Monday, March 24, 2008


It's staying light longer, the Leafs are all-but-eliminated ... that can mean only one thing: We'll soon see the first halter dress of the season! OK, two things: It's time for baseball, the timeless game that involves committing to a team for six months after reading all winter about why they won't win jack squat. Here's a "starting nine" for the Oakland Athletics.

  1. Stuff White People Like #91 -- the A's philosophy: As white people get older, they will try to differentiate themselves from the unwashed masses who sit glued in front of the television every weekend watching sports every weekend by trying to cultivate a reputation as a sophisticated sports fan. This means buying the 605-page Baseball Prospectus 2008, bookmarking The Hardball Times and Football Outsiders and talking about how Moneyball has so much to teach everyone about how to a run an organization, not just a baseball team.

    Fortunately for white people, loving the A's philosophy does not mean actually having to cheer for the Oakland Athletics, much less find out who's left on the roster after ace right-hander Dan Haren and outfielder Nick Swisher were traded over the winter.
  2. Can't spell M*A*S*H without A-s: Injuries have kept shortstop Bobby Crosby from reaching 400 plate appearances in any of the past three years. Right-hander Rich Harden (he's Canadian!) has thrown 200 innings combined over the past three seasons, derailing what was supposed to be a great career. By BP 2008's count, the A's had 22 players on the disabled list last season -- almost an entire roster.
  3. That's Rich: Well, Harden has got through spring training unscathed, so knock on wood -- not too hard, Rich, you might tear something -- that maybe he'll stay healthy all the way through the seventh inning of his first start of the season on Wednesday vs. the Red Sox. Laugh, 'cause you can't cry.
  4. Crazy cross-referencing: For some reason, it's been hard to shake the nation that A's infielder Donnie Murphy is the mediocre reincarnation of Donnie Hill, an infielder who played for Oakland in the '80s. They're both 5-foot-10. Both are from California. Murphy hits righty but Hill was a switch-hitter, since coaches in his day hadn't been so big on making mediocre infielders learn to switch-hit. Murphy was born in 1983, the same year Donnie Hill made his major-league debut. Hmmm.
  5. He swings like a Deer: Designated hitter Jack Cust, a former Ottawa Lynx, strikes out at such a rate that he could take a run at Rob Deer's stat line in 1991 -- .175 batting average, 175 strikeouts, but with 25 homers. Cust either hits it out of the park, walks or goes down swinging.

    (Rob Deer's greatest moment? Sept. 17, 1991, when he struck out swinging four times against a closer filling in as a starter, Cleveland's Doug Jones, as the Tigers lost to the worst team in baseball and failed to pick up a game on the Jays. Poor Travis Fryman went 3-for-4 that night and didn't score a run.)
  6. It's often been said that what make Fenway and Wrigley so special is their promixity to Old Navy: The A's are planning to move to a ballpark village in Fremont, Calif., that would "surround a proposed new stadium with stores, entertainment attractions and more than 3,000 residential units." One team flack said the A's "aim to create the ambience of Boston's Fenway neighborhood or the area around Chicago's Wrigley Field." Sure.
  7. A's in philosophy: Oakland being in Japan to open the season vs. the Red Sox -- first pitch flies at 3:05 Pacific time tomorrow -- begged the question from one columnist, "If third baseman Eric Chávez is on the disabled list for a game that no one sees because it's being played at 3 a.m., does the disabled list exist?"

    That segues into covering off the A's hitting: There's not much there there. First baseman Daric Barton could end up being a more deserving rookie of the year than Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, who pretty much won the award last October.
  8. They can pitch: Harden, Joe Blanton, Chad Gaudin and lefty Lenny DiNardo are the makings of a decent rotation. The Swisher deal netted lefty Gio Gonzalez, who might be a little like the Jays' Gustavo Chacin, except, you know, good. The A's will be able to lock up reliever Huston Street after this season.
  9. Need-to-know: The A's have been through their boom-and-bust cycles before; it happened in Connie Mack's day, it happened in Charlie Finley's day and it happened with the Sandy Alderson-Tony La Russa teams. This season will be mostly a retooling for Oakland, but they'll have their shot in a four-team division by 2010.

That's all for now. Send your thoughts to

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