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Elman Swings
by Peter Elman

Here We Go Again…Anything Can (and will) Happen - 06/18/2002

This column, as you may have noticed by now, is not for Johnny-come-lately fair-weather fans. Two weeks ago, the Athletics were eight back of Seattle; now they are only four back, courtesy of some weak National League opponents. I suppose the question on everybody’s lips is this: Can the A’s sustain this run, especially against tough American League teams?Of course they can. Will they? That’s another story. But there is no doubt in this loyalist’s mind that we have the horses. It’s a matter of execution. (Yes, I would like to execute certain individuals, starting with Bud Selig and Roger Clemens, but that’s a different story)

Let’s break down what needs to happen for the A’s to make the playoffs. There are four teams ahead of them, and they need to pass two. Forget about the Central division—nobody out of that dubious group of underachievers will come close to the wild card. That leaves Seattle, Anaheim, New York and Boston. Many of us are confident that the A’s can overtake the Angels and their young pitching staff. Assuming that for a moment, who will be the other domino to fall?

Conventional thinking—and most of the talking heads—says we must beat Seattle, because the wild card is “coming out of the East”. We all know about the Yankees—with that incredible bullpen they will probably win 100 games. But wait a minute--are we presuming that the Red Sox, even with Nomar, Derek Lowe, Pedro, Hillenbrand and Manny (whew, that is a load!) are a lock? What has everyone been smoking? Sure, they’re eight games ahead of us in the loss column and playing great fundamental baseball, but they are the Red Sox, for chrissake! It’s only June 19, and don’t believe for a minute that crap about the Babe’s piano! 84 years of history says the Red Sox will fold down the stretch. That being said, I would like to see them make the post-season, and gloat as Lou’s Mariners wear the rope in October. My fantasy, like every other A’s fan worth his or her salt, has the Athletics finally getting their revenge against the Yanks and triumphing in the Fall Classic.

The point is, sports fans, the swingin’ A’s can end up with a better record than both of them. If the triplets stay healthy—and they sure look it these days—and the bullpen stabilizes (much more of a question) things could be very exciting after Labor Day. The variable, as it appears, are the number four and five slots in the rotation. Let’s hope that Billy Beane, and yes, Rick Peterson, earn their salaries.

The roster has been evolving since Opening Day, which must drive Uncle Art batty. As I write this he’s back in his hometown, Steel City, waiting for the rain to stop so the A’s can resume pounding the hapless Pirates. Howe would love to pencil in one lineup and start up the old Xerox machine, but it just can’t be, not this year, anyway. So he must make the most of it—after all, the ’75 Warriors (did he say the Warriors?!) took the title with a platoon system. It can be done.

Who would have thought in April that second base would be shared by old pro Randy Velarde and wunderkind Mark Ellis, rather than Menechino and German? Adam Piatt’s patience is being rewarded, and we are not suffering because of Carlos Pena’s demotion. Ramon is starting to hit and T. Long is roping line drives. And better than all that, Tim Hudson is MAD, and when he gets MAD, the A’s win ballgames by the bushel.

So stay positive, and remember that anything can, and will, happen. It’s baseball…

by Peter Elman


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