A's Star Pitchers and Opening Day Starters

With Justin Duchscherer making his time on the disabled list official, and with seemingly every A's pitcher struggling through the last few weeks of Spring Training (including 4 losses I saw in person which had them outscored 47-26), we are poised to start the year with a less than proven hurler taking the mound on Opening Day. Whether it's Braden, Gallagher or Eveland who starts us off, none of those guys are going to instill a level of fear that once was common in Oakland, whether that was in the time of Hudson/Mulder/Zito, or further back, when Dave Stewart and Bob Welch roamed the Coliseum.

But between the glory days of the late 80s and early 90s, and our run earlier this decade, the team saw a serious deficit in the pitching department, one I hope we're not repeating, but has me feeling a bit of deja vu. Take a look at these recent starting pitchers in A's Opening Day history (borrowed from Wikipedia):

1988 - 1995

  • 1988: Dave Stewart
  • 1989: Dave Stewart
  • 1990: Dave Stewart
  • 1991: Dave Stewart
  • 1992: Dave Stewart
  • 1993: Bob Welch
  • 1994: Bobby Witt
  • 1995: Dave Stewart

2001 - 2008

  • 2001: Tim Hudson
  • 2002: Mark Mulder
  • 2003: Tim Hudson
  • 2004: Tim Hudson
  • 2005: Barry Zito
  • 2006: Barry Zito
  • 2007: Dan Haren
  • 2008: Joe Blanton

They look great, don't they? In those sixteen seasons, the A's put up star-quality pitchers (with the possible exception of Witt in 1994), even though they had an average Opening Day record of 9-7 between them, including six straight wins from 1988-1993, and four straight losses from 2005-2008.

But between 1995 and 2001, you had a grab bag of starters on Opening Day, including some of the most mediocre "aces" you'll ever see in Green and Gold. Take a look:

1996 - 2000

  • 1996: Carlos Reyes
  • 1997: Ariel Prieto
  • 1998: Tom Candiotti
  • 1999: Gil Heredia
  • 2000: Kevin Appier

Of those five, only Dr. Gil, as we called him, won his opening day contest, in what was a dark time for the franchise. Of course, this was when I was in college at nearby Cal, and saw my unfair share of losses, and half-price bleacher tickets while Mount Davis was under construction...

So why bring this up? Because even with the changes on the offensive side, the names being tossed about in our proposed rotation, and especially for opening day, have me feeling a lot more like 1996-2000 than it feels like 2001-2008, or anything like 1988-1995. Nico may believe that the A's rotation matches up well with the Angels and other division foes, but ... I have concerns.

Does Dallas Braden make you think of Tim Hudson or Dave Stewart, or is he just a reincarnation of Ariel Prieto? Is Gallagher the next Gil Heredia? And Eveland another Carlos Reyes? Or is this our big three of the future?


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