Usually, on the off chance that the words "window" and "Athletics" are uttered in the same sentence I am magically transported back to June 4th, 2000. That was the day, as many of you may recall, that Sal Fasano assaulted Mt. Davis with a home run that shattered a luxury box window (why, oh why couldn't he have made the whole thing fall down?). But today, when I think of windows and the A's I am thinking about 1999 and windows of opportunity. More specifically, I am asking myself.... "Does 2010 have the potential to be 1999: The Sequel?"
Before I attempt to answer this question, I must first apologize to our official historian, Marquez67. Don, I apologize in advance for this lackluster attempt at what you do so well.
Now that apologies are out of the way... A review. Other than a purple sky and people dancing everywhere, what was so special about 1999?
Well, for one thing... it was the last year with Mike Oquist wearing the Green and Gold. That was eventually cause for celebration. I may be being a bit harsh here, but I think of the parting with Oquist as the end of the Doug Johns, Dave Telgheder, Jimmy Haynes, Don Wengert, and Bobby Chouinard fueled purgatory we all suffered through on our journey to a Terrible Tim, Mean Mark and Bubonic Barry powered heaven.
But, instead of celebrating those that went away, let's talk about John Jaha and Tim Raines! Those two future HOFers (I am sure there are Hall's of Fame at their high schools, junior high schools or something) were brought into the fold by Billy Beane after he reluctantly re-signed Mike Oquist. Okay, I have no idea how reluctant he was to sign Oquist, but I like to think he had been roofied by Oquist's agent.
So what does this have to do with 2010? Jack Cust, Coco Crisp and Justin the Duke say hi. And Justin the Duke also says, "Don't you compare me to Mike Oquist!" Were I really having this conversation with the Duke, I'd reply that I wouldn't compare him to an inferior pitcher if only Beane had acquired a better one in-between the 1998 and 1999 campaigns. But Marc Newfield, Olmedo Saenz and Tony Phillips weren't pitchers.
Speaking of Tony Phillips... Miguel Tejada says hi (sort of)!
I remember being hopeful that 1999 wouldn't suck (and it didn't, I had my first date with my eventual wife that year at Chili's in Rohnert Park). I was a bit discouraged as the season approached the All-Star Break and it was clear that Texas was going to win the division with the A's hovering around .500. But then Billy pulled the trigger. First he brought Randy Velarde and Omar Olivares to town. 2 days later Kevin Appier and Jason Isringhausen (and Greg McMichael, but who cares?) were in the mix and the A's were in the Wild Card race.
More importantly, the A's were legit contenders to take the whole enchilada for the next 7 seasons. Making the playoffs in 5 of those seasons, missing on the penultimate day in one season and by about a week in the other. That was a nice, wide open window of opportunity that is much longer than most teams ever experience. Are we on the brink of witnessing another run like this?
Opening Day 1999 saw the A's lineup consist of Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi, Ben Grieve, A.J. Hinch, Jaha, Jason McDonald, Phillips, Matt Stairs and Miguel Tejada (and Gil Heredia). Over the course of the season McDonald was basically replaced by Ryan Christenson in Center Field and Hinch was usurped by Ramon Hernandez and Mike MacFarlane. Hernandez became the catcher of the future while MacFarlane played more games behind the plate than either of the other two catchers.
By the end of the season, the A's everyday lineup was Chavez, Giambi, Grieve, Hernandez, Jaha, Christenson, Velarde, Stairs and Tejada. Many of these players would play integral roles for portions of the next 7 seasons of contention. The rotation, on Opening Day was comprised of Heredia, Tom Candiotti, Haynes, Kenny Rogers and Oquist. By the end of the season the rotation was Appier, Olivares, Heredia, Hudson and Oquist.
To summarize 1999, let's say that offensive core came together and were augmented by Jaha to start the season and Velarde half way through. The starting pitching staff started out average at best, but was improved with pieces that were around for a few seasons (Appier, Hudson) or helped for a few dozen starts over two partial seasons (Olivares). Kenny Rogers was dealt (with Mulder and Zito on deck, he wasn't needed) for Terrence Long (who, as a rookie, played a big role the following season in the A's return to the Postseason Tourney). I haven't touched on the bullpen, other than to mention Izzy. Buddy Groom, T.J. Matthews, Doug Jones and a few others made a good, but not great unit.
So, other than the not so direct correlation of off season acquisitions, why should 2010 remind us all of 1999?
At present, I can only assume 2010's Opening Day line-up will consist of something like Crisp, Davis, Sweeney, Cust, Barton, Ellis, Pennington, Fox, and Suzuki (and the Duke). The rotation consists of The Duke, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and then some combo of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzales and Vin Mazzaro. The bullpen is stellar and may have 3 "closers" with Joey Devine coming back to join Andrew Bailey and Mike Weurtz.
So, in effect, 2010 is 1999 in reverse. The pitching has *mostly coalesced and the offense is average at best. The big difference as I see it, besides having almost equal and opposite stages of core development, is that the mid-season infusion may not be from a trade but promotions.
*My assumptions are predicated on the belief that Anderson, Cahill, Gonzalez, Mazzaro, and Braden will continue to improve, Outman comes back as Outman and some combo of these 6 makes up a top 5 starting 5 for the foreseeable future.
By the end of the year, I wouldn't surprised to see a team at or around .500 (on the fringe of contention, just like 1999). The lineup, in my crystal ball, will be upgraded with the additions of Titanic Taylor, Crush Carter and The Crippler Cardenas supplanting some combination of Crisp, Davis, Barton and Fox.
If we are lucky, Crisp or Davis have been dealt and Short Stop is covered beyond The Pennington Incident. Which brings me to another big difference.
Billy Beane has way more potential trading chips. If the A's are around .500 at the trade deadline as they were in 1999, Beane can get what he needs with some combination of Buck, Doolittle, Barton, Fox, Crisp, Davis, Simmons, Capra, Mortensen, etc. and not hurt the team in the long run. The Duke could be to 2010 what Kenny Rogers was to 1999. The possibilities are immense.
I think about this window, the one about to swing wide open, and smile. It will be great to have another 1999. But maybe this time it will lead to another 1989. We are all free to dream...