A's can wait to learn Beane's veteran lesson

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A's can wait to learn Beane's veteran lesson

OAKLAND -- Billy Beane grabbed his third baseman, Josh Donaldson, on the far fringe of the Oakland Athletics daily party, made him turn around, cigar between his teeth and bottle of Domaine Chandon in his hand, and said with the seriousness of a thoracic surgeon, Make sure you enjoy this, because they dont come around that often.I will, Donaldson said, and then went back to thinking that this is what major league baseball is. A champagne-and-dry-ice rave-up every day, with nothing but happy endings and Jonny Gomes turning the infield hose on them and love from a nation full of total strangers.At that moment, with the As celebrating a division title, the crushing of history and the unfettered triumph of momentum over conventional logic, Beane would have had better luck trying to help Donaldson study for his law exam. There would be no lessons absorbed this day, except one:How much of a hoot it is to be young, eager and slap the world upside the earhole.The As finished the job that wasnt theirs to dream of Wednesday, throttling the Texas Rangers 12-5 to win the AL West, and to essentially lap the entire American League field in 100 games.INSTANT REPLAY: A's complete epic comeback
They caught everything in their way by winning two out of every three games for 3 months. They cheated so many baseball precedents in that time that they are the latest version of Americas Team. Remade on the fly twice, with only one position player in the place he started the season, a rotation made entirely of middle scholars, a bullpen assembled and reassembled they were in their way an expansion team that expanded beyond life size.And there was Beane, trying to remind Donaldson that this isnt how baseball actually is most of the time. Yeah, good luck winning that debating point.When I first got here, we won all the time, and I got used to it, Beane said while trying to coax his young son Braden that he couldnt take him back into the champagne shower just yet because he had to talk to the mean people with the notebooks. We all got used to it. It was just the way it worked. And then when we started winning again, it felt familiar again, like this was how it was supposed to be.But then you hit bottom, and you realize how much fun this is. Truthfully, Im happier about this team than any of the others because . . . well, all the other celebrations like this I can barely remember. This one Im going to remember because I appreciate it so much more.The game itself was a metaphor for the season. Down 5-1 almost immediately because starter A.J. Griffin couldnt make the baseball obey his commands, the As looked disappointment in the face . . . for exactly one inning.Brandon Moss walked, and Josh Reddick drove him home with a double to center, and the sellout crowd started to think this might not be such a buzzkill after all. Then Donaldson singled, then Seth Smith singled, and the belief came back. Then it dissipated again when Derek Holland replaced Texas starter Ryan Dempster and retired Derek Norris and Cliff Pennington.Then Coco Crisp doubled home Donaldson and Smith. Then Stephen Drew walked. Then Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton whiffed an inning-ending fly ball from Yoenis Cespedes to score Crisp and Drew, and despair turned to hope to jubilation to fait accompli.One-hundred-and-one games from doomed to triumphant, collapsed like a dying star into 10 plate appearances that explained it all.While of course explaining none of it, because this cannot truly be explained. Not well, anyway. You can trace where the roster was at the beginning of the season, you can recap every game, you can turn it into a historical exercise, for this was, and still is, a historic achievement, even if you dont factor in the As more typical role as the new St. Louis Browns.But today was not the day to think about San Jose, or owners selling, or a stadium that has served its tenants far better than its tenants have served it. Today was watching young men playing with the casinos money, partying like the sun never comes up. Today was baseball re-explained for people who dont get it, or want to get it. Today was about expectations and orthodoxy and punditry and mathematical projections taking it right in the nethers, once, twice, 94 times. One for every win.And it was definitely not the time for Billy Beane to explain to Josh Donaldson that this is a feeling like no other, and that it must be savored. This was not a day for savoring. It was for chugging, bottleneck down, the joy running down your shirtfront. Donaldson may learn the backhand of this lesson some day, but today?Not a chance in hell.

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

OAKLAND — The A’s set off for Chicago on Thursday evening to begin their next road trip, and how their dynamic has changed over the course of one week.

They began their most recent homestand by cutting ties with veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe to make room for hotshot prospect Matt Chapman. On Thursday, catcher Stephen Vogt suffered the same fate as Plouffe, getting designated for assignment to make room for another young player in Bruce Maxwell.

The calendar may still read June, with more than half of the season remaining, but the A’s are cleaning house, undergoing a reboot and playing the rest of 2017 with an emphasis on what lies ahead.

Five of the nine position players in their starting lineup for Thursday’s 12-9 loss to the Houston Astros are what you would consider “future” guys — center fielder Jaycob Brugman, third baseman Ryon Healy, second baseman Chad Pinder, Maxwell and right fielder Matt Olson.

