Athletics

Morning trade 'put a little fire' under A's as they complete sweep

Morning trade 'put a little fire' under A's as they complete sweep

OAKLAND — Sean Manaea is in just his second major league season, but he’s wise in the ways of the A’s ever-changing roster.

Manaea was around last summer when the A’s dealt away Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. It wasn’t easy to see another pair of teammates go Sunday morning, as Oakland dealt relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals, but at least Manaea could view it with some perspective.

He sensed the A’s cranked up the intensity a notch when they took the field Sunday afternoon looking to complete a sweep of the Cleveland Indians.

“Seeing that news kind of put a little fire under everybody,” Manaea said.

It’s a funny twist that on a weekend that brought a major trade and rumblings of more moves to come, the A’s played some of their best baseball of the season. They secured that sweep of the defending American League champs with a 7-3 victory at the Coliseum, helped along by Manaea’s seven strong innings and a four-run outburst in the first inning.

“Whenever you say goodbye to a couple guys like that, certainly there’s some sentiment that runs through the clubhouse,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I think the runs early in the game were really important for us.”

The A’s outscored the Indians 17-6 over the three games. Their pitchers allowed just 17 hits combined and their defense — which has committed a major league-high 79 errors — had just one over the entire series.

If Manaea’s theory is correct, it has to be encouraging for Melvin that the A’s responded in a positive way on the field after the morning trade. Surely more deals are on deck before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Starter Sonny Gray is a particularly hot name in the rumor mill and All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jed Lowrie also are prime candidates to be dealt to contenders.

Manaea said waving goodbye to Doolittle and Madson was no small thing. Both are respected veterans — Doolittle being the only player left on the roster who had been on all three of the A’s postseason teams of 2012-14, and Madson a sage pitching presence who owns two World Series rings.

“I really felt their presence in the clubhouse, on the plane,” Manaea said. “It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes, but I think this team is headed in the right direction and it’s just an exciting time right now.”

Melvin stayed with Manaea in the seventh, with his pitch count soaring past 100 and two runners aboard with Oakland up 5-2. Manaea struck out Brandon Guyer with men on the corners to finish his outing at 115 pitches.

With the trade of two late-inning relievers, Melvin said he’s likely to lean on his starters a bit more heavily. But Sunday’s decision to stick with Manaea also reflected his rising confidence in the lefty, who is benefiting from an improved slider that’s giving him a true three-pitch mix with his fastball and changeup.

With more veterans likely to depart, young players will be asked to step up more, and Manaea is one of the leaders of that pack.

“He’s a guy that’s up for that now, and has matured into that role,” Melvin said. “He’s got 113 or whatever it is pitches, but at that point in time that was his game. I think he takes away a lot from that too.”

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history Saturday night in Oakland. The 26-year-old became the first player in big-league history to kneel during the national anthem. 

Below is the official statement from Major League Baseball:

Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.

MLB media services contributed to this report