Evan Longoria and the Rays are flying high for now but they're in just as dire of a ballpark situation as the A's. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

Out with March, in with April and real baseball

The Yoenis Cespedes Era opened with a ringing double in his first regular season game and a homer in his second. (Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)

In the wake of a nasty cold and other nagging ailments over the past couple of weeks I’m taking a briefer-than-usual moment to look back, look ahead, and fire off some random observations as I turn the page on the calendar to April.

LOOKING BACK

Highlights:

• The highlight of the month was easily the Battle of the Petulant Press Releases triggered by Bill Madden’s column in the New York Post speculating that there’s no way MLB is going to violate the Giants’ territorial rights and let the A’s move to San Jose. Hopefully the nasty little public spat between the two Bay Area clubs annoyed MLB commish Bud Selig and pushed him a little closer to resolving the festering ballpark issue for the A’s.

• Yoenis Cespedes showed up in camp, won the center field job (which must make him some sort of demigod, right Coco?) and cracked a homer in the second game of the regular season. There are sure to be plenty of ups and downs for the young Cuban in his first season in the Major Leagues but it should be a blast watching him show off his powerful swing, cannon of an arm, and off-the-charts athleticism this year.

• 95.7 FM The Game announced that they’ll have weekly shows with Billy Beane and Bob Melvin, nice moves by the team’s flagship station. I may not always be crazy about the station but they’ve come a long way since they were airing garbage like the Monty Show in the morning. Of course, 95.7 FM fell all over themselves promoting a new weekly show during the season with Matt Cain and Buster Posey of the Giants with far more gusto than they played up their weekly interactions with Beane and Melvin. The Game may be married to the A’s but it shows a lot more passion for landing a date with the Giants.

I still wish the station would give the A’s a little more love but they’re clearly trying to grab the entire Bay Area sports audience and until Oakland is consistently playing competitive baseball they’re going to get less air time than other teams in the area which can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow.

• Eric Sogard was the Opening Night third baseman. A major tip of the cap to the little man in glasses who spent all spring spraying the ball around the yard and flashing a competent glove at the hot corner. A perfect example of why you have to pay attention to every player involved in one of general manager Billy Beane’s trades. In 2010, Kevin Kouzmanoff was the headliner in the trade with the Padres for Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston but Sogard has worked his way into a roster spot and some playing time with the A’s.

Lowlights:

• Eric Sogard was the Opening Night third baseman. I love the guy and he’s a great story, a scrappy little ballplayer who earned his way into the starting lineup in 2012 but as history rolls on this is going to rank right down there with the immortal Carlos Reyes being the Opening Night starter for the A’s when they had their “home” opener in Las Vegas in 1996. When a lightweight backup middle infielder like Sogard is your Opening Night third baseman you clearly don’t really have a starting Major League third baseman. You’re dearly missed Scott Sizemore, get well soon.

• Ken Korach was out of action at the start of the season due to surgery. It’s hard enough to go into any season when you still miss the late, great Bill King but it’s even harder when you don’t even have Korach around. Can’t wait for Korach to return to the booth. It’s going to be a long season but I’m looking forward to spending it with Ken, Vince, and Ray on the radio.

• The A’s lost on Opening Night for the eighth year in a row. In the big picture it’s not really a big deal where and when you get your wins but it’d be nice to see them open the season with a bang one of these days. A win in Game 1 in Japan would have made the A’s the best team in baseball for a fleeting moment which could have stood as one of the few highlights in what promises to be a long season full of losses.

LOOKING AHEAD

Oakland's starting first base job is there for the taking, all Brandon Allen has to do is seize the opportunity. (Photo Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)

• Is anyone going to take the first base job and run away with it? It’s bad enough that third base is in flux right now but it would be nice if Brandon Allen, Daric Barton or Kila Ka’aihue quickly nailed down an everyday job at first base.

