On this last day of 2009, I just want to say:
I know I'm supposed to wait until 2011.
I know Texas, and especially Seattle, have gotten significantly better (and how far are the Angels likely to fall?). I know I'm not supposed to get hyped up about prospects who have yet to perform in the major leagues.
But it is the beginning of a new year. And I'm always most optimistic about life as I look forward to the spring (my absolute favorite time of year). All I want to see now are the possibilities in the air (no need to deflate my balloon!) that might lead the A's to exceed everyone's expectations and actually win the division. It might happen if
1) Brett Anderson continues to progress and the A's have a Dan Haren+ starter in the ace position.
2) Duke stays healthy enough to start 25-30 games.
3) Braden sustains his achievement and maybe moves up a little.
4) Now here my optimism has to put on its wish blinders and hope that Gio and Cahill perform well enough to lock down the 4 and 5 spots (in no particular order).
5) Our relievers en masse sustain last year's excellence to which Joey Devine makes a healthy and commanding return. I don't need the wish fairy here, I hope. If what is likely to happen is added to what I hope might just happen, the A's will have a playoff contending pitching staff.
6) O.K. The lineup as currently constructed is very meh. Fast, but not powerful and with a seemingly irreparable hole at 3rd base. I'm not hoping for Chavez (although he always has my best wishes). Who will be the last man standing at third? In my mid-winter fantasy I'm just going to go with Mr. Placeholder and look elsewhere around the diamond for hope. But I do want Cardenas in May somewhere in that infield. Maybe it will be 3rd some or maybe he'll be taking the Unicorn's place at 2nd. I'm more than happy with what we have behind the plate, and at least we are defensively adequate everywhere else around the infield and maybe there are some surprises in order on offense (here's to Barton taking a step up!). Everything breaks right and the A's think tank is right about Carter being just about ready to move up to the majors. Screw free agency considerations. Carter hits a ton in spring training and emerges as our starting DH in April and actually gives us that much needed power bat. And Taylor makes the outfield by May. Two big bats + speed + overall defense will give our pitchers the chance to win more of those 3 or 4 run games.
I am squeezing the rag for every drop of optimism, and while nothing under category #6 is inherently likely, it is possible. And so, as I wait through the dark days of winter, I'll be hopeful.