Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

A's Clinch Playoff, Giants Gain Ground, Angels Too

The playoffs are almost set. The A’s are in, the Cards clinched the Central, and the Yankees and Angels are one win away from joining the party.

I’ve written about the amazing season St. Louis has had this year. Adversity surrounded the team from day one. Pitchers were injured by the week, then the tragic untimely death of Darryl Kile, further tested the mettle of the team.

The Cards overcame it all and won the Central handily over Houston. Now, the team faces long odds against Arizona in the NLDS. With Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols, Tino Martinez, and Jim Edmonds leading the way, watch them give Arizona all they can handle.

Notice I didn’t name any pitchers. Pitching is still the name of the game and the Cards will need Woody Williams, Matt Morris, Chuck Finley and yes, Andy Benes and Jason Isringhausen, to come up big time to beat the Diamondbacks.

It’s not impossible.

The Giants did what they were supposed to do, beat the Brewers and LA struggled once more again against the Padres.

Anyone remember the A’s opening day lineup.

Click “read more” and take a deep breath as you read the names.

No one in baseball seriously thought the A’s would have 97 wins this morning, Sept. 21, 2002, when assessing this team coming out of spring training.

I know I didn’t.

The line up.

Leading off Jeremy Giambi, left field

followed by:

Randy Velarde

Scott Hatteberg

Dave Justice, right field

Eric Chavez

Miguel Tejada

T Long

Ramon Hernandez

Carlos Pena

Art Howe was given three lefties in the bull pen who had trouble breaking a pane of glass with their combined fastballs. Mike Magnante, Mike Holtz, and Mike Venafro.

His fifth starter was Erik Hiljus, with Mike Fyhrie in the wings.

Well, here’s what happened.

Justice and Hatteberg were painfully inept in the three and four spots, Velarde was injured in his first at bat, effectively ending his season, Jermaine Dye was a shadow of his former self and wouldn’t play until late April, the pitchers almost revolted with Jeremy Giambi in left, back up Frank Menchino hit .200, Carlos Pena insisted on hitting pop corn kernels as his pre game routine, striking out once every three at bats, both Erik Hiljus and Cory Lidle couldn’t get anyone out, and on May 21, the team was 19-25 after losing four straight.

Don’t forget, Mark Mulder was injured and his season in jeopardy during April and May, Esteban German was brought in, in May, to leadoff and play second base. He failed within one week.

Things looked very grim for the A’s. Some writers even started the annual fire the manager talk.

How ridiculous. The team was flawed coming out of Arizona and everyone knew it.

Then it happened.

The pitching kicked in. Mulder returned better than ever. Billy Koch remained steady and available. Art moved Miguel Tejada to the third spot in the batting order, Barry Zito,Tim Hudson, and Mulder breezed through the NL as the team went 16-2 in interleague play. Aaron Harang was terrific as a fifth starter.

Dave Justice took his walks, Chavez started to hit, eventually moving up to the four spot, Dye worked himself back to 75 % of what he previuosly was. Mark Ellis came up from AAA and took the second base job never looking like an overmatched rookie. Scott Hatteberg platooned with Olmedo Saenz, and first base was no longer an eyesore.

Art moved Justice to sixth and Hatteberg to second in the order, taking the pressure off the veterans. The new line up jelled quickly.

And Miguel kept getting better and better. The pitchers began to look like Cy Young candidates.

With 100 games to go on June 9th, the team was 32-30. I said they needed 96 wins to get in the playoffs. Today, they have 97 and are in. The team has gone 78-32 since that morning in May.

The two moves before the trade deadline sealed the deal. Ray Durham came over to DH and leadoff and Ricardo Rincon replaced three lefties in the pen.

The team was on its way.

Ray Durham fit in perfectly on the top of the order, getting acclimated to his surroundings with a multitude of games against the AL Central, his former hunting grounds. Today, Durham loves the atmosphere surrounding the club.

Anyone who underestimates the job this manager and coaching staff did this season, getting this team to the playoffs is sorely missing the boat.

Even with the big three on the mound, and with Cory Lidle, getting this far has been a major victory.

The GM and the manager retooled this team on the fly during May. It is hard enough to do it in the off season, try doing it during a crisis after 44 games.

Manager of the Year?

What Art Howe did to bring this group in, gives him the award in is his best managing job to date, without a doubt. Billy Beane, GM of the Year, for making the changes necessary to give Art a chance.

No matter what happens to this team in the playoffs, the 2002 season is one to remember and savor.

Getting there is the story I’ll recall.

It wasn’t easy and don’t lose sight of that.


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