Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My 20 Most Hated Oakland A's - Part I

Having been an A's fan since 1981, I've had the pleasure of watching some of my favorite players – both all-world and obscure – wear the white shoes and rock the green and gold. But, I haven't openly rooted for every Oakland Athletic. Some were incessantly overhyped rookies, some were unsuccessful closers. Some were more style than substance, some were just jerks. I'll always love my A's…I just hate these guys.

#20 – Jose Ortiz: Selected by Baseball America as the A's top prospect in 2001 after putting up .351/.408/.575 line at AAA-Sacramento in 2000. His power numbers were SO far above and beyond anything he'd done to that point, it's probably not a stretch to suggest he had Miguel Tejada, Adam Piatt and Jason Giambi on speed vial, er, dial. Only had 52 at-bats with the A's before he was traded to Colorado, but at Spring Training in 2001, he started chatting up my girlfriend (the future Mrs. Bootleg) and asked her out. He's spent the last few years bouncing back and forth between Japan and a California Independent League. Karma, m*thaf*cka…

#19 – Curt Young: Won 65 games for the A's over parts of ten seasons (1983-1991, 1993) including three straight double-digit win campaigns from 1986-88. Unfortunately, Young had the misfortune of being the worst starter – by comparison – on some of the best A's teams in history. It's hard to look good when Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Mike Moore and Scott Sanderson are flirting with 20 wins. Oh, and Young was on the mound for the first Angels/A's game m'boy Smitty and I attended in Anaheim. Our ongoing 20 years and counting tradition kicked off with a somnambulant loss.

#18 – Jim Mecir: In 4 ½ years in Oakland, Mecir put up some very respectable numbers. He recorded decent ERAs and a solid strikeouts-to-innings pitched ratio. So, perhaps it was only perception and not reality, but Mecir always seemed to be that reliever that would come into a game with the bases loaded just before yielding a three-run double and then getting out of the inning. One-third of an inning, technically zero runs allowed, A's lose. The fact that he played in mostly media-absent Oakland and was born with a serious (and oft-mentioned) case of club feet garnered him a long leash from criticism.

#17 – Ernie Riles/Vance Law: In the winter of 1991, our longtime third baseman – Carney Lansford – was seriously injured in a snowmobile accident. Earlier that offseason, the A's acquired utility man Ernest Riles from San Francisco (in exchange for all-field, no-hit CF Darren Lewis) and, in response to the loss of Lansford, Oakland signed former Cubs and Expos third baseman Vance Law, who'd spent the 1990 season in Japan. The idea was to form a platoon with the lefty Riles and righty Law. The result was so bad (Riles' OPS: .614, Law's OPS: .579) that Lansford was forced to come back months-too-early before shutting himself back down for the season after just five games. They were SO bad that we traded for the remains of erstwhile Indian Brook Jacoby…who was even worse (OPS: .532)!

#16 – Ariel Prieto: Todd Helton, Roy Halladay, Geoff Jenkins and Matt Morris. All four were picked after Prieto in the first round of the 1995 draft. We covered this ground before so I'll just say that those A's teams of the mid-1990s were the worst I've ever seen and Ariel Prieto was their poster boy.

#15 – Jay Howell: For anyone wondering who the A's regular closer was before Dennis Eckersley redefined the role in the late 1980s, here you go. For me, I'll remember Howell for three things: (1) Being part of the Yankees' package sent to Oakland in exchange for my all-time favorite player, Rickey Henderson, after the 1984 season. (2) Erasing two respectable seasons (1985-86) with an absolutely rotten 1987 in which he blew eight saves in 24 chances, put up an ERA of 5.89 and inexplicably made the All-Star team (the ASG was in Oakland, where he was booed like crazy during pre-game introductions AND got the loss!) (3) Getting a World Series ring with the Dodgers in 1988.

#14 – Nick Swisher: OK…Swisher actually was productive during his time in Oakland. His OPS in 2005-06 was .865 and .836, respectively. He popped as many as 35 home runs in a season and by 2007, he'd become the de facto face of the franchise. He also grew up in West Virginia. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Swisher held on to his goofy redneck schtick a little too much for me. Remember, during the presidential campaign, how Sarah Palin and the GOP routinely bashed those of us who favor utensils and own a three-digit IQ? Well, ol' Nick and his Y2K Urban Cowboy persona represented the "real" America that embraces its backwoods ignorance. Watch out for the pimps and the C.H.U.D.s in New York, Cletus.

#13 – Ricardo Rincon: The A's acquired him from Cleveland for the stretch run in 2002. He recorded a 3.10 ERA in 20 games. In each of his three subsequent seasons, his innings pitched eroded to the point where he was being used exclusively against left-handed hitters and often for just one batter. Tony Fossas and Jesse Orosco pitched into their eighties with this gimmick, but Rincon never seemed to have the stomach for the role. Watching him break into a profuse sweat on the mound during Arctic-condition night games in Oakland was always worth the price of my MLB Extra Innings package.

#12 – Ruben Sierra: On August 31, 1992, the A's traded Jose Canseco to Texas in exchange for Sierra, Bobby Witt and Jeff Russell. Sierra promptly missed a week with chicken pox. In roughly four seasons in Oakland, Sierra never lived up to the oversized expectations brought on by what would be his career year in 1989 at the age of 23 (.306/.347/.543). And, speaking of oversized, Sierra famously came to Spring Training in 1993 with a new, grotesquely muscular physique that was then credited to a "strenuous workout regimen". Ironically, the juice sapped him of what little natural juice he had left in his bat and Sierra was finished as an everyday player by the time the A's traded him to the Yankees for the esteemed Danny Tartabull.

#11 – Storm Davis: In 1988 and 1989, Davis won 16 and 19 games, respectively. Back then, the only pitching stats that anyone cared about were wins and losses. Still, even to my friends and fellow A's fans, something didn't seem quite right. Davis was averaging less than six innings per start, while the offense seemed to show up en masse each and every time he pitched. Good pitcher or exceptionally good fortune? Davis had a solid, but unspectacular start in the 1988 ALCS versus Roger Clemens in Game #2. In his next three postseason appearances, his ERA was 9.44. He sealed his fate with the team and his place on this list when he publicly barked at having his '89 World Series start skipped after the games came back from the 10-day earthquake delay.

Next: The Top 10!

No comments: