A's postseason begins now


A's postseason begins now

This is the stretch youve all been waiting for, for six years running now -- two with Texas, four with New York, three at Toronto, three at Baltimore.Frankly, if you say it enough times, it becomes its own mantra. Two with Texas, four with New York, three at Toronto, three at Baltimore.These are the 12 most important games the As have scheduled since that shambolic Saturday in 2006 when Huston Street grooved one to Magglio Ordonez for the walk-off three-run homer that advanced Detroit to the World Series and the Oaklands into an abyss. One that started after that game, when manager Ken Macha fumed one more time about Billy Beane and Beane fumed back with a dismissal notice.It was the end of a stretch of good baseball in Oakland under what people would call the Moneyball Era and the beginning of five years of dull, tedious, slow-witted impermanent treacle. Some will call it the Bob Geren Era, but thats the lazy way out. It was an organization-wide malaise, made worse by the energyless pining for a stadium they seem to want handed to them by people who dont care whether they get anything at all.And now, twelve days two with Texas, four with New York, three at Toronto, three at Baltimore. Twelve days for Beane to decide if this cohesive and entertaining group of players is skilled enough to hold together for the 61 games after that.
They are 46-43, tied for sixth with Detroit and Tampa Bay, a half-game behind the faltering Orioles for the second wild-card spot and three behind the second-place well, fourth-place Angels for the purposes of this discussion.But since 11 of the 14 teams in the American League are over .500, that doesnt mean as much as it might. And since they are only a game out of 11th as well, you can see how these next 12 games will matter greatly.RELATED: MLB standings
They will influence whether Beane is enamored enough of his seat-of-the-pants creation to hold it together for a stretch run that might not come or turn it into another bazaar for the worthies, sending Coco Crisp here, and Bartolo Colon there, and Johnny Gomes and Seth Smith and Brandon McCarthy other places for a haul of prospects, most of whom tend to disappear or get turned into other prospects down the road.It is a system that has been rejected both by the standings and by the fan base, so the easy answer is for Beane to say, loudly and proudly, Screw it, these are our guys now and for down the road. Heres where we make our stand. A bold flag to plant for 2012, 13 and for as long as John Fisher can maintain his interest.But it isnt the answer that always endures, and if the As cant hold serve or better in the TWTFWNYTATTAB section of the schedule, they may recede from view and start putting players out on the front lawn as they have before.This has always been the most important moment for this team, going back to March, when it was easier to dismiss them as a 95-loss team. This moment would define them and their future.Well, theyll have to go 21-52 from here on to lose those 95, and the only way they do that is if they go in the tank right now and then dig from there. And frankly, if they were going to go from a .517 team to a .288 team, there would be no time for transition. Theyd have to start being awful now.Well, that seems unlikely to the point of absurd now. They hit too many homers, even in the absence of the hologram that was Manny Ramirez. They pitch too many scoreless innings. They run better, take extra bases better, catch the ball better. They are in many ways a bolder and more confident team, and as such have improved mightily over the last year.So this is the start of their postseason two with Texas, four with New York, three at Toronto, three at Baltimore. The twelve days of what might either be Christmas, or just twelve days closer to their annual Back Up The Truck-mas. Theyve earned the right to remain a team, but now they have to earn the right to convince Billy Beane theyve earned the right.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

A's spring training Day 14: A one-sided Cactus League rivalry


A's spring training Day 14: A one-sided Cactus League rivalry

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Debate the significance of an A’s exhibition win over the Giants if you will, but don’t question its significance to Bob Melvin.

Beating the team in black and orange means a lot to Oakland’s manager no matter what the calendar reads. On Monday, the teams played a late-February game under an overcast sky and occasional light rain at Scottