Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

A's hoping to silent Critics about the first Round Blues.

While the Oakland Athletics are approaching their third consecutive post season birth, they are no longer a “great story” or a ” small-market surprise.” As a matter of fact, with their great combination of youth and talent, the A’s are becoming the team expected to win each year by most baseball analysts.

Yes, Art Howe and his team have come a long way since the late 1990’s in which Oakland’s big three consisted of Ariel Prieto, Willie Adams, and Dave Telghader. Yikes?!

But despite the A’s recent surge into becoming one of baseball’s elite teams, there will be a cynical eye pointed at them this year. A cynical eye that would love to produce articles and showcases with the theme, “Oakland still fighting the first round Blues.” or “A’s still can’t win a divisional series.” And don’t think Baseball experts don’t have that thought entering the 2002 playoffs.

I think on the back of the mind of the remaining Oakland Athletics that have experienced the two previous brutal playoff confrontations with the Yankees that ended in absolutely painful defeat, they want to prove not only to the critics, but also to themselves that they can play past a 5-game series.

In the 2000 divisional series, you could swallow the defeat a little easier, because it was the young team’s first taste of playoffs in almost ten years, yet they still gave the Champions all they could handle without even setting up their pitching staff in order.

In 2001? Well that’s different story. The A’s became victims of a accomplishment that never was done in history when they won the first two at hostile Yankee stadium, but simply could not finish the Giant off and win the third game.

As Johnny Damon put it, “They won the series..but I still think we were the better team.”

Interestingly, many baseball experts are trying analyze and suggest why the A’s have not been able to get past the first round of the playoffs and are even suggesting philosophical ways to improve their chances.

As one recent national broadcaster put it, “The A’s will have to analyze their philosophy of baseball if they contine to fall short in a 5-game series..maybe small ball is excatly what is needed.”

To those perspectives, I couldn’t disagree more. The A’s were the hottest team in baseball in September the last two years entering the playoffs and you have to continue with the successful style of play that got you there.

So, why did the A’s have fail the last two years to get past the divisional series? Not Jeremy Giambi’s non-slide, or Gil Heredia’s 2001 game five collapse.

It’s simply the New York Yankees!

Those mental and performance collapses occur when you are facing a prestigious team like the New York Yankees. And the A’s have been the lucky team that has had to play them the first round each year.

The big issue and challenge for Oakland is not getting a past the divisional series, but conquering the mystique and power of the New York Yankees.

The Yankee and Athletic rivalry is getting more intense each year. The Yankees fear the A’s like no other team. The A’s still have a slight chip on their shoulder and their biggest hurdle might be to conquer the psychological effect of losing to the Yankees each year when it counts. It may be be more of an issue than even talent.

But here’s something to think about:

Where’s Tino? Where’s Knoblauch? Where’s O’ Neil? Where’s Brosius?

I think the cast of new Yankee players such as Giambi, Mondesi, Ventura, White and Wells will have a lot more to prove than Oakland does.

Although Oakland’s painful and emotional losses in the playoffs were hard to grasp, in a way, the Yankees have groomed the A’s for such a time as this.

We’ll see who will win come the ALCS.



1 Tman { 09.20.02 at 6:45 pm }

One thing that might help the A’s this time around is to stick with Hudson, Mulder and Zito for the playoffs. Last year Lidle got pounded by the Yankees and who can forget New York’s six run first inning against Heredia in 2000?

Ultimately I think the fact that Oakland, New York and Anaheim are so closely matched will make for a thrilling post season in the American League. Hopefully having to scratch out every win at the end of regular season will give Oakland an edge in the playoffs. Home field advantage couldn’t hurt either. I think the A’s have added to their fan base this year with some outstanding games and the Coliseum should be rocking come October!

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