Shop Fantasy Central Golf Guide Email Travel Subscribe SI About Us 2001 MLB Spring Training

 
  CNNSI.com
  Spring Training Home
More MLB News
Scoreboards
• Cactus
• Grapefruit
Statistics
Schedules
• Day-by-Day
• Team-by-Team
Standings
Camp Sites
• Cactus
• Grapefruit
40-man Rosters
• AL | NL
SI's Baseball Preview 2001
Ozzie's Spring Rankings

EVENTS
 Sportsman of the Year
 Heisman Trophy
 Swimsuit 2001

CENTERS
 Fantasy Central
 Inside Game
 Video Plus
 Statitudes
 Your Turn
 Message Boards
 Email Newsletters
 Golf Guide
 Cities
 

CNNSI.com GROUP
 Sports Illustrated
 Life of Reilly
 SI Women
 SI for Kids
 Press Room
 TBS/TNT Sports
 CNN Languages

COMMERCE
 SI Customer Service
 SI Media Kits
 Get into College
 Sports Memorabilia
 TeamStore


Oakland Athletics
Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions


   American League MVP Jason Giambi led the majors in 2000 with a .476 on-base pct. AP

By Brad Como, CNNSI.com

After winning the AL West with a 91-70 record and coming within a game of the LCS in 2000, the A's begin 2001 with a stronger sense of confidence, knowing that they can compete with the world champion New York Yankees.

Manager Art Howe, after leading his troops to their first postseason appearance since 1992, will have yet another bomb to drop on AL opponents, namely Johnny Damon.

The station-to-station baseball Howe has employed will soon be an afterthought with the addition of multifaceted leadoff man Damon, acquired in a three-way deal in the offseason (the A's sent the plodding Ben Grieve to Tampa Bay). Despite finishing second in the AL in home runs (239) and third in runs scored (947), general manager Billy Beane knew he needed an infiltration of speed, and that begins with the former Royals outfielder. Oakland attempted a major league-low 55 stolen bases last season. Meanwhile, Damon stole 46 bases, six more than the entire A's team combined.

The A's also will attempt to work the 2000 Pacific Coast League MVP, second baseman Jose Ortiz, into the mix. A virtual Jose Vidro-clone with more speed, Ortiz may bat behind Damon in the two-hole.

Ortiz's 22 stolen bases for Class AAA Sacramento, paired with Damon at the top of the lineup, should strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers as well as pile up frequent RBI opportunites for the likes of AL MVP Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada.

 
Top Guns
Athletics 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Jason Giambi  .333 
HR  Jason Giambi  43 
RBIs  Jason Giambi  137 
SB  Randy Velarde 
Wins  Tim Hudson  20 
ERA  Gil Heredia  4.12 
Ks  Tim Hudson  169 
Saves  Jason Isringhausen  33 
 
Go Figure

1

Starting position players who will have celebrated their 30th birthday by Opening Day (Jason Giambi).
 
 

The starting rotation boasts three of the brightest young arms in baseball -- right-hander Tim Hudson and lefties Barry Zito Mark Mulder.

Hudson (20-6, 4.14 ERA in 32 starts) proved his rookie season was no fluke. Carrying the A's down the stretch, Hudson went 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA in September.

Zito surprised even those Oakland scouts who drafted him in the first round of the 1999 draft. Following Hudson's lead, the ritualistic, teddy bear-hugging southpaw went 5-1 with a 1.73 ERA in the final month of the season, topped only by his five-inning gem against Roger Clemens and the Yankees in the division series. Mulder, the steady Gil Heredia and Omar Olivares should round out an ever-improving rotation.

Meanwhile, Oakland also has improved its bullpen dramatically, starting at the trade deadline last season when they dealt prospect Jesus Colome for right-hander Jim Mecir. Mecir went 3-1 with a 2.80 ERA, plus picked up four saves when Jason Isringhausen began to struggle.

This offseason, Beane stole right-hander Chad Bradford from the White Sox, while adding righty Cory Lidle in the Damon trade. Add in Isringhausen, righty Jeff Tam (2.63 ERA, 3 saves) and lefty Mark Guthrie into the mix, and the A's have the makings of a bullpen which on paper should be one of the best in the AL.

After a very productive offseason for the A's, the situation isn't as rosy once the season begins. Contractual issues may loom over the A's, specifically Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen. If Oakland chooses to ride out the season with these negotiations in a holding pattern, the pressure could easily boil over on this young squad.

The return from shoulder surgery of veteran DH John Jaha, who was a vocal clubhouse leader in 1999, may take some of the burden off the youngsters. If off-the-field concerns aren't allowed to become a distraction, another 90-95 win season is in the cards.

Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
RHP  Chad Bradford  White Sox  Trade 
2B  Miguel Cairo  Devil Rays  Free Agency 
OF  Johnny Damon  Royals  Trade 
RHP  Dave Eiland  Devil Rays  Trade 
LHP  Mark Guthrie  Blue Jays  Free Agency 
RHP  Eric Ireland  Cubs  Trade 
RHP  Cory Lidle  Devil Rays  Trade 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
RHP  Kevin Appier  Mets  Free Agency 
OF  Ben Grieve  Devil Rays  Trade 
RHP  Doug Jones  Retired    
2B  Randy Velarde  Rangers  Trade 
OF  Matt Stairs  Cubs  Trade 
A.J. Hinch  Royals  Trade 
1B  Mike Stanley  TBA     

Spring Cleaning
 
Miguel Tejada
  • In a stroke of genius, Beane locked up 24-year-old shortstop Tejada to a four-year, $11.3 million deal this offseason. In two years, Tejada's performance will have at the very least quadrupled the miniscule contract. Tejada's 2000 numbers (.275, 30 HR, 115 RBI) are a glimpse of things to come as his offensive ceiling has not been reached.

