Oakland A's

The Swingin’ A’s

    There are no handlebar moustaches to be found.  No skin-tight plaid bellbottoms, either.  And there’s no basket near the door for your keys.  But the Oakland A’s are certainly doing their best to re-earn the nickname “The Swingin’ A’s”.  By charging the mound against the Angels Tuesday, Jason Kendall scared away any remaining perceptions that the A’s are still the fun-loving, beer-chugging misfits they once were.  Gone are the Lost Boys carrying out Jason Giambi’s never-grow-up credo; in their place is a group of veteran castaways who have taken control of the team, and instilled a fighter’s mentality.   Given the way these A’s play, don’t be surprised if they end up in a few more scraps before the year’s over.    Some random A’s notes that don’t quite form a real column:

     – Esteban Loaiza went on the DL this week with an injury that may be a result of his participation in the World Baseball Classic.  Not that the A’s blame him for pitching on Mexico’s behalf.  When you have a chance to lead your country to a miraculous 5th-place finish in a meaningless preseason tournament, you have to answer the call.  Now there’s word that Loaiza may be unavailable for two weeks in June due to a national Connect Four invitational, which means Oakland needs Rich Harden to get healthy and stay healthy.

     – Speaking of the WBC, A’s reliever Kiko Calero pitched for the team from Puerto Rico, where he was a teammate of Joel Pineiro.  Kiko Calero, teammate of Joel Pineiro.  Now every time you hear Kiko Calero’s name, you will be compelled to mention his teammate and fellow countryman.  It’s impossible to resist.

     – It looks like Frank Thomas is the new David Justice.  He still looks like the guy you remember from the 1994 All-Star Game, but he is absolutely brutal in the middle of the lineup.  Of course, as they did with Justice, the A’s will keep hitting him cleanup for the rest of the season.  For a team that’s so smart, the A’s can be pretty dumb sometimes.

     – When The Big Hurt signed with the A’s, much was made about someone so big might help the A’s if a brawl ever broke out.  But if I had to pick one person to get into a fight with an opposing team, it would be Nick Swisher, just to see Milton Bradley’s reaction.  Thomas gets all the attention because of his size, but Bradley is legitimately crazy and fast enough to catch anyone who runs from him.  If a pitcher ever called out Swisher the way Lackey called out Kendall, there’s a good chance Milton would scalp him.

     – Somehow, Kendall has become the team’s most unexpected source of energy.  More spontaneous combustion that mere spark plug, Kendall has shown a knack for being at the center of Oakland’s most memorable plays of the past 2 seasons: the bare-handed tag at the plate in Texas, the steal of home after K-Rod’s drop against Anaheim, and now fighting the Angels’ tree of a starting pitcher.  Either Kendall has a little Forrest Gump in him, or he’s making a concerted effort to become Varitek West.

     – It’s a quality that has become necessary, however, thanks to Kendall’s wet noodle of a bat and his mesmerizing inability to throw out base runners.  Kendall seems to have licked the base-running issue early this season (he’s thrown out 11 of 17 runners), but Oakland fans still have vivid memories of everyone from leadoff hitters to first-base coaches to drunk fans stealing second base against the A’s catcher in 2005.

     – I’m fully expecting to wake up Wednesday morning to a story in the paper about how much Barry Zito loves Anaheim.  The guy has become the biggest tease in baseball, dropping hints in every city he visits about his impending free agency.  He’s like the girl who’s always flirting but never actually puts out.   The guy who ends up with that girl always ends up bitter and disappointed, which means Mets fans have something to look forward to.

     – Even more disappointing than Zito’s eagerness to leave Oakland: he cut his hair.  My favorite part of Zito’s starts used to be yelling “cut your hair, you dirty hippie!” after each 30-pitch, 4-run inning he suffered through (trust me, there are more of these than you think).  Now he’s just your everyday mediocre starting pitcher.  Truly the end of an era.

     – Lost amidst all the fight talk: the A’s scored 6 runs in the 9th inning to run away with the game, winning 10-3.  This had all the makings of a painful loss, from Kendall charging the mound to the predictable Angels rally in the bottom of the inning to the A’s leaving their AAA starter in too long.  But instead of folding up shop, Oakland dropped a 10-spot on their Orange County rivals.  In the days of Eric Byrnes and Damian Miller, it would have taken the A’s a week to score 10 runs.

     – Wait, did a team that employed David Eckstein for 6 years really just complain about an opposing hitter leaning into a pitch?

     – The best part of Tuesday’s lovefest?  Mike Scioscia complaining to the umpires after Lackey’s ejection.  Scioscia has enough whine to start his own vineyard, and I’m waiting for the day when his face turns as red as his jacket and his head finally explodes.  Next time the Big Tomato goes nose-to-nose with an umpire, I’d love to see the ump take it back to third grade and steal Scioscia’s hat- anyone that angry deserves to be taunted.

     – And remember: Kiko Calero, teammate of Joel Pineiro.

By sign_arenas

Ray was born and raised in the Bay Area, and has been addicted to the local sports scene since Luis Polonia was roaming left field for the A's. You can always pick him out of a crowd by looking for the guy in Warriors gear. Ray is the Oakland Sports Examiner at, and his work can be found at:

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