-- Mike S., Pleasanton, Calif.
There's no doubt that having a healthy Duchscherer would give the A's one of the more promising rotations in the American League, but his health -- both physical and mental -- is a huge question.
Duchscherer, as we all know, is dealing with clinical depression, and that's not something that goes away with a surgery or the ingestion of some magical pill. It takes a lot of time and therapy, and though he recently told me he's doing better, he's not kidding himself into thinking this will be a quick fix.
Clinical depression affects different people in different ways, and learning to deal with its symptoms isn't even close to half the battle. Getting to the root of the depression and learning to deal with that is what makes it such a monster to overcome.
As a free agent with a young son to support, Duke certainly has a career to consider -- at some point. For now, however, his focus is where it should and needs to be, and I think the A's, and any of the many teams that could benefit from his services, respect that.
Is it out of the question that Duchscherer will be back in Oakland next season? I don't think so. He won't break the bank, and his presence would help in a variety of ways. It's just difficult to put any sort of odds on it happening under the circumstances.
You mentioned in your Inbox last week that you were a little surprised at how many writers have said that they would give Andrew Bailey their support for Rookie of the Year in 2009. Why? Huston Street won the ROY in 2005, and Bailey's numbers this year were better than Street's in 2005. Also, is it just me, or have you also noticed that it seems like most players who leave or get traded from the A's often end up playing better and put up better numbers at their next club(s)? Carlos Gonzalez, Street, Matt Holliday, Marco Scutaro, Mark Kotsay ... just to name a few. Of course, there are some who play worse at their next club, like Barry Zito, but these examples seem to be in the minority. What are your thoughts?
-- Anthony O., Alameda, Calif.
Nice work sneaking in two questions, and I'll answer them both, because I won't spend much time on the first. I'm surprised at how much support Bailey has gotten because the A's were a bad team that played on the West Coast, so they got little to zero national attention, and position players typically get more love than pitchers when it comes to ROY and MVP voting. That's as simply as I can put it.
As for players performing better after leaving the A's, I see your point, but I think you could find plenty of examples on the Zito side of the fence. Start with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Billy Koch. Terrence Long. Even Miguel Tejada, with the exception of 2004.
Did the A's make a mistake with Gonzalez? Absolutely. In my opinion, the Holliday trade was a bad one. But the Dan Haren trade, in my opinion, was a very good one. So I guess my point is that baseball is nothing if not an inexact science -- even to the best baseball scientists around, and general manager Billy Beane's an awfully good one.
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Some players leave teams and play better. Other players leave and play worse. Some trades work out. Some don't. I don't think there's much of a pattern to any of it, and remember: Oakland is not a good place to put up big numbers at the plate, so it shouldn't shock anyone to see offensive players put up better numbers elsewhere -- especially when they go to somewhere like Colorado or Boston or New York, all of which have far more favorable hitting conditions.
My question is about offseason baseball and A's prospects. The future of the A's depends largely on the development of young prospects, and an important part of that development can be playing in Fall and Winter leagues. However, I have found it difficult to find information on where many of our prospects have ended up or how they're doing. Chris Carter, as it turns out, is playing in the Mexican League, and his stats are viewable through MLB.com. Grant Desme and Jemile Weeks are both with the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League, and they are relatively easy to keep track of via MLB.com, too. But it's been much more difficult to find any information on Brett Wallace, or how Michael Ynoa is doing in the instructional league, or information on many other prominent A's prospects. Is there a good resource for this, or if not, could you help fill me in on Wallace, Ynoa and Fautino De Los Santos in particular?
-- Rory L., Palo Alto, Calif.
You're right, Rory. Prospects are a big part of what the A's do, particularly right now, and I'd be failing at my job if I didn't do my best to get you as much information as possible on the kids who represent the future of the franchise.
It takes some digging on the Web to find some of the information for which you're looking, believe me. I've tried and failed in several cases. Thus I've decided to start a weekly feature for which I'll have regular chats with Keith Lieppman, Oakland's longtime director of player development, and Billy Owens, the director of player personnel.
It'll start next Wednesday, and it'll include updates on as many top prospects as possible. Want to name the weekly feature? Drop me a line. The winner will get some sort of fabulous prize, to be determined later.
In the meantime, I should probably tell Keith and Billy that I've volunteered their services. They're great guys, though, so I have no doubt they'll be on board. Thanks for the idea.
Last offseason, Beane basically stated that we were in serious rebuilding mode with the exodus of players in trades. I had just accepted the idea that 2009 would be difficult but held the greater hope of the long-term building of the club. Then Beane seemingly went back on his plan and got the rent-a-player type he's been so fond of the past few years in Holliday, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra. This short-term help was contrary to the long-term building he announced. Should we expect that kind of waffling on strategy this year again?
-- Eli R., Richmond, Calif.
Should you expect it? No. Beane, to me, seems more committed to the youth movement than ever, and I'm sure the backfiring of last winter's veteran acquisitions have something to do with it.
But should you be surprised if Beane goes out and adds a veteran here and there? Nope. He's a tinkerer and very competitive by nature, and if he sees someone that he can add on the cheap and thinks can help right now, he'll pull the trigger in a heartbeat.
Might Rich Harden return to the A's in 2010?
-- Joshua O., Puerto Rico
Sure. And I might lose 60 pounds and win a gold medal in Super G at the next Winter Olympics. In other words, don't hold your breath.
Harden is a free agent, but he's out of Oakland's price range, and I'm pretty sure he's not interested in a return. He was pretty happy to get out of town, if you ask me. There were lots of issues with the medical staff, on both sides of the fence, and I'll leave it at that.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.