Posted on March 13, 2011 at 1:57 PMTwo years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come. Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.
Filed Under: Oakland A's
| Playing Pepper
Oakland Athletics (81-81, 9 GB and second in the AL West)
When most people think of the A's, they probably think small market or Moneyball. Cardinal Nation has a little different view of the team in Oakland, since the Cardinals resurgence from the mid-90s hole they were in ties directly to the hiring of former Athletics such as Walt Jocketty, Tony La Russa and Mark McGwire. (Though we tend to try to block out that whole Mark Mulder situation.)
Last year, the A's surprised some people by finishing ahead of the heavily favored Angels, even if they did finish behind the equally surprising Rangers. Can they take the next step? Can they be this year's surprise team from the West?
For an organization that has the reputation for being cutting edge, there just aren't a lot of Oakland bloggers out there. Bee Hylinski writes for the blog Contract Year
and has done a number of things in her life, including being a mayor, the chairman of a non-profit organization, and a tax, estate planning and probate lawyer. She's also written a book with the same name as her blog that she hopes to get published soon.
For the longest time, Bee was the only Oakland member of the BBA. Late last year, though, Jason from Junk Ball
joined the ranks. Like the title suggests, you never know just what you are going to go. You can also find Jason over on the Twitter
Stick around and find out just what the green and gold have to look forward to in 2011.
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C70: What was your opinion of the Oakland offseason?
CY: The A's were the most active team in the AL West, maybe in the League. They added power potential with Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus and Josh Willingham. They also strengthened the pitching staff with the addition of Brandon McCarthy (possible 5th starter), Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, and Rich Harden (the last 3 probably going to an already-strong bullpen). They exercised the options of Mark Ellis and Coco Crisp, and let Eric Chavez, Jack Cust, Travis Buck, Gabe Gross, Justin Duchscherer, Brett Tomko, and Boof Bonser, to name a few. Most of those who were released were often injured or backup players at best.
JB: Overall I'd give general manager Billy Beane a "B" for his offseason moves. Landing third baseman Adrian Beltre, slugger Lance Berkman and Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma would have earned Beane an "A" but he managed to do an outstanding job upgrading the A's after being forced to resort to Plan B when his top free agent targets signed elsewhere. Oakland's front office managed to marginally improve the team's offense by adding David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham while bolstering the pitching staff with Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes. That may be just the right mix of run scoring and run prevention to improve on 2010's second-place finish in the AL West.
C70: What one player are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
CY: Hideki Matsui. I think he will ignite the team and because hitting is contagious, I am hopeful that he can lead the team to a much better offensive season in 2011.
JB: A healthy Brett Anderson. If the young southpaw can make make about 30 starts this season after being limited to just 19 appearances in 2010 Oakland could have a true ace to anchor a strong starting pitching staff.
C70: What's the strongest part of this team?
CY: The team's two strengths have always been pitching and defense, and that will not change this year. In fact, both will get better with the off-season acquisitions. Having some more offense will take some pressure off the young pitchers, which will allow them to do what they do best without the pressure of so many ties or one or two run situations.
JB: That's an easy question to answer: Pitching, pitching, pitching. Oakland enters 2011 with arguably the best pitching staff in the American League. The rotation and bullpen are deep and versatile and there's no reason this staff can't challenge for the league ERA title if everyone stays relatively healthy.
C70: Is there a prospect that will make a significant impact this season?
CY: The A's have so much depth at most positions, that it is unlikely that any prospect will have the opportunity to make a significant impact with the A's. If, God forbid, a whole bunch of guys get injured, and if Chris Carter can groove his power swing, he has the best chance of being called up before September. But quite frankly, I hope that doesn't happen, for the team's sake.
JB: If I had to put my money on one kid coming up from the minors to make a significant contribution to the A's this season I'd bet on young slugger Chris Carter. He probably won't make the roster coming out of spring training but it's usually just a matter of time before the injury bug takes a big bite out of the team. If a starting outfielder, Matsui or first baseman Daric Barton land on the disabled list for an extended period of time Carter should be the man to step into the starting lineup and provide some much-needed power to the A's.
C70: What's your prediction for Oakland's record and divisional finish?
CY: If everyone stays reasonably healthy, I think the A's can take the AL West and probably win at least 90 games. It may not take more than that to win this division. Can they make it all the way to the World Series, who knows? I won't rule it out, but it would be a long shot.
JB: 91-71, AL West champions. I'm an A's fan so what did you expect, 62-100? All kidding aside, there should finally be enough offense to provide run support to one of the best pitching staffs and defenses in baseball. If the A's can finally keep most of the roster off the disabled list there's no reason they can't make a strong run at the playoffs for this first time since reaching the ALCS in 2006.