Beane behind the fireworks

Returned from an extended weekend vacation and come to find out the Oakland Athletics took a major step forward toward securing their place atop the American League hierarchy.

On many occasions before the July 31 trade deadline, blockbuster trades originate from teams looking for that franchise player who will create an upward shift. The Athletics were already there.

I figure Oakland general manager Billy Beane (and no, we’re not talking Moneyball’s Brad Pitt here) caught Major League Baseball off guard last Friday, July 4th when he acquired both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to bolster his starting pitching rotation. Now that trade produced real fireworks considering the Athletics had already established themselves as the favorite in the American League West Division.

Starting pitching is always at a premium, and all Beane had to do was surrender minor league prospects. A few prospects are legit, but Beane had to feel the odds were in his favor that they may or may not pan out. With Samardzija and Hammel, the Athletics have two established starters. I’ll bet the New York Yankees are wishing they pulled the trigger sooner after hearing the news this week their ace Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to elbow inflammation.

If Major League Baseball resorted to King of the Mountain – and the league will, when the World Series champs are crowned – I would feel fairly confident if I were an Oakland fan.

For now, the Baltimore Orioles have emerged as the frontrunner in the A.L. East with the Toronto Blue Jays floundering somewhat. That division is usually dominated by the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, and realistically none of those three could make the postseason.

That leaves the Detroit Tigers in the A.L. Central. They advance to the postseason by default unless someone like the Cleveland Indians or Kansas City Royals are capable of the Wow! factor and acquire a star player or two to bolster their batting lineup and/or pitching staff.

Prospects emerging as major league caliber and bursting on the scene right now is rare. A few names come to mind like Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig. Otherwise, organizations tend to nurture their prospects. So why not ship a a few to another ballclub when two established starters are staring you in the face.

Bravo for Beane. He wasn’t about to sit pat and let the status quo rule out.

Of course there is always the alternative and that’s not ruining what chemistry has already developed in the clubhouse. I look at the Pittsburgh Pirates. Granted, they lost the first three games of a four-game series this week at St. Louis. Yet, the players look at ease under Clint Hurdle’s regime.

Case in point: Earlier this week during an interview with the Pirates’ commentators, pitching coach Ray Searage was constantly bombarded by sunflower seeds from Pirate players creating levity in the dugout as he was trying to field questions. Searage took it all in stride.

Contact Kerry Patrick at kpatrick@newsandsentinel.com