• More Cespedes please. For the first time in year the A’s have someone in the lineup you want to drop everything to stop and watch hit. Maybe he’ll give you a tape-measure homer or a blazing run around the bases on the way to a triple or maybe he’ll screw himself into the ground chasing a slider off the plate but I’m sure there’ll never be a dull moment when the big guy digs in to take his swings.

• I think the A’s could sneak out of April with a winning record if they can at least split their 4 games against the Angels and sweep the Orioles. They better get all the early wins they can in the opening month because May is going to be a long haul with the Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Tigers, Angels, Rangers, Giants, and Yankees waiting to beat up on a young A’s club.

TOTALLY RANDOM

The poor pinstriped Yankees will have to learn to live with spending less than $200 million a year. Life is hard. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

• Want to see how the other half lives? Check out the sad plight of the Yankees who are going to have to try to find some way to compete on a paltry $189 million payroll. My heart goes out to the Bronx Bombers, it really does.

• If you happen to want to see how a team in a similar plight as the A’s is doing with their ballpark problem, the Tampa Bay Rays are increasing payroll, working with local politicians,

and talking about how they believe the area can support a big league club.  Not exactly a page out of the Lew Wolff playbook is it?  But as the article says, “to think the Rays can continue to compete with the big spenders in the American league, (Rays owner) Stuart Sternberg said, is ‘unrealistic.’ ”

To anyone wants to point to the Rays as an example of how the A’s should be able to be competitive right now in spite of their ballpark issues it’s clear that even the Rays know their current run of success can’t last unless they get a new venue.  The Rays are what the A’s were and smart money says they’ll eventually sink to similar depths the A’s have now reached if they don’t land in a new stadium over the next several years.

• If things don’t work out with Bob Melvin running the A’s it looks like former A’s MVP Jason Giambi has some chops as a manager. As long as he doesn’t make his brother Jeremy the team’s baserunning coach I think it could work for G at the helm in Oakland.

• Remember Kiko Calero? Before Mike Wuertz was a great A’s setup man destroyed by too many nasty sliders, there was Calero successfully bridging the gap to the closer during some of Oakland’s glory years. Well, Kiko’s looking to follow in the footsteps of new A’s starter Bartolo Colon in the hope that a dose of stem cells could lead to a comeback. Best of luck to Calero. If there’s any team that loves to invest in injury risks it’s the A’s so maybe we’ll see him in green and gold again.

The same goes for Rich Harden. I know Billy Beane has your number on speed dial.

• If you happen to have a strong interest in the whole stem-cells-in-your-arm thing, check out former Major Leaguer C.J. Nitkowski’s experience with the procedure.

• If the Toronto Blue Jays are open to at least entertaining offers for recently demoted, and former hyped hitting prospect, Travis Snider I hope Beane picks up the phone and sees if he can strike a deal.  I know the A’s need another young outfielder as much as I need another hole in my head but I think their priority should be to collect as much high-upside young players as possible and then see how things shake out in terms of positions and playing time.  I doubt that Toronto would be particularly interested in selling this low on Snider who’s still just 24 years old but if they’re willing to listen then maybe something can be worked out.

• Since I know you can’t get enough of the A’s ballpark situation, here’s an interesting read from Fox Sports’ Tracy Ringolsby where Selig offers some notable quotes on the ongoing saga between the Giants and A’s:

“It is different because in 1990 when Bob Lurie wanted to move the Giants to San Jose, Walter Haas, the wonderful owner of the Oakland club, who did things in the best interest of baseball, granted permission. What got lost there is they didn’t feel it was permission in perpetuity. He gave Bob permission to go down there. Unfortunately or fortunately, it never got changed. We are dealing with a lot of history here.” — Bud Selig

 

That offers at least a glimmer of hope that things may eventually break in the A’s favor and they’ll get to open a new ballpark in San Jose in the near future.

Follow me on Twitter @JunkballBlogger and for more A’s-related analysis, stories, and opinions, follow us on twitter @FS_SwinginAs or like us on Facebook.

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