Frantz: Beane ball hard to take in these days

Don’t feel bad, Nick Swisher and Dan Haren, because you’re not the only ones. In fact, I’ll see if I can get you the numbers of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi. In a few years, you guys are gonna have one helluva reunion party.

Should be fun, swapping stories of what it felt like to come up as a young star in Oakland, right up to the time when your earning potential skyrocketed and your services were no longer necessary in the A’s organization.

You know what would be a blast? After the last bottle of Dom is dry, you guys could all dish on the conversation in Billy Beane’s office when he told you he was trading you, or that he wasn’t going to offer you the long-term, high-dollar contract you were looking for, and that you were free to sign with somebody else.

“Did he hug you after? Me too!”

“Did he tell you this was the hardest decision he ever had to make in his career? That freakin’ liar! He told me the same thing!”

“Oh, and then he handed me one of my rookie cards, and he was like, ‘No matter what uniform you end up in, this is how I”ll always remember you.’ And then he wiped his cheek like there was a tear there! But it was bone dry!”

“Are you serious?!? What’d you do?”

“I gave him a tissue and told him it was okay, because he was getting some great young talent for me, and the future of the franchise was secure.”

“Bwahahahahahaha!”

Beane is probably not laughing, however. After all, there’s nothing funny about being one of the best general managers in baseball and never having the financial autonomy to put together the world championship team that you know you could build. Year after year of stocking the farm system with quality prospects, watching them grow into stars on the major-league level, and then having to kiss them goodbye as they enter their primes. Scraping together enough money each year to sign the aging free agent to stabilize a lineup of youthful promise, sometimes hitting the jackpot (Frank Thomas) and sometimes swinging and missing (Mike Piazza). It would be enough to crush anyone’s sense of humor. But that’s baseball in Oakland.

Five playoff appearances in seven years is a tremendous accomplishment for anybody, and it’s especially significant when it’s done under the circumstances the A’s GM faces each year. But without cashing in at least one of those prizes, it’s harder and harder to accept yet another roster purge. Watching a legitimate Cy Young candidate such as Haren pack for Arizona had to be agonizing for Oakland fans, many of whom were still stinging from the deals that cost them Hudson and Mulder. It seems like eons ago that the Big Three (including Zito) were the envy of every team in baseball. The A’s rotation was supposed to dominate the division, and the American League, for a decade to come. But then the money ran out. As it always does.

The emergence of Rich Harden, and then Haren, eased the pain for a while, but injuries plagued Harden, and now Haren isgone, too.

As if that weren’t enough, now Oakland die-hards have to watch the club’s best hitter and their favorite player as he heads to Chicago. As a part of a strong White Sox lineup, Swisher will have a great chance of returning to the postseason and playing meaningful baseball for the next couple of years. A’s fans, meanwhile, will have a great chance of watching nine new minor-leaguers working their way up into the big leagues over the next two or three seasons, where they’ll eventually raise the hopes of the faithful and take them to the precipice of glory once again.

Until they’re invited into Billy Beane’s office, of course, to discuss the future security of the franchise.

Hope they don’t forget the tissues.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@examiner.com.

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