The baseball club that Kansas City inherited from Philadelphia is finally a memory. The last of the old bunch, Shortstop Joe DeMaestri, departed in a winter trade. Philadelphia's fadeout was ironically apt, for it brought in another shipment of Yankees (top left, left to right: Don Larsen, Norm Siebern, Hank Bauer, Marv Throneberry), symbol and substance of the new Athletics. Hotly debated and righteously condemned, the trafficking in ex-New Yorkers has produced one important result. It has given the Athletics an aura of professional polish. Laced with steady veterans and dotted with promising youngsters, the A's now look like a ball club. If they play like a ball club, Kansas City could jump to the top of the second division.
?UP THE MIDDLE
The 1959 Athletics just missed leading the league in team batting (.2627 to Cleveland's .2628) but were last in both pitching and fielding. Husky Bob Elliott, who replaced Harry Craft as manager, figures the club will again get enough runs. What he is after is a strong up-the-middle defense, and he has the nucleus for it with Second Baseman Jerry Lumpe and Center Fielder Bill Tuttle. The key man is rookie Shortstop Ken Hamlin, a former Pirate farmhand who is peppy and agile in the field. If he makes it, Lou Klimchock, the finest Athletic prospect since the move to Kansas City, can settle at third. Klimchock, 20, is a hitter more than a fielder, but he can play second, short or third. He hit .315 in the Southern Association last summer (with 44 doubles and 19 HRs), then batted .273 with the A's in the last three weeks of the season. A lefty hitter, he has good power to right and right-center and is not bothered by left-handed pitching. Lumpe sat in the shadow of Martin and McDougald during his Yankee years, and has yet to play up to his potential as a regular. A good singles hitter with negligible power, he is an improving pivot man at second.
First base is yet another problem. Marv Throneberry swings and misses with outlandish regularity but manages to connect just often enough to maintain his reputation as a slugger of great promise. He is supposed to be the regular first baseman, but Bob Cerv, the team's leading RBI man, has other ideas. Fearful for his future as an aging and unaccomplished outfielder, Bob made a bid for the first-base job this spring. Self-conscious and awkward around the bag, he displayed stout shins. "We got to get him in there somewhere," says Elliott grimly. But first base does not look like the spot. Versatile Dick Williams, one of baseball's best utility men, may be pushed onto the bench this year after a solid season (16 HRs, 75 RBIs) at first and third.
?IF WISHES WERE HORSES
If they could play back to their best past performances, Kansas City's pitchers would be tough. Larsen had three fine years with the Yankees; Bob Grim won 20 one year, and Johnny Kucks won 18 another. Twelve-year veteran Ned Garver was 20-12 once with the eighth-place St. Louis Browns, and stands fourth in the league in total victories (125). But the best pitcher on the staff is Bud Daley (left below), 16-13 last year. Veteran Ray Herbert was 11-11.
Two seasoned hopefuls from the Pacific Coast League may become starters. One is Ken Johnson, 26, who last year blossomed into a 16-game winner with a 2.82 ERA. The other is Dick Hall, 29, a former infielder-outfielder-pitcher with the Pirates who was often unhittable in spring training. Hall, a gangly graduate of Swarthmore, completed 19 of 27 starts last season, won 18 and lost five, and compiled an ERA of 1.87. The bullpen is weak. Tom Acker from Cincinnati and ex-Brave Bob Trowbridge are the only experienced relievers on the staff.
Bulky Harry Chiti has the edge on Pete Daley and Hank Foiles, both new to the club, for the first-string catching job. Chiti is the best hitter and a long-ball threat.
The Athletics are lopsided with outfield strength. Trading Roger Maris brought them Siebern and Bauer, who will probably flank Center Fielder Tuttle (.300 in '59) on Opening Day. Siebern, a good hitter, looked impressive in Florida. The spirited Bauer has pepped up the drab A's and provided a sure hand and steady arm in right. He won't hit with his old authority but still excels in the nebulous art of clutch hitting. Spelling Hank in right will be Russ Snyder (a .313 hitter in half a season last year) and Whitey Herzog, a bear-down guy who batted .293 before a leg injury benched him. If Cerv can't make it at first, he'll have to be worked into an outfield spot, unsettling the A's only settled situation. In this event, Manager Elliott will be forced into a full-scale platoon system.
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