He's been so steady that he hasn't been kept off base in two consecutive starts all season. Giambi has also been a .347 hitter with runners in scoring position and a .384 hitter from the seventh inning on. Then again, the Athletics refer to batting averages about as often as they do their actual names. "Overrated," Jaha declares. "Getting on base and getting runs in are what it's all about."
When it was suggested to him that Oakland should be the first club in baseball to post on-base percentages and not batting averages on their home message board as each player comes to bat, Jaha beamed and said, "Hey, I'm all for that!" Jaha's woeful .175 batting average at the break, for instance, camouflaged his solid .398 on-base percentage.
Even when they pull themselves away from the card games and the big screen for on-field stretching exercises, the Athletics work their tongues more than their limbs. "I played in Kansas City, and [ Royals manager] Tony Muser was bigger on discipline," Jeremy Giambi says. "We had to have nice, straight lines for stretching. Here, we just kind of go where we want. It's a different way of doing things."
Different? The Athletics are quite unlike anything the game has seen before—baseball's version of Phi Slamma Jamma. They don't do nuances well, executing the sacrifice bunt once every two weeks and stealing a base once every three or four days. Happiness is as simple as a good flick, five walks a night and the frequent three-run Jimmy Jack.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]