The 2011 A’s Are A Study Of Good Chemistry

Back in the early 70’s, the
Oakland A’s were notorious for their disharmony
in the clubhouse.  When the media
referred to them as the “Swingin’ A’s,” they weren’t kidding. 
Reggie Jackson,
Gene
Tenace
or Rollie Fingers may have been World Series heroes, but that didn’t
necessarily make them like each
other. However, I think it’s fair to say that this year’s Athletics are polar
opposites.  In all my years in sports, I
cannot recall a better team chemistry than the one I’m seeing down here in
Phoenix.

 

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It’s just a happy
clubhouse.  At one end of the room,
there’s
Brian Fuentes with a remote
control, directing a miniature helicopter that’s hovering over a table of
pitchers playing cards.  At another
corner, you’ve got
Kurt Suzuki applying a bear hug
on one of the clubbies.  On St. Patrick’s
Day, it’s the colorful
Dallas Braden,
sporting an oversized green golf hat, ala Bill Murray at Pebble Beach,
entertaining MLB Radio Network broadcasters Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette on
the field before the game.  Or it’s
legendary Japanese slugger
Hideki Matsui,
despite nursing a heavy heart two days after the earthquake and tsunami hit his
homeland, feeling compelled to answer the “Matsui, Matsui!” shrieks of
youngsters at Phoenix Muni and returning to the ballpark railing to sign
autographs.

 

And there are the even more
subtle signs that this is a team where players genuinely care about each
other.  Off days are usually considered
almost religious holidays for big league players, as they are so rare and much
needed after several consecutive days of games or workouts.  Yet, last week on our only off day of spring
training, there was Braden–sporting a knit stocking cap despite 80 degree
weather–and fellow starter
Trevor Cahill,
making an appearance at our Papago Park minor league complex at 9:30 in the
morning.  Why?  To show support for their two teammates,
Craig Breslow and Tyson Ross,
who were both pitching to minor leaguers that day.  I was there to report their performances to
our beat writers, yet I could recognize it was a poignant scene.  “This is what good teammates do,” I thought.

 

And I saw the same common
thread when
Jim Leahey, our VP of Marketing,
unveiled the A’s new advertising campaign last weekend.  While the finished TV commercials were
hysterical, what really struck me was watching the “out-takes” at the end of
the video presentation.  It was the way
Gio Gonzalez, despite the 38-degree weather he encountered during
dunk tank scenes in February filming sessions, was so playful with the other
players on set.  Same for Suzuki and
Cahill, and especially Ryan Sweeney. 
These guys didn’t just look like ballplayers.  They looked like dear friends.  To see the commercials and outtakes click
here: www.oaklandathletics.com/commercials

 

I guess the question is will
this translate into a playoff team this season? 
Obviously, time will tell.  But if
you believe in the intangibles–camaraderie, trust in each other, and a positive
atmosphere–that make a team a team,
then I think you can start believing in the 2011 A’s.  This could be a very special group.

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