March 31, 2006

A's Picked as Preseason Favorites by ESPN

As an A's fan, I'm used to the team being underestimated before the start of the baseball season, and the team surprising all the doubters with a tremendous run. Last year, the team was compared to the lowly Kansas City Royals, and widely anticipated to finish in last place in the American League West. Instead, despite a rash of injuries to key players, the A's youngsters far outperformed expectations and the team finished with an 88-74 record, good enough for second place in the division, and at one point in August, owned the division's best mark.

Now, only a few days away from Opening Day against the Yankees, the A's off-season changes and player experience has vaulted them into the favorites category by a lot of sports experts - not the least of which is ESPN, the sports media monolith. While this week's issue of Sports Illustrated picks the A's to win their division, and defeat the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, only to lose to the White Sox, who they have pegged to repeat as World Series champions, ESPN offers no limits on their expectations for the men in green and gold. In their cover story for the magazine's April 10th issue, titled, "The Hot Pick: In 2006, the A's are Money".

In fact, ESPN's love for the A's goes beyond a single cover story. In the media site's "expert predictions", three selected the A's to win the World Series, and only a pair said the A's wouldn't reach the playoffs at all. Every other writer had them pegged as the division champs or wild card winner, and most were leaning to the former. Additionally, four of the writers said that ace pitcher Rich Harden would capture the Cy Young award, while another said Eric Chavez would garner the Most Valuable Player trophy.

All of this positive media coverage is confusing to us diehard fans, accustomed to rooting for an underdog. Now, as an avid Athletics Nation member and partial season ticket holder, I've already received a number of inquiries for potential unused tickets and games are already being booked months in advance. I expect to watch our team fulfill its destiny and win it all for the first time since 1989.

Listening to ''Back to Basics'', by 4 Strings (Play Count: 17)