PHOENIX -- No expectations, big expectations.
A's manager Bob Melvin has been in this situation before. When he was skipper of the D-backs, there were no expectations after losing 86 games in 2006, but Arizona won 90 times and claimed the National League West title in 2007. Then, with big expectations for 2008, the D-backs lost the division title by two games.
Same thing in Oakland. Last year there were no expectations: The A's lost 88 games in 2011, but came back in '12 to win 94 games and the American League West. Now Melvin faces those big expectations again
"I prefer us not to think about those things," Melvin said Friday night before the A's played the White Sox in their only Cactus League night games of the Phoenix portion of the spring. "I mean, we just need to worry about ourselves. We were very good about that last year. I don't really care where anybody's picking us nor do I think anybody cares here. We have a belief amongst ourselves and our team of who we are and that's good enough.
"If it irks somebody that they're not picking you to win the division based on the fact that we won it last year, I don't even look at where people are picking us and would think our guys are the same way. We'll go out there do our thing, worry about ourselves and not have the distraction of what other people think about us."
Still, the comparison to the 2006-08 D-backs is kind of eerie, isn't it? The D-backs, with a young club, a veteran starter in Brandon Webb, and a lights out closer in Jose Valverde, swept the Cubs in an NL Division Series and in turn were swept by the Rockies in the NL Championship Series. The A's, with mostly a young club from top to bottom, lost to the Tigers in a five-game ALDS largely because Justin Verlander had his way with them, winning the first and fifth games.
"Oh, little but," Melvin said. "It was a young team here last year and that's similar to '07 in Arizona. Both teams had some success and won the division. Other than that, there's a lot of things that differentiate the two teams. It was more younger player and a veteran pitching staff there, while here last year it was younger pitchers and a mix of position players, who were moved around last year."
Melvin will have 162 games to see how the greater expectations play themselves out this time.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.