What better way to storm back onto the blog after a few months rest than by coming back on and directly refuting the guy who has been keeping the hot seat hot in my absence? (Thanks for keeping the blog a-rockin’, Jez. You are, and shall continue to be, the man.)
Yes, today Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s did what few saw coming and traded favorite son, Moneyball 1st round draft pick, and sometime switch-hitting slugger, Nick Swisher, to the Chi-Town Chaussettes Blanches for a handful of solid prospects.
The collective wisdom on this from A’s fans is "booo."
I say otherwise. I think this is a great move, and here’s why.
Frankly, Nick Swisher is ass. Sorry, I know he’s a homegrown talent, and I know he’s a former Vancouver Canadian, and I know he’s a bubbly dude with a great personality who lights up a clubhouse and treats the fans with respect, and I know he’s been a great return on a first round draft pick…
But he’s also a tubby dude who doesn’t hit nearly as hard and long as he should, labours around the outfield, is more suited for the first base spot that’s usually reserved for harder hitters than he, and is prone to long bouts of slumpishness.
Young? Check. Cheap? Check. Better than Eric Chavez? Well, duh.
But still ass.
If we go by batting average (and yes, I know how flawed a stat BA can be), Nick Swisher hasn’t hit above .269 over a full season since his High-A minor league days - and most of those seasons have been far below that level. Yes, he hits home runs, but last year he hit quite a few less (22) than the season before (35), and experienced some horrible dead spots where the only thing he could hit without striking out three times was a nightclub.
In short, he’s a younger Gary Matthews Jr - overrated, full of holes, and despite much promise, unlikely to deliver on anything close to a grand scale.
So look at it this way - Swisher *might* have a breakout season in 2008 and smack 45 home runs, and if he does, both myself and Beane are fools. But he also might hit *less* dingers than he did in 2007, or, just as bad, the same number. And then he won’t be ‘a kid with great promise who might hit 45′, he’ll be ‘a kid who’ll hit 20 homers a season for you and not be too terrible in the outfield’.
Swisher’s value is, right now, as high as it’s likely to be, in my opinion. I might be wrong, but I think it’s more likely that I’m right. So by selling him now, before he has a chance to hit .220 next season, the A’s made sure to get the utmost return on their Moneyball investment.
Look at it this way; clearly, the A’s aren’t looking to compete in year 2008. But with what they’ve got back, they’re a shot at not only competing in 2009, but also the three seasons following - right through the time when their new stadium will be built.
Now, I’m not going to say that Beane’s odd desire to keep Eric Chavez as he nosedives, season after season, is clever. Nor will I say that I understand why Mark Kotsay hasn’t been traded to the Yankees for a rosin bag, a salted pretzel and a 2-for-1 dry cleaning coupon. But if you understand and adhere to the theory that you sell high (think Mulder, Hudson, and Swisher), buy low (think 39 prospects acquired in the last two weeks), then you’ll see not only what Beane is up to right now, but why he HASN’T sold off Kotsay and Chavez - yet.
Trust me - if Chavez starts the season in good form, he’ll be gone by the end of the first month. And if Kotsay just manages to avoid needing more back surgery - ditto.
It’s going to be a bad time to be an Oakland A’s fan, but if you’re a fan of the system, and of the future, this is going to be an interesting ballclub to be watching up close.
(NOTE: To those who have emailed and called over the past few weeks/months, sorry about being out of reach. I’ve been selling my business and dealing with the imminent birth of kid #2, and making a concerted effort to just leave baseball alone until things get interesting again. That time is here.)