OAKLAND -- The A's strategy, as Wednesday's trade deadline looms, should be a simple three-step process:
1. Go find a rock.
2. Write the word "pat" on the rock.
3. Stand on it.
In other words, do no harm -- by doing no deals.
If you were general manager Billy Beane, why would you want to mess up a good thing? After a 9-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night, the A's stand as masters of their domain. In their division, they hold a six-game lead over the Texas Rangers. And the A's are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League's best record.
Yes, two months still remain in the season. A lot could happen. But the A's are making so much happen by their own initiative -- while the Rangers go in reverse -- that it is incomprehensible to believe Beane's ship will sink.
Last weekend's impressive series victory over the Angels, who were supposed to be an A.L. West challenger because of their All-Star lineup, was the perfect example. After losing the first game Thursday night and raising the doubt window a bit, the A's blew through the next three games in a stunning way, with three comeback victories while scoring 19 total runs. And offense is supposed to be the A's weak point.
After one game in the home locker room, catcher Derek Norris was not shy about expressing his wishes that the current Athletics combination is darned near a perfect one.
"It's not something we have control over," Norris said. "But I'll take this team the way it is right now versus anybody."
So what if Beane and his front office types decide to bring in some new faces for the playoff push and likely postseason?
"If they decide to make moves, that's 100 percent up to them," Norris said. "I'm sure it'll be for the betterment of the team. But I'll take us as we are right now against any other team out there."
The A's do not have the perfect roster. But they are the perfect example of how a roster filled with committed role players with different assets can be greater than the sum of its parts.
For this, you can credit manager Bob Melvin, who before any given game works with his staff to insert the proper pieces in the proper lineup slots. These decisions depend on the opposing pitcher, the ballpark, injuries, the weather, ozone levels and possibly the box office receipts for "The Wolverine." Earlier this season, Melvin apparently had a contingency lineup in place for any home date during which the clubhouse flooded with sewage -- because the A's won that day, too.
It helps to have the best team pitching stats in the league. But with no .300 hitters in uniform, it's uncanny how many A's players come up with a timely hit or spectacular fielding play just when needed. The weakest infield link is supposedly second baseman Eric Sogard. But against the Angels last weekend, Sogard was practically the second coming of Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. Sogard, the nerdy-looking No. 9 hitter in the Oakland order, went 3 for 4 and sparked a comeback from a 5-0 deficit.
Clearly, the A's team chemistry at this point is (to use a technical baseball term) awesome. They are good on details and play baseball properly. (For reference point on playing baseball improperly and ignoring details, please visit AT&T Park.)
When machinery is operating so smoothly, it would seem risky to mess with the formula. Melvin is riding the expected diplomatic fine line over any possible moves. The other day, he endorsed the current team makeup and is not in a mode to proclaim, "This is what we need."
"Having said that, you know Billy's looking," Melvin said. "And if he feels there is an area we can shore up, even just incrementally. . . . That's what Billy's done the last couple of years. It's not a centerpiece guy. It's been incremental value, it's a matchup guy that makes us incrementally better. And I know we're looking at a number of things."
The hottest potential-deal murmur is that the A's are among the finalists for veteran pitcher Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox. That sounds odd, given Oakland's existing pitching talent. Beane usually knows what he's doing, though. And adding a starter is probably the least risky move to make in terms of altering team mojo -- because he's on the field just once every five days. Peavy is also supposed to be a good clubhouse guy.
Still, if the A's are thinking of Peavy in terms of being an October asset, his record doesn't support it. He has just two postseason starts, both with San Diego, and he lost both while compiling a 12.10 earned-run average. Peavy might not hurt the A's. But it is difficult to believe he can help Beane and his employees perform significantly better than they're already functioning. Where's that rock?