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Why I like following this year's version of the A's


Okay, I get it. Back-to-back losses to the doormatty O's, in depressing fashion -- the first a please-sir-may-I-have-another blowout, the second a soul-draining 5-2, come-from-ahead loss in the 9th involving bad defense, questionable use of the bullpen, and a game-ending HR by Wilson Betemit. But I still look forward to baseball tonight more than I have for years. Found out why after the jump.

Yes, we're back at one game under .500, and given our run differential (65 scored, 76 allowed, for a Pythagorean record of 9-13), we're lucky to be there. And no, we're not going to win the AL West this season, nor are we going to get into the Wild Card game.

But even so, I'm more interested in following the A's and watching or listening to their games than I've been in 3 or 4 years. Here's what makes an A's game worth watching for me:

  • Yoenis Cespedes, and the amazing things he can do. Turns out he can do them on the diamond, in real games, not just in the gym while Christopher Cross plays in the background.
  • The youngsters on the pitching staff are talented and stylistically diverse. Will Jarrod Parker be able to throw strikes? Is his changeup an out pitch in the majors? Will Tyson Ross's arm stay attached to his body? Will Tommy Milone throw like Mark Buehrle or like Doug Johns? 3 out of every 5 games I get to see a talented young pitcher growing up, figuring out how to get major-league pitchers out.
  • Those other two nights? Bartolo Colon might throw 38 consecutive strikes. Or Brandon McCarthy might tweet something hilarious and insightful after pitching effectively into the 8th.
  • And when Melvin calls on the bullpen, I might see someone none of us had heard of a year ago K 4 guys in one inning. Or, if I listen really closely to the broadcast, I might hear some interesting Australian curse words.
  • Speaking of Melvin, although I can and do disagree with some of his decisions, I have yet to see our first finger-sniffing episode of 2012. For this, I am thankful.
  • I get to watch Jemile Weeks develop (and hopefully stop popping up, and stop teaching Yoeni-Wan Kenobi to slide past 2nd base on steal attempts...), and also get to watch him make backhand flips to Pennington for your every-day, 4-6-3 groundout.
  • I get to see how long Josh Reddick can maintain his 4:1 outfield-assists:BB's ratio. He needs to walk more if he wants to be an effective hitter. But those strikes from RF are a hell of a lot of fun to see.
  • In about a month, I'll get to watch Manny being Manny.
  • I get to see just how bad the A's 3B situation can get. And I thought it was hard to watch Chavvy go out there with one arm and 4 working vertebrae in his back. That which does not kill me makes me stronger.
  • While the A's game is on, I can check out all the prospects in the A's system, which is finally worth following closely. The Sacramento River Cats' (AAA) and Midland Rockhounds' (AA) games are on MiLB.com gameday, so you can track them pitch-by-pitch. The Stockton Ports (A+) and Burlington Bees (A) have batter-by-batter updates and live boxscores online for every game. Even when the A's are losing, some prospect, somewhere, is having a good night.

This team won't claim any pennants this year, and is unlikely get get near .500 by the end of the season. I have no idea when they'll make the playoffs next, or win their next World Series. But there's finally some hope for the future. And more than hope for the future, there's interest in the present. The A's and the Oakland organization are fun for me to follow again.

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