It’s been a long time coming, October 11th, 2012 really was a long time ago. That was the last time we got to see the Athletics in a game that truly meant something. Tomorrow night, the A’s step back out on the magnificently manicured field at the O.co Coliseum and face off against the Seattle Mariners and their ace of aces Felix Hernandez for what seems like the hundredth Opening Day in a row. I guess you can’t always get what you want, so we’ll just have to accept the fact that scoring runs on Opening Day will always be a difficult task.
The A’s will have their own ace in the making in the form of Brett Anderson taking the hill. Anderson was once poised to assume that role at the top of the rotation a couple years ago before his elbow problems caught up to him and he underwent Tommy John surgery. Now that he’s full recovered from the surgery, it is his time to pick up where he left off. Tomorrow is the first step towards his ascension to the top tier of American League pitchers.
The most important aspect of tomorrow’s game though isn’t tied to any one specific player. The Athletics blew us all away with an incredible 2012 season, we’ve spent an eternity dissecting and discussing every aspect of it. As great as it was, I’m tired of looking back, and it’s time to start looking at the present and the future. The good news is that the A’s are about to give us 6 months of almost daily discussion fodder, and if we’re lucky we’ll get a 7th month as well. This team has its flaws, but it is built to win, and it should do just that.
What we have to look forward to goes far beyond the fun quirks that made last years team as exciting as it was. While they have their place, cliches that have become associated with the Athletics like the Bernie Lean, the Balfour Rage, Bacon Tuesday, and walk-off pies are just barely scratching the surface of reasons why this team needs to be paid very close attention. Yoenis Cespedes is a potential MVP candidate if just a few things fall into place. Josh Reddick showed that he is a deadly force from right field whenever a foolish runner tries to take an extra base. Coco Crisp is the spark plug that gets the offense moving, Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss are out to prove their 2012 productivity was no fluke, and Jed Lowrie and Hiro Nakajima will eventually team up to make a hopefully very dynamic middle infield. Then there’s the darling of spring Eric Sogard, the bespectacled middle infielder who hit over .500 for much of the spring and forced his way onto the roster and perhaps into tomorrow’s starting lineup as well. Many fans have clamored for him to get a chance to prove himself in Oakland, and this is it. The trio of Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, and Sean Doolittle will see to it that A’s games last about 6 innings as they shut down opposing offenses in the late innings. I could go on for days about what makes this team as exciting as it is.
My very first article here on Swingin’ A’s called for fans to make sure they enjoy every bit of Athletics baseball because there’s no telling how long everything will be as it is. Eventually the team will either stay in Oakland but in a fancy new (more expensive) stadium, or move down to San Jose, or leave altogether. Sooner or later everything will change and it will never be like it is right now. The A’s may not be a sexy pick to win the AL West, I didn’t even predict them to do it, but that is not to say it is at all unlikely that they repeat as division champs. We all had to sit back and watch the cross bay rival San Francisco Giants celebrate their second championship in 3 years, and as the minority in this market it was especially tough to watch. It is our responsibility to come out and support the team, make noise (the players do notice), and yes even do the Bernie Lean and get your arm workout with a little Balfour Rage action. I’ll be camped out in section 147, two sections over from where all the cool kids in 149 lay claim, for the duration of the season. I can’t wait for this season to get under way, despite all the doubts, I have a very good feeling about 2013.