4 Oakland A's Talented but callow, the so-called Generation A's will struggle to generate W's

March 29, 1999

The A's aren't just young and inexperienced. No, they're young
and inexperienced--and downright proud of it. The cover of this
year's media guide carries the headline GENERATION A's with a
portrait of the 1998 American League Rookie of the Year,
rightfielder Ben Grieve. During the off-season the 22-year-old
Grieve still lives in his parents' house in Arlington, Texas,
where his status as a big league ballplayer gets him out of
weekly chores. "But," says Grieve, "I still clean up after
myself and all that."

Need further proof of Oakland's youthful pride? Take a look at
the television promos for the upcoming season. In one commercial
21-year-old third baseman Eric Chavez is hitting the streets to
solicit votes for Rookie of the Year. In another, A's coaches
are shown scouting an 11-year-old pitcher. And in the campaign's
hilarious feature spot, manager Art Howe is about to turn in for
the night on a road trip when he is startled by a mysterious
noise coming from the room next door. It turns out that Grieve
and the team mascot, an elephant named Stomper, had been
bouncing on their beds like four-year-olds. "We're building
something big and something really great here in Oakland," says
Chavez. "It's just a matter of time before we get things
happening again with this team."

That time, though, is not at hand. The A's have substandard
pitching, and five players in the starting lineup have a year or
less of major league experience. Oakland is so young you can
almost hear the guys on the team bus asking Howe, "Are we there
yet?"

Grieve has certainly arrived. The second pick in the 1994 draft,
he hit .288 with 18 homers and 89 RBIs last year. His 41 doubles
were a record for an Oakland rookie, and his 168 hits were the
team's second-highest total in a decade. On June 16, in his
first visit home to play the Rangers, he cranked homers in his
first two at bats. "Last year was like witnessing a fairy tale
with Ben," says Howe. "When you see talent like that, it's just
a joy to watch."

First baseman Jason Giambi also had a growth spurt in 1998,
hitting .309 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in the second half and
occasionally putting on a McGwire-like show during batting
practice. Chavez, the 1998 minor league player of the year, hit
.327 with 33 homers and 126 RBIs in 135 games in Double A and
Triple A last year before batting .311 during a September
call-up to Oakland. "Sometimes I miss doing things other guys my
age are doing, like spring break," says Chavez. "But when that
happens, I just watch Jerry Springer."

Centerfielder Ryan Christenson and catcher A.J. Hinch showed
promise in their rookie seasons, and shortstop Miguel Tejada
looks like a 20-home-run threat in the making after his first
full year. "We have some of the best young players in baseball
right now," says general manager Billy Beane. "I get chills when
I see Grieve and Giambi and think of Chavez down the road."

If Chavez's journey is anything like his teammates', however, it
may be bumpy at times. Last season Hinch went through streaks of
91 and 83 at bats without a home run, Christenson gambled
unwisely on the base paths, Tejada committed 26 of Oakland's
league-leading 144 errors, and Grieve faltered a bit in the
second half. The road for all the A's became especially rough
after the All-Star break. Oakland hit just .245 in the second
half and finished with a losing record for the sixth straight
year.

"The next time around the league these guys won't be in so much
awe," says 41-year-old knuckleballer Tom Candiotti. "There were
times, like when we played in Yankee Stadium, when our young
guys sort of stood there in awe of everything. You had to shake
them and say, 'Hey, come on, guys, we're beat before we even
step on the field.' Now I think we're past that. Maybe some of
our older guys' stuff is rubbing off on the kids."

On the first day of spring training, Chavez was greeted by ace
Kenny Rogers, 34, who was holding a VOTE FOR ERIC sign, mocking
the rookie's commercial. Rogers, who went 11-0 at Oakland
Coliseum in 1998, and closers Billy Taylor, 37, and Doug Jones,
41, are just a few of the older A's getting a kick out of
playing camp counselor. Even 31-year-old designated hitter Matt
Stairs got with the program. In addition to working with the
team trainer, he traded in his diet of beer, butts and burritos
for more nutritional fare and reported to camp at 195, his
lowest weight in eight years.

Oakland also signed 39-year-old outfielders Tony Phillips and
Tim Raines. "When we go old, we really go old," says Howe.
"There's no question the main reason we brought in these kinds
of veterans is to give the younger players someone to look to
for guidance."

