Charitably describing the AL West leading A’s as “offensively challenged”, the Contra Costa Times’ Rick Hurd drops the name of Zippy Chippy (above) in his dissection of Oakland’s current lineup.

To this point, Billy Beane essentially has hitched his team’s present and future on one stable named Chavez, Crosby, Swisher and Johnson and on another stable named Harden, Haren, Blanton and Street.

So what does the Daily Racing Form say?

Well, it tells us that despite being lavished with a six-year, $66 million contract extension, Eric Chavez has yet to emerge as The Man, at least not in the way that Miguel Tejada or Jason Giambi once did. As for this season, it’s clear injuries to a hamstring tendon and forearms have rendered him not The Man he used to be.

It tells us that Bobby Crosby, for all the MVP prognostications, remains far too vulnerable to the breaking pitch, much too eager to swing at out-of-the-strike-zone fastballs, far too prone to strikeouts and far too much like BART when it comes to power outages.

It tells us that Nick Swisher may be a star someday, but that said day is not here yet. It tells us Dan Johnson may be fortunate to be a .250, 20-homer, 75-RBI guy, much less the .275-30-100 masher the A’s thought they had.

It tells us that Dan Haren is a nice two in a 1-2 pitching punch that starts with the soon-to-be-departed Barry Zito, and that Huston Street, like Swisher, is a star-(perhaps)-in-the-making. But it also states that Rich Harden may never be the 30-start, 20-win stud who can replace Zito, and that Joe Blanton’s hard-to-match second half in 2005 may have been, in fact, just that.

In other words, that’s a disclaimer of six you’d like to have answered before the next post time. And as for the still unfinished race, the handicaps for those named Jason Kendall (after 11/2 seasons, what you see is what you get), Mark Kotsay (bad back + 31 years old + a .243 average = ???), Mark Ellis (is he a .300 hitter or a .220 hitter?), and Frank Thomas (a .164 hitter when he’s not hitting home runs) don’t scream “problem solved,” do they?

Nor does the eventual return to action of Milton Bradley, who history has taught us will be just as likely to break down again as he is to provide some help.

What had previously been a war of words between Frank Thomas and the White Sox now seems headed for litigation. Thomas is claiming Chicago team physicians misdiagnosed a fractured left foot as a bruise last season, leading the Big Hurt to hurt said foot, big-time.