Friday, April 13, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Ah, now I really feel like it’s baseball season! I went to the A’s home opener—a longstanding tradition by now—and went back the next night to see two against the White Sox. What a great time! Both nights were perfect, weatherwise—at least, as perfect as it gets at the Coliseum (yeah, yeah, McAfee, but who calls it that?) in April. I have been subjected to all sorts of crazy weather on Opening Day here—rain, wind, cold—but this time, the weather was mild and clear, and the chill only became apparent around the sixth inning.

The first night, Monday, we had a little picnic in the parking lot beforehand: crackers and cheese, homemade guacamole and chips, salami and bread, and some nice red wine. (My season-ticket partner is also a professional winemaker, and he often brings exceptional stuff to the games.) For the game itself, I sat with my wife out in right field, and she was so happy to be there, starting another year! It was nice to sit close wrapped in our A’s blanket. Yes, everything was great that night—except the score. Rich Harden was good, but Jose Contreras was just a little better, and the A’s bullpen couldn’t keep it close in the late innings as the A’s lost 4–1.

The next night, my friend and I barbecued a marinated pork loin and had a salad to join with the leftover cheese and crackers. Inside, Chad Gaudin gave up just one run and stayed into the sixth before Alan Embree, Justin Duchsherer, and Huston Street came in and pitched shutout ball in front of a crowd that was smaller by about 20,000 than the previous night. Once again, Chicago’s starter was just a little bit better, as Jon Garland gave up three hits and no runs through seven. The Athletics had the American League’s worst batting average with runners in scoring position at that point, and in the fifth, they couldn’t score after Travis Buck hit a leadoff triple. They looked doomed to lose 1–0 until the ninth. Milton Bradley and Mike Piazza led off with singles, but then Sox closer Bobby Jenks struck out Eric Chavez and retired Nick Swisher on a fly to left. Next up, Todd Walker, pinch hitting for Bobby Crosby, tied the game with a single. Mark Ellis, who was one of the batters that could not bring Buck home in the fifth, then knocked a drive off the left-field fence and the A’s won 2–1. A terrific, exciting finish!

Nevertheless, if the A’s want to have a good year, they better get the bats going. The Sox won the next game, a Wednesday matinee, 6–3 to win the series—the first time the White Sox have won a series in Oakland in almost seven years! Right now, the A’s are next-to-last in the AL in runs scored and RBI. Jason Kendall (.154), Shannon Stewart (.195), and Bobby Crosby (.190) have yet to start earning their pay offensively. Meanwhile, the pitching is ridiculous. Of all the starters, the only one with a winning record (Joe Blanton, 1–0) also has the highest ERA (3.97). After that, it’s Gaudin, 0–0, 2.53 ERA; Joe Kennedy, 0–1, 1.64 ERA; Rich Harden, 1–1, 1.38 ERA; and poor Danny Haren, who is 0–2, but sports a 0.64 ERA. Who can make sense of such numbers when the bats are so quiet?

But A’s fans must be used to this. Over the last several seasons, the team has always made a slow start—sometimes dropping to 10 games under .500—before roaring back after the All-Star break. Why can’t they just start strong for once? I don’t know, but it usually makes for some important games in September!

Now the Yanks come into town for a weekend series. Glad to see New York struggling along at .500, even though A-Rod is hitting up a storm. It’s also nice to see the Blue Jays coming on strong early, making the Yanks look over their shoulders for two teams instead of just concentrating on the Red Sox. I don’t expect the Yanks to be at .500 for very long, unfortunately. At this early juncture, there is no team that looks exceptionally dominant in the AL.

In the NL, I’ve got my eye on the Mets, even though the Braves (curses!) are currently in first place. I know the guys in Atlanta are bitter about losing their first division title in over a decade last year, but my guess is that the Mets will get better before they get worse (barring injuries, of course)! The other NL team off to a hot start is the Diamondbacks, but how long can Arizona keep it up?

Yep, another season is underway! How will it all play out?

SEASONINGS: I have to admit that as a Miami Dolphins fan and a New York Giants fan, I’m not too sad to see Drew Bledsoe retire after 14 years. With the Patriots, Bills, and Cowboys, Bledsoe did his darnedest every year to bust a hole in one of my team’s postseason hopes. However, I have to say that as much as Bledsoe was a drain to my teams, he was a great player and a true gamer, and I feel sorry that he didn’t get a ring as a starter somewhere. It seemed as if he was ignominiously pushed out of New England after he injured his chest in the 2001 season and was replaced by Tom Brady. Bledsoe was at least able to help the team make the Super Bowl that year by beating the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game when Brady was hurt. Then Brady got all the accolades and awards when he was named Super Bowl MVP for leading the Pats over the Rams—and Bledsoe was outta there. Of course, Brady was the one to go with, but that doesn’t mean I can’t feel bad about how it ended for Bledsoe in Foxboro. Although Bledsoe continued his career, he was never quite the same as before his chest injury. Bledsoe ends his career fifth all-time in completions, seventh in yards passing, and thirteenth in TD passes. Nice going, Drew—that was quite a career!

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