  • After having only the 25th highest payroll in 2000, the A's declined to give Appier the four-year, $42 million deal the Mets shelled out. While Appier was no longer the staff ace, he averaged at least 15 wins the past two seasons. His veteran presence will be missed.

  • Trading second baseman Randy Velarde to the Rangers for minor league pitchers Aaron Harang and Ryan Cullen clearly puts the spotlight on rookie Ortiz. Super-sub Frank Menechino is looming, but watch out for infielder Mark Bellhorn, who provided some pop for Sacramento (.266, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 20 SB). Bellhorn has previous major league experience with Oakland, and if Ortiz falters, look for his name to be penciled into the lineup.

  • Getting rid of the slow, lead-footed Matt Stairs and double-play machine Grieve (a major league-high 32 in 2000) forces Howe's hand. The A's will have to improve upon the 55 stolen base attempts of last season. Former leadoff man Terrence Long's five steals were a pathetic amount, so look for Oakland to inject some more speed (i.e Damon, Ortiz) into their everyday lineup.

  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    LF  Johnny Damon  RHP  Tim Hudson 
    2B  Jose Ortiz  LHP  Barry Zito 
    3B  Eric Chavez  RHP  Gil Heredia 
    1B  Jason Giambi  LHP  Mark Mulder 
    SS  Miguel Tejada  RHP  Omar Olivares 
    DH  John Jaha/Olmedo Saenz  Bullpen  
    CF  Terrence Long  RHP  Jason Isringhausen (closer) 
    RF  Adam Piatt/Jeremy Giambi  RHP  Jim Mecir 
    Ramon Hernandez  RHP  Jeff Tam 
    Key Reserves   RHP  Mike Magnante 
    OF  Ryan Christenson  LHP  Mark Guthrie 
    2B  Frank Menechino  RHP  Cory Lidle 
    INF  Mark Bellhorn  RHP  Chad Bradford 
    Sal Fasano  RHP  Luis Vizcaino 

    Prospects to Watch
    2B Jose Ortiz -- Penciled in to start from day one of spring training, the 23-year-old Ortiz tore apart Class AAA pitching in 2000 to the tune of .351, 24 HR, 108 RBI and 22 SB. While only 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Ortiz obviously packs tremendous pop for a middle infielder, which Oakland is hoping to see in 2001.

    1B Jason Hart -- Hart, 22, also has destroyed minor league pitching the past two seasons. His 6-4, 240-pound frame pounds fastballs into the seats (.326, 30 HR, 121 RBI in AAA), but he seems to be blocked by Giambi.

    OF Ryan Ludwick -- Ludwick, 21, is a raw power hitter who has the speed and ability to patrol center field. The A's second-round pick in 1999, Ludwick still needs some minor league seasoning, but if Long struggles look for a quick call-up.

    RHP Chad Harville -- Harville, 23, is a hard-throwing prospect who has not capitalized on numerous opportunites the past two seasons. After moving quickly through the A's system, Harville struggled in 2000 (5-3, 4.50 ERA, 9 saves), but will be given the chance to blossom in the big-league bullpen because of his strikeout capability (77 K in 64 IP).

    Best-Case Scenario
    Damon infuses life into a stationary A's offense, Giambi and Isringhausen are locked into long-term deals, and Hudson continues to baffle AL hitters. The 2-5 starters combine to win 75 games, while Mecir provides the perfect bridge to closer Isringhausen.

    Giambi's encore performance of 45 HR, 145 RBIs leads to another appearance on the AL MVP ballot, while Damon hits .340 and steals 45 bases. Long continues to improve, both at the plate and in the field, while Jose Ortiz hits .290 with 30 SB and wins AL Rookie of the Year. This doesn't include Eric Chavez's 2000 Troy Glaus impersonation, as the third baseman blasts 40 HR while driving in 130 RBIs.

    After knocking off the Red Sox in the ALDS, the Yankees are once again waiting in the ALCS. This time, Oakland works out the kinks and survives a grueling seven-game series, eliminating any chances of a New York four-peat. In the World Series, Hudson throws two scintillating complete-game performances at the Cardinals while Zito throws a three-hit shutout in Game 2. Though it takes six games, Oakland revisits the days of the Bash Brothers with another World Series victory.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    Giambi demands to be traded at midseason, Damon injures his ankle and misses two months and Ortiz struggles as he tries to adjust to major league pitching.

    Ben Grieve is blasting rockets in Tropicana Field, while the combination of Adam Piatt and Jeremy Giambi in right field provides nothing to the offense - or defense for that mmatter.

    Hudson tweaks his elbow in mid-May, while Zito takes a leave of absence to join the circus. Isringhausen's problems at the end of last season resurface, and the bullpen falters dramatically.

    Howe is fired and replaced by Dick Williams.

    Bottom Line
    The trade for Damon was a blaring whistle for all of baseball to hear -- win now, or fade into oblivion. If Damon chooses to leave at season's end, and the A's continue to offer Jason Giambi deferred money (which he most likely will not accept), it is now-or-never for Oakland. However, if all of the pieces fall into place, 2001 could be a magic season in Oaktown, with a World Series appearance not out of the question.



    CNNSI Copyright © 2001
    CNN/Sports Illustrated
    An AOL Time Warner Company.
    All Rights Reserved.

    Terms under which this service is provided to you.
    Read our privacy guidelines.