This A's team will stay intact


This A's team will stay intact

OAKLAND -- The players weren't the only people taking notice when the sellout crowd gave the A's a standing ovation after their final game. The front office saw it too. "I think we are in good shape," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "The satisfying thing about the crowd's response last night is that they by and large are going to see this team again next year." That has to be a refreshing comment for a fan base used to rooting for laundry instead of the players wearing the uniforms. This team won 94 games, the American League West, has just four free agents and a very low payroll. It seems they are well set up for the future. "If there's moves made the idea would be additions," Beane said. "I've had situations where we've had great season and I knew the team wasn't going to be back though free agency and things like that. To try to continue the momentum in the winter we should be able to build on this next year."
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While fans cringed and lost hope last offseason as All-Stars Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey were traded, now they can see why the moves were made. Those trades brought guys like Josh Reddick, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Ryan Cook, Derek Norris, and stacked the farm system. The reshuffling of the deck has the A's playing a strong hand now. "There certainly were some raised eyebrows going into the season as to what this team might be," Beane said. "To see them from start to finish, despite coming up short last night, to see what they accomplished and what the staff accomplished was somewhat satisfying." Pretty much every important player is cost controlled or already signed. The A's starting outfield isn't going anywhere. Yoenis Cespedes and Reddick won't be free agents until 2016. Coco Crisp is signed through next season. Seth Smith isn't a free agent until 2015. "The pieces are here to carry this forward and the expectations for next year should be higher because of it," Melvin said. The A's pitching staff is in great shape. Brandon McCarthy is a free agent, but the team has expressed interest in bringing him back. Brett Anderson will be back next year, and Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Travis Blackley are all under team control. "The young pitchers were great but because they are so young there's room for improvement," Beane said. "We are going to cryogenically freeze all of our pitchers and tell them not to raise their arms above their hips."The A's have a 4.5 million club option on Grant Balfour for next season. Beane strongly hinted that the A's Australian closer will be raging in Green and Gold next season. "There's some things that seem like common sense, you can pick and choose as to which of those would be considered no brainers," Beane said when asked if Balfour would be back. "Some things you don't have to think too long about they are pretty obvious." The fans may be pessimistic after seeing many of their favorite players unceremoniously shipped out in trades, or not resigned as free agents, but this team really won't require much offseason tinkering. This roster exceeded all expectations and complimentary parts will likely be added in the offseason. The 2012 Oakland Athletics shattered many of the outsiders' expectations. Did they really shock the A's front office? "Privately when we were in Spring Training I think Bob and ourselves thought we were better than everyone was giving credit, but there is no sense in saying that," Beane said. "There's no upside in telling anyone that." "I knew we had a chance to get better and that was the expectation for myself and the staff," Melvin added. "To continually get better throughout the season and kind of find out who you are at the All-Star Break and go from there."
RATTO: Oakland rekindles love affair with baseballThat's pretty much exactly what they did. It started a little earlier than the Mid-Summer Classic though. From June 2, on the A's had a 72-38 record which was the best in baseball. After the All-Star Break the A's led Major League Baseball in home runs and runs scored. They were 13 games back on June 30, and five games back with nine to play, yet they somehow won the American League West. It was a special season. "I've been with plenty of teams, I've been with a World Series team, I've been with a young team in Arizona that won in 2007, but not like this," Melvin said. "This was a very unique group of guys that came together very quickly." Billy Beane was on the 1989 A's. He assembled the A's playoff teams of 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006, heck, Hollywood even made a movie based on what he did in 2002. So if he says this year was special, then you better listen. "Personally for me it was arguably the most enjoyable year I've had," Beane said. "Given the entire baseball season, the winter, the amount of transactions we made."The credit goes to the players. Beane will typically remind you of that point. Yet, this team doesn't stand a chance at doing what it did without the leadership of Bob Melvin. During the A's champagne celebration after winning the AL West, third baseman Josh Donaldson pulled me aside, made sure my recorder was ready and went on an impassioned rant about why Melvin deserves manager of the year. Melvin had that strong of an impression on the team. Every player on the A's would run through a brick wall for Melvin. "Bo-Mel preached it from game one in Spring Training, one game at a time, 27 outs," Cliff Pennington said. "There's a lot of people and a lot of managers that could say something like that and it would just be talk. This team, it was everything we were about." Melvin was communicative, had his lineups posted early every day, openly answered any question asked by the media, and even gave us the microwave in his office so we could heat up our food in the press box. Manager of the Year? Uh, yeah. "Obviously I am biased, but with all do respect, I think Buck Showalter has done a phenomenal job, I can't imagine anyone other than Bob Melvin being manager of the year," Beane said. "That statement from me says it all." Beane's vote of confidence in Melvin is huge. Traditionally the A's GM has employed more passive managers. His hiring of Melvin was a departure from that strategy and it has worked. "When a manager takes a club where the team is expected to lose 100 games and the team wins the toughest division in baseball" Beane said. "I don't know what somebody would have to do to win manager of the year."Melvin is also under team control. He signed a three-year contract prior to this season. The A's had Major League-leading 14 regular season walk-off wins, had the best July (19-5) in franchise history. They tied an Oakland record with 12 consecutive road wins. They had the lowest starting pitcher's ERA (3.48) and bullpen ERA (2.90) in the franchise's last 12 years. "They were pretty amazing," Melvin said. "The turnover and everything that happened during the course of the season, the strength of the organization showed up based on how many guys we did end up using so we are proud of that." The A's have a lot to be proud of. They may have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs but they plan on being back. As players sauntered into the clubhouse to pack up their clubhouse stalls it definitely felt like something was missing. The players, coaches, and clubbies were there, but there was no game to play. "It's a pretty empty day, Melvin said. "I didn't plan on spending my day like this today it never crossed my mind." There remains some questions to be answered. Will Stephen Drew test the open waters of free agency? How does Scott Sizemore fit in at third base with Josh Donaldson? What becomes of Jemile Weeks? Will the A's be able to bring back Jonny Gomes, or make room for Brandon Inge? Does McCarthy choose to come back, will he be ready? What the heck is going on with the A's stadium issue? Perhaps most importantly, can they do it again? We'll find out soon enough.

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.