I got an email this morn (Monday 7/23) from a close friend of my wife's back in the DFW area, telling us how happy she was to see the Yankees get swept by the A's.
This is generally what my reply was:
Yeah, but watch out. The Oakland A's are coming. They are starting to remind me of the 2001 A's.
That year those A's of Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada and the big three starters (Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson) played the first half just a game or two above .500 and fell far behind the Seattle Mariners, who won a record 116 that year in Ichiro Suzuki's first season in America.
But in the second half of the season, the A's were the best team in baseball and became the wild-card team that might have beaten the Yankees in the playoffs if not for Derek Jeter's amazing backhand relay and Jeremy Giambi failing to slide at the plate.
But that A's team also had won the AL West on the final day of season the year before in 2000.Yet, this year's team has something magical about it. The pitching has been great, both the starters and the bullpen. Josh Reddick reminds me of a young Jason Giambi in his frat-house, ringleader, pie-in-your-face style. But while he has similar power to Jason G. when he was in Oakland, Reddick is a leaner, faster, more athletic player with a bunch of outfield assists to go with his 21 homers.
And unlike Giambi, Reddick probably isn't the best offensive player on his team. That honor likely goes to the Cuban Cannon, Yoenis Cespedes, who's now being called just Yo! by A's fans.
Still, offensive contributions are coming for all over the lineup. Oakland leads the majors in walk-off wins with 11, and 10 different players have come up with the game-ending hit at home, only Coco Crisp being a repeat recipient of the postgame pie-in-the-face delivered by Reddick except the one time when he came up with the winning hit and happily was on the receiving end.
The rotation right now is being led by three rookies -- Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin. Then there's the old pro Bartolo Colon and the journeyman Aussie Travis Blackley, 29, claimed off waivers from the hated Giants in mid-May and who pitched last year for the KIA Tigers of the Korean League.
And what's going to happen when Brandon McCarthy comes off the DL, and when Brett Anderson comes off the DL and Dallas Braden, all expected back in the next few weeks? And the A's have a pitcher in the minors, Daniel Straily, who leads all of baseball in strikeouts with 162 in about 126 innings.He was promoted from Midland after 108 K's there and has been even more effective in Sacramento and AAA.
There there is the case of rookie reliever Sean Doolittle, who was a top minor league prospect for a few years as a first baseman and then kept getting sidelined by injuries, missing most of 2009, all of 2010 and most of 2011. He converted back to pitching (he had been outstanding both as a starting pitcher and first baseman at the U. of Virginia). He pitched an inning in the Arizona instructional league last fall, and then after spring training this year, he started out as a reliever at Class A, then was promoted to AA at Midland and AAA at Sacramento before being called up in early June to the A's.
Then Saturday night, he got his first save against the Yankees. After giving up a lead-off single to A-Rod, the fireballing lefty struck out Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and pinch hitter Andruw Jones. The A's Doolittle Raider has 29 K's in 19 innings and a 1.86 ERA, and has joined Grant Balfour as the main setup men for rookie All-Star closer Ryan Cook.
All in all, they are now believing they can beat anybody. It's quite scintillating. And it promises to be an exciting final two months of the season for them and their fans.