Moneyball mojo rubs off on 2012 A's

848767.jpg

Moneyball mojo rubs off on 2012 A's

OAKLAND -- Scott Hatteberg bobble heads, "There is an A in streak" shirts, "The Voice of God" Roy Steele's return, the Fear Mecir sign back in left field, Moneyball on the diamond, oh -- and a win streak. It's starting to feel like 2002 all over again. The A's are once again a season-high tying 10 games over .500 (65-55). After sweeping the Cleveland Indians with a 7-0 win, the 2012 season has also been crazy, just plain crazy. The festivities of Moneyball weekend which celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the 20-game win streak have rubbed off on the current A's. A four-game win streak may pale in comparison, but it is a starting point. "You realize how hard it was for them to do that," Jemile Weeks said. "20 games is an unbelievable feat, and it is going to be one tough thing to beat." On this day in 2002 the A's had just won their sixth game in a row. Coincidentally, it was also against the Indians. Who'd have thought they'd go on to win 20 straight games, have a Hollywood movie telling their story, and an on-field ceremony that inspired a whole new crop of Oakland Athletics? "It was kind of an emotional pick up," Parker said. "We see those guys and what they've accomplished and we know we can do stuff like that too." The book and movie may have glossed over "the big three," but in real life the 2002 A's were built on pitching. In 2002 the A's had an American League-leading 3.68 ERA. For sake of comparison the 2012 A's have a 3.52 team ERA. Parker's career-high tying eight shutout innings on Sunday would have fit in nicely with the green and gold of yesteryear. The fun clubhouse dynamic is also a strikingly similar trait. Maybe the A's have more of a Moneyball vibe than we thought. "Brandon Inge is a clown. He always has fun. Bartolo Colon, whenever he catches a ground ball he looks to the third baseman before throwing to first, as well as the young guys," Coco Crisp said. "Everybody feels comfortable here. I think we all gel pretty well." Crisp had a career-high tying five RBIs on Sunday. He hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning and hit two RBI singles. The veteran center fielder has emerged as one of the team's most valuable players. "He gets big hits for us," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "With Jemile Weeks in the nine spot it makes a lot of sense to get a guy on second base for him, because he comes up so big for us."One thing the 2002 A's didn't do a lot of was bunt. On Sunday, Weeks bunted in his first two plate appearances and it worked. The first time up he bunted Cliff Pennington to second base, Crisp then followed with an RBI single. The second time up, Weeks bunted for a single only to have Crisp smack his seventh home run of the season in the next at-bat. Maybe bunting would have been the difference maker for the 2002 squad. When it was all said and done, the 10-year reunion weekend was a smashing success on the field and off of it. The Oakland Athletics won all three games and raised 20,000 dollars for charity, 10,000 going to the charity of late Athletics pitcher Cory Lidle, and another 10,000 going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The celebration also put fans in the stands, something that didn't go unnoticed by the current players and coaching staff. "It's nice to be able to get in front of the home crowd again," Melvin said. "We had some good crowds this weekend on top of it, and they mean a lot to us."

A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot

A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot

MESA, Ariz. — As the pieces are beginning to fit for the A’s 25-man roster, Jaff Decker may be an unlikely feel-good story come Opening Night.

A non-roster invitee this spring, the journeyman has impressed with his all-around game to the point that he might make Oakland’s club as a fifth outfielder.

There’s other factors that play into it — how many relievers the A’s carry will determine whether they keep five outfielders — but things are breaking right for the 27-year-old Decker, who’s with his fourth organization and has never made an Opening Night roster.

When Jake Smolinski went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, it thrust Decker into the competition. Then Monday, the A’s released veteran Alejandro De Aza, who had impressed this spring but had an opt-out clause in his minor league deal. The A’s think enough of Decker that they cut De Aza loose. On Monday, Decker returned from a minor oblique issue and started in left field, going 1-for-3 in a 10-3 loss to Kansas City.

“I’m super excited,” Decker said. “I feel like I fit in well here, and I get along with the guys really well. It’s a good group of baseball minds, baseball guys. I hope I have done enough and shown I’m healthy enough to land that spot.”

