Baseball is back, everyone. It’s time to emerge from under the long dark of the off-season and rejoice once again. We’ve all been looking forward to this since the final out of game seven of the World Series.
Well, technically it started in Japan, but that’s forgotten by now. Hope springs eternal for all fans of baseball because at this moment, every team (even the A’s) is fighting for a playoff spot. Everyone has reason to be optimistic. But I also have to be realistic.
In all honesty, no one can rightly predict what will happen for the Oakland A’s in 2012; most people think that they’ll be fighting for third place, which seems fair to me. But with so many question marks, there is a wide range of possible outcomes. What if the few pitchers the A’s have get hurt… again? They might lose 110 games. What if they don’t and Yoenis Cespedes hits 40 home runs? Or 50 home runs? The home run he hit on Opening Night was probably the hardest I’ve ever seen a human hit a baseball.
In honor of all these possibilities, I give you the Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for the A’s in 2012.
Worst Case: Always start with the bad news first. And in this case, let’s be honest it’s the more likely news.
If everything goes wrong for the A’s, it will always start with the pitching. Brandon McCarthy will regress back to the pre-2011 McCarthy and become little more than average… on his best days. Bartolo Colon proves to be too old and fat and doesn’t throw anything but fastballs and the rest of the A’s starters are too young and innocent or bad for the majors. Oh, and Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson suffer set backs with their respective injuries.
What was once a young, promising rotation as recent as one year ago, now is but a shadow of it’s former self. Not that it matters, because the A’s couldn’t hit last year and the lineup is worse this year.
Jemile Weeks suffers from the expected “sophomore slump,” Kurt Suzuki can’t bounce back, and Seth Smith reminds everyone how easy it is to hit in Colorado. And the prize acquisition of the off-season, Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t live up to his contract. He can’t play a decent centerfield (only adding to insult that Coco Crisp is in left to accommodate him) and, as feared, he can’t hit a curveball.
Don’t even get me started on the bullpen. The only names anyone recognizes are Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes. And that’s not good.
Best Case: While the last scenario is probably more likely, this isn’t out of the question. And it’s much more fun to talk about.
What if everything goes right for the A’s for a change? The baseball gods should realize they’re due for some good luck. And it all starts with health.
If all the chips fall for the A’s in 2012, they will finally put their injury woes behind them and field the team they envisioned at the beginning of the season. Brandon McCarthy shows that last year wasn’t a fluke and becomes a poor man’s Roy Halladay. Colon drinks from the fountain of youth and succeeds as an inning eater, pounding the zone with his fastballs. Dallas Braden’s shoulder issues are behind him and Mr. Perfect reclaims his staff leader role. And in the second half of the season, Brett Anderson returns from Tommy John surgery and is the Ace we all hope he can be. Plus, the A’s still have some intriguing young arms dominating at AAA if they need to call them up.
And the offense is even more exciting. Weeks is the perfect leadoff hitter, getting on base and causing havoc once he’s there. Kurt Suzuki starts producing again, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith take advantage of the opportunities that come with more playing time and the A’s lead the league in steals. But the real attraction is the Cuban Missile, Yoenis Cespedes.
No one knew anything about Cespedes except his physical prowess coming into the season and most figured he’d struggle. While he has some initial growing pains, he catches fire later in the year finishing with 36 home runs, many of which traveled farther than 400 ft. The A’s finally have the power threat they’ve so desperately coveted over the years.
After digging themselves into a hole in the first half, the surprise A’s surge in the second half and dominate the American League after the all-star break. The pitching and hitting click at the same time and the A’s see they’re ahead of their rebuilding schedule. Brett Anderson’s return and Cespedes’ emergence lead the A’s to the playoffs.
It may sound far-fetched, but you never know what could happen in a given season. That’s why they play the games, right? And it’s still early so we might as well stay optimistic as long as we can. But for now, who cares? Baseball is back and the world seems right again. Here’s hoping for the best-case scenario.
About the Author
Written by Josh Muller
My name is Josh Muller. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and currently live in San Francisco. I watch sports religiously and organize my calender year to coincide with baseball season. I'm a diehard A's and Warriors fan, love talking sports all day and believe that the words "Opening Day" are the two greatest in the English language.