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Elman Swings
by Peter Elman

Let Us Give Thanks... - 11/22/2000

It’s Thanksgiving Day and as A’s fans, we must give thanks for the magical 2000 season and the future that bodes so well for the home team. In the midst of Election insanity—is it Armageddon or does it just seem like it?--there is perhaps more reason than ever to be a baseball fan.

Baseball, which has withstood two world wars, the turbulence of the 20th century, the unimaginable shame of racism and humiliation of a crippling strike, is still, as Terrence Mann said in "Field Of Dreams" what we dream of. Green grass, (not that godawful Astroturf, hatched in Texas, of course) white uniforms, hot dogs, peanuts, beer and that unbreakable bond between father and son, that is what will endure. Hanging chad? For chrissake, give me a hanging curve!

As we head into the heart of holiday season, let us not forget two of the departed heroes who got us to the gates of the Promised Land. Randy Velarde is back in his home state, for better or worse, and we hope he doesn’t torment the A’s next year when the two teams meet. His influence on the younger players was huge—he will be missed. But he had to go, not only for his salary but to make way for Jose Ortiz, who by all indications could be as good as Miguel Tejada. I hyperventilate imagining the possibilities around the keystone corner.

Matt Stairs, despite his poor season, will surely be missed more. Is there an A’s fan alive who didn’t shed a tear when the inevitable news came? How many games have we seen Matt deliver the majestic walk-off piece? How often have we marveled at his laser throws from right? And how many of us wannabe ballplayers could relate to him better than anyone else on the team? We all wish Matt well at Wrigley—he’ll need luck there.

So where does that leave the Athletics? Even without Kevin Appier, who may be gone soon, the club is poised for a great run, one that could last a decade if the nucleus stays together. Jason (MVP!) Giambi will be the only starter over 26 (!) next April, and the A’s will go into the 2001 season as probable favorites to win the pennant. Adam Piatt will develop, and so will Ortiz. And with another year under their belts Mulder and Zito should prove to be a formidable 1-2 lefty punch in the rotation. Mecir, Tam and Isringhausen anchor a solid bullpen, and Hudson is the toughest—and skinniest--pitcher this side of Pedro Martinez. Chavez, Tejada, Long, Hernandez (notice I omitted Ben G.)—are we loaded or what?! Now if I can only convince Uncle Art to let Olmedo Saenz play 140 games…

We should be thankful for being able to see an A’s game for less than it costs to go to a movie, when the team across the walkway charges $92 to see perhaps the worst franchise in pro sports, the cursed Warriors. We should be thankful that we can go see the A’s on a whim, whenever we want, and always find a place to park and a good seat.

We should be thankful for Bill and Ray and Ken and Greg, and yes, even banjo man. We should be thankful that the weather is always nice (so what if it gets a bit chilly at night—c’mon!) We should be thankful that baseball in Oakland is still manageable. Sure, there is a downside—no media respect, small, sometimes indifferent crowds and, most of all, the awful uncertainty of not knowing if we’re gonna even have a team here in a few years.

But, all in all, this is a good time to be a A’s fan. Let us give thanks, and when you sit down today, ask the lord to bring us a world championship—OK, a pennant will do, but next year, big guy, we want the whole turkey—trimmings and all.

by Peter Elman