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Down The Line

September 17, 2006|Tim Brown

Three Days in ...


That the A's lead the Angels somewhat comfortably in the American League West has become a curiosity, as they wouldn't appear to have enough offense to support even their pitching staff, which has proved capable even without starter Rich Harden and, at times, closer Huston Street.

Such talk amuses Billy Beane, who puts the manager in general manager.

"They've been saying that for eight years," he said wryly. "I guess it's all just serendipity."

For all their second-half charges in recent seasons, however, September hasn't really been their month. The A's are 40-46 after August over the previous three seasons, and started this September 6-6.

October, of course, has been even worse. The organization has failed to win a postseason series since 1990, most recently losing in five-game division series to the Red Sox (2003), Twins (2002) and Yankees (2000 and 2001).

Frank Thomas has been an incredible pickup; he has 37 homers, 102 RBIs and 74 walks in 124 games, all at a salary (including incentives and bonuses) of about $3 million.

The probables: Friday -- Jered Weaver vs. Joe Blanton. Saturday -- John Lackey vs. Kirk Saarloos. Sunday -- Ervin Santana vs. Dan Haren.

A Whole New Ara

The Angels will target third baseman Aramis Ramirez on the free-agent market this winter. Now all they need is for him to become a free agent.

Ramirez, 28, has the option to void the remaining two years and $22.5 million on his contract with the Cubs. He's angling for an extension with the Cubs, along with reassurance from GM Jim Hendry that the pitching staff will be rebuilt quickly, starting with a big free agent who would join Carlos Zambrano at the top of the rotation.

It would seem a longshot, however, that any of the high-end free agents -- Mike Mussina, Jason Schmidt, Barry Zito -- would seriously consider pitching at Wrigley Field, and for a team that hardly ever wins other than when the Dodgers are in town.

Beyond Ramirez, the third base options in free agency are thin. Pedro Feliz is probably the next-best option, and he doesn't have enough stick to protect Vladimir Guerrero.

The Angels are somewhat cooler on Alfonso Soriano, whom they don't believe can play center field or third base, and they feel they can't afford to take another defensive step backward, not after this season. Considering Soriano's power bat and foot speed, they should reconsider that assessment.

Though Ramirez started slowly (April: .197, four homers, 10 RBIs) and has a reputation for giving less than full effort, he has 33 homers and 102 RBIs, plateaus that have become routine for him.

Bats and Pieces

Jeff Weaver has a 5.95 earned-run average, his record is 6-14 and left-handers are hitting .350 against him, but the former Dodger and Angel has had his moments lately for the Cardinals. His ERA in his last six starts is 4.54, which doesn't look like much, but it's progress. According to sources close to Weaver, who pitches today against the Giants, he was diagnosed this summer with attention deficit disorder and put on medication that enhances his concentration.... It's a funny thing, this George Mitchell investigation. Not only are the teams, through the commissioner's office, paying for the inquiry, but they're also paying for lawyers to represent team employees being questioned. One American League executive put his attorney fees at more than $250,000, and counting.... On a Cy Young for Brad Penny: No one has ever won the award with an ERA of 4.00 or higher.

One More Thing From ... Kenny Williams

The White Sox GM, on insinuations that Ryan Howard is stoking his swing with more than cheesesteaks, milkshakes and a friendly ballpark: "That's not an HGH body."



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