Chavvy Savvy 

Bring on the AL West

4/5-4/11

Years from now, Athletics fans will sit on the balcony of their Lake Merritt condos and tell the grandkids about Eric Chavez, aka the A that didn't get away. After losing nearly every free agent ever to play in Oaktown -- Rollie Fingers, Campy Campaneris, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, etc. -- Oakland managed to open its seemingly hermetically sealed vaults and inked its dashing young third baseman to a long-term pact. In what had to be a relief to fans, management, and those Coliseum concessionaires who are still trying to unload excess Giambi muscle tees, the A's start 2004 without an impending free-agent drama. But while they don't have to worry about Chavez leaving, the A's should be very concerned about the free agents signed by their Southland rivals, the Anaheim Angels (visiting Oakland April 23-25) -- including ex-Athletic Jose Guillen, blue-chip pitcher Bartolo Colon, and the great outfielder and slugger Vlad Guerrero. But even with the fortified Angels in their division the A's still have the best starting rotation in the game with Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder, and if Tejada's shortstop replacement, Bobby Crosby, can field his position and hit decently, the A's are still among the best in the American League. Oakland kicks off the season with three games (April 5-7) vs. Texas followed by three games (April 9-11) vs. Seattle. Opening night is Monday, with a special starting time of 7:30 p.m. "Rally Towels" will be given out to the first 40,000 fans. -- A.J. Hayes

WED 3/31

Rivers Wild

The North Country Beckons

Just saying the names of these two rivers is fun: Tatshenshini-Alsek, Noatak. But visiting them takes some planning. The Tatshenshini-Alsek river system, protected by the British Columbia park of the same name, is a region in the northwestern-most flap of that Canadian province, loaded with glaciers, snowy mountains, many wild rivers, grizzly bears, and some of the damnedest mosquitoes you've ever seen. The Noatak River flows from the Arctic Circle in Alaska's far north through a rugged array of mountains, tundra, and animal life. Photographer and guide Jimmy Katz has traveled both areas for 25 years, and he has stories to tell and slides to show, tonight (Wednesday, 7 p.m.) at Marmot Mountain Works, 3049 Adeline Ave., Berkeley. Info: 510-849-0735. -- Kelly Vance

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