In at least one respect, this is a good time to be a Giants fan. Rarely do they get to look across the Bay at their American League counterparts and snicker, but they have every right to do just that right now.
When the A’s signed Esteban Loaiza to a three-year, $21 million deal over the winter, it was hailed in the Bay Area as an obvious sign that the new ownership group was going to do business much differently than the penny-pinching previous regime.
Ditto the trade for Milton Bradley and the risk-reward signing of Frank Thomas. The new A’s, we were told,are in it to win it. Moneyball was out. Spending money was in.
In retrospect, maybe the old way was better. Let us count the ways:
Loaiza, Oakland’s first big-name free-agent signee of the Billy Beane era, is the leading candidate — by a mile — to win the Bust of the Year award. A week after returning from a five-week stint on the disabled list, he got himself into mind-blowing trouble with the law, and his 2-4 record and 6.94 ERA doesn’t include the ugly numbers — six walks and five runs allowed, just three outs recorded — that were washed from the ledger when one of the games he started was called off on account of rain in the bottom of the third.
A match made in heaven this has not been for the A’s, who do wonderful things in the community and have a history of class and cohesion in the clubhouse. It started early with Loaiza, too. He missed a pre-workout team meeting on the very first day of spring training and told manager Ken Macha that he’d gotten stuck in traffic. The meeting, it should be noted, was scheduled for 7:45 a.m. — on a Sunday!
He got through the rest of camp without incident, save ruffling a few feathers with some misplaced machismo, but in April he went
0-3 with an 8.35 ERA in four starts. All along he insisted he was healthy, but after seeing his 81 mph fastballs — 81! — banged around by the Kansas City Royals — the Royals! — on April 29 in a game that would have sent his ERA over 10 had the rains not saved him, he was placed on the DL with a strained trapezius muscle and he missed all of May.
Loaiza made a triumphant return to the rotation two weeks ago today with a win in Cleveland, but the glorious glow was gone in a hurry. The following Monday night, after being pulled over for gunning his Ferrari at 120 mph, he flunked a roadside sobriety test and spent the next several hours in jail.
Never mind the DUI charge for a moment; innocent until proven guilty, due process and all that. The 120 thing, though, isn’t up for debate. That’s just plain dumb.
Bradley, meanwhile, is now on the DL for the second time this year. He’s missed 44 of Oakland’s 72 games, and he’s still looking for his first double the season. On the bright side, he hasn’t bitten anyone’s head off, and that was a legitimate fear when the A’s picked him up. His teammates seem to genuinely like him, too.
Then again, if you can’t make nice with everyone while batting .213 and spending more time in the trainers’ room than on the field, you really ARE crazy.
Bradley, by the way, was acquired — along with infielder Antonio Perez — in a trade that sent Oakland’s top prospect, outfielder Andre Ethier, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Perez is hitting .050 (2-for-40) for the A’s. Ethier, promoted from
Triple-A about six weeks ago, is hovering around .300 and has scouts gushing about his power potential.
And then there’s Thomas, whose injury history has turned his nickname, “Big Hurt,” into a punch line. He looked like an absolute steal when he went on a recent tear that pushed his home run total to 16, but the joyride ended last week when the A’s had to put him on the DL, too.
His foot and ankle have been MacGyvered back together so often that they cause him to run with all the grace of a three-legged cow, and the result is a series of quadriceps injuries that likely will plague him — if the foot doesn’t conk out first — for the rest of his career.
All this said, you have to believe that Beane will find a way to redeem himself before the trading deadline and re-claim his “genius” label with a move that propels the A’s into October.
For now, however, Giants fans must really be getting a kick out of seeing him wear the dunce cap for once.</p>Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com.