Tuesday, March 11, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: Oakland Athletics

A look back: The Athletics just weren't the same team they had been in previous years, finishing just one game ahead of Texas in the AL West. But those could be attributed to injuries and players having rough years. Now, Dan Haren is in Arizona, Nick Swisher is in Chicago, and the A's are in a world of trouble with a roster of kids. It's rebuilding time in the Bay Area. More on the Giants' disaster later.

Positives on the field: Jack Cust was a pleasant surprise last year, and it seems that Oakland has one every season. The problem is who it's going to be. If I had to guess, I'd say it's their young right fielder, Travis Buck, one of the few A's who approached .300 last season. He's young, but could produce. But I'll be honest, I have no clue.

The pitching could be solid if Rich Harden could ever stay healthy. He's a solid ace when he's got all his parts working together. Outside of him, the A's have some young guys who could be decent. Chad Gaudin was a decent pitcher last year, as was Joe Blanton. The bullpen is rock-solid if Huston Street can stay healthy.

Negatives on the field: Harden can't stay healthy. He's only thrown triple-digit innings twice in five years. Those are awful numbers for a guy who's supposed to be the man who stops a losing streak every five days when necessary. In the lineup, the A's look like an old Florida Marlins lineup. So much potential is there, but will it shine in the majors?

Outlook: Oakland is not attempting to win this year. The A's have a young team that could probably be better served with another season in Sacramento for most of the players. But that's what Billy Beane does, he tries to win through unconventional means. If the A's don't get broken up again due to high costs in a few years, they could move back into the top half of the American League by 2010. But for 2008, they'll be looking up at both Seattle and Los Angeheim from almost day one.

Projected finish: 3rd in AL West. Season opener is March 25 in Tokyo, Japan against the Red Sox. Athletics home opener is April 1 at McAfee Coliseum against Boston.

Spring base: Phoenix Municipal Stadium, downtown Phoenix. The team plays its games in both Phoenix and Tucson.

Fan of the team?: Check out Athletics Nation, an Athletics fan community.

Come back tomorrow: The road trip heads down I-5 to Anaheim, and pays a visit to the team with the identity crisis, the Angels of Los Angeheim.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Rob Thomas.

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