Neshek's loss reverberates through A's


Neshek's loss reverberates through A's

The Oakland Athletics have never been truly happier, whether they were the young and very impressionable ones who just emerged to begin their careers, or the veterans who have known the force of the games backhand. They had made history, and their euphoria would last forever.

Then Pat Neshek, one of their own, tweeted the ghastly news that the boy, Gehrig, he and his wife Stephanee had brought into the world only the night before had died suddenly and without explanation. And suddenly even historic achievements became insignificant, almost as if they had never happened at all.

REWIND: A's Neshek loses newborn baby boy

Neshek had flown back to Florida be with Stephanee, and had tweeted the good news Wednesday morning, the day before the As biggest day in 23 years. Life was good, life was exciting, and after the As crushed the Texas Rangers, 12-5, life was as good as it could ever be.

And then it stopped.

There is no better way to explain it, not until the Neshek feel up to talking about it. An infants death is universally horrible, but for anyone who hasnt experienced it to try to explain it is the zenith of presumption and arrogance. It is life at its most cruel and capricious.

And the As, stuck with the same feelings of shock and horror because, though Neshek is the second oldest player on the roster at age 32 and only came to the As at midseason, he is one of them based on shared space and experiences. Gehrig was the couples first child, and many of the younger married As are in roughly the same place in their family time line.

In sum, this was a collective punch in the stomach -- one that devastated the Nesheks, and one that all his teammates and coaches and manager and front office people felt.

And it stopped the party cold. One of theirs was in unimaginable pain, a pain that the wives and girlfriends felt just as strongly as the men. The As as an extended family took the secondary blow, and now the effervescence of the day cannot be regained. It is, in the most horrible way, time for them to get back to work.

The As have made no announcements about what they plan to do about Nesheks spot, nor do they have to. They will leave it to the family to decide if and when he should return, be it the division series against Detroit, or later, if there is a later. This isnt the sporting world of 30 years ago, where family does not intrude. The teams needs come second, unless the player chooses to put them first.

Neshek has pitched in postseasons before, in 2006 for Minnesota against the As, but his climb back to the majors has been derailed by injuries and releases. This was going to be his dream season, too. Now, it is his annus horribilis, in which he can never think of his first year in Oakland without thinking of his son.

And for the moment, neither can his mates. They can deal with lots of hard turns in life, because baseball is a daily experience where life often intrudes. But an infants death hits home, and Gehrigs passing, coming when it did, hits them all.

The As fly to Detroit today, and work out tomorrow before Saturdays first game of the division series against the Tigers. They will field all the questions about the magnificence of Wednesday, and of the past three months, and they will give stock answers that will satisfy everyone a little bit.

But the larger truth is this: They arent as euphoric as they were, and they wont be again. The day they beat the odds and became Americas new instant darlings is also the day that one of theirs lost their day-old child. His empty locker will bear testament to it every day, a reminder that every moment is just that -- a moment. The best and worst times collide every now and then, but time never stops. Pat and Stephanee Neshek just learned that the hardest way imaginable, and the emanations struck their friends across the country with a force that will linger through the October of their dreams.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 4-2 loss to Blue Jays


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 4-2 loss to Blue Jays


The A’s collected hits in bunches over the weekend in New York.

They should have saved some of them for north of the border.

They managed just two hits total in a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday that began a four-game series at the Rogers Center. And while the offense wasn’t the only area that contributed to this defeat, it’s tough to cover up for such a lack of offense.

Oakland has dropped three of the first four on this seven-game road trip, and Bob Melvin remains one victory away from reaching 1,000 for his managerial career.

The A's racked up 33 hits in a three-game series against the Mets, their most in any three-game series this weekend.

Still searching for that ‘W’: Chris Smith made his third start for the A’s and turned in his third consecutive quality start, going six innings and giving up three runs. You could argue he’s pitched well enough to win all three games, but the 36-year-old journeyman still is searching for his first major league win since 2008. Russell Martin homered in the first after the A’s gave Smith an early lead. Then Toronto added two more in the fourth, helped along by a Josh Donaldson double and two walks issued by Smith.

