Will the Team Compete in 08?

It might be useless to ask this question already because I just don't think Billy Beane is done conducting his rebuilding.  But as we sit less than a month away from spring training, this is normally the time when I start to get extremely antsy for the start of the season I can't help but wonder about how bad the team will be on the field.

Since the two major pro sports teams I follow are the New Jersey Devils and Oakland Athletics, I've been spoiled by having playoff-caliber teams that have the potential to win it all in any given season.  This will be a new one for me.  Don't get me wrong, I've suffered through some terrible seasons with both franchises, but I haven't had a really bad season with any of the teams since the 90s.

I'm wondering, will the team be as bad as most in the media will have you believe?  Or was Wolff's optimism for the upcoming year warranted?

Let's take a look at what the probable starting nine will be for most of the year (pending further moves, of course):

C: Suzuki
1B: Barton
2B: Ellis
3B: Chavez
SS: Crosby
LF: Buck
CF: Denorfia
RF: Gonzalez
DH: Cust

If Cust wasn't a one-year aberration and Buck and Barton don't go through a ton of ups and downs (and stay healthy) I don't see any reason why the offense can't produce similarly to what it did last year.  Suzuki for a full year should be an upgrade over Kendall.  Barton should be an upgrade over last year's first base and hopefully Buck stays healthy for a full season.  Who knows what to expect from Chavez right now?  But if he's finally fully healthy for the first time in several years, then 30/100 should be a very distinct possibility.  

The problem comes when you look at the rotation.  What used to be the biggest strength of the team is now full of question marks.

Blanton will be the team's ace (unless some Canadian has a miracle recovery from all that ails him), followed by Gaudin, Duchscherer then maybe Eveland and Meyer.  Blanton is really the only sure thing because you're depending on two guys coming off of surgeries to be a big part of the rotation.  And who knows what Duke and Gaudin might actually be able to give before the rotation goes from what I outlined above to:

Blanton
DiNardo
Meyer
Braden
Eveland

It's going to be a weird transition from a team that was once built on pitching to a team that will probably allow quite a few runs this year.  Then again, these are strange times to be an A's fan.  This just goes with the territory.

So the question is whether or not the A's will compete in 2008?  If Duke comes back healthy and makes a smooth transition to the rotation, if Gaudin is completely healthy and by some miracle Harden happens to remain healthy for more than an inning or two this year, then I could see the A's being a team that goes over .500.  But as with the last few years, those are a lot of ifs and we've seen how those have broken for the A's in recent seasons.  Not well.

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