Any proud A’s fan can rattle off the myriad of accomplishments that have taken place throughout the storied history of the Oakland Athletics. Be it the 9 World Series Championships (3rd most all time, 2nd most in AL history), the 14 pennants, the MVPs, the 20 game winning streak, the numerous Hall of Famers who’ve played for the Athletics, or the Cy Young Award winners who’ve taken the mound at the Coliseum, there is a lot to fall back on for A’s fans in any argument. This afternoon the 2012 Cy Young Awards were handed out, to David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays and R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets, and it made me think about the past Athletics who’ve taken that very award and those who could do so in the future.
It was 10 years ago that the last Athletics player won the award, when Barry Zito defeated Pedro Martinez. Zito may or may not have been the most deserving winner, he had an excellent season going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA, but Pedro Martinez had an ERA almost half a run lower at 2.26 and went 20-4. It appeared that Zito got the nod because of his 3 extra wins, not that anyone in Oakland was complaining. Prior to that, Dennis Eckersley won in 1992, Bob Welch in 1990, Catfish Hunter in 1974, and Vida Blue in 1971 took the award. The A’s 5 awards since its inception trail only the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox in the AL, each of them have 6 awards.
Looking at this current roster there are definitely some pitchers who have the ability to ascend to that level. Cy Young Award potential is obviously about as high a ceiling as you can have for a pitcher, and it should not be a surprise that a team like the Athletics would have some with that kind of potential. Of course a lot of things need to go right for a pitcher to elevate his game to the point that he finds himself in the discussion for the Cy Young Award, but it almost happened this year, even though it wasn’t in an Athletics uniform. Gio Gonzalez was a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award this year, and he very well could’ve done that in Oakland, and his blossoming ability was nurtured primarily in Oakland.
Looking at the current roster, two names immediately jump out as potential candidates, Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson. They are roughly the same age, both born in 1988 (Parker in November, Anderson in April), both acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, yet they’ve taken extremely different career paths.
Brett Anderson made his Major League debut in 2009 and showed serious flashes of brilliance, specifically his dominant performance at Fenway Park when he shutout the Red Sox. His season overall was up and down, but the times he pitched well gave us all a taste of what was hopefully to come. The next two seasons were hampered badly by injuries, specifically a troublesome elbow that eventually required Tommy John surgery in 2011. When Anderson returned in late 2012 he was once again showing those flashes of brilliance that had tantalized A’s fans 3 years prior. A finally healthy season, free of elbow problems, and hopefully free of freak oblique injuries as well could allow us to finally see what Anderson can bring to the mound. It seems like Anderson has been around forever, and he really is one of the veteran leaders of the Athletics, at the ripe old age of 24.
Jarrod Parker was a critical part of the 5 man rotation that at one point was entirely comprised of rookie starters. He came into this season not too far removed from Tommy John surgery of his own, so there was some question as to how his arm would react to a full season of pitching. Needless to say the A’s had to have been pleased with the results. Parker went 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA in his first major opportunity in the show. His walk rate was a little bit high for everyone’s liking at 3.1/9 innings. His season was good enough to gain a single point in the Rookie of the Year voting, good enough for 5th place. Now that Parker has not only experienced a pennant race, but also has pitched twice in the playoffs, he will be fearless from this point on. Just watch him pitch and you can see that he has the raw talent to succeed at any level, his maturation will turn him from a young talent into an ace.
It’s no secret that the future for the A’s is bright, and the future for these two young starters is every bit as promising.
Quick note: This is the 1,000th article published on Swingin’ A’s, it’s been a blast doing my part over this past season. Here’s to 1,000 more.