Oakland A’s can see future by looking at the past
By David Mullen
The Oakland A’s could be on the cusp of greatness. In many ways, this roster feels like one from nearly 50 years before.
The 2020 Oakland A’s are reminiscent of the club they built nearly 50 years ago. Many went through the A’s farm system together. They are young, extremely talented, and ready to prove to the baseball world that they are ready to be champions.
The A’s opening day lineup in 1971 was Campy Campaneris at SS, Felipe Alou in LF, Reggie Jackson in RF, Mike Epstein at first, “Captain” Sal Bando at third, Rick Monday in center, Dave Duncan catching, Dick Green at second and Vida Blue on the mound. The A’s got whipped in Washington by the Senators 8-0. Blue lasted just 1 2/3 innings.
Slow starts seem to be part of an A’s tradition.
Alou was traded to the New York Yankees after two games and 24-year-old Joe Rudi played most of the games in left. All of the everyday starters were under 30 years old except for Green who was 30.
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The A’s went on to win the AL West by 16 games with a 100-win season. The starters – Blue, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Chuck Dobson, Diego Segui, and John Blue Moon Odom – won at least 10 games and, except for Segui, were under 28 years old. Hunter would win 21 games and Blue was off the charts.
A lefty legend in Mansfield, La., Blue had thrown a no-hitter in 1970 against the perennial AL West winning Minnesota Twins, but had only made 10 big league starts. By the 1971 mid-season, Blue was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Time the savior for the floundering American League. He would go on to win the AL Cy Young and MVP Awards compiling a 24-8 record with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts.
The 2020 projected lineup of Marcus Semien at short, Matt Chapman at third, Matt Olson at first, DH Khris Davis, Mark Canha in left, Ramón Laureano in center, Stephen Piscotty in right, catcher Sean Murphy and a platoon at second of Franklin Barreto and Tony Kemp are all under 30 except for Davis and Canha. Only Mike Fiers and spot-starter Chris Bassett are over 30 among the current starting staff.
While it would be great to have vintage Blue and Hunter in the 2020 rotation and with all due respect to Campy, only Jackson, Rudi, and possibly Green (because of his stalwart defense) could crack the current everyday lineup. The 2020 A’s are that good.
Of course, most of that 1971 A’s team went on to win three consecutive World Series in 1972-74. It took time for them to finally overcome the Twins for the division crown. The 2020 Oakland A’s need to conquer the Houston Astros and win in the playoffs. But they have built a club that can do it. In 2020, as in 1971, time is on their side.