De Aza hit .300 in 19 games and displayed the veteran savvy that seemed to make him a possible fit on the A’s bench. Manager Bob Melvin expressed hope that De Aza might re-sign with the A’s if he doesn’t find a big league opportunity elsewhere.

But Decker, who bats left-handed as does De Aza, is hitting .308 and has his own attributes, including a strong arm and the ability to play all three outfield spots. It’s a nice package of skills for a player who, at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, doesn’t appear the prototypical big league outfielder at first glance.

If the A’s keep seven relievers, they will take five outfielders into the regular season. The decision on a seventh reliever appears to be between lefty Daniel Coulombe and right-hander Frankie Montas. But the A’s could hang on to both and only keep four outfielders, with Mark Canha being the fourth.

Decker fun fact: His first name is pronounced “Jeff.” He’s named after his uncle, whose first name was misspelled on his birth certificate. Decker’s uncle kept the spelling.

MELVIN ON RAIDERS: Melvin, a Bay Area native who is quite tuned in to the history of local teams, weighed in on the Raiders announcing a move to Las Vegas. That news has a direct impact on the A’s, obviously, as a co-tenant of the Coliseum with the Raiders.

“It’s too bad,” Melvin said. “Like us, they have a rich tradition and unbelievable fan base. They’re well supported in the Bay Area. It’s tough to have to deal with it.”

NOTEWORTHY: In his first start since being named part of the rotation, Andrew Triggs struggled mightily against the Royals, getting tagged for eight runs and three homers in 3 2/3 innings. While stressing that now is no time for complacency in his position, Triggs also said he was approaching the game differently than if it were the regular season. He kept throwing his changeup, his fourth best pitch, in an effort to get more comfortable with it.

“If this were (the regular season), we probably would have said in the first or second inning, this wasn’t so great, and gone out there and started back-dooring cutters and working off the sinker,” he said. “But we made a concerted effort to work on a pitch, it wasn’t very good, and the results showed that.”

FAMILIAR FACE: One of the homers off Triggs came from former Athletic Brandon Moss, who connected for a two-run shot in the fourth. The outfielder signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Royals in the offseason.

ODDS AND ENDS: Coulombe had a great day, tossing three scoreless innings. That’s three outings in a row without allowing a run for the lefty after a rough patch before that. Melvin pointed out that the ability to throw multiple innings will be important if Coulombe makes the team. … Matt Chapman homered in the fifth, his third long ball of the spring. He’s hitting .261 and playing stellar defense. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm and it rubs off on guys,” Melvin said.

 

A's statement on Raiders: 'We would be sorry to see them leave'

A's statement on Raiders: 'We would be sorry to see them leave'

MESA, Ariz. — The Raiders’ approval to leave Oakland and relocate to Las Vegas comes as the A’s are contemplating where to build their own ballpark in Oakland, with the Coliseum site one of the options.

The A’s issued this statement Monday after the Raiders got the green light from NFL owners to bolt for Vegas:

“We understand the Raiders’ need for a new stadium. Oakland is an incredible sports town and we would be sorry to see them leave. We commend the city’s and county’s efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Mayor and her team have worked incredibly hard to save the franchise. We are focused on, and excited about, our efforts to build a new ballpark in Oakland and look forward to announcing a location this year.”

The Raiders have one-year options to continue playing at the Coliseum for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and they plan to do so.

The A’s, meanwhile, are choosing between four different locations in Oakland to build a new venue — the Coliseum, Howard Terminal, a site near Laney College and one near Brooklyn Basin.

The Raiders’ decision to leave doesn’t necessarily mean the Coliseum moves into the lead for possible options for the A’s to build. The site is viable, and there’s great BART and freeway access. The Coliseum could be considered the safest option, perhaps, because it’s a tried-and-true site that has hosted three professional sports teams for decades. The A’s know what they’re dealing with there.

But the A’s also want a thriving entertainment area around their new ballpark, wherever that might be. That sort of “neighborhood” would have to be built from scratch at the current Coliseum site, which is isolated from the multitude of restaurants and bars that exist around AT&T Park, for example.