Back in May, I took a look at this team, and for one moment, throwing statistics to the side, I thought I'd pull a reverse Moneyball and "go with my gut", telling you who were my top ten favorite A's players on the roster, at that point in time. As I wrote then, "While as A's fans, we remain loyal to our team, our loyalty to individuals can sometimes be as fleeting as a single at-bat or one relief appearance... And before anybody asks, yes, it is okay to include players on the DL or in the minors, if you must. But if they are traded, or waived, they cannot be listed."
Since May, much has changed. We've seen players go (Bradley, Melhuse, Kennedy, Kielty, Kendall...), and we've seen players get put on the ice shelf for safe keeping (Harden, Duchscherer, Loaiza, Snelling...). Meanwhile, the A's have won some great games, and lost more than I care to recall. So, it's time to roll out my Top Ten Current Favorite A's Players for August, and poll you for just how you're feeling. And before you ask, there are no wrong answers. If you want to vote for Crosby, go ahead. Just be prepared to defend your vote.
My Top 10 Favorite Current A's Players (August '07)
1. Travis Buck
Reasons: Despite Buck's being a rookie, he's become one of the most reliable offensive hitters, is always a threat to knock out a double or triple, and makes incredible catches in the field through Byrnes-like energy, but controlled. While Buck loses style points for his reduced hair content, he makes those points back for a clutch AN day 4 RBI.
2. Jack Cust
Reasons: While he's not the "home run every other at bat" type of threat we had naively hoped, Cust simply refuses to go quietly. In those at-bats where he's not striking out, Cust is willing to take a walk, lace a base hit up the middle, or bang a double off the wall. He's come from nowhere to be a strong middle of the order player in an A's offense largely devoid of scary hitters. (See also: Sports Illustrated: The Legend of Jack Cust)
3. Dan Haren
Reasons: A legitimate Cy Young candidate, Haren can match pitch for pitch with opposing team's aces, and give the A's an incredible chance of winning each time he takes the mound. Haren is also very quiet off the mound, not complaining about run support when that's an issue, or becoming a target for the tabloids.
4. Joe Blanton
Reasons: I have a soft spot for Kentucky Joe. On alternating starts, he looks like the second coming of Cy Young, only to follow with him being the second coming of Lenny DiNardo. Blanton, despite being all business on the mound, always seems unsatisfied with himself, and holds his expectations to a higher standard. Also, his manhandling of Ichiro and subsequent Blanton vs. World near-brawl showed incredible fire.
5. Mark Ellis
Reasons: Mark didn't even make my top ten last time, as I've grown so accustomed to his day in and day out stellar defense, but hadn't seen anything remarkable at the plate. That's changed. Mark is a serious #5 hole threat and is one back of the all-time Athletics franchise record for home runs by a second baseman. There's no question that by the end of the season, he'll own it.
6. Nick Swisher
Reasons: Nick always has something to say, and looks like the guy who would constantly be fun to be around. He also happens to be a great hitter, and can play multiple positions well when needed, and has added solid flexibility to Geren's day to day lineup. His power shortage and struggles at the plate of late have him down "this low".
7. Chad Gaudin
Reasons: I give Nico way too much credit here. The 2006 Gaudin was a guy who came out of the pen and walked too many people, with the occasional good outing. The 2007 Gaudin has surprised everyone with many a strong start, and helping to anchor the pitching staff, at least from the #1 to #3 position, when injuries have made others, like Loaiza and Harden a big fat question mark. That Nico called for him to be a starter early on was a gem.
8. Kurt Suzuki
Reasons: Kurt should be crowned for doing well enough in Sacramento to finally get the black hole of offense (See: Kendall, Jason) out of our lineup, alone. But despite his occasional struggles with the bat, we are charmed by his boyish appearance, the puka shells, and his promise to be a catcher of the future. Rather than watch one career in decline, we are part of his rise to glory.
9. Mike Piazza
Reasons: Anybody who hits home runs against the Angels with regularity joins this list. While we haven't had the full services of Piazza for long, it's clear that he makes the team's lineup better with him in it than when he's on the bench. Just the idea of a Swisher/Cust/Piazza back to back to back in the order makes me giddy. That he missed time with injury also can't be attributed to his carelessness or weakness, but instead, he was felled in the line of duty.
10. Donnie Murphy
Reasons: He's not Bobby Crosby for #1. As with Suzuki, the story of a rookie who gets called up to the bigs before they were expected is exciting, even as we know they don't usually start off hitting .300 with power. In his short time with the Club, we've seen the occasional timely hit, and haven't seen anything cringe-worthy in the field, which despite Crosby's tenure, was always an adventure, especially in the first half of the year.
That's where I stand today, and I'm sure you disagree. Tell me who I forgot, and who you openly root for. There's no call to be as talky as me, but have fun with it. On an off-day what would you rather be doing... work?