Bring on the Tampa Bay Rays!
The Oakland Athletics have been razing Arizona since Exhibition season began early this month. Time to throw down the gauntlet and do battle with the leaders of the Grapefruit League, Tampa Bay's no longer Devilish Rays. Let's meet somewhere in between, like Kansas, and make one of those kooky civic bets that get people strangely angry, we'll wager a case of Cactus Cooler. Recognizing that March contests are more Meatballs ("it just doesn't matter") than hardball, still we're briefly on top.
The A's have been picked anywhere from last in their division to last in the league. But a combination of pitching, indifference, hitting and ennui have vaulted us to the peak of the practice season. Most of our Sweeney's are hitting, a number of Gonzalez's have contributed, our minor leaguers seem better than their minor leaguers, and our number five starters have been five times better than any San Francisco Giant hurler. (We just discovered Zito's spring ERA - 14.92)
Can the winter rush provide any teachable moments to the ball club when the standings start counting for reals? You bet. Some early lessons
* Quantity sometimes beat quality. The A's seem to have 25 guys who are about as good as one another, so why get all uptight about starters and such? Let's use lots of guys, both on offense and defense. Let's use a bunch of starting pitchers, limit Harden to pitching once a week, so that he can last until say, June, and what the hell, keep the competition going until summer as well. We have a perpetual political campaign; it gave us a number of decent candidates this time around, let's see how it works in baseball.
* The Giants know least. Talent evaluation on the West Bay is as bad as always. Feel free to use the San Francisco team as a reverse barometer; whoever they want probably stinks, whoever they cast off is probably good (Exhibit A-Todd Linden .583 hitter)
* Don't get stuck with a philosophy. Some days we win a slugfest, other days we win a pitcher's duel. We win by scoring lots of runs early, or by putting up big numbers late. Leave it to the media to find an angle. Just win, baby.
* Don't copy stuff from the Raiders, sorry.
* Stay under the radar. Nobody much has paid attention to the A's March through the Cactus League, it couldn't hurt to maintain the low profile during the time that the Athletics are just taking off "Hello, My Name is .." name tags in the locker room.
* Lastly, break out the Champale! It never hurts to celebrate success, and last time the A's were scheduled to play in Japan we couldn't go because George W. Bush wanted to launch a war. If we go this year, won't that mean the war can end?— Kibby Kleiman