By John Hickey
Monday, May 6th, 2013 at 3:09 pm in 2013 regular season.
Jason Giambi looks at Nick Swisher and he sees himself at a younger age.
Cleveland cleanup hitter Swisher looks at Giambi and sees the player he idolized while coming up in the Oakland organization.
The two ex-A’s look at the current A’s and they see the team they’d like their team to become.
Ah, the wheels do go round and round in baseball.
“When I was coming up with the A’s,’’ Swisher said before Monday’s opener of a four-game series in Progressive Field between the A’s and the Indians, “Jason Giambi was a god in that organization. He was the man.’’
And evidently still is.
“He’s a rock star,’’ Swisher said. “You look around clubs even now. There’s always the one guy with long hair, the one guy who stands out. He opened it up. He’s a pioneer.’’
Swisher had some of that rub off. His hair isn’t what it once was, but he’s become, like Giambi, a player that others gravitate toward. Giambi can see the comparison.
“Yeah, you could say that,’’ Giambi said when asked if their styles over the years have been in synch. “He’s got a lot of energy. He’s got a big personality. And he loves to play.’’
That sounds like Giambi, who at 42 is with Cleveland hoping for one more run deep into the season. The Indians are 14-14 coming into the series and Giambi is at just .207 with two homers, but he takes heart in making comparison with the Indians of this year as the A’s of 2012 when they suddenly came of age and surprised everyone by running down Texas to win the American League West.
“We are in the rebuilding process,’’ Giambi said. “But all the pieces are here. The A’s have that great pitchers over there. What we have is great arms. The difference is consistency.’’
Giambi looks at the current A’s ERA of 4.19 and dismisses it, saying “they’ve had some trouble, but they have proven they can do it. There is no doubt that pitching will come around.’’
Cleveland’s ERA is 4.10, but there hasn’t been any proof in terms of winning seasons lately. But …
“Offensively we are off the charts,’’ Giambi said. The bullpen is real solid. I’ll tell you, we can surprise people, just like the A’s did.’’
The A’s have scored the most runs in the AL with 171 and the Indians are well back at 142. But the A’s have also played four more games, so the per-game average of 5.34 for Oakland is not head-and-shoulders better than Cleveland’s 5.07.
Oakland waited until mid-season to start its 2012 post-season run. The Indians don’t appear to be willing to wait as long behind manager Terry Francona. Cleveland started the season 8-13, but then won six straight before losing Sunday to the Twins to settle at .500.
They have gone five seasons without finishing over .500, so clearly some progress has been made.
“We’ve got the same trajectory as the A’s,’’ Swisher said. “At least, that’s the plan. It’s 20 13, and look at this roster. We’ve got 15 new guys here. I promise you it will be different. We were all brought here for a reason.’’
The A’s are actually lucky to be catching the Indians now, because one of the igniters of the offense, outfielder Michael Bourne is on the disabled list and probably won’t play until this weekend at the earliest, by which time the A’s will be back on the West Coast.
It’s true that the A’s are missing outfield pieces, too, in Coco Crisp and Chris Young, so both teams enter the series with less than their best roster. Bourne, who was hitting .333 when he went to the DL, was brought in, as was Swisher, to change the feel in Cleveland, and it seems to have happened.
The vibe in the Indians clubhouse reeks of a new upbeat attitude when in the past the odor was less than befits a Major League contender.
“Good things are happening here,’’ Swisher said.