So here I was, trawling for something remotely A's-related to write about... is it Spring Training yet? I swear if there aren't meaningful games soon I am hijacking this blog and taking it to Cuba, if only to challenge Fidel to a game of Pepper. It was getting desperate when Lo and Behold! I came upon this little tidbit from camp yesterday, about how none other than Rickey Henderson showed up and started giving our lads lessons on effective baserunning.
I started to think about it: we have tons of pitching (even more with the Tomko-recapture and the Jennings signing, which I thought was, um, wailin'), we're more stacked with top-grade leather than the Daddy Booth at the Folsom Street Fair, and we have next to no power... at least not until Carter and Taylor show up, and you can't expect them to be Ryan Howard straight from the gate. We don't know, the two of them might turn out to be more like Ron Howard, in which case they will direct the occasional heartwarming movie-event-of-the-summer, but don't rely on them to slug more than .400 off big-league pitching just yet. So for the foreseeable future, I don't think it's realistic to assume that bleacher souvenirs will be any more frequent at the Coliseum than non-dilapidated infrastructure, adequately-hygenic bathrooms or reasonable concession wait-times have been of late.
It started to become obvious sitting here that if the Athletics are to have a shred of a chance of competing for a playoff spot in 2010, there's going to have to be a whole lot of first-to-thirding and a whole lot-lot of Raj and Mr. Crispy getting on, doing their little dance and taking off if we are gonna score more runs than the San Jose Earthquakes this season. I sometimes worry if we have enough in the way of discernible offense to at least outscore Cameroon in a World Cup qualifier, I do. And yes, the host team this year, South Africa, wears green and gold uniforms.
It's ironic to me how the natural evolution of things has finally (probably years late) poked enough holes in the Moneyball "don't give up outs for bases" core philosophy that has driven (and still drives) so much of the Athletics' approach in this era, that the team is at last embracing the necessary revisions to the dogma... especially in this area, which, as far as an admittedly casual fan like me can tell, might be the sole beacon of hope for the 2010 campaign holding our interest beyond June. Of course, I only say "casual fan" because unlike 99% of you guys, I couldn't recite the entire River Cats bullpen FIP, pitcher-by-pitcher, after being roused out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night and doused with Gatorade by a roving band of stat-bandits who may or may not have been led by Paul Thomas (it was dark and I couldn't see the scoundrels!).
Typical graffiti on bathroom stall in AN offices.
Rajai "too bad we can't hire him to do away with Al" Davis stole 41 bases last year and according to that article, Rickey says Raj can be good for 80 if Raj learns the high-level tricks of the trade... for me personally no better teacher springs to mind, can anyone help me out and think of one? I didn't think so. One of Raj's biggest troubles, IMO, is his propensity to distract not just the pitcher and the defenders but the hitter as well, when he's dancing off second base in particular, so if Run Rickey Run can instruct him on how to localize his mayhem to include just opposing players, we'll be making progress and that is what Spring Training is all about, right?
When I read that ol' #24 had Ryan Sweeney, Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Mark Ellis and Coco the Crisp absorbing his every word in addition to Davis, I almost ran to the icebox and slid into the crisper bin with abandon, risking even the organic Romaine leaves and the sliced Shiitakes in my zeal and enthusiasm for 2010's promise. I admit I would have, except that I couldn't think of any eloquent words to deliver to the crowd when I held the asparagus spears aloft to proclaim my supremacy.