Oakland rekindles love affair with baseball


Oakland rekindles love affair with baseball


OAKLAND -- Bob Melvin saw Ryan Cook in the hallway outside his office, hugged him and said, Its a start.And Cook agreed. For him, and for the Oakland Athletics, its a hell of a start.Then again, baseball is a cruel master, and it punishes with the same swiftness as it rewards. The demands of staying in the fight are far greater than getting in it in the first place. They even give the process by which swift improvement is followed by equally swift retrenchment.The Plexiglass Principle. A fancy phrase for regressing back toward the mean.And we mention this only to remind one and all that the hard part has just begun, now that the fun is over.This night, a 6-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the fifth game of this fly-or-die American League Division Series, is one that will last with the players a good long while. They got to see Detroits Justin Verlander at the lung-constricting top of his game, so much so that the atmosphere in the Coliseum started to thin.Then it occurred to some nameless soul or souls in the crowd that this season demanded more, and at the end of the seventh inning, after Yoenis Cespedes had popped up to Prince Fielder and Verlander had caught Seth Smith and Josh Reddick looking at bastard pitches, they began a slow but growing roar.They could do nothing about Verlander nobody could but they could see to it that their team would not go out feeling like failures.So they roared, and they chanted, and they did not stop even when Verlander stopped with a seamless ninth inning. They booed the Tigers for a few moments, and then started chanting Lets Go Oak-Land to salute their freshly fallen favorites.And it struck a chord, enough to make the players stay and salute them back rather than slink to a dry and morose clubhouse. They tried to be a force in the game, which technically is impossible and on this night was a ludicrous suggestion, but they were noticed.I don't know if you believe this, Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, (but) I told one of my coaches on the bench, I said, We need about a four spot to take this crowd out of this thing (which they got in the seventh inning to turn 2-0 into the final margin).And we never did take them out of it. They were through them through the thick and thin. As we were celebrating, they were applauding their players. It was a great gesture on the fans' part. And they're the real deal. This was no fluke, they're very impressive.Leyland was saluting the As at the end, for he is faced with the knowledge that he enters the ALCS against either New York or Baltimore able to use Verlander only in Game 3, or if he stretches, Games 3 and 7. It took that much to beat down the As, and it would have taken even more to convince Verlander to leave for the sake of prudence. As Leyland said, He had a complete game look in his eye.Oakland, on the other hand, went as far as they had the right to hope because of that. The As learned how to win, how to keep winning, and how to run with the swiftest. They even learned how to be the darlings of a town whose fans have been beaten down by bad results and reluctant ownership.And it is very possible that they will never have a more enjoyable season in their lives.On the other hand, as we said, baseballs cruelties are many and varied, and one of them is the suddenness of the landing. The offseason can be a valuable time for recharging, but it also hold uncertainties, and in one case, long and concentrated mourning.Pat Neshek packed his bag slowly while media types crowded around Coco Crisp. He packed his hats, his workout clothes, even a box of Bazooka bubble gum, all in silence, as he began the long trip home to resume mourning for his son, who died the night the As clinched the AL West, and the day after he was born.Neshek did stop for a postgame meal with A.J. Griffin and Evan Scribner, and share the last few shards of a great season and a horrible October, because especially at times like those that await him and his wife, a smile is worth a million dollars, and the chant of 36,000 of his newest friends at least a billion.So yes, the off-season is filled with promise and trepidation, continuity and change. This roster will be altered in the winter because all rosters are, but they will always have 2012 together, and the sound of Lets Go Oak-Land in their heads for as long as their heads will hold it.This isnt what people mean by the hometown discount, but its a much better definition than the one in common use. Oakland regained its love for baseball, its team, and for the attitude and aptitude that team brought to a town that responds to those qualities most of all. Oakland went Thursday night. It went big.

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A’s general manager David Forst says he has a stack of strongly worded letters from fans who grow frustrated with many of the team’s personnel moves.

That comes with the territory of running a major league front office. But Forst also said, during a wide-ranging interview on the latest A’s Insider Podcast, that honest critiquing must come from within office walls.

“You do want to do some self-evaluation and self-assessing,” Forst said. “What I don’t do, I don’t go back and second-guess decisions, whether it’s a trade or a signing. I don’t sort of hypothetically think, ‘Well, what if we hadn’t done this,’ because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. What you do have to do is make sure the process that led to that decision is sound and a good one.”

Certainly one of the most scrutinized A’s moves of recent history was their signing of designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract in November 2014. That turned out to be a costly mistake, with Butler being released in September with one year left on his deal and the A’s still on the hook for roughly $10 million. Forst acknowledged how poorly that decision worked out but sticks by the initial motivation to sign Butler.

“Look, Billy Butler didn’t go the way we expected, and that’s one that gets brought up a lot,” Forst said. “But I think back to the time when we made that decision to sign him, and what we were projecting Billy to do. It was very clear what our team needed. Again, going into 2015, coming off the wild card that year, we still felt like this was a team that could compete for a division title. So all the things that went into the decision, ultimately I will stand by.”

Forst spoke frankly about several other topics during the podcast. Regarding fans’ frustration about seeing so many high-profile players traded:

“I’ve got a stack of letters on my desk, the substance of which I can’t repeat on the air,” he said with a smile. “… But there’s passion. And I know we have a fan base that cares, and that’s really a good place to be.”

Forst said the A’s definitely will pursue starting pitching this offseason, despite the fact that 1) he’s very optimistic about the crop of young pitching Oakland has developed, and 2) he believes Sonny Gray will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The GM takes encouragement that Gray made a full physical recovery from a strained forearm.

“Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know. But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”

Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.

Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.

Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.

Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.