When I first started AN over two years ago, one of my first posts was about Thanksgiving and what A's fans have to be thankful for.
I want to revisit that.
Here are what A's fans have to thankful for this holiday season:
- The best starting rotation in the American League, Josh Beckett or no. The A's fifth starter last season had 10 wins and a 4.17 ERA.
- Five gold gloves and another 25+, 100+ RBI season from their third baseman.
- An underappreciated second baseman that nearly all of baseball fails to recognize. Mark Ellis wasn't even supposed to be playing baseball anymore...but instead he led the Athletics in on-base percentage and batting average last season while playing stellar defense at second base.
- A dominant young closer with an Eck-like delivery and an understated, humble demeanor off the mound that transforms into an intimidating and quiet confidence on the mound.
- A shortstop who is on the verge of greatness. I've been saying this for several seasons, but I honestly believe that Bobby Crosby has a higher ceiling than Miguel Tejada. Now if only he can be thankful for a healthy season come Thanksgiving 2006.
- A catcher who is willing to put his face in front of metal spikes to win a game. Say what you want about Jason Kendall, but no one can ever question his desire to be a winner.
- A center fielder who should've won his first gold glove this season. His defense reminds me of the famous quote from Field of Dreams about Shoeless Joe Jackson's glove: "It's where doubles and triples go to die."
- Power at first base. The A's haven't had it since Jason Giambi packed up his needles and went to NY. Now, the A's have Dan Johnson who showed in 109 games that he will be a significant power upgrade over his predecessor. He's also better defensively.
- A young and powerful right fielder who will only get better. Nick Swisher's season looks very similar to Bobby Crosby's first year. If Swisher can make a jump in his second season, the A's could have another power source.
- The clown. Bobby Kielty obviously keeps things light in the clubhouse and on the field. Now, if only he'd stop batting lefty, he might be more than just comic relief.
- The sudden power surge from Jay Payton. Payton was remarkable in his stint with the A's, giving the A's power from the right side, which they very badly needed.
- The culture of winning that permeates the A's minor league teams. Billy Beane says it's important to have the young players learn how to be in a winning environment and he's been able to do just that. The River Cats had been to the PCL finals three seasons in a row, winning twice and only losing this year because important parts of that team were with the A's. Midland, Kane County. All the teams were very competitive this season.
- The A's scouting department. Swisher, Zito, Blanton, Dan Johnson, Bobby Crosby, Huston Street, Eric Chavez. This team shows year in and year out why it's important to have a strong farm system. Granted, it's partly out of necessity, but there is something strangely satisfying out of watching your own organization's players succeed. It's a feeling that some of the higher payroll teams in baseball will never understand. I watched Blanton and Swisher at Triple-A. And it's almost like watching your kids grow up and become wonderful adults.
- A quality bullpen. 2004 was an ugly season for the A's bullpen, but thanks to Justin Duchscherer, Kiko Calero and a cast of others, this finally became a bullpen that didn't give us ulcers. OK, Rincon still did, but for the most part, the A's pen has become an effective weapon. I no longer feel like I should invest in Maalox anymore, and that is one of the biggest things I'm thankful for as an A's fan.
- The best front office in baseball. The A's have constraints on them due to their position in the market and tough decisions need to be made year in and year out. Yet, this team in a "rebuilding" season still went out and won 88 games and was in the AL West race down to the final week of the year.
- An ownership group that is honestly making an effort to keep the team in Oakland. Despite all the hurdles and naysayers, Lewis Wolff and company push forward trying to build that new stadium in Oakland. You might not like everything that Wolff has been doing, but he is at least working on things unlike the previous A's regime.
- The best fans in baseball. The A's may not have the biggest fanbase in baseball. You don't see all the A's caps around the majors like the Yankees or Red Sox runners, but this group is the most passionate and knowledgeable group of fans I've ever been around...in any sport. And I'm proud to call myself an ANer.
- And finally, what I'm most thankful for this Thanksgiving is 20 quality years of Bill King. The best announcer in baseball is no longer with us, but I'm thankful for the short time I had with him.