April 29, 2006

Help From a Little Green Book

As a young Oakland A's fan growing up in the era of Canseco, McGwire, Rickey, Stewart, Hendu, and Eckersley, I simply couldn't get enough news and insight into my favorite team. At the age of 12, I had set my watch to beep at 5:45 PM every day so I could run in and turn on the local news and get the sports report (this is pre-ESPN for me, mind you), and I must have read Bill Mazeroski's 1989 season preview cover to cover a million times.

To this day, I could tell you Jose Canseco had a .569 slugging percentage and 187 hits to go with his .307 average in 1988, alongside 42 home runs, 24 doubles, 40 steals and 16 caught stealing. Those numbers are hard-coded, and if I ever forget them, it's because I've gotten too old to recognize my own grandkids (should there ever be any).

In fact, one Christmas, I successfully begged my parents to get me the ultimate in baseball stats - Total Baseball. Filled with more than 2,000 pages, including all major league statistics for all players - ever, the book was incredible, including stories about every era of the sport, award winners, streaks, and odd circumstance. And yes, I probably skimmed through every page of statistics too. See - I was young, and baseball was my life. Though I grew up shorter and scrawnier than everyone else, and managed a .000 average in my one injury-shortened Little League season (kid you not, I walked or struck out every AB), I knew baseball, and I knew my A's.

Which brings us to today. At Spring Training in Arizona, I picked up the 2006 Oakland Athletics Media Guide, which aims to fill this particular niche in my psyche, with pinpoint focus on this year's squad - full of player profiles with the entire 40 man roster, and even non-roster invitees, and most importantly, all the stats, awards, and streaks a good fan should know. Now, when Ken Korach, Ray Fosse and Vince Cotroneo say that "The last time the A's hit 3 consecutive home runs was in 2000, when Randy Velarde, Jason Giambi and Ben Grieve accomplished the task," I'll know it's not solely because they have encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport, but through the help of a little green book - one that I too have at my disposal.

For instance, the A's have won 2 consecutive road games so far on this trip... but did you know that in 1971, the team won 12 consecutive games on the road from July 31st to August 15th? You probably already knew that during the team's AL-record 20 game streak, they won 10 consecutive on the road, from August 19th to 28th. Right?

Meanwhile, after 23 games, the A's have a record of 11-12. At this point in 1981, the A's had 20 wins and only 3 losses! Of course, in 1994, they had regressed, showing a record of 7 and 16 at this juncture, the worst ever in team history...

In 2005, we saw two pitchers, Dan Haren and Barry Zito, lead the team with 14 wins apiece. But did you know that in 1999, Gil Heredia led the team with only 13 wins? And did you know that current Yankee Aaron Small led the A's with all of 9 wins in 1997?

And did you know that the 2005 squad's tally of only 155 home runs was the least for an Oakland A's team since 1998 (149), and that this number falls 88 short of the team record of 243, set in 1996? Did you know that Eric Chavez has four of the top five home run seasons for an A's third baseman since 1901? Or that Nick Swisher had the fourth-most doubles by an Oakland A's rookie with 32?

I hope you'll excuse me... I've got some reading to do.
Listening to ''Mindcrasher'', by Blank & Jones (Play Count: 8)