You know, I'm predisposed to loving everything Oakland Athletics. No duh you're saying. But there is always differences in the love for each particular version of our beloved A's. I imagine it's kind of like having a new child every year. You love them all, you just love them differently.
This year, the A's are just a lovable bunch and it's kind of a shame that the fans in the Bay Area aren't coming out to see this team more frequently. It's probably something along the lines of what Beane always says about clubhouse chemistry. The chemistry is there as long as you're winning. The love blossoms the more winning that happens. But it's not just about that for me. It's a huge part, don't get me wrong, and the 2008 team is already a lot more lovable than the 2007 bunch. There's just something about having that "no expectations" mentality and have everyone on the planet disrespecting the team and succeeding in the face of that that makes our muppets even more lovable.
I mean, I could go down a list of these guys and explain why I find each of them appealing...OK, actually, I'll do just that.
Rich Harden: I love a guy who can be so very dominant throwing essentially two pitches for the majority of the time. He's thrown the splitter a bit more lately, but he's doing what he's been doing largely with just a fastball and a changeup. Remarkable. Oh and that smirk is frigging brilliant.
Justin Duchscherer and Greg Smith: I'm looping these two together because they largely accomplish great things despite the doubters and people who don't believe a guy who can throw more than 89 mph can be dominant. Duke for being amongst the pitching elite and Smith for doing what he's doing as a rookie. Oh and they both look more like they should be teaching third grade math rather than pitching in the big leagues. Like Harden and Blanton both look like big league pitchers. Duke and Smith? Not so much. I love that.
Joe Blanton: Blanton has been good this year and he's assumed a larger role that he probably wasn't equipped to handle. So he's often been matched up against the number one guy on the other team. He's also pitched a ton already this year given that the A's started earlier in Japan. Still, do still love Cupcakes.
Dana Eveland: From his demeanor to his body he reminds me of a combination of C.C. Sabathia and younger David Wells. Let's just hope that he doesn't need to have a hangover to throw a no hitter. I love the fact that, according to things I'd seen written about Eveland, teams didn't think he could make it because of his body and lack of commitment to his craft. It's always nice to give guys that are nice and motivated.
Mark Ellis: How can I not start with Ellis? The guy plays defense in an understated, yet spectacular fashion. It's odd to believe that this guy has never won a gold glove. He also never seems to have an at bat where I'm saying, wow, that was just a terrible AB.
Eric Chavez: Everyone has jumped on Chavez for years for not being clutch and being the master of the meaningless home run, but there's something about him this year that seems different. Maybe I'm the only one who feels that way, but that home run he hit off Webb last night was remarkable. It was a nearly perfect pitch sinking away to the outside corner and he still hit it out to the opposite field. I don't remember Chavez doing that since maybe 2002. So perhaps he's just feeling much better having had all of his various ailments repaired this past offseason.
Bobby Crosby: He's been public enemy number one around here for a while but I think he's looked a lot better and more consistent than he's been in his still young career. Plus, you've got to love a guy who is laying out to keep a ball in the infield to preserve a shutout when the A's are up 8-0 like they were last night.
Kurt Suzuki: Zook has been up and down this year, but he's calling the game game like he's been in the league 10 years. Our pitchers are trusting him and he can show very occasional flashes of power unlike the A's previous catcher. Plus he seems to be willing to block the plate unlike the A's previous catcher before the previous catcher.
Carlos Gonzalez: That catch he made last night was just amazing. And he seems like the real deal to me at the plate. Yeah he's going to need time to mature, but he's so young that I fully expect to see him as an all star in the future.
Jack Cust: Yeah he sometimes looks like the Keystone Cops in left field, but I will always pull for a guy who finally gets a shot to succeed after languishing in purgatory. Cust is doing just that. Yes, he frustrates me with the strikeouts, but much like a curious kid who takes apart the new toy you bought him to see how it works, you realize that with the bad is going to come the good.
Frank Thomas: Even though I said that signing Frank might've been a mistake, I gotta admit that I love seeing rebar man waiting in the on deck circle. 2006 was such a fun season as an A's fan and Thomas feels like he should've always been an A.
Daric Barton: I'm going to start calling Barton Martin Brodeur because he does the splits to get a ball at first base nearly once a game. Yes, he hasn't been producing the way we want offensively, but he's also very young and has such an advanced knowledge of the strike zone that I do believe he's going to mature into a really good hitter. We just have to be patient with him now.
Jack Hannahan: OK so he isn't Marco Scutaro, but Hannahan is an excellent defensive sub that the A's have now. And he plays a very solid defense at third when Chavez needs the inevitable rest this year. These kinds of moves are what make Beane so special. That and getting two ML pitchers and a ML outfielder who are already contributing for Dan Haren (and I love Haren).
Ryan Sweeney: Would you trade for Nick Swisher straight up for Ryan Sweeney at this point? I don't think I would and I really loved Swisher's attitude when he was here. But Sweeney is maturing into a great ballplayer right in front of our very eyes. Yeah, he's not very patient at the plate, but he's a very good hitter. Maybe he'll come back down to earth a bit, but I really like him both offensively and defensively.
Chad Gaudin: So he doesn't squawk a bit when he's relegated to bullpen status (at least not that I saw) despite the fact that he did absolutely nothing to deserve the demotion. He's been a part of one of the best bullpens in baseball and probably had every right to complain when put there. Yet he just remained professional and did what he needed to. You've got to love him for it. That and he's been just nails out of the pen.
Brad Ziegler: A 28-year-old rookie who agreed to switch his delivery because he believed the A's organization when they told him that it would likely lead to his shot at the majors. He's someone that inspires me every time I see him pitch because he seems like one of those guys who could've given up. But he didn't. He did everything that was asked of him and he's finally getting his chance.
Are there other guys to love? Hell yes. I'm coming around on my bitterness surrounding Keith Foulke's departure to the Red Sox a few years ago. Santiago Casilla, or the Artist Formerly Known as Jairo as I like to call him, has been brilliant now that he's finally stuck at the big league level.
Any way, I'm probably getting swept away in a good spell for the A's as I am a fan first and foremost, but I can't help it. This is a fun team to watch on a nightly basis. You almost always know you're going to see good pitching and a competitive game. How many teams can you say that about on a consistent basis?
I love you, 2008 Oakland A's.