On Wednesday afternoon in the sixth inning, Daric Barton cracked a home run to deep right center field off MLB strikeout-leader Yu Darvish. The two-run shot delivered a pair of vital insurance runs ,as the Oakland Athletics poured it on en route to an 11-4 beatdown of the AL West rival Texas Rangers.
The drive also helped the Athletics grab a share of first-place in the West, and for Barton, it was his first long ball at the O.co Coliseum since July 10, 2010. For a bit of context, Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland has connected on five home runs at the O.co in 2013, which ties the record by an opposing batter.
Barton is now hitting .320 (8-for-25) since returning from the minors to replace the DL’ed Josh Reddick. That’s a supremely small sample size, but even since he’s been back, Barton has done nothing but impress with his glove and with his new approach at the plate.
It’s tempting to ask, has the player who GM Billy Beane acquired for Mark Mulder way back in 2004 finally arrived?
Starter Dan Haren and reliever Kiko Calero were also part of the swap, but the young first baseman was undoubtedly the centerpiece of the less than popular deal. At the time of the trade, which came on the heels of the Tim Hudson deal, popular outfielder Eric Byrnes commented to ESPN: “What, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
It was a lot of pressure to put on the then 18 year old, who now, oddly enough, is the longest serving member of the organization. Catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was recently reacquired, is the second longest tenured player (interrupted, of course), as he was drafted by the team back in June of 2004.
In between his stints with the big club, however, Barton has spent extensive time playing for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats; so much time, that he’s become the all-time leader in games played for Oakland’s top affiliate.
Rhere was perhaps only one person whose confidence Barton still retained upon entering the 2013 season. Fortunately for him, that person happened to be Beane. Before arriving for his most recent stint on Aug. 26, the first baseman had already been with the team for an eight game stretch in May, and had been designated for assignment twice since the end of spring training.
Barton went unclaimed on both occasions, which meant that none of the other 29 MLB teams thought the defensive standout was worth a spot on the active roster. Beane was happy to stash his failed prospect in Sacramento, much to the dismay of the team’s fan base. Just before his promotion, a top talent evaluator labeled him the “best player” on the Sacramento squad.
Barton repaid the countless opportunities by hitting .297 with 29 doubles, seven home runs and, unsurprisingly, a Pacific Coast League leading 87 walks. He even slid over to third base when he lost his spot at first to the newly promoted Anthony Aliotti.
Shortly after arriving back in Oakland, Barton told broadcaster Ray Fosse that he has one simple goal each time he steps to the plate: to hit the ball hard. That’s all he worries about. It’s a simple, yet brilliant approach for the first baseman, who was drafted 28th overall back in the 2003 draft, and who has never been able to live up to the enormous hype.
In 2013, however, his new approach is serving him quite well. It seems as though Beane just might have been right about Barton all along.