This is better than Moneyball

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This is better than Moneyball

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OAKLAND -- It's hard to picture the green and gold legends of yesteryear like Reggie Jackson or Catfish Hunter, or even Rickey Henderson, and Dennis Eckersley doing a synchronized dance in the middle of the clubhouse amid a rain shower of bubbly alcohol. That's what happened on Monday in Oakland as Bernie Lean blasted from the clubhouse speakers. But these aren't the A's of the past. These are a manager pie-ing, Spider-man costume-wearing, walk-off celebrating, group of outcasts that nobody saw coming. In Oakland people are learning to expect the unexpected, and it is safe to say that no one in their right mind expected the events that transpired October 1, 2012. As a raucous crowd chanted sweep, sweep, sweep, Grant Balfour struck out the side and the Oakland dugout exploded onto the field in wild celebration. With a 4-3 win over Texas the A's had clinched a spot in the postseason. "We silenced a lot of critics, a lot of people in this world," Josh Reddick said. "To come as far as we have is something that we didn't think was possible, nobody thought was possible."The A's have clinched 24 playoff berths in franchise history, but this one feels different. These A's weren't expected to amount to much. The oddsmakers had them as an 801 long shot to win the World Series in 2012, and placed the overunder on their win total at 72.5 wins. Here they are boasting a 92-68 record with two games remaining and a chance to win the American League West."We wear jerseys, we don't wear contracts between the lines," Jonny Gomes said. "It's one opportunity where you put your World Series rings, you put your All-Stars, you put your contracts away, none of that comes to play between the lines."On June 30, Oakland was 13 games behind the A.L. West-leading Rangers. Now they are just one game back. The champagne, beer, and cigar celebration could be a small sample of what is to come if the A's can win their next two games, and as a result the division."We're going to celebrate tonight absolutely and then finish these last two games out," Gomes said. "We're not going to stop trying to do it until we can't," Josh Donaldson said. "We're hopefully going to make a strong push into the playoffs." The A's are full of incredible stories. Take Jarrod Parker, the winning pitcher on Monday night for example. He has won a career-high four consecutive starts, is 3-0 against the Rangers, and wasn't even in the opening day starting rotation. His 13th win ties him with fellow rookie pitcher Tommy Milone for the most wins in Oakland history by a rookie.RATTO: A's celebrate before it's back to business
Sean Doolittle, who pitched the scoreless seventh inning, was a first baseman at this time last year. First baseman Brandon Moss, who drove in the go-ahead run on Monday, was a journeyman outfielder that was called up on June 6. This is better than Moneyball. These guys were buried under 50 tons of crap on the island of misfit toys that the 2002 squad came from. "It's like I've said all along we've got a lot of players that have been told no a lot in their careers," Moss said. "You put a lot of guys like that together in one team and there's going to be a lot of fight in them." It is an explosive combination especially when you have an ignitor. Coco Crisp went 2 for 4, with an RBI double, stole his 39th base, and scored the game winning run on Moss' sacrifice fly. He was held out of the lineup for nine games with eye issues, has gone 9 for 17 (.529) in four games since returning, and offered this explanation of the team's success with goggles on in the clubhouse after the game. "We're the underdogs and we probably still are," Crisp said. "We just keep on going out there playing hard and we're a team, we have good chemistry, and that's the main thing." Of course none of this happens without one man pulling all the strings -- the skipper. As the celebration in the clubhouse erupted he was right in the middle of it. He was either really excited, or trying to take a champagne shower to wash the pie out of his hair. Yep, even Bob Melvin got pied in the face after this game. "That was me of course," Reddick said. "I never had the opportunity to get him this year. I felt like it was the perfect set up."That pretty much sums it up right there. While no one can seem to figure out how -- or why -- these guys keep winning. The secret ingredient to the winning recipe has been there all along. No, not Reddi-Wip, fun. These guys are simply having too much fun to notice that they are achieving what they weren't supposed to. A loose team playing with nothing to lose can be very dangerous this time of year. "We're a good team. We're not a bunch of individuals and guys are really playing well," Crisp said. "The chemistry is 50 percent of it and I think we have that." The A's still don't know where they will end up. They are currently tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the top seed in the Wild Card Playoff game but hold the tiebreaker. They could end up winning the division and end up in the American League Division Series -- it is still up in the air.
One thing is certain though, they have punched their ticket to the playoffs and are ready to continue shocking the world. As Jarrod Parker put it: "We've shocked the world enough, we might as well keep doing it."

