A's celebrate before it's back to business

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A's celebrate before it's back to business

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Bob Melvin sat in his office, marinating in cheap champagne, dessert topping and the hugs of The Team That Money Would Never Have Thought Of Buying, reminiscing about ... well, reminiscing so fast that it was hard for him to collect them in a coherent sentence when it suddenly dawned on him:Hey, we have a game tomorrow.And a pretty important one, traveling secretary Mickey Morabito added.But when asked if the players in the clubhouse who were still in full revelry would suddenly have the same epiphany and clamp their joy, assistant general manager David Forst laughed and said, Theyve played through worse than this. And someone else chimed in, "You should see them at 10:30 in the morning some days."Of course you should, and of course they have. The Oakland Athletics took the record they were expected to have had in March and turned it on its head, finishing the job that couldnt be done by beating the Texas Rangers, 4-3.INSTANT REPLAY: A's are postseason bound
The win cemented a wild-card berth for the As, but with two more games to play, they can still win the AL West outright and skip the play-in madness entirely. In short, they celebrated like madmen with regular-season work still to do, one more unintended gift of the new playoff system.But Melvin had decreed, more or less, that the players could treat Monday and Tuesday as separate items, like they have all year. They dont think about tomorrow. They think about today.And after 92 fine todays, they are still playing the cigar-sotted and alcohol-drenched hand they dealt themselves Monday night.Because of the circumstances of the new jerryrigged playoff system, it is hard to write with historical sweep of the As first postseason berth in six years when theyve still got an aquariums worth of fish still to fry. When Melvin looked up and said, Weve got a game tomorrow, he seemed half surprised and half disappointed, even though he knew all along that this was the first scenario.And though the players, staff and owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff consented cheerfully to bathe in the joy of the moment, smiling and mugging for cameras as though this were the end of the road, the road they are headed toward has not yet begun and the one theyve been traveling hasnt reached its end yet.Travis Blackley, the veteran-turned-rookie, pitches Tuesday night in what is a must-win game for the As if they wish to evade the pitfalls of the one-and-done game. Avoiding a Friday game in Baltimore is the new job, and that requires that Blackley and then A.J. Griffin handle the Rangers as Jarrod Parker did Monday night.And when we say handle, we mean in the As sense, when they dont have to resort to the bottom of the ninth or beyond to win the game.I actually thought that was how it might play out, Melvin said. Thats how we do it, right?But the As didnt allow themselves that luxury. A seventh-inning homer by Mike Napoli brought the Rangers to within the final margin, but Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour got the final nine outs without incident five strikeouts, a routine grounder, a fly ball and a warning-track shot by Josh Hamilton in the eighth that had more hope than impetus behind it.There was no scrambling from behind, no jaw-slackening heroics, no unusual deeds and no surprises . . . save perhaps Melvin getting pied himself for the first time all year.I had no idea that was coming, I swear to you, he said, remnants of the event still stuck stubbornly to his ear. I expected the Gatorade (two tubs), but the pie ... not at all.Then again, who better to get the latest one but the man who guided this baffling team through more odd moments than a normal team should reasonably be asked to endure? Manny Ramirez . . . Bartolo Colon . . . Brandon McCarthy . . . changes and trades and relocations and reassemblies all required to go from 12th place on June 11th to tied for third on October 1. In that time, theyve gone 66-33, and in doing so reacquainted the clubhouse with the smell of throwin champagne and sweat-ranked uniforms.It was a festival of happy and shocked faces, and nobody was heard saying, You guys didnt believe in us, because while that was true, the players didnt believe either, not for a long while. Even Melvin said it took until the middle of June for things to start settling in his mind that this team had something to show us.I always believe we can win, every day, he said. But this ... this ... and then he laughed again.We have a game to play tomorrow, he said, and he wasnt saying it just for effect. The As do have a game to play, and it matters just as much as this one did.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

MESA, Ariz. — The research and fact-finding continues for the A’s as they work toward deciding where to build their new ballpark in Oakland.

Team president Dave Kaval, in Arizona to briefly soak up the spring training vibe, says the team is still gathering all the information it can on the four locations being considered — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, Laney College and Brooklyn Basin, which like Howard Terminal is a waterfront site.

Place an asterisk next to “four,” because as Kaval explains, there’s multiple spots a ballpark could be built at some of the locations.

For example, “there’s a couple different ways in the Lake Merritt area to orient a ballpark,” he said Sunday. “Each one has to be studied individually, because there’s traffic and parking issues that change depending on where you put it. There’s a couple ways it can work in and around Lake Merritt. So we kind of are looking at it as two different options.”

The research will continue for the “next couple of months,” according to Kaval, meaning it doesn’t seem any decision is forthcoming soon. But he reiterated that an announcement will come during 2017.

Kaval was asked how important it was for a ballpark to be near a BART station.

“I think if you’re in a certain range of a BART station, it doesn’t matter if it’s one block or two blocks,” he said. “But if you start getting a little farther, it does change people’s willingness to actually take that public transportation to the venue.”

Howard Terminal, located just north of Jack London Square, is a 20-25 minute walk to the nearest current BART station (12th Street). There’s been speculation that a new station could be built closer to Howard Terminal if a stadium went up. Kaval also said the A’s would consider some sort of shuttle service were they to build at Howard Terminal, and they’re researching the ferry options for such a location.

Long story short, there’s still plenty of transportation and environmental issues to sort out before the A’s settle on a site to build. In the meantime, fans will be in for a treat in the upcoming season when they arrive at the Coliseum.

The A’s gutted the West Side Club and are rebuilding it as Shibe Park Tavern, named after the franchise’s former home in Philadelphia. It will include bricks and other materials from the old ballpark, obtained from the Philadelphia Historical Society.

The A’s will also launch “Champions Pavilion”, which will include anywhere from eight to 16 local food trucks that will be stationed between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena during most home games. Ticket holders will have in/out privileges, with video monitors outside showing the game.

Nights when there’s a Warriors home game could make it tougher to pull off the full operation — Warriors playoff games will be a particular challenge, Kaval said — but the A’s will work with the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority to smooth things out as much as possible.

According to Kaval, the A’s are spending between $600,000-$700,000 to improve the current in-house concession stands, making it possible to cook inside the stands themselves as opposed to transporting food from the kitchen.

The efforts received a thumbs-up from A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“We’re there until we’re not,” Melvin said of the Coliseum. “We’re gonna be there for a period of time, so I appreciate the fact that he’s trying to spruce it up a little bit for our fans, give them more options for food and just create a better atmosphere in our ballpark.”