The general manager has a degree in law from Harvard and is a Vietnam vet. The manager has a law degree from Florida State and will often plug in a tape of John Cougar Mellencamp or The Fabulous Thunderbirds before writing a lineup card.
Clearly, the Oakland Athletics aren't like a lot of other teams. That's apparent six seconds after taking a seat at Oakland Coliseum and seeing a high-tech Diamond Vision screen of the '80s next to an old-time hand-operated scoreboard of the '40s.
For about five years, a lot of baseball people haven't known what to make of the Athletics, the once-troubled franchise with the hip young staff and the aggressive scouts. They began to get hints two years ago when stories about Oakland's young minor leaguers became almost legendary. Then came Jose Canseco, 1986 rookie of the year. Then came Mark McGwire, 1987 rookie of the year.
By the end of the 1988 season, almost everyone should know about the Athletics, who have been in postseason play once since the Charles Finley era ended in 1980, but begin this season with a team that appears to be a wonderful blend of talented youth and experience.
A year ago, the Athletics hit a club-record 199 home runs and scored a club-record 806 runs, and with Canseco, McGwire, Carney Lansford and newly acquired Don Baylor and Dave Parker, their lineup is as feared as any. Their problem has been pitching. They used 22 pitchers last season, and Manager Tony La Russa shuffled his rotation from series to series.
Last season, General Manager Sandy Alderson traded for Storm Davis and Rick Honeycutt, and this winter he added Bob Welch from the Dodgers. Now what was a weakness appears to be a strength, and if the Athletics don't let the pressure of high expectations get to them, they appear to be the best of a division that could be a terrific three-team race.
If the Athletics win, they must beat the Kansas City Royals, who've gone from having one of the worst offenses in the game to having one of the good ones the last two years with the addition of right fielder Danny Tartabull, third baseman Kevin Seitzer and shortstop Kurt Stillwell.
The Royals' pitching remains among the best. Left-hander Danny Jackson was traded for Stillwell, but the Royals picked up veteran left-hander Floyd Bannister from the White Sox.
Then there are the Minnesota Twins, last year's AL West and World Series champions. The Twins have kept the best everyday lineup in the league together and appear to have strengthened their rotation with free agent Charlie Lea, the former National League all-star who has missed almost three full seasons because of arm problems.
The Twins also have more incentive than most defending champs. "Listen," snapped third baseman Gary Gaetti, "no one thought we would win it last year, and when we did win it, people said it was a fluke. They're saying we won't win it this year, but that will make winning it even more fun."
But he talks like a lot of the Athletics, e.g. McGwire, who says, "We have the team to win it. Period."
A closer look at the division:Oakland Athletics
Last year: 81-81; rank: seventh in AL.
Last three years: 234-252; rank: eighth (tie).
Manager: Tony La Russa, third year, 648-625 career.
Give Alderson credit for courage. His team stayed in the race all summer. Under a lot of circumstances, general managers would have fine-tuned. But Alderson completely reworked the Athletics, and the only starters in the same spot from last opening day will be catcher Terry Steinbach and third baseman Lansford.
But the nucleus of the team remains, especially Canseco and McGwire, who combined for 80 homers and 231 RBI. The left-handed hitting Parker will hit somewhere in between them, which creates the best one-two-three punch anywhere.
The questions are if rookie Walt Weiss can handle shortstop and how well rookie Stan Javier and utility man Tony Phillips play in center field.
Otherwise, all appears set. Twenty-game winner Dave Stewart has had a big spring, and Welch, Curt Young and Steve Ontiveros are solid starters. Davis is the fifth starter, and he's a gamble. He won three games last season, hasn't had a good spring and at 26 no one compares him to Jim Palmer anymore.
The bullpen looks solid with Honeycutt, Matt Young and Gene Nelson in setup rolls and Eric Plunk and Dennis Eckersley as the closers.
Telling statistic: The 1987 Athletics used 22 pitchers, most in the majors. They still had the AL's fifth-best ERA (4.32).Kansas City Royals
Last year: 83-79, sixth in AL.
Last three years: 250-236, sixth.
Manager: John Wathan, second year, 21-15 career.
The starting rotation of Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Charlie Leibrandt and Floyd Bannister is among the best. George Brett, Willie Wilson and Frank White are still solid players, and youngsters Tartabull, Seitzer and Stillwell all look super.
So what's wrong with the Royals? The bullpen. At 35, Dan Quisenberry must prove he can be effective again. His saves declined from 37 in 1985 to 12 in 1986 to eight last year. Last season against him, hitters batted .353 with runners in scoring position and he had one save after June 6.
If Quisenberry doesn't do it, the Royals will turn the closer duties over to former Cincinnati Red Ted Power. But if Quisenberry does get his sinker low in the strike zone, it would be hard for anyone to stop them. They've won the AL West six of the last 12 seasons, so they're accustomed to the pressure.
Telling statistic: Only Boston and Cleveland had fewer saves than the Royals. During 1982-85, Quisenberry averaged 40 per season.Minnesota Twins
Last year: 85-77, fifth in AL.
