In just about four hours, I'm leaving (on a jet plane) to sunny Arizona, to see the A's play for four straight days, from Friday to Monday, first seeing the club take on the White Sox in Tucson, and then three straight home games, in Phoenix, where they play the Giants, Rangers and Royals. I can't wait. This is the third year in a row my wife and I have been able to see Spring Training, and I hope we'll continue to go for decades.
But while we're very excited to see the A's play this year, and I'm cautiously optimistic about our chances with a healthier roster, not to mention full seasons of Jack Cust, Kurt Suzuki, Travis Buck and Daric Barton, one of our biggest attractions this week will be seeing the recently-departed Nick Swisher.
While we'd seen Nick play hundreds of times at the Coliseum or on TV, we didn't expect to lose him so fast. One of the young stars of the team, we expected Nick to be part of the A's nucleus for years to come. We never really got to say goodbye, and tomorrow, with equal helpings of lung power and my wife being cute (at five months pregnant... with twins... but still cute), we hope to get the chance to do more than just wave and clap mildly in our seats.
As Nick didn't leave via Free Agency or with any ill will from the fans, I have no doubts he'll gain an amazing welcome when he returns to Oakland this season. Similarly, in future years, when we get the chance to take on the Blue Jays (Scutaro) or the Diamondbacks (Byrnes and Haren), we'll be cheering on our "Former A's", insomuch as they don't help the A's lose a game.
But at what point do they stop being "Former Oakland A Nick Swisher" and start being better known as "Chicago White Sock Nick Swisher"? Does it depend on the player or how well they are doing vs. how well they did for us? Does it depend on their antics in a new city with a new team? I'd bet very few of us refer to Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi as former A's anymore, and I've long since passed that threshold with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, although both left the A's innocently. (Unlike Zito)
As an A's fan, I've sometimes grown numb with change. I know I'll still be an A's fan even as individual players I like on the roster change. Losing Blanton wouldn't make me give back my season tickets. And, as much as I like the guy, even losing Street could be accepted. For a while, we'd follow their activity with their new clubs in new uniforms, and I'd track these "Former A's", but later, I'd move on - having been placated with the efforts of the updated A's squad.
So, for you ANers, as I go to Tucson tomorrow and cheer on Swisher, is this something I can feel comfortable doing for the entire year? For two years? Or what's an acceptable amount of time I can feel that he's one of ours the White Sox have taken away before letting my fandom for him fade to the shadows? What are your rules for how you approach "Former A's"?