No pitchers, no punch, no prospects
Strong points: The A's have a fine young infield, and that's about all. Norm Siebern (.296, 18 HRs, 98 RBIs) at first, Jerry Lumpe (.293) at second, Wayne Causey (.276) at third and Dick Howser (.280) at shortstop (average age 26) had the highest batting average of any infield in the majors. Lumpe, the ex-Yankee third baseman, and Howser, one of last year's top rookies, work well together on the double play (Howser, however, led both leagues in errors). Siebern, an ex-Yankee outfielder, has turned into a competent first baseman, and Causey, who never made it as an Oriole bonus baby, has settled down at third.
Weak spots: Woeful lack of power, no outfield and no pitching. Team had just 90 home runs (lowest in the majors), averaged a skimpy 12 total bases a game and hit .247 (despite the infielders) last season. No player except Siebern hit more than eight homers or had more than 54 RBIs. Athletics' answer to this was to cut the left-field line by 39 feet, the right-field line by 15 feet, in hope that A's will benefit more than opposition. Only four outfielders—Leo Posada (.253, 7 HRs), Gino Cimoli (.234, 3 HRs with Pirates and Braves), Bobby Del Greco (.239, 7 HRs) and Gene Stephens (.203, 4 HRs)—have had major league experience. Catching is in the hands of Haywood Sullivan, whose lifetime batting average (.216) matches his weight. Jim Archer, a left-hander with three different curves and a good fast ball, had a low ERA (3.20) despite a 9-15 record. Norm Bass, a strong, young (23) right-hander (and brother of Dick Bass, the Los Angeles Rams' halfback), worked hard on his control this spring, figures to improve on his 11-11 record. The pitching staff allowed the most hits and runs in the majors last year and, aside from Archer and Bass, no pitcher completed more than four games.
The big ifs: The A's have two pitchers—Art Ditmar (28 wins with the Yankees in 1959-60) and Jerry Walker (11 wins as a 20-year-old in 1959 with the Orioles)—who were once major league winners. A return to form by either of them would make the summer more pleasant in Kansas City. Young right-hander Lew Krausse throws a big curve and a hopping fast ball. He was sent to the minors, but Manager Hank Bauer expects him to be back soon when he gains control and some experience.
Rookies and new faces: Rookie Outfielders Manny Jimenez and Jose Tartabull hit well in spring training and won regular jobs—Jimenez in left, Tartabull in center. Both are good, strong-armed fielders. José Azcue (.297 at Vancouver) works well behind the plate, could wind up as first-string catcher. Best young pitcher is Dave Wickersham, a 26-year-old right-hander, who was 2-1 with the A's at the end of last season. Best old pitcher is Bob Grim, a 20-game winner with the Yankees in his rookie year (1954) and 2-2 in the minors last season. He had a try-out this spring and looked impressive.
OUTLOOK: Manager Bauer, under orders from Owner Charles Finley to build a young team, has some talent to work with, but not enough to move anyplace.
No more beer and cigarettes
"You know what happened to me after I won that first game," said Lew Krausse, the 18-year-old $125,000 bonus pitcher who shut out the Angels in a pleasant debut last season. "I got cocky, that's what. That night after the game I was lying in bed thinking that this big-league stuff wasn't so tough and wishing I had been able to pitch against a better team than the Angels. That's terrible.
"In my second game I had a 1-0 lead in the seventh against the Red Sox. They had a man on first and then someone bunted and I threw high trying to get the man at second. The man at second took a big lead, and my catcher tried to pick him off. He threw the ball into center field. I guess I was upset about that and my own bad play, and I threw three straight balls to Gary Geiger. Then I came right down the middle and he hit it for a three-run homer.
"Worst of all, I suppose, I didn't know what it meant to be in shape. When I first came up I weighed 170. By the time I was there three months I was up to 190. It all went right here." Krausse cupped his hands in front of his stomach. "There was a lot of beer in there. Now I'm down to 180 and solid. I quit the beer and I stopped smoking. I want to make this team."
Shortstop Dick Howser stood in front of a cinder block wall, threw a baseball at it and caught the rebound with both hands. He did this for about 15 minutes one day this spring.
"I'm not trying to knock down any wall," Howser said. "All I'm doing is trying to improve my fielding. I did some things wrong last year and I think I can overcome them.
"I've been catching one-handed all my life. When I catch the relay on the double play I have to learn to take it with two hands so I can get rid of the ball faster. The way I did it last year, I caught the toss with one hand and then had to bring my bare hand up to the glove before I could get the ball and throw it. My glove also got in the way of my throws and it kept the ball hidden, which made it hard for the man I was throwing to. He couldn't see the ball.
"My throwing is another thing. I started out throwing overhand last year, but as the season went along my arm kept dropping lower and lower when I threw. I was almost throwing underhand at the end. You can do that in the minors, but up here the infields are cut back so deep that you have to make longer throws. The only way to make good throws when they are that long is to get on top of the ball when you release it. You have to throw overhand to get more power. I made 38 errors last season and most of them were on throwing. I'm sure I can cut that down."
FAR-RANGING SHORTSTOP Dick Howser was handed uniform No. 1 and named team captain as a rookie, responded with .280 BA.