Thursday, March 26, 2009

Batter up: Oakland Athletics

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a team which you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things about each team. Any wagering or fantasy baseball advice is for recreational use only. At bat: The Oakland Athletics.
  1. The state of the franchise, in haiku: "All dressed up / no place to go / that is the Oakland Athletics."

    A's owner Lew Wolff has trashed the stadium in Oakland, but greater minds have noted there aren't many U.S. cities who are about to take on a Major League Baseball franchise. Their average attendance could drop below 20,000, which would get the franchise forcibly relocated if it was located in Canada.

    In other words, the A's are stuck. One modest bit of ass-talking: Repatriate them to Philadelphia, so the Jays can change divisions.
  2. The sight of Matt Holliday (pictured) in an A's uniform stirs up nostalgic feelings for the days when only a few statheads knew about park effects. Holliday is going from Colorado (great hitter's park) to Oakland (terrible hitter's park). He has a career OPS of .803 on the road, which is much better than the .747 the A's leftfielders put up in 2008, but that's not saying much.
  3. Oakland is projected to contend for the division title in the weak AL West, but there are a lot of ifs to contemplate, namely their starting pitching and whether they bounce-back from an abysmal 2008 hitting performance.
  4. You know the old joke: The A's have Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Nomar Garciaparra, giving them the makings of an all-star lineup. But what year?
  5. The A's have three future starting pitchers among the game's Top 25 prospects: Lefty Brett Anderson, righty Trevor Cahill and last but not least, the 17-year-old Dominican dandy, Michael Inoa, who was given a $4.25-million US signing bonus. Inoa might be the first player inducted into the Hall of Fame before he throws a major-league pitch, he's that good.
  6. The A's middle-infield combo, Mark Ellis and Orlando Cabrera, only played together for the first time on March 25. Third baseman Chavez has been hampered by injuries all through spring training, plus Giambi might have to play some first base in order to get SWOP (sligger without a position) Jack Cust into the lineup as the DH.
  7. Slap a sawbuck down on Giambi hitting more home runs than Holliday.

  8. The 2009 A's starting rotation has garden-variety written all over it, unless one believes Justin Duscherer is going to put up a 2.54 ERA (the same as AL leader Cliff Lee) again. Left-hander Dana Eveland is the only holdover who made more than 25 starts this season, and he's just serviceable starter.
  9. Sean Gallagher, the 23-year-old righty whom the A's got when they traded Rich Harden to the Cubs, is being played up as the breakout performer. He put up great minor-league numbers.
  10. Catcher Kurt Suzuki batted 588 times last season, way too much for a catcher who's as active as he behind the plate, but can actually contribute something offensively. Tony Peña, at around the same age, had a similar workload with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the mid-'80s, and look what happened:
    1983: 580 PA, 4.8 runs created/game
    1984: 592 PA, 5.0 RC/G
    1985: 587 PA, 3.1 RC/G
    Peña had a bounce-back season in 1986, but was never very productive as a hitter again (although he lasted until he was 40 because he handled pitchers so damn well).
  11. A's reliever Brad Ziegler has articulated why American ballplayers shun the World Baseball Classic. He was with Team USA for three weeks and pitched only 3 1/3 innings, not nearly enough work to get ready for the season. That's understandable; the American sportswriters being A-holes about the whole process is not.
  12. Co-closer Joey Devine's listed height and weight (6-foot-1, 225 lbs.) and the fact he started in the Atlanta Braves organization immediately brings to mind Kenny Powers from East Bound & Down, but it's a glib comparison.

    Devine had a 0.59 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 45 1/3 innings with the A's last season.

    Former closer Huston Street was flipped to Colorado in the Holliday trade. That might say something about Street's expendability.
  13. The A's ageless wonder is 40-year-old reliever Russ Springer. Jim Rice, who just got elected to the Hall of Fame on his 15th and final try, was was still playing when Springer signed his first pro contract.
  14. Stupid jokes suitable for the fishwrap, but not for this august forum: The A's have become a low-scoring team because GM Billy Beane, who's such a big soccer fan.

    Seriously, it's awesome to see Beane joining the movement of people who believe the two often diametrically-opposed summer games.
  15. Whenever you see Bobby Crosby's name, do you think of Sidney Crosby? One can only feel sorry for Americans who do not follow the NHL, since they don't get to experience this phenomenon.

    Crosby is now the A's fifth infielder after being bumped from shortstop.
  16. Not to make light of it, but Cust (.231/.375/.476, 33 homers last season) played in Ottawa in 2003-04, when the Lynx were at the beginning of their Long Goodbye. He's now with a major league franchise which would like to move but probably cannot. The bottom line is he's getting 500 at-bats.

    It's great to think like a ballplayer, sometimes.
  17. First baseman Daric Barton (.226/.327/.348 in 446 times at bat) was really, really bad last season. He'll probably put up better numbers this season -- in the Pacific Coast League.
  18. Frank Thomas' retirement raised barely a ripple. He is among a lot of still useful players who are out of work.
  19. Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins has a name made for a post-playing career in broadcasting. He should try to cash in on that some day, but not too soon.
  20. Along with wondering what Christ would have charged for bookshelves, our mind wonders if A's infielder Cliff Pennington (who's probably going to be a regular at various times this season) is any relation to the Cliff Pennington who played minor-league hockey in the 1960s. The other Pennington was on the last Kingston Frontenacs team to win a championship, so he would be about grandfather age.
  21. The A's no longer have a Canadian on their major-league roster with the Harden trade, but their director of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, was born in this country. He's a PhD from Berkeley, which eithers take away or adds to the humour of that Seinfeld when an out-of-work George musts he could do "something in sports ... you know, like the general manager of a baseball team."
  22. Centrefielder Ryan Sweeney is that ultimate look-the-part guy. He looks like a centrefielder and leadoff hitter. He's a bit of a seat-filler for the A's, but he's not going to end up collecting a Tony Award for Scarsdale Surprise.
  23. Christopher Carter is a name to keep on mental file. Carter, the other player in the Dan Haren deal (along with Brett Anderson and outfielder Aaron Cunningham) produced an Isolated Power figure of .310 in High Single-A ball last season. That's crazy, even for the high-scoring California League.

    (Isolated Power is slugging percentage minus batting average. Anything above .250 is pretty serious.)
  24. Finding out what Nomar Garciaparra has been up to is like trying to find the current whereabouts of Matchbox 20. He's on the A's now? Rob Thomas' band actually released an album in late 2007? Good for them.
  25. Admit it. If you were a Jays fan of a certain age, it hard to really hate those 1988-92 Oakland teams, as arrogant as they came off. They have such nice uniforms, and knowing it's jade-green doesn't make you less of a man.


Andrew Bucholtz said...

Frank Thomas will be missed. Still one of my favourite players. It was great of the A's to give him a chance a couple years ago after everyone else wrote him off.

Anonymous said...

When the oil boom continues, move 'em to Calgary, with:
Edmonton PCL AAA
Lethbridge Pioneer Rookie
Kelowna Northwest A

Have the grass roll out (like Phoenix) and hold the Stampede Rodeo in the park, Stamps welcome as well....