Tuesday, June 24, 2008
* The Phillies and A’s shared Shibe Park starting in 1938.
Owned by the mild-mannered Connie Mack, the Philadelphia Athletics won the American League pennant in 1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914, winning the World Series in ’10, ’11 and ’13. Forced to disband his team, which featured the $100,000 Infield of Home Run Baker, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry and Stuffy McInnis, due to finances after losing the ’14 World Series to the Boston Braves, Mack returned the A’s to glory in the late 1920’s. The A’s finished second to the mighty New York Yankees in ’27 and ’28 before dethroning them in 1929, featuring a team that might be one of the finest in baseball history. (Click here for a terrific story that ran in Sports Illustrated a few years ago about the ’29 – ’31 Athletics and how their greatness has been lost to history.)
The ’29 A’s repeated as champs in ’30 and won the A.L. pennant again in ’31 before returning to mediocrity. As the cross-town Phillies rose in the late ‘40s, the A’s plodded along before they joined baseball’s westward movement and left Philadelphia after the ’54 season for Kansas City, where they became the western-most franchise in baseball before the Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast in 1958. The A’s would sit in Kansas City for another decade, existing as a virtual farm team of the New York Yankees, selling them stars like Roger Maris and Clete Boyer, before leaving for the San Francisco Bay Area in 1967, whereupon they became the Oakland Athletics.
Today, many Philadelphia sports fans don’t know about the A’s and their history in Philadelphia, which is too bad. Even before I read Moneyball and came to admire Billy Beane, the A’s were my second-favorite team in baseball. How could you not love Philadelphia’s other baseball team, those long-lost sons living on the West Coast? The A’s turbulent history, their decades of terrible baseball interwoven with two great dynasties (’10 – ’14 and ’29 – ’31), symbolizes how fleeting triumph and success were to Philadelphia in the early-1900s. As much as the Phillies struggles with racial issues in the latter half of the century mirror society’s own struggles with race, the Athletics symbolize how the city of Philadelphia struggled along to find success but was so frequently over-shadowed by that behemoth to the north of us: New York City.
Before I dive too much into tonight's Phillies - A's preview, I want to include a link to the Philadelphia A's Historical Society website. I love the work that they've done. I haven't had a chance to visit their Museum, which is located in Hatboro, but I plan to one of these days. Their web site is phenomenal and is a terrific resource of information. These guys are an under-appreciated treasure.
So the Phillies swing out to the West Coast to do battle with the Oakland A's before heading to Dallas, Texas, to take on the Rangers. The A's - Phillies matchup ought to be a good one, only the third time in history that these two teams have met. The A's, of course, are well-known throughout baseball for their pioneering Moneyball-approach to the game, which has enabled them to remain competitive despite having a fraction of the payroll of the rest of baseball. These days the A's are a different team from the walks-and-homers squad that Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi led to division titles between 2000 and 2003. Peter Gammons forecasted this back in '04 when he noted that the market at the time was under-valuing fielding and that teams like the A's were moving to emphasize the fielding component of the game.
Sure enough, fielding, not walks-and-homers, is the A's forte these days. At +28 Fielding Plays, the A's are the top defensive team in the A.L., a fact that helps keep the A's team ERA at 3.41, lowest in the A.L. after the White Sox. The A's ought to send their best pitcher to the mound tonight, Joe Blanton. This will be an interesting game partly because Blanton has been on the radar of a number of MLB teams as a trading prospect. I believe that the Reds were connected to Blanton at one time or another. Don't be surprised if the Phillies swing a trade for the enormously talented Blanton later this season. He would be a terrific fit for the Phillies: in 2007 he allowed just 40 walks and 16 home runs in 230 innings of work (1.6 BB/9, 0.65 HR/9).
Offensively the A's aren't what they were in the early part of the decade. Their .330 OBP is below league average and their .378 slugging percentage is one of the worst in the A.L. This is a team that is still maturing. I'm not sure that Jack Cust (11 Home Runs, 34 RBI, .416 OBP) is the answer, but they need more bats to protect him.
I'll comment again tomorrow, but that is all for today.
The Mets are charging up at .500 - look out for real fireworks when the Mets go to Citizen's Bank Park for the battle for first place over the Fourth of July weekend, and I'll be there! Rooting the Phillies on, although the last series vs. The Mets was ugly at the Bank ballpark. I heard many stories of fights, harsh words, and down and out rudeness... isn't baseball fun?
Thanks for sharing.........
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