Chapman on a roll: Rookie third baseman Matt Chapman blasted a 435-foot homer for his third long ball in as many days, and that wasn’t his most impressive moment of Monday’s game. Chapman made a terrific stop in the seventh to start an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded to keep Oakland in the game at 4-2. He also showed some athleticism with a leaping catch with the A’s in the shift. Chapman basically was playing shortstop in that alignment, and the catch was persuasive evidence of why the A’s briefly experimented with him at shortstop in the minors. Overall, the A’s played strong defensively, with Khris Davis making a couple of nice plays in left field.

Axford struggles again: A tough season for reliever John Axford continues, as the veteran entered to begin the seventh and promptly loaded the bases with no outs before being pulled. He walked two and allowed a single before Melvin called on Josh Smith, called up just Monday from the minors. Axford has issued 17 walks in 21 innings this season.

Rotation thoughts: With Kendall Graveman seemingly nearing a return from a shoulder injury, Smith is basically auditioning to stay in the rotation each time he takes the mound, though a trade of Sonny Gray wouldn’t make things such a tight squeeze. From that standpoint, Smith helped himself again with a strong outing, and he also turned in a couple bare-hand plays defensively to aid his cause.

No Montas: With Frankie Montas stuck in New York because of a visa issue, the A’s recalled Josh Smith from Triple-A Nashville to fortify the bullpen. First baseman/outfielder Matt Olson was sent down to clear a roster spot.

A's use three solo shots to avoid sweep vs Mets

A's use three solo shots to avoid sweep vs Mets


NEW YORK — Rookie Matt Chapman quickly atoned for a baserunning blunder by hitting a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning that sent the Oakland Athletics over the Mets 3-2 Sunday, ending New York's four-game winning streak.

With the July 31 trade deadline nearing and far back in the NL wild-card race, the Mets now start a 10-game trip, and there's no telling whether veterans such as Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda will remain on the team when it returns to Citi Field.

Marcus Semien and Khris Davis also homered for Oakland, helping Bob Melvin post his 999th victory as a big league manager. Semien connected on the sixth pitch of the game, and Davis hit his 28th home run in the fourth.

Michael Conforto hit his 19th homer of the season and fifth of the Mets' 6-4 homestand that followed the All-Star break.

Oakland led 2-1 when Chapman opened the fifth with a double and moved up on a wild pitch by Rafael Montero (1-7). But with no outs, Chapman wandered too far from third base and was picked off by catcher Rene Rivera.

After the Mets tied it on an RBI grounder by Jose Reyes, Chapman launched a drive with two outs in the seventh. Chapman showed pop in the minors, and has homered four times since making his major league debut last month, including a drive Saturday night.

The Athletics made another mistake on the bases in the ninth when Jed Lowrie tried to steal second — with pinch-runner Rajai Davis already there, resulting in an out.

Rookie Daniel Gossett (2-5) gave up two runs and five hits in six innings. He snagged a line drive by Curtis Granderson just above his head in the fifth, preserving Oakland's one-run lead.

Santiago Casilla, a possible trade target in the next two weeks, worked the ninth for his 16th save in 21 chances. After Wilmer Flores singled with one out, pinch-hitter Yoenis Cespedes hit a flyball that got fans hollering it might leave the park, but it was caught way short of the warning track.

The A's improved to 3-10 in interleague play, still the worst mark in the majors. The start of the game was delayed 61 minutes because of rain.

Despite the defeat, it was not a total loss for Montero. He was 0 for 28 at the plate in his major league career before lining a two-out single in the fifth. He broke into a big smile and the ball was thrown into the Mets dugout for safekeeping.

Montero then scampered to third when Conforto struck out on a wild pitch that bounced toward the New York bench. Granderson's bid for a tying hit was caught by the right-handed Gossett, who took off his glove, rotated his left shoulder to work out a kink, spit, tilted his hat and shook his head as he slowly walked off the mound.


Athletics: Righty reliever Ryan Dull (strained knee) could rejoin the A's for the finale of the upcoming four-game series in Toronto. ... 1B Ryon Healy didn't start for the second straight game after getting hit in the head by a bad hop Friday.

Mets: Cespedes and INF Asdrubal Cabrera didn't start, with manager Terry Collins saying the veterans told him they could use a day off.


Athletics: RHP Chris Smith (0-0, 2.77 ERA) starts in Toronto vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (5-5, 6.15). Smith made his first major league start earlier this month at age 36.

Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (11-3, 3.37) has won seven straight starts. He has a 1.51 ERA in that span, striking out 50 and walking 10. He'll face Padres LHP Clayton Richard (5-10, 5.35).