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Frank Thomas

His 0-for-the-ALCS perfectly undercores both how Valuable (with a capital V) he was to the Athletics and how one-dimensional an offense they had become.

A good pitching staff, to be sure, but an obstinate refusal to embrace speed on the basepaths (giddyup or GIDP) or ever manufacture runs when a cemented runner (or better-termed, stander) at first base awaited the homerun while cellphoning his agent about the expanding On-Base Percentage.

Oakland will have to improve the power in its lineup. With only three home playoff games to show for the First Place Finish, the extra postseason revenue might not cover a raise for Bradley and Thomas, let alone the stratosphere of arbitration awaiting middle-reliever Justin Duchscherer (a 2nd place, and undersung, team MVP to the Big Hurt).

Zito is gone, Harden is human, Haren is a great #2 (think Ervin Santana as a stoner with a sinker) and then things get iffy - Blanton would not make the Angels starting rotation if it were expanded to an eight-man front; Saarloos is about the same with fifty fewer pounds.

The loose cannon here is Esteban Loaiza. He has two more years at $7 million a season - a good rate for starting pitching these days and, let's all admit, he was more surprising in the 2nd half than any plot twist in the entire six-episode Star Wars saga. If he stays, Oakland has a decent starting pitcher, but my hunch is that Billy Beane trades him for well-scouted prospects and invests the saved dough into Frank thomas or ... (gulp) Barry Bonds.

No Angels fan can ignore the moves of a division rival - Seattle will be gunning and Texas without Showalter could harness a new vitality to be a threat. STAY TUNED!