If we've learned anything about Octobers the last few years, it's that the month tests, stretches and hones every aspect of loyalty fandom. Typically, we pretty much just tell our friends that we'll see them sometime in November. It's a stressful time.
Therefore, to adequately preview the madness that is the baseball playoffs, we've invited some of our favorite bloggers for each of the eight playoff teams to write about their teams, similar to our NFL Season Previews. No sport has better individual team blogs than baseball, and these writers are some of our favorites.
These will be running all day today, and we very much hope you enjoy them.
Up right now: The Oakland A's. Your writer is Tyler Bleszinski.
Tyler Bleszinski blogs about the A's daily at Athletics Nation. His words are after the jump.
As an A's fan, I'm elated that the A's made the playoffs. And as an A's fan, I'm also scared to death that the A's made the playoffs. The team has that enormously large monkey on its back of postseason failure. Granted, much of the personnel on the A's has changed since the team made its last postseason appearance in 2003, but the fans can't change our psyche. We know all too well that the A's have struck out nine times when facing the opportunity to close out a series.
This season could be different. The A's have always had great starting pitching going into the playoffs. But they have never had a marvelous defensive team as they do now. This is also the best bullpen that the team has had during Billy Beane's tenure. The teams from 2000-2003 were good, but they always seemed to have a malfunctioning bridge to get to the closer ... or the closer was a problem. You had the Island of Misfit Toys. If the A's pitching falters in the postseason, it will likely be the starters, not the bullpen.
Speaking of something that might falter, the A's offense was abysmal for most of the first half of the season. Yet the offense was there when the A's needed it most. The A's starting pitching stumbled quite a bit coming down the stretch, but thanks to Frank Thomas and the bullpen, the team was able to hold off the hard charging Angels. The offense was actually second to the Yankees in the AL in OBP in the second half, and if the team is going to succeed, it's going to wear down the starting pitcher by making him throw a lot of pitches. The problem is that most of the teams in the playoffs on the AL side have deep bullpens, so it's questionable how much of an advantage that will be.
So when Tuesday rolls around and the A's open in the Terrordome, you're going to see a new A's team; one that is a great defensive team (unlike when Jeremy Giambi was patrolling left field and Terrence Long in center) and a deep, solid bullpen. The question will be: Can the offense and starting pitching carry its share of the load? Hopefully Rich Harden, Barry Zito, Danny Haren, Frank Thomas, Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez can answer that one in the affirmative. Otherwise, the familiar criticisms of our beloved green and gold will bubble to the top once again. Hopefully this group of guys is fundamentally sound enough to remember to slide (Giambi), touch home plate (Byrnes) and not stop to argue an interference call (Tejada).
At least we're getting the chance to find out.