Poll

COMING SOON, another lineup featuring Bobby Crosby, another lonely stroll back to the dugout by Jack Cust and another tardy swing by Jason Giambi.

Playing now, Matt Holliday waging a daily battle to prop up his own morale, Nomar Garciaparra wondering why he signed up and Orlando Cabrera hoping he can get out.

And there's Mark Ellis, surviving purely on his own professionalism.

Three years after they won a playoff series for the first time since reaching the 1990 World Series, the A's have fallen into utter insignificance. Only Cleveland among AL teams has fewer wins. There is no name on Oakland's marquee, no juice in the manager's office, no joy on the field, no buzz in the community and, naturally, no rush to buy tickets.

General manager Billy Beane has assembled a roster composed mostly of youngsters delighted to be away from budget motels and veterans low on options, managed by a loyal friend no other GM would have promoted.

The result, as we enter Act II of the 2009 season, is a fan base becoming increasingly disgusted or apathetic and the near certainty of a third consecutive losing season.

How on earth did such an accomplished franchise, with such a celebrated architect, plummet to such pathetic depths?

Oh, many are the ways.

And nearly all of them lead back to our man Billy.

There is Beane's 2003 decision to let Miguel Tejada walk, while keeping Eric Chavez and signing Chavy to the largest contract in A's history. Billy bet on a player who, while promising, lacks the alpha male characteristics required to lead a contender.

There is the rationale behind that, which Beane explained by saying Chavy was younger than Miggy, that there was no heir apparent to Chavy at third base and, lastly, that Crosby was ready to replace Tejada at shortstop.

There is the most expensive free-agent purchase in team history, Esteban Loaiza, who signed for $21 million over three years and became The Pitcher Who Ate the Payroll.

There is the list of failed offensive phenoms, young players who tore up the minor leagues, who went nowhere or flamed out in the bigs.

Remember when Dan Johnson and Daric Barton represented an embarrassment of riches at first base? Will Travis Buck please stand up? Whatever happened to Omar Quintanilla, once conceivably the best pure hitter in the organization? Former first-rounders Richie Robnett and Danny Putnam, after years of going nowhere, were moved for pitching depth.

There is the list of phenoms dismissed by the organization, only to thrive elsewhere. Nelson Cruz, slugging in Texas, was dumped because the A's were obsessed with Keith Ginter. Carlos Pena found himself in Tampa Bay. Mark Teahen is solid in Kansas City. Andre Ethier, traded to the Dodgers to acquire Milton Bradley, would be the loudest bat in the Oakland lineup.

There is the psychological toll taken by a clubhouse knowing there is a revolving door through which young talent is acquired through trade, only be to be moved again for more young talent, which, too, shall be traded away.

There are other factors, but they are for another day.

And to think, the A's three years ago were a team to be reckoned with, featuring a nice blend of youth and experience, a balanced clubhouse and enough bats and arms to win 93 games.

The '09 A's are on pace to lose 92, with a fan base becoming increasingly apathetic or disgusted, managed by a loyal friend of the boss and, thus, still secure in his job.

As he should be. Bob Geren's competence is impossible to measure, given his roster. He's just happy to be a manager, even if it means accepting one of the lowest salaries in baseball to remain cordial during interviews.

The repair job, though, falls to Beane, because even in the presence of managing partner Lew Wolff and team president Mike Crowley, it is Billy's voice that commands the room.

It's up to him to see that the young pitchers develop, that prospects such as Chris Carter and Aaron Cunningham and Adrian Cardenas and Sean Doolittle and Jemile Weeks succeed — in Oakland — where their predecessors did not.

Meanwhile, there are 76 games to play. That's the bad news. The good news is you get to decide whether to show up and cover your eyes or simply stay away.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.