The A's suffered through last season with four significant weak spots—first base, second base, DH and short relief. In a flurry of off-season maneuvering they've filled those problem areas, filled them with some unusual people—a counter-culturist at first, an old man at second, a curmudgeon as a DH and a comedian in the bullpen—but they've filled them nonetheless. Under the sophisticated Roy Eisenhardt these A's are beginning more and more to take on the offbeat personality of the old A's under madcap Charlie Finley. Now if they can only play like them.
Bruce Bochte, 33, the new first baseman, didn't play at all last year. He simply dropped out after the '82 season in search of alternatives to a commercial world he had come to deplore. "It's unusual for a player to quit cold turkey," says Eisenhardt, "but Bruce was able to give me an articulate explanation." Bochte dropped out to work at the Chinook Learning Center on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. "It wasn't a 'back-to-nature' type of thing," he says. "I prefer to think of it as an ecological approach to living, a way of developing a cohesive neighborhood where people complement and support one another, where proper use is made of energy sources, where recycling is practiced and where one grows his own food. It's experimenting with styles appropriate to the future."
Bochte says he never intended to disassociate himself completely from the mainstream; he only hoped to gain some perspective. When he decided to return to the game, he chose Boston, Kansas City and Oakland as prospective employers. Each needed a first baseman and each seemed to understand what he was all about. He set his own price—$475,000—and advised all three that he would refuse to participate in a bidding war. Oakland won out because it's on the West Coast, because "Roy represents to me a new and promising type of owner" and because "the Bay Area has always been a progressive place to live." The layoff hasn't seemed to hurt Bochte, who batted .297 in 1982. On his first Cactus League swing he hit a line-drive single, and he continued to swing well the rest of March.
Joe Morgan, at 40, is returning to the city where he grew up, and he's delighted with the prospect of finishing his career where it began; the A's hope he can play 100 or more games at second. Davey Lopes, 37, is now a reserve outfielder, third baseman and DH. Former Met Dave Kingman, seemingly showing an improved attitude, will DH. Bill Caudill, who had 52 saves the last two years with Seattle, is the bullpen stopper the A's have long craved. He is also the team clown, although this isn't a team to be easily laughed off.
Opponents had great success by reversing Willie Keeler's "hit 'em where they ain't" dictum and hitting balls where the A's were. Oakland made 157 errors, second in the league, and averaged a major league low of 9.9 assists per game. The pitchers yielded an average of nine hits and a league high of 3.86 walks for each game.