Among active players, Raines and Phillips rank second and
seventh, respectively, in runs scored. They'll try to make A's
fans forget about the top player on that list, Ricky Henderson,
now with the Mets. Phillips, who came up through the Oakland
system like the rest of the starting position players, will play
left and lead off. Raines, who has won World Series rings in two
of the last three years, will probably get 350 at bats in spot
duty.

"We've taken some big steps," Howe says. "Now we just have to
keep going. When our younger players mature, this is going to be
a very, very solid ball club."

--D.F.

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT JORDAN LEVY The 22-year-old Grieve may live with his folks in the off-season, but he showed a veteran's poise at the plate in taking home Rookie of the Year honors. COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO

By the Numbers

1998 Team Statistics (AL rank)
1998 record: 74-88 (fourth in AL West)

BATTING AVERAGE .257 (14)
RUNS SCORED 804 (9)
HOME RUNS 149 (10)
OPP. BATTING AVG. .276 (10)
ERA 4.81 (9)
FIELDING PCT. .977 (14)

The Phillips Phactor

In all but one of his stops in the majors, Tony Phillips's new
team improved its won-lost record and increased its runs per
game over the previous season. The only exception was last year,
when Phillips joined the Mets. But although New York's runs per
game decreased from 1997 to '98, both its scoring average and
won-lost record improved after July 31, when Phillips was
acquired.

SEASON BEFORE ACQUIRING TONY PHILLIPS

Team Year W-L Pct. Runs/G

Athletics 1998 74-88 .457 5.0
Mets 1997 88-74 .543 4.8
Blue Jays 1997 76-86 .469 4.0
Angels 1996 70-91 .435 4.7
White Sox 1995 68-76 .472 5.2
Angels 1994 47-68 .409 4.7
Tigers 1989 59-103 .364 3.8

FIRST SEASON WITH PHILLIPS

Year W-L Pct. Runs/G

1999 ? ? ?
1998 88-74 .543 4.4
1998 88-74 .543 5.1
1997 84-78 .519 5.1
1996 85-77 .525 5.5
1995 78-67 .538 5.5
1990 79-83 .488 4.6

Next Up...

Last year, in his first full major league season, righthander
Jimmy Haynes won 11 games and struck out 134 batters. Acquired
from the Orioles in a June 1997 trade for Geronimo Berroa, the
6'3", 180-pound Haynes has a five-pitch repertoire that includes
a 94-mph fastball. He has struggled with his control--last year
he walked 88--but with another solid season Haynes should be
poised to join Oakland's long list of burgeoning stars. "We've
already developed a lot of young players on this team," says
manager Art Howe. "The next step will be to do that with the
pitching staff, and that all starts with guys like Jimmy Haynes."

Projected Roster With 1998 Statistics

Manager: Art Howe (fourth season with Oakland)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

LF Tony Phillips*[1] S-R 175 .250 4 21 1
CF Ryan Christenson R 165 .257 5 40 5
1B Jason Giambi L-R 61 .295 27 110 2
DH Matt Stairs L-R 40 .294 26 106 8
RF Ben Grieve L-R 79 .288 18 89 2
3B Eric Chavez(R)[#] L-R 74 .325 11 40 2
2B Scott Spiezio S-R 215 .259 9 50 1
C A.J. Hinch R 220 .231 9 35 3
SS Miguel Tejada R 148 .233 11 45 5

BENCH

OF Tim Raines[1] S-R 251 .290 5 47 8
IF John Jaha[1] R 284 .208 7 38 1
C Mike Macfarlane R 335 .243 7 34 1
IF Jorge Velandia[1] R 394 .287 6 57 8

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH Kenny Rogers 29 16 8 7.0 1.18 3.17
RH Jimmy Haynes 99 11 9 5.9 1.63 5.09
RH Tom Candiotti 126 11 16 6.1 1.42 4.84
RH Gil Heredia 165 3 3 6.7 1.08 2.74
RH Mike Oquist 231 7 11 5.9 1.53 6.22

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Billy Taylor 70 4 9 33 1.27 3.58
RH Doug Jones*[1] 213 4 6 13 1.36 4.54
RH T.J. Mathews 227 7 4 1 1.38 4.58
LH Buddy Groom 302 3 1 0 1.43 4.24
LH Mark Holzemer 340 1 0 0 1.66 5.59
RH Brad Rigby[#] 282 5 6 0 1.48 5.94

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning
pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)
*Combined AL and NL stats [#]Triple A stats

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)