February 15 - Going For It
On Tuesday morning, I wearily stumbled into work and checked my
www.realityfanforum.com inbox. In it was a gift from a fellow Survivor
watcher and Oakland A’s fan. It read as follows:
What's that smell wafting in on the chilly Oakland wind? No, not the rotting
souls of city councilmen as they fluff their pillows, snuggle deep into the
covers and roll over to lovingly caress the depilated head of Al Davis before
turning out the light on the bedside table. No, my friend! That is the scent of
renewal. The distance between the end of the baseball season to the
beginning of spring training…..like toddlers under the age of 2, this can be
measured in weeks -- the better to give the faithful a more palatable
reconciliation of time. In fact, I vote to change the names of months. Instead of January, let it be “The
Month Before Pitchers And Catchers Report”. Instead of February, “The Month That Pitchers and
Catchers Report”. Instead of March, how about simply “Spring Training”?
And as A's fans we have much to look forward to. Zito stayed. “The Big Hurt” and “The Board Game”
arrived. Another starter was added to a staff already considered one of the best five in baseball.
Street, Swish, DJ, and Blanton should only get better in their second year. Why I haven’t felt this way
1989…….Bill King……..it would be unforgivable if I didn't close with a thought for the indefatigable
and legendary Bill King. He is gone but never forgotten. Listening to Bill talk about not only the A's
but also the great game of baseball was like always having your best friend with you -- for every
simple call, for every superlative moment. The Bill King Coliseum has a wonderful ring to it. That's
the way I will always think of any place the Green and Gold call home.
Ahhh, but it’s not just the writer of this e-mail, Ms. Jacob, who is fired up. We all are in Oakland. All
offseason long, we braced ourselves for Barry Zito to leave. We kept hearing whispers that the A’s
weren’t going to trade him….that this was the year Billy Beane had chosen to go all out for the World
Series. Yet the faithful hesitated, but now that pitchers and catchers are ready to report, Oakland fans
are grinning and announcing in their best Double Down Trent voice, “It’s so on.”
For years, Oakland has been the team that lost players yet still managed to win 90 games. However
this offseason was different. The A’s went out and added Esteban Loiaza, Milton Bradley, and Frank
Thomas. At the same time, they watched Anaheim lose Jarrod Washburn, Paul Byrd, Bengie Molina
(this one was completely shocking to me), and Steve Finley. Then they saw their competition across
the country either tread water or not significantly improve. Boston added Coco Crisp, Josh Beckett,
and Mike Lowell but lost Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Edgar Renteria, and Bill Mueller. New York
added Johnny Damon and Kyle Farnsworth but lost Tom Gordon and did nothing to address the
starting rotation. A’s fans were almost wondering if they had moved to Bizarro World.
The Oakland A’s have always had the pitching necessary to win a
championship. This year is no exception. Zito, Harden, Haren, Blanton and
Loaiza comprise a deep staff that can give both a fireball and crafty look. Not
only do the A’s have these five starters, but a sixth named Kirk Saarloos looms
in the bullpen. The 26 year old with his 10-9 record and 4.17 ERA last season
would start for twenty other Major League teams.
The bullpen looks more than solid with the “next great closer” waiting in the
ninth. Huston Street. Son of legendary Texas Longhorn QB James Street. The
22 year old that skipped the minor leagues and was dominating major
leaguers the moment he arrived. The bridge is 2004 All-Star Justin
Duchscherer and his 2.21 ERA. The other guys are Kiko Calero, Jay Witasick and another former
starter in Joe Kennedy. While these three will never be called spectacular, they are all solid.
What really has Oakland fans carefully moving towards the edge of their seats is the upgrade in the
lineup. While “The Big Hurt” and “The Board Game” are both gambles (for differing reasons), if only
one of them has a good year the A’s offense moves from okay to solid and if both play well………the
A's will win 100 games. Had nobody been added, the lineup would have picked up a bounce as it
was. Last year, injuries limited 2003 Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby to 100 games. Plus Dan
Johnson and his patient bat were not called up until midway through the season. “Moneyball” star
Nick Swisher is expected to be more of a threat in his second campaign. Jason Kendall finding the
bat he left in Pittsburgh looms as a major X-factor as well. All in all, Eric Chavez should be happy as
for the first time in years, he has lineup protection.
With all the pieces in place, one knows that this is the year Billy Beane is going for it. While the fans
of the Oakland A’s know his genius, Beane needs this World Series to vindicate it. You can see how
Beane has pointed the Oakland ship towards this season. Keeping Zito. Taking the necessary
gambles in order to put you over the top. Holding back a proven, young starter in Kirk Saarloos just in
case you need something at the deadline.
The road begins against a team the A’s will probably have to climb over in October. April 3rd. The
same night that March Madness concludes………somebody might as well tell my boss there is no
chance of me being at work on April 4th. Beer. More Beer. Chicken Wings. Nachos. More Beer.
7:05 Pacific Coast Time. The New York Yankees and their 26 World Titles come to Oaktown. The A’s
and their 9 World Titles have not had a better chance than this in years to join the elite group of one
with double digit World Series Victories.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at trevor.freeman@realityfanforum.