Last three years: 233-253, 10th.
Manager: Tom Kelly, third year, 97-88 career.
No team in history had gone from 91 losses one season to a World Series championship the next. No World Series champion had allowed more runs than it scored in the regular season. The Twins did this. Their .525 winning percentage was the lowest for an AL champion over a full season. Their 4.63 ERA was the highest ever for a team in postseason play.
So it was easy not to love the Twins, who went 56-25 in the Metrodome and 29-52 away from it.
But it's also easy to love them. The everyday lineup that includes Gaetti, Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek is as strong as any. Jeff Reardon is still one of baseball's best stoppers. And Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven are dependable starters.
The question for the Twins will be finding pitching behind Viola and Blyleven. If Lea's resurgence is no fluke, they're in good shape, but right-hander Les Straker must do better than last season's 8-10.
Telling statistic: Puckett, Hrbek, Gaetti and Tom Brunansky drove in half of the Twins' 786 runs and hit 125 of their 196 home runs.Seattle Mariners
Last year: 78-84, eighth (tie) in AL.
Last three years: 219-267, 13th.
Manager: Dick Williams, third year, 1,548-1,418 career.
They entered the league the same year as the Toronto Blue Jays and have never had a winning season. This would appear to be the year. In two seasons, Williams has molded the Mariners into a very respectable team, one that does all the little things correctly and has several strong young arms.
But it's not easy being a Mariner. Williams says this is his last year as manager, and at times last season, it appeared he'd already retired. There's again the possibility that this could be the team's last season in Seattle.
Yet if the Mariners only play baseball, they have a chance to be good. Left-hander Mark Langston has led the AL in strikeouts in three of his first four seasons, something last accomplished by Bob Feller.
The Mariners are hoping right-hander Mike Moore, 28, will finally fulfill his enormous potential, and that Bill Swift and Mike Campbell, both power pitchers, can jump to the big leagues. The bullpen could also be effective if young Bill Wilkinson gives them the reliability that Edwin Nunez hasn't.
Telling statistic: Since their inception in 1977, the Mariners have the worst record in major league baseball (719-1,012).California Angels
Last year: 75-87, 11th (tie) in AL.
Last three years: 257-229, fourth.
Manager: Cookie Rojas, first year.
The rebuilding continues. From one of the game's oldest teams, the Angels have an infield whose members average 25 years of age and an outfield with Devon White, 25, in right and Chili Davis, 28, in center.
Obviously, the Angels are a team on the rise, which is not hard to do considering they were the first team in 73 years to fall from first to last in one season. How much they improve depends on a pitching staff that is counting on reliever Donnie Moore and starters Mike Witt and Kirk McCaskill to recover from bad seasons and/or injuries. If Witt and McCaskill are okay, the rotation shapes up nicely with young Willie Fraser and veteran Dan Petry. The offense has Wally Joyner and White, but is thin in several places.
Telling statistic: The Angels were last in batting average for the second time in three years.Chicago White Sox
Last year: 77-85, 10th in AL.
Last three years: 234-252, eighth (tie).
Manager: Jim Fregosi, third year, 359-384 career.
They've torn up the team and started over, and they're too young to contend in 1988. But don't cry for the White Sox. Their young players are coveted by every other major league organization, and new general manager Larry Himes is doing for the Sox what he did for the Angels earlier this decade.
With Jose DeLeon, Floyd Bannister and Richard Dotson -- 38 victories, 646 innings -- all traded away, the White Sox are turning their rotation over to a kid staff anchored by former Cardinal Rick Horton. Their most interesting starter is last year's No. 1 pick, Jack McDowell (3-0, 1.93 ERA in September), and before the year is out several other youngsters will be up.
The big reliever is another kid, 24-year-old flame-thrower Bobby Thigpen (4-1 with 12 saves in his last 19 appearances).
The offense still has Harold Baines and Greg Walker, and they're counting on former Cardinal Lance Johnson, a speedster, to take over in center, and for young star Kenny Williams to switch from center field to third. There will be nights when it isn't always pretty, but no team will be more interesting than the White Sox.
Telling statistic: Baines is the only player in the majors with 20 or more homers and a batting average of .280 or better in each of the last five seasons.Texas Rangers
Last year: 75-87, 11th (tie) in AL.
Last three years: 224-261, 11th.
Manager: Bobby Valentine, fourth year, 215-238 career.
When the young pitchers come around, so will the Rangers, but again this doesn't appear to be the year. Edwin Correa again has shoulder problems, and Bobby Witt still has games when he can't throw strikes. Without those two, the Rangers simply aren't good enough.
That's a shame because the everyday lineup is fine. First baseman Pete O'Brien is as good as there is, and right fielder Ruben Sierra is a blossoming star. But the team is out of too many games too early. The starters had a 4.94 ERA last season, and the bullpen blew 32 of 59 save chances.
Telling statistic: The Rangers were the first AL pitching staff in 38 years to walk 700 batters in back-to-back seasons. They hit 55 batsmen, a league high, and balked a league-record 26 times. And with all of that, they allowed the league's second-fewest hits.
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