The A’s have their home opener tonight against some team from Chicago, so our long dark night of the soul is over. America’s team has played two valiant series on the road already, against a much improved Seattle Mariners team and the Anaheim chapter of the Axis of Steinbrenner. The Team split with the Halos and went 1-2 against the sailors. So we’re learned a lot already:
* The core pitching staff of Harden, Haren, and Blanton is outstanding, as good as any Big Three in baseball right now.
* The loss of Zito isn’t going to hurt the As. His ERA is now above 8 for the Giants, and he’s 0-2 after getting banged around in both of his starts on the wrong side of the Bay.
* The loss of Frank Thomas isn’t going to hurt the As. Piazza leads the league in hits, and he can hit anybody, anytime. And he runs like a turbo-charged beer truck, not a regular beer truck.
* Shannon Stewart, most likely, is an upgrade from Jay Payton.
* Chad Gaudin has the stuff to be a big-league starter, and pitching on a regular basis improves his control, the only weakness in his game in the past. When he’s got a full four-pitch repertoire, watch out AL.
* Alan Embree is more than a LOOGY, he’s a great 1-2 inning setup man.
* Base running is hard. Your coaches and your runners and your hitters all need to be on the same page, and when it goes wrong you look like a bunch of morons.
* Infield defense has taken a dive post-Wash and won’t fully recover.
* Bobby Crosby isn’t 100% and Geren needs to treat him accordingly. If you got runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs and Crosby coming up, pinch hit Mr. Clutch Scutaro for him, at least during April. Re-evaluate in May.
* Nick Swisher can hit with RISP.
* Jason Kendall can throw out stealing Angels and then rub their face in it by stealing bases himself. That’s because he’s the ultimate gamer.
* Travis Buck is going to be in the Big Leagues for many years, but probably not for all of this one.
* Lackey and K-Fraud are the King and Queen of Bush League behavior.
* The Angels in general are not all they’re cracked-up to be. They have one good hitter and only one, their defense is ragged, their running game is chaos, and their bullpen is weak.
* Felix Hernandez of the Sailors is the real deal, a dominating pitcher with Cy Young in his future.