Moving from Frank Thomas's 2007 team to his 2006 club, FTG's 2007 MLB season preview odyssey takes a look at the Oakland A's, who signed Mike Piazza this offseason to fill Big Frank's shoes.
I really don't know what to make of this team. They did give me one of the more entertaining baseball games I attended last year, with Huston Street blowing Frank Thomas's 2 homer return to US Comiscular (ahhh, that was when it still looked like the ChiSox were on their way to repeating, sporting that vintage 2005 pixie dust).
That loss was just a bump in the road, though, as the A's went on to take the mediocre AL West last year with 93 wins despite losing two of their best players--Rich Harden (he's one tough-looking Canadian, ain't he?) and Bobby Crosby (I guess Crosby is still more potential and hype than actual production at this point, but whatever...)--for significant portions of the year. Getting these guys back and only downgrading slightly in swapping Thomas for Piazza would lead one to believe that the chances of division title repeat are high. Anything's possible in the mediocre AL West, but I just don't get the feeling that this team is built for success.
Now that Zito's gone, the A's are counting on Harden and Haren to anchor the rotation in front of guys like Esteban Loaiza, whose performance after his career year in 2003 with the White Sox has cemented that season as a complete anomaly. My gut feeling is that the rotation is going to give up a lot of runs--many too many to be erased by an offense sporting two catchers whose better years were in the late '90s, a third baseman whose production has fallen pretty steadily every year since 2002 (note to self: do NOT, under any circumstances, draft Eric Chavez in fantasy leagues--this man is not even a top 10 3B anymore), a guy trying to come back from excruciating foot problems (and no, his name is not Frank Thomas this year), a guy who's such a perennial problem child that his Wikipedia article has a section titled "Controversial Moments" (he's also only had one complete season in the majors--2004), and a guy who, for no apparent reason, I mildly disdain for coming off like a self-absorbed, overrated prick (again, I really don't know what I'm basing this on).
So there you have it, an uninspired preview for a largely uninspiring team whose most inspiring offseason moves were to gamble on two bargain-basement veterans (Piazza and Stewart--woohoo!). I wouldn't be surprised if the A's finished last this year. At the same time, I wouldn't be all that surprised if they finished first. So goes the AL West. If I was an A's fan, I'd give 2007 a shrug of the shoulders and a "meh." I'd be more excited about the prospects of spotting Danielle Gamba in the crowd than seeing Mike Piazza's swan song.