August 2, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics bullpen dance to "call me maybe" during the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A's 'Pen Departures Means Gut Check Time For Some

The other day I wrote about the A’s leadership core from the player’s perspective. Leadership is a tangible cog in the engine of a team’s success over the course of a season. Bad apples can ruin a team even if said team is loaded with talent. The A’s have seen a great deal of success over the last two seasons due to veteran voices such as Jonny Gomes, Brandon Inge, Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon, Coco Crisp, Jerry Blevins, etc. Only one of those players remains on the team currently. Two of those players came from the bullpen, which is seen as the team’s greatest strength going into the 2014 season.

The last player I mentioned above was none other than Jerry Blevins. Blevins had been one of the longest tenured A’s before he was traded to the Washington Nationals. His personality, leadership, and production were all valuable, especially in the bullpen, especially for one pitcher in particular, Sean Doolittle.

Since the completion of Doolittle’s transformation from first baseman to pitcher has been completed he and Blevins became best friends. Blevins showed Doolittle the ropes of the Major Leagues and was a mentor of sorts for the hard-throwing lefty. This was evident not only on the field and in the bullpen, but also off the field in their public appearances, such as a trip to the Twitter headquarters. Blevins had a huge part in the finished product that is Sean Doolittle.

Another pitcher that helped a young reliever in the A’s pen was Grant Balfour. Balfour was a quiet leader when outside of the lines. When he was on the mound however he was anything but that. His verbal assaults are well documented, but his consistency and production never slipped. This was a great example for starter turned reliever Ryan Cook. Cook lost control at times on the mound and seemed to let negative results snowball.

With Balfour and Blevins gone the A’s are counting on a relatively young core to adjust to new teammates Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson (and potentially others like Fernando Abad) and to step up their production and maturity. Cook and Doolittle will be a part of one of, if not the best bullpen in all of baseball in 2014. While there are others in the pen such as Dan Otero and Jesse Chavez, Cook and Doolittle will be counted on the most when it’s crunch time.

Two things to take away from this article; leadership matters and the A’s bullpen is really good. Having a mentor if you’re a young player can really help jumpstart a career in the right direction. Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle had two excellent mentors to start out their career with, but as with everything in life things change. There’s no doubt Johnson and Gregerson can be good leaders, but it will take a jump in maturity for the A’s bullpen in 2014 to live up the hype currently surrounding them.

Tags: Grant Balfour Jerry Blevins Oakland A's Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle

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