© Norman Sperling, January 27, 2013
The 2012 Oakland Athletics came out of nowhere, staffed with "nobodies", to win the division title over higher-skilled, higher-paid teams like the Angels and Rangers.
They had enough skill and enough training ... and spirit way over the top. You could see it in the final series against the Rangers: Athletics bouncing and beaming and extraordinarily loose; Rangers dejected, tired, out-of-it.
We won't get them all back in 2013. Boston is paying Johnny Gomes a whole lot of money, more likely to boost team spirits than to boost its batting average.
* Coco Crisp is back. Management knows how much he helps morale in addition to batting and fielding.
* Jerry Blevins is back - the longest-tenured Athletic. He's the one who brought in the "Bernie".
* Grant Balfour is back, imploring not only the baseball but his teammates.
* Josh Reddick is back, and I bet he has a standing order for whipped-cream pies.
2 prime characters are still unsigned because of injuries: Brandon Inge, and Dallas Braden. Nobody is gambling on them because they're recovering from serious surgery and may never play in the Major Leagues again.
But Inge and Braden mean a whole lot to Athletics team spirit. So hire them back as coaches, or special assistants, crowd pleasers, "tummelers", to jack up team spirits and crowd enthusiasm. They could roam the tailgates before games and the stands during games. They could roam the minor league affiliates - Braden lives in Stockton, home of the Class-A Ports, and near the AAA Sacramento Rivercats. They'll mean more to team spirit than anybody else on coach's pay.
The A's would also be the first to know if they're ready to return to active service.