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Our First Look at the 2012 A’s… in Japan
Posted By Josh Muller On Mar 31 2012 @ 11:20 pm In Oakland A's | 4 Comments
I’m not a fan of Major League Baseball starting it’s season in Japan. The games are on super early in the morning (the first wasn’t even televised live), no one seems to be paying attention and now that the two games are over, the A’s  and Mariners  will return to the states to finish up spring training.
The entire situation is weird. I get that MLB is trying to expand its brand to a more global market but why not just make those games exhibitions. Or at least schedule the trip so that the players return to play meaningful games. And as much as I hate to say it, if you are trying to become more global, why would you send the A’s and Mariners to represent your product?
But the most disturbing part is that it takes away from the purity of Opening Day, even if only slightly.
For the record, I’m not mad, just annoyed; this isn’t a deal breaker, just an inconvenience. When I attend the Oakland Coliseum on April 6th, I will treat that day as my Opening Night and be every bit as happy and excited. And because they A’s split the series with the Mariners, it’s easy to write it off in my mind and start from square one in Oakland. The Japan trip’s existence is just awkward.
But the games were played and they counted, so here are my impressions of our first look at these Oakland A’s.
The main thing I took away from watching the games is that our starters looked legit. Yes it was only two games, and yes it was against the Mariners, but Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon looked to be in midseason form. Neither is going to be in the running for a Cy Young award but pounded the zone with movement and McCarthy especially impressed. He picked up right where he left off last year, changing speeds and locating the two-seam fastball and the cutter. I hope he can keep it up; last year was a career year for him and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop off in production.
But the real question marks surrounding the pitching are about the back end of the rotation, which technically hasn’t been decided yet. It looks like the three starters to round out the staff will be Tom Milone, who’s really impressed this spring, Tyson Ross (go Dragons) and Graham Godfrey but I doubt it looks that way on June 1. Jarrod Parker should be called up (and still hasn’t been ruled out for the rotation) and hopefully Dallas Braden will be fully recovered by then.
Yoenis Cespedes looked good too. I like his approach at the plate, which was always his biggest wild card. There is no doubt that he will experience some growing pains facing major league pitchers for the first time, but he roped a double off a breaking ball from King Felix in the first game and crushed a homer in the second. He also covers some serious ground in center. I don’t think he’s going to light the world on fire right away but how can you not be excited about the latest and greatest Cuban import?
Along those lines, I really feel that the A’s are going to trade from their plethora of outfielders. There are plenty of options and the A’s need help on the left side of the infield. The most likely candidate is Coco Crisp. As many people have said before, Crisp’s best asset is his defensive ability, which means his value as a baseball player is diminished by him moving to left field, a position valued much less for defense. He’s also the most expensive player behind Cespedes, another center fielder, and the A’s top two hitting prospects are center fielders as well. Something has to give.
On top of that, the A’s really need help at third. I doubt Josh Donaldson is ready to start every day but the fact that his competition is Eric Sogard means he’ll likely have to take on that role anyway. If the A’s don’t trade Crisp (or another outfielder for that matter) for another infielder, they will be awfully thin at third.
Let’s face it: This team will struggle for most of the year unless the entire world is very mistaken. The things to keep an eye on are how the young players progress and respond to adversity. I think this team will be better than most expect but the competition in the AL West is just too strong to logically predict a playoff run. This week’s games in Japan only strengthened my belief in this regard but two games never decided anything.
For the A’s to be successful in 2012 they’ll need to limit their mistakes, tear up the base paths, and (to be honest) get some lucky breaks… and for the love of God stay healthy for once. Only time will tell if any of that happens, but for now the A’s are playing .500 ball and are still alive in the AL West.
Up Next: There are still roster questions that need working out so I’ll be examining that over the next few days. I’m also working on a best and worse case scenarios piece for the coming season.
Baseball has started! But now we have to wait a week until it starts back up again. Sarcastic Hooray!
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