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Turn Back The Clock To 1999 (Sports Illustrated on the A's)

Looking for a Blast From The Past?  Google found us a gem today; a random SI preview from 10 years ago, talking about the A's 1999 season. The A's were picked to finish dead last, but there was some hope between the lines, as well as some familiar names:

The a's aren't just young and inexperienced. No, they're young and inexperienced -- and downright proud of it.


Need further proof of Oakland's youthful pride? Take a look at the television promos for the upcoming season. In one commercial 21-year-old third baseman Eric Chavez is hitting the streets to solicit votes for Rookie of the Year. In another, A's coaches are shown scouting an 11-year-old pitcher. And in the campaign's hilarious feature spot, manager Art Howe is about to turn in for the night on a road trip when he is startled by a mysterious noise coming from the room next door. It turns out that Grieve and the team mascot, an elephant named Stomper, had been bouncing on their beds like four-year-olds. "We're building something big and something really great here in Oakland,'' says Chavez. "It's just a matter of time before we get things happening again with this team."


First baseman Jason Giambi also had a growth spurt in 1998, hitting .309 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in the second half and occasionally putting on a McGwire-like show during batting practice. Chavez, the 1998 minor league player of the year, hit .327 with 33 homers and 126 RBIs in 135 games in Double A and Triple A last year before batting .311 during a September call-up to Oakland. "Sometimes I miss doing things other guys my age are doing, like spring break," says Chavez. "But when that happens, I just watch Jerry Springer."


I'm taking it as a sign. And I'm using Chavy's quote for 2009 as well.

"We're building something big and something really great here in Oakland,'' says Chavez. "It's just a matter of time before we get things happening again with this team."

I have no idea how one goes about writing a legitimate season preview for the AL West this year; how do you rate pitchers who have never seen the big leagues before? How do you predict which injured Angels' starting pitchers will come back, and how effective they will be when they do? Can the A's young starting rotation fast-forward their development a whole year; pitching in the big leagues in 2009 instead of 2010? Will Texas' All-Star lineup be able to offset their pitching, and will the A's/Angels' woes give them the edge? Should we even remember Seattle, who is now dealing with Ichiro not starting the season (but should be back soon)?

Sports Illustrated has picked the A's to finish second; five games behind the Angels, but they begin the preview with quotes from right-hander Sean Gallagher, and a bullpen discussion revolving around Joey Devine, so it may be a wee bit out-of-date. Yet, the major problem plaguing the young pitching staff--that if they had a bad inning, they would lose the game--has been fixed; this A's offense can put up runs in bunches, which is a nice change from last season.

From the article:

The A's are trying to turn back the clock to 1999, when righthander Tim Hudson made his major league debut, followed by lefty starters Mark Mulder and Barry Zito the next season. Oakland finished second in the division in '99, then made the playoffs in each of the next four seasons, winning more than 100 games twice. The only remaining links from that era to this one are Giambi and Eric Chavez, who both helped create the team's play-hard, party-hard persona.

Asked if the A's can replicate that identity, Chavez says, "Oh, it can definitely happen again, but when we were young, we produced, and we produced right away. That will be the key for this group. Some young guys come up here, get talked about a lot and then bounce back and forth from Triple A. The good ones come up, you talk about them, and they stick."

I'm excited to see what sticks.

The A's take on the Giants again tonight at 7:15pm; it's Dana Eveland's turn.