(Continuing my re-posts of old blog entries about the Oakland A’s. Now we’re getting into the Moneyball year. This post originally appeared on April 26, 2000)
I don’t mean to shock anyone, but I’ve always believed in "open relationships." Sure, of course I believe in true love and having a special partnership with that special someone, but I also think experiencing the fullness of life means leaving the door open to other things as well, so long as everyone involved agrees it’s okay. I know a lot of people disagree with me on this. Especially when it comes to baseball.
I have my first love–my deep, abiding, long-term love–and that is the Yankees. If I had to choose between the Yankees and another team, there would be no question who I would choose. I fell in love with the Yankees before I ever even looked at another team. When I was a fan in the seventies, I could name you the whole Yankees starting lineup, but I could probably only name you four or five players in the rest of the league. I’m more mature now, and have expanded my tastes a bit.
Last year, I had a summer fling with the Seattle Mariners. I had picked them during the offseason, when A-rod had jilted them for the Rangers’ money, I found myself really wanting to root for the M’s. The Mariners turned out to be a good choice. After all, their games don’t start until 10pm Eastern, when most of the Yankees games are ending. They’re in a different division, so there was very little direct conflict of interest for me. And then, of course, the M’s went on a tear, as Ichiro proved his star burned just as bright in the American League as in Japan, Bret Boone blossomed, and Mike Cameron continued to make it look like Ken Griffey, Jr. wasn’t missed. It was a historic campaign for the Mariners in 2001, as they went on to win 116 regular season games and tie the major league record.
But they didn’t come close to matching the 125 wins of the 1998 Yankees, thanks to the Yankees. Oh, I had a wonderful time, traveling to Seattle in the summer, getting to root for the M’s and get autographs from Bret Boone and Mike Cameron. It was fun. But when October came, it was clear who my primary partner was. I wanted the Mariners to beat the Indians, but as soon as my two teams faced each other, well … you dance with the one that brung ya. Thanks for the memories, Mariners, and drop by and see me when you’re in Boston. (Hm, I guess it’s me who will have to do the dropping by.)
Speaking of Boston, I suppose if I’m married to the Yankees, the Red Sox are like the annoying housemate you can’t get away from. You know all about their problems and you have to live with them. Sigh. Anyway, you can be sure there will be no love affair between me and the Red Sox.
So who will my fling be with this year? I thought about the San Francisco Giants, because I had a great time at PacBell last year, and I know I will have an eye on Barry Bonds, as will everyone else. But… nah. I like the Giants, but they just don’t get my heart racing. How about the St. Louis Cardinals? Tino Martinez is there now. But I already have a longstanding flirtation with the Cubs, so I can’t really go with another National League Central team. I thought about maybe adopting the Kansas City Royals this season, to see how things go with Chuck Knoblauch there, but I don’t enjoy suffering enough to make it with KC. (See Red Sox, above.)
My favorite non-Yankee player last year was Jason Giambi. I saw him play in person twice, once in Anaheim and once in Oakland, and he hit home runs both times. I thought he should have won the Home Run Derby. And I have really enjoyed watching the upstart A’s romp all over the league. So I kind of thought, hmm, maybe the A’s?
Then, of course, Giambi came to the Yankees, but I find myself still very interested in the A’s. They lost Giambi and Johnny Damon, and their closer, but might they still get better? Mulder-Hudson-Zito, deadly. And you have to love a guy like Barry Zito, a lefty in the Bill "Spaceman" Lee mode. Eric Chavez got the Gold Glove last year–but will he finally get over his postseason jitters this season? Jermaine Dye broke his leg and has yet to return, but when he does you hope he rebounds well…
I listened to the first three A’s games of the year and that settled it. They were against the Texas Rangers (boo hiss, A-rod, Rocker, and Carl Everett all in one place! And glove-thief Ruben Rivera in their minor league system now!). So here you have the three best young pitchers in the league, facing the scariest lineup in the league three nights in a row. And beating them. Oh man, talk about exciting games! The A’s play exciting baseball. Wow, my heart is starting to beat harder just thinking about it. Home runs, awesome pitching, a lot of heart, grit, and fun.
I’m making a business trip to the Bay Area at the end of August. I guess I’ll have to make a date with my boys then. Because by October, you know it’ll be over.
(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)