Ladies, gentlemen and assorted others, I present you with your slugging A's of 2008.
While many thought the team had lost its way in the off-season, seeing departures of Swisher, Piazza, and Kotsay, the shimmering, mystical, early returns of Cactus League week one have the team showing a robust 5-2 record, and slugging around .573, the equivalent of having a Jim Thome or Magglio Ordoñez at every position in the lineup, complementing their Ichiro-like .342 batting average. This dramatic power surge has developed largely without the team's best-known offensive asset, Eric Chavez, who looks like he could end up spending more time this Spring picking up a newspaper than a bat.
The common belief is Spring results and stats mean nothing. Just about every single wire recap of the week's contests has featured the A's opposing pitcher talking about how he felt better than he looked out there, that he was just getting warmed up, and wasn't really trying to win. Right. Professional athletes, at the top physical peak, battling their peers, are just giving it a good ol' toss. And the other team just happens to be consistently doing a worse job of caring than the A's are. Right. I don't believe all of it - especially in the times where players are jockeying for starting positions and roles that could make them millions of dollars.
So, let the other guys think these games don't count for anything. And let these other guys keep on believing the A's are too young, too inexperienced, too vacant of role players and veterans to make things interesting this season. Any time you have a team that can blow out Zito and the Giants 23-5 or put up 15 runs on the Padres without a single home run, scattering 22 base hits, they're going to have our attention.
First pitch of Game 8 of the Cactus League is at 12:05 p.m. as the A's take on the Cubs.