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MLB: APR 02 Spring Training - Rockies at Athletics
Ramon Laureano is still on the A’s...or at least he will be when his suspension ends
Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What’s the opposite of offseason champs? Phillies vs. A’s series preview

The Phillies’ season opens against an opponent who didn’t exactly go “all in” this offseason

At the end of last season, I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue doing these series previews in 2022. The perpetual late-season collapses made it impossible to write about the team with any sense of optimism, and you can only make the same #LOLMets jokes or talk about punchable faces so many times. But hey, a new season (along with some high priced free agents!) brings new hope, and inertia being what it is, I’m back for my fifth season of previewing Phillies’ opponents.

One thing that should help me avoid burnout is the more balanced schedule that MLB is using for 2022. Instead of playing approximately 20 series against the same division opponent, the Phillies will have more diversity in the teams that they play. So instead of having to write about Dansby Swanson’s stupid name six times a year, I’ll get to discuss some franchises that I haven’t written about nearly as much.

As it turns out, the first series of the year is against one of those franchises that don’t share much history with the Phillies. (Which is really strange considering they once shared a city.) On paper, this is a nice, easy way to start the season. But as anyone who is not new to Phillies fandom knows, having an easy opponent on paper does not usually equate to easy games for the Phils.

Oakland Athletics

2021 Record: 86-76 (3rd place in American League West)

The last time they met

The Phillies welcomed the A’s back to Philadelphia in September 2017 and lost two out of three.

I’m actually shocked the Phillies won any games in the series considering the list of pitchers they used: Mark Leiter, Jr, Ricardo Pinto, Bruce Davidson, Kevin Siegrist, Zac Curtis, Ben Lively, Yacksel Rios, Victor Arano, Hoby Milner, Juan Sanchez, Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia, Hector Neris, Henderson Alvarez III, and Adam Morgan. And I swear I only made two of those names up!

I’ll be flat out honest with you: I have no recollection of a lot of those guys. For instance, I wasn’t sure Henderson Alvarez III was an actual person until I looked him up and learned that he was actually an All-Star for the Marlins in 2014. Sadly, his stint with the Phillies was not All-Star worthy. He made three starts, put up a 4.30 ERA, and the Phillies lost all three games.

How’d their offseason go?

The A’s had an excellent offseason, assuming your primary concern is how much money their owners make from the team. If you’re an A’s fan who is interested in winning baseball games, you’d probably use other words to describe the past few months.

Notable hitters such as Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Starling Marte, and Mark Canha are now all ex-A’s, as are pitchers Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt. That’s a lot of talent out the door, and while the A’s can claim they want a youth movement, it is fairly obvious that the main motivation for the exodus was saving money.

It wasn’t like the A’s were in desperate need of a rebuild. Yes, they missed the playoffs in 2021 after three straight postseason appearances, but they won 86 games, so it wasn’t like things were falling apart.

I know it is often agonizing to be a Phillies fan, and to be sure, the A’s have been the more successful of the two franchises since they left town back in 1955. But considering the Phillies are expected to exceed the luxury tax and the team plays in a non-decrepit stadium, at the present moment, I certainly wouldn’t trade places with an A’s fan.

Did they add anyone?

They brought back former All-Star infielder Jed Lowrie as a free agent. I’m sure the season ticket office phones were ringing off the hook after that one.

Boo this man

Ramon Laureano won’t be on hand for this series. Why? Because he’s been suspended for PED use. When he returns in a month or so, he should boost the A’s, since he’s a young, exciting player who can play a good centerfield. So naturally, there’s an expectation that he’ll be traded too. (Might want to keep your eyes on that one, in case the whole Matt Vierling thing doesn’t work out)

A hypothetical to consider

The A’s might not be long for Oakland, and while it wouldn’t ever happen, how would Philadelphia react if the team decided to move back to Philly? The older set who were A’s fans back in the day would probably switch their allegiances back, but how many Phillies fans would do the same?

Probably more than you think. Or at least a decent number of fans might have dual allegiances. Phillies fans have a track record of being bandwagon fans. Attendance at games has traditionally correlated with team success, so my suspicion is that if the A’s were successful and the Phillies were not, you might see a lot of people (at least temporarily) switch their allegiance.

Random Opening Day memory

On April 3rd, 2006, the Phillies began their season at home against the St. Louis Cardinals, and it was a miserable experience for the hometown fans. Jon Lieber was on the mound for the Phils, and he did not pitch well at all. He gave up solo runs in the first and third, and then a whopping six more in the fourth. Once Lieber was out of the game, reliever Julio Santana added fuel to the fire by giving up a grand slam to Scott Rolen.

Home runs by Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard were among the few highlights of the day for the Phillies, who went on to lose 13-5. Oh, and apparently the weather sucked too.

Trivia

For those who are new to these previews or need a refresher, here’s how this works: I typically post a trivia question related to the opponent at hand, and readers answer in the comments. I strongly discourage looking up the answer, and please don’t confirm nor deny the accuracy of your answer so that everyone has a chance to guess.

And to add to the excitement this year, the person to answer each question correctly will receive a free subscription to The Good Phight! That’s right, you’ll be able to read all the news, content, and opinions from the best Phillies site around for absolutely no cost!

This series’ question: In the first game of the three-game series against the A’s in September 2017, the Phillies were limited to two hits, both by the same player. Who was he?

Hint: It wasn’t Henderson Alvarez III

New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies
We’ll never forget the Henderson Alvarez III era in Philadelphia
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Non-Phillies thought

In preparation for the season opener, I watched Major League 2 yesterday. Obviously not as good as the original, but it’s probably unfairly maligned. I did think it was funny that Rick Vaughn’s ran into problems when he tried to diversify his pitching repertoire and not just rely on throwing high-90’s fastballs to every hitter.

Closing thought

As we learned last year, you can tell exactly how a season is going to go based on the first series of the year. But even though the A’s are predicted to be hot garbage, and the Phillies are expected to be a fun dinger-mashing machine, if the Phils don’t come out and dominate these first few games, we don’t have to panic. It’s a long season, and sometimes bad teams beat good teams.

Will that stop anyone from panicking? Of course not!

Enjoy the season! Go Phillies!

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