team is owned by John (Baby Gap) Fisher and Lew Wolff or someone else, it will stop being cost-effective for them to sit back and cash revenue-sharing checks.
They'll finally find the right combination of prospects and the manager to guide them. They'll commit financial resources and marketing energy commensurate with a desire to stay in one place and be proud of it. They'll stop squeezing quarters into three dimes and a nickel and calling it a good day's work.
The A's are (or were) trying to win this season. They entered 2009 -- the year, not the season -- with three outstanding relievers, in Brad Ziegler, Joey Devine, and Santiago Casilla. They entered 2009 with two starters, Justin Duchscherer and Dana Eveland, who gave the club solid innings last season, plus a whole platoon of highly regarded young pitchers with solid credentials. And to complement what looked like a pretty good pitching staff, the A's acquired Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, and Matt Holliday ... all of whom figured as improvements over their predecessors.
Squeezing quarters into dimes? Perhaps. But a good day's work, none the less.
Granted, the results add up to an epic failure. Giambi and Cabrera have been awful, as have Eveland and Casilla. Duchscherer hasn't pitched at all. And the platoon of young pitchers upon whom this franchise's future so obviously depends?
Mazzaro's debut line looks pretty good ... as long you ignore the fact that he walked four White Sox and struck out just one. Meanwhile, Antonio Bastardo debuted in the other league with one walk and five strikeouts. Why can't the A's get some numbers like that from their young pitchers?
Dallas Braden's been pretty good, but 1) he's not all that young, and 2) he's now got roughly a season's worth of innings in the majors. Meanwhile,
• 21-year-old Trevor Cahill's walked almost as many as he's struck out;
• 21-year-old Brett Anderson's striking out five per nine innings;
• 23-year-old Sean Gallagher has a 6.34 ERA since joining the A's last summer;
• 23-year-old Gio Gonzalez, once considered a jewel, can't break into a shaky rotation.
Aside from Braden, the only bright spot has been 24-year-old Josh Outman, who doesn't look like a future star but hasn't raised any red flags yet, either.
Throw in Mazzaro and Eveland (who's actually a bit younger than Braden), and the A's actually have seven starting pitchers who are 25 or younger and have been, in the recent past, regarded as fine (or better) prospects. At the moment, none of them are pitching nearly as well as Rick Porcello or Yovani Gallardo.
If the A's are going to win -- not this year, but in 2010 and beyond -- they're going to need at least two of those guys to become stars. Two out of seven might not seem like a lot. Right now, though? It sure does. And right now it also seems like the A's should trade Holliday. For a bat or two, though. No more young pitchers. Please.