Saturday, July 12, 2008

Squint a little if you're not an A's fan

Those of us who live in Beanetown have learned to calm down after the initial shock of the latest star being traded away. Yes, we scream and cry and curse our GM's name, but that tapers off after everyone starts to accept the fact that yes, he's really gone and no, he's never coming back.

It's not easy seeing star after star get shipped off when we least expect it (See: Hudson, Mulder, Swisher) -- and even when we're expecting it (See: Dan Haren), it's still a little heartbreaking. So we start looking for the upsides, or start painting silver linings on the downsides.

Harden's gone? "Well, good riddance. It hurt wincing before and after every pitch he threw."
Gaudin's gone, too? "Eh, he wasn't playing anyway."
We only got ... those guys? "I guess we underestimated Richie's trade value."

Outside of the A's fanbase and those who follow Billy's moves with a sick fascination, this move looks like a white flag. I'll be honest -- my first words upon learning about the trade were: "But I thought he wasn't going to throw in the towel if we were in contention? We're only 6 back in the division!" I'd thought he'd at least give it through the weekend and then make the moves if we we'd gotten swept by the Angels or dropped too many teams to the Mariners.

But sit back; think about it. Harden has had 12 consecutive starts. His last two have been on 4 days rest and have seen him with a drop in velocity (2mph) and fewer innings pitched. We wondered if he was hurt. He says he's fine (as I roll my eyes...) and the Cubs are going to a 6 starter rotation to make sure he gets 5 days rest. But is his health really that good? Maybe he's "fine" right now, but is the next injury right around the corner? My guess is yes. That's what makes the return from the Cubs make sense. The A's get a 22-year-old ML-ready starter in Gallagher (who looked pretty good tonight) and an upgrade on Emil Brown in Murton. Is Brown going to be paired with Patterson and spun off at the deadline? Maybe. It certainly seems possible. Emil's early gaudy RBI totals might be appealing to a team who needs a bat down the stretch, and the A's certainly don't need him with Murton patrolling left.

Beane said if the team was in contention he'd keep the team in contention -- but without sacrificing the future. He's not going to splash a trade out there that cripples the A's in 2009 or 2010 or 2011 or further down the line. His trades aren't going to look like the trades a team makes to "make a run for it." He's not going to land a CC Sabathia, or take a risk on a Rich Harden. He might, however, make a move for a crucial piece by trading guys he doesn't need anymore. As A's fans, we have to remember that things like this turn out for the best (Mulder) more often than turn out not so great (Hudson), and he isn't going to make a move that cripples the team in the long run.

Gallagher, Patterson, Donaldson, and Murton for Harden and Gaudin? Yeah, that looks lopsided on the surface, but this trade came from the same guy who gave us Haren, Barton, and Calero for Mulder, and that in turn gave us Gonzalez, Smith, Eveland, and three others for Haren and Robertson. Beane's got a good track record, and for fans it's important to keep that in mind. Have a little faith and give it a few weeks.

For the anti-Moneyballer and those who are just waiting for Billy to make a bad move? Try not to start making your victory speeches just yet. Also, it'd be AWESOME if y'all could start, I dunno, informing yourselves before going off on the trade. It makes you look like idiots when you say that Harden was the ace, and only GM dismantling the team would deal the ace.

Hi, miniscule 0.861 WHIP of Justin Duchscherer!
Helloooooo, 10 pick-offs of Greg Smith!


Duchscherer-OAK 1.78
Lee-CLE 2.43
Danks-CHW 2.52
Marcum-TOR 2.65
Hernandez-SEA 2.83
Halladay-TOR 2.88
Saunders-LAA 3.07
Floyd-CHW 3.22
Lester-BOS 3.38
Smith-OAK 3.43

Adjusted ERA+
Duchscherer-OAK 215
Lee-CLE 173
Danks-CHW 171
Marcum-TOR 154
Halladay-TOR 141
Hernandez-SEA 139
Saunders-LAA 134
Floyd-CHW 134
Lester-BOS 128
Greinke-KCR 123

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

You mean you want them to start wearing briefs again?

The LZR Racer Concept, from

"To design the ultimate suit offering a fabric with the lowest friction drag, constructed to compress the swimmer into the smoothest, streamlined shape and designed to ensure the full range of movement to win."

What a high-priced competition suit, from the Aquablade to the LZR, aims to do is reduce drag, squish your body into the smallest space possible, and give you that little mental edge when you compete.

If you don't do the work, you don't get the results. Wearing a Fastskin (or now, the LZR) is not going to give you your personal best time. Practicing twice a day every day for months will. The reason for wearing the LZR is to give you the edge to squeeze every last bit of result out of your training. What do the top swimmers say is the biggest help they get from the LZR? Mental edge. Just like shaving down is 1% physical and 99% mental, the LZR -- despite being partially engineered by NASA -- is more mental than physical when it comes to swimming.

The only people out there condemning the new technology that's being used to engineer these "space age" suits are those who follow swimming once every 4 years. I heard something about an "unfair advantage" and I laughed out loud. Speedo sent 2,500 LZR suits to Omaha be given out to swimmers at Trials. Even athletes sponsored by other companies, such as TYR and Nike, are choosing to wear the LZRs. Unfair advantage? Maybe if only the Speedo athletes could wear them, but that's not the case. Maybe if only the American athletes could wear them, but again, that's not the case.

As a swimmer, I'm familiar with the purposes of these fancy-pants competition suits. I understand the technology they use and most importantly I understand that no LZR is going to make a world record-breaker out of a guy (or girl) who doesn't put the hours in the pool chasing that black line every day.