They will shuffle around the diamond a bit, and Olson may only stay with the big club until Chapman comes off the disabled list (though Olson’s full-time status in the bigs doesn’t seem far off). Regardless, the plan is crystal clear — the A’s are hitching their wagon to their young core and are prepared to let them develop at the major league level, with whatever successes and failures may come with the growth process.

“We do get excited about giving these guys playing time,” A’s general manager David Forst said before Thursday’s game.

The Astros finished off a four-game sweep of Oakland with their 12-9 victory, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and then holding on after the A’s mounted a late charge. Glance up and down the box score, and those key young players were instrumental in so much that went right for the A’s.

Maxwell went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Olson drove in two runs. Pinder had two hits and an RBI. Brugman chipped in an RBI single and walked twice. That was the silver lining on a day that starting pitcher Jesse Hahn struggled mightily, allowing nine earned runs in just two innings.

“These guys are gonna be important,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The last thing you want to see when you’re down 10-0 is guys just cash it in, and that wasn’t the case. These guys all have something to play for. They’re playing for jobs. And in the future, starting jobs.”

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, middle infielder Franklin Barreto will join the mix from Triple-A Nashville. For now, an immediate storyline is the health of Chapman, who joined the 10-day disabled list with a case of cellulitis (bacterial infection) in his left knee. The A’s checked him into a hospital Wednesday night to get an intravenous antibiotic, after his condition “plateaued” with oral antibiotics, according to Forst.

He said Chapman is likely to leave the hospital Friday, and the A’s are hopeful the rookie third baseman will be able to return when he’s eligible to come off the D.L. His stint can be backdated to Monday, meaning Chapman is eligible to return next Thursday at Houston.

He’s part of the youth movement that resulted in Vogt getting shown the exit. Maxwell sent Vogt a text message wishing him the best Thursday morning, and Vogt quickly responded, wishing him the best. That meant a lot to Maxwell, who didn’t learn until Thursday morning that his roster spot was coming at Vogt’s expense.

But Maxwell said he’s excited to be surrounded by so many players that he’s advanced through the minors with.

“Once we get everybody acclimated to each other and the game up here,” he said, “I feel like we could potentially set up a turning point for this organization for years to come.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Astros' sweep of once-hot A's

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Astros' sweep of once-hot A's

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Under some circumstances, a 4-4 homestand against the Yankees and Astros wouldn’t seem so bad for the A’s.

This wasn’t the way they would have preferred it however.

After sweeping New York in four at the Coliseum, the A’s proceeded to drop four in a row to Houston, including Thursday's 12-9 loss, making this an historic stay at home whether they wanted it that way or not. Only one other time in the past 106 years had the A’s played back-to-back four-game series and swept the first while being swept in the second.

The first time it happened was in September 1977, when they were swept by Texas before taking the broom to Kansas City.

Thursday’s contest got out of hand early, with the Astros jumping out to a 10-0 lead by the second inning before Oakland came roaring back late.

Jesse Hahn (3-5) was out of whack from his first batter and lasted just two innings, getting hammered for a career-high 10 runs (nine earned) and allowing two home runs.

On the same day Oakland designated Stephen Vogt for assignment, another noteworthy former Athletic enjoyed a huge day against his old team as Josh Reddick finished just a single short of the cycle and scored four runs.

But the A’s came alive for a six-run rally in the eighth to close to within 12-9 and make the Astros sweat it.

But Oakland wound up falling a season high-tying 11 games under .500 at 31-42. A six-game road trip is up next to play the White Sox and, once again, the Astros, who ran their winning streak at the Coliseum to 10 and have won 15 of their past 16 against the A’s.

Short day for Hahn: It was clear early that Hahn didn’t have his ‘A’ game. He hit George Springer with a 3-1 pitch to begin the game — Springer exited with a left hand contusion — then walked the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. He limited the damage to two runs in the first, but the Astros poured it on for eight runs in the second, including three-run homers from Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez.

Maxwell returns with strong game: With Vogt designated for assignment, Bruce Maxwell was promoted to assume catching duties alongside Josh Phegley, and Maxwell enjoyed a 3-for-4 day, including an RBI double as the A’s rallied in the eighth.

The other new arrival also shines: Matt Olson, also called up Thursday as Matt Chapman went on the 10-day disabled list, went 2-for-3 with two RBI.

Reddick has big day: Reddick doubled in the second, homered in the sixth and tripled in the eighth, but didn’t get a chance to complete the cycle against his former club.

Smith steadies things on mound: : Josh Smith took over after Hahn left the game and threw three scoreless innings, striking out four and keeping manager Bob Melvin from having to empty his bullpen.