This was a long offseason. For as forgettable and unwatchable and frustrating the previous couple of seasons have been, baseball is comfort that, for eight months a year, gives and gives without asking for anything back. It has has long stretches of boring and intense bursts of excitement, it has heroes and villains and rivalries and companionship. It can be infuriating at points, heartbreaking at others, and we constantly hold onto hope for the unlikeliest of outcomes. Baseball is an escape from the realities of our busy lives while also mirroring them. The moment the Cubs celebrated on the field following the final out of the 2016 World Series, marking the end of a long season, a disquiet appeared and followed my soul as the feeling of comfort that baseball provides was left behind.
And, to top it all off, the offseason was SO BORING. But it is now officially over. Baseball (mostly) is back.
The A’s lost their spring training opener 4-3, but that isn’t important.
What is important is Jesse Hahn taking the mound for 1.2 innings and recording two strikeouts. He was roughed up just a tad in his second inning of work, in which he allowed three runs, but the inning could have gone much differently had he fielded a tough chopper back to the mound successfully in lieu of deflecting the comebacker into left field. But the runs allowed aside, Hahn was satisfied with the movement he regained after sacrificing movement for speed last season.
Raul Alcantara is in competition with Hahn for the fifth starter spot in the rotation, and perhaps has a leg up on him simply due to the fact that he has no minor league options remaining. And in his two scoreless innings pitched, Alcantara showed off his primary strengths as he recorded five of his six outs via ground out and got a strikeout as well. The other notable pitching performance came from Bobby Wahl, who was throwing heat in his one inning of work and recorded two strikeouts. AN’s #24 prospect is not likely to break camp with the team, but when inevitable injuries arise to the bullpen, Wahl should be amongst the first reinforcements called up.
On the offensive side of things, there were quite a few positives. Newcomer Rajai Davis walked and stole both second and third base in the first inning, and newcomer Matt Joyce walked and homered, both players showcasing the strengths that caused the A’s to pursue them this winter. However, the main focus of today’s game on the position player side of things were the prospects. Matt Chapman, future savior of the franchise, got the start at third base and did not disappoint. Chapman fielded his position well, as is to be expected, and in the fourth inning, shortly following Joyce’s longball, crushed a home run of his own to right center.
Later in today’s game, Barreto, who got only one at bat after subbing in at shortstop for Marcus Semien, fell behind 1-2 but managed to hit a towering fly ball to deep center field that ultimately got corralled by the Cubs’ center fielder near the warning track. Much of the A’s future hopes rests on the shoulders of prospects like Chapman and Barreto, as the franchise appears to be poising itself to open up their competitive window in 2018 when top prospects become major-league-ready players, so to see Chapman appear to pick up right where he left off last season and Barreto not back down in their first dose of 2017 big league competition is encouraging.
On the defensive side of things, the A’s were fundamentally sound. They made all the plays they were supposed to make. This shouldn’t be notable, but after last season, non-disastrous defense ought to be pointed out.
Baseball is finally back, and it is still early enough in spring training to not hate how long and annoying spring training is. This was a long offseason. But it is now officially over. Go A’s!