SFWH Season Preview: Oakland Athletics

By Rich Funk

In what will probably turn into a yearly tradition around here, Steve Finley Was Here will be running previews of every West Coast baseball team, providing hard-hitting analysis with quirky jokes and probably an 80's pop culture reference or two. First up is the team that will play in the first game of the year (unless their opponents boycott the game for not having enough warm towels in their hotel rooms): The Oakland Athletics. E-Claire, our resident A's fanatic, supplied this preview.

2007: 76-86 (3rd)

SO LONG: C Jeremy Brown, OF Jeff DaVanon, P Dan Haren OF Shannon Stewart, OF Nick Swisher, OF Mark Kotsay, INF Marco Scutaro, DH Mike Piazza

WELCOME: OF Emil Brown, P Dana Eveland, P Keith Foulke, C Matt LeCroy, DH Mike Sweeney, OF Carlos Gonzalez

1. Mark Ellis 2B
2. Travis Buck RF
3. Daric Barton 1B
4. Jack Cust DH
5. Eric Chavez 3B
6. Emil Brown LF
7. Bobby Crosby SS
8. Chris Denorfia CF
9. Kurt Suzuki C

Starting Rotation - Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin, Justin Duchscherer, Lenny DiNardo, Dallas Braden, Dana Eveland
Setup - Kiko Calero, Keith Foulke, Alan Embree
Closer - Huston Street

2007 was an injury-riddled year for the A's (They used the DL over 20 times), and things were looking iffy for 2008 - 3/5 of the projected starting rotation (Harden, Duke, and Gaudin) were coming back from injuries/surgeries, Chavez had 3 offseason surgeries, and Bobby Crosby is...well...Bobby Crosby. So Billy Beane decided to pull the trigger and "rebuild," trading Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay, and Marco Scutaro for a grip of young prospects. And to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if more trades were made before the deadline (Blanton and Street could go, along with Ellis, and Chavez if he gets healthy). The majority of opinions seem to say that with all the prospects the A's acquired (Carloz and Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, etc), it'll probably be a year or two before they start to get good. But if the A's keep their current roster, they could have a decent 2008. Harden is lights out when he's healthy (granted, that's not very often, but whatever. We'll go with it), and Blanton is solid. If Duke makes a good transition to the starting rotation, and Gaudin pitches like he did during the first half of last year, I'd say the A's have a pretty good starting rotation. And if Chavez has a good year, Barton lives up to the hype, Buck can go 10 minutes without spraining something, and Jack Cust proves last year wasn't just a fluke, you've got some pretty decent bats in the lineup. So I wouldn't completely count the A's out this year. On the other hand, everyone could get injured again, the rotation could suck, and Beane could trade all the prospects away for Single A players so he can rebuild the rebuilding project. We'll see what happens.

Mr. Sexy Time: Stomper Ele Phant - There have been a lot of players to come and go through the Athletics organization over the past decade or so, but you can always count on the familiar face of Stomper. According to his homepage, Stomper enjoys vacationing at the All-Star game, likes peanuts, and he can beat box. I bet the damn Rally Monkey can't beat box...

The "If You Don't Stay Healthy I'll Beat Your Ass" Award
: SS Bobby Crosby - Seriously. Stop. Getting. Hurt.

The "If You Don't Stay Healthy I'll Beat Your Ass" Award, Part 2
: SP Rich Harden - (see above)

The "Most Entertaining Quote of the Offseason" Award:
Billy Beane - During the Winter Meetings, a rumor spread about the A's, the Twins, and the Mets being involved in a 3-way trade that would send Jose Reyes (and some other prospect) to the A's. It wasn't true, and Beane responded to the rumor by saying "There's a better chance of me breeding unicorns than there is of that deal happening." I dunno Billy, if the A's have a crappy first half and you need a way to keep the fans coming to games, unicorn breeding might be something you'd want to consider. Especially if the unicorns can play defense and have a good OBP.

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