PHOENIX -- What I like, and don't like, about the Athletics:
What I like:
• The rotation is the best thing about this Oakland team. It's young, maturing and the A's have a chance to build around it and be very good for several years. Trevor Cahill was an All-Star last year and in the AL Cy Young conversation. Brett Anderson (23) and Gio Gonzalez (25) are two lefties coming into their own, and another lefty, Dallas Braden (27), threw the perfect game last year. The entire key to this operation is health. If these four make 30 starts each, this team will contend.
|Oakland is the perfect spring team. Pitching rich, optimism soaring, no regular-season losses yet. More>>|
• Braden. What a gutsy, personable kid. This guy is a winner because he doesn't back down from any challenge. Including when Alex Rodriguez walks across his mound.
• The bullpen. In closer Andrew Bailey, Brad Ziegler, Craig Breslow and newcomers Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and Michael Wuertz, they're deep. Which, facing all of those monstrous AL lineups, is a must.
• The A's catch the ball with this group better than they have in the past. Up the middle, with catcher Kurt Suzuki, shortstop Cliff Pennington, second baseman Mark Ellis and center fielder Coco Crisp, the Athletics are strong. Right fielder David DeJesus adds some speed.
• There are few marquee names here, but there is good balance. "One thing about our team, we don't have two or three superstars," manager Bob Geren says. "Our team is about everybody carrying the load. If one or two guys have a bad month, others can pick up the slack. You don't have two or three guys who carry the team for a month, but we also don't have to worry about what if this guy or that guy slumps."
What I dislike:
• Closer Andrew Bailey's elbow. The kid is a true All-Star, but when he is knocked out by a forearm strain early in the spring, with seven months ahead of him, that's worrisome. Especially given his history of arm issues, dating back to undergoing Tommy John ligament transfer surgery when he was in college.
• Hideki Matsui looks every bit of 36, and maybe more. He was streaky and mostly disappointing with the Angels last summer and has had a very difficult spring training. Granted, you can't take spring numbers seriously -- especially with veterans with Matsui's resume -- but his bat has looked slow and his power has looked non-existent.
• Manager Bob Geren is a nice guy, but he's not going to win any games by outmaneuvering opponents.
• The Oakland Coliseum. Or Network Associates. Or whatever they're calling it this year. Once one of the more underrated joints in the game, the place has been a dump ever since they expanded it for the NFL's Raiders. And with sometimes as few as 5,000 or so in attendance, it's time the A's moved. San Jose? Sacramento? Somewhere.