January 24, 2007

As A's Foundation is Chipped, Do We Remain Whole?

Cross-posted at Athletics Nation...

As Oakland A's fans, we've grown accustomed to change. For us to assume we could pull a Rip Van Winkle and immediately fell asleep at the conclusion of one season, only to arise on Opening Day, and expect to see the same roster in both games, would be beyond naive. Despite this, into my twentieth year as an A's fan, I am still struck by the amount of turnover we see on an annual basis, and how as fans, we accept it and hold onto those familiar faces left behind who represent hope for the green and gold.

Yesterday, we saw Kirk Saarloos shipped out of town, in exchange for a prospect and more hope. Most of us saw Saarloos as a nice to have, flexible commodity who could both start and come out of the bullpen, but none of us really saw having him on the roster as defining the team, or see that his leaving marks the death-knell of the 2007 season. Simply put, we can take it. We trust the team's ownership has a plan.

Beyond the loss of Los Kirk, one must take only a superficial glance at last year's Oakland A's statistical leaderboard to recognize how a few winter months can change a team. The A's best hitter by average, hits and doubles (Jay Payton at .296 with 165 hits, 32 doubles) is now playing in Baltimore. The A's best slugger by home runs and RBIs (Frank Thomas) is now playing in Toronto. On the mound, the A's also lost fan favorite Barry Zito, who led in ERA and was tied for the lead in wins with Joe Blanton at 16. That guy is pitching you know where at you know what park for you know which team. Meanwhile, off the field, the team lost their manager and third base coach, and announced intentions to move out of Oakland.

What an uneventful few months? No?

Yet, we persevere. To me, this largely stems from the knowledge that we have seen such change, and we will see it again. We were dealt body blows when we saw Hudson and Mulder leave only days apart. When I was much younger, I was shocked that the team dealt Canseco in mid-game. I've fought reality and hoped the team could keep others, like McGwire, Giambi and Tejada, largely in vain. And when those changes happen, we grumble, and move on, bruised but not beaten.

All that has me thinking - how would I react if the A's next press release said that Blanton was on his way out of town? Would I be okay with that? What if instead of Blanton, it was Haren? Or Harden? What if instead, we saw Eric Chavez or Nick Swisher shipped out of town? What if it was all of them? Would I still believe in the plan? Have the A's got us fooled by making incremental changes regularly so we don't see the full scope? I have a feeling that we haven't seen the end of the changes in this off-season. I don't think that taking on Piazza and Durazo and Embree is the master plan.

The question is, are you ready for what might be the next shoe to drop, and what player's leaving would just tear you up?

On the other hand, at least we didn't get Darin Erstad...