A's spring training Day 13: Gossett part of fifth starter mix

A's spring training Day 13: Gossett part of fifth starter mix

MESA, Ariz. — An unexpected opportunity came Daniel Gossett’s way Sunday, and the young right-hander took it in stride.

When the A’s adjusted their starting rotation, Kendall Graveman got bumped to Monday and Gossett learned he’d be taking the ball to start Sunday’s Cactus League home opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I’m here for what they need me for,” Gossett said. “So anything they need, gimme the ball.”

He spun two scoreless innings in a game Oakland lost 5-3 at Hohokam Stadium. A nice first impression for Gossett, indeed, but the truth is A’s officials were already quite familiar with him.

A second-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, Gossett impressed at three levels of the farm system in 2016, beginning the year with Single-A Stockton and finishing it with Triple-A Nashville.

This is his first big league camp, and manager Bob Melvin even mentioned Gossett as being part of the fifth starter conversation.

“He impressed everybody in the organization last year, so when talking about that fifth spot, who knows?” Melvin said before the game.

The only blemishes on Gossett’s day were the pair of walks he issued. After walking Jefrey Marte to lead off the second, he got a lift from his catcher, as Josh Phegley fired a strike to second to nail Marte trying to steal.

“A pitcher’s best friend, I guess,” Gossett said. He went 10-6 with a 2.69 ERA across 27 starts at all three levels of the minors last year, and his 151 strikeouts led the A’s farm system. Gossett’s fastball ranges anywhere from 90-95 on the gun. He throws a changeup that gets the most swings and misses, plus a slider and curve.

Grady Fuson, an A’s special assistant to the general manager, liked the adjustments he saw with Gossett over the course of last season.

“He’s a super kid, a grinder,” Fuson said over the winter. “He’s a guy that hadn’t struck many guys out and had been very hittable in the strike zone. (In 2016), he started executing to different parts of the zone that limits the hard contact.”

CAMP BATTLE: Alejandro De Aza sparked the A’s first rally in the third Sunday with a triple, then scored on Mark Canha’s double. With Jake Smolinski sidelined currently by a shoulder issue, it’s a good time for De Aza, a non-roster invitee to camp, to make his mark. The door could be open for him to make a push to make the roster as a fifth outfielder.

“He’s an interesting guy,” Melvin said of the nine-year veteran. “He knows how to play the game, he can play all three outfield spots. We’ve seen him before when he’s given us trouble, too, with the White Sox.”

Another contender for a reserve outfield spot is Jaycob Brugman, who has yet to crack the majors but is already on the 40-man roster. He singled home a run in the seventh. Like De Aza and Smolinski, Brugman can play center field, and it stands to reason the A’s will want to carry someone who can back up Rajai Davis at that position.

NOTEWORTHY: Phegley admitted to some butterflies before getting behind the plate for his first game since July, when a right knee injury wiped out the rest of his season.

But he looked good springing up to nail Marte on the second-inning steal attempt. The A’s are counting on Phegley returning to his role as the right-handed hitting platoon partner with Stephen Vogt behind the plate.

STOCK RISING: Melvin was impressed, and entertained, by the first look he got at reliever Simon Castro on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs. Castro retired Kris Bryant to strand a runner at third, the only hitter he faced. But it was what happened before the at-bat that caught Melvin’s attention.

“When he came to the mound he was pretty vocal,” Melvin noted. “He was fired up, telling the guys ‘Let’s go!’ I haven’t heard that too many times out of pitchers, let alone in spring training. So he impressed me with his eagerness to pitch.”

FAMILIAR FACES: Campy Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom each threw out ceremonial first pitches before Sunday’s exhibition home opener, which drew a smallish crowd of 4,072.

A’s reliever, movie buff Axford makes 2017 Oscars predictions

A’s reliever, movie buff Axford makes 2017 Oscars predictions

Update: Axford finished the night correctly predicting 19 of 24 Oscars this year.

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A's reliever John Axford is not your casual movie fan. 

Axford majored in Film at Notre Dame and has a proven track record when it comes to the biggest night for movies. 

The last two years, Axford correctly predicted 17 of 24 winners for the Academy Awards. In 2014, Axford went a perfect 18-of-18 with his predictions. 

On Saturday, Axford offered 24 predictions for the 2017 Oscars. 

Axford is a clear believer in La La Land, choosing the film for eights Oscars, after winning a record-breaking seven Golden Globes. 

Will he go a perfect 24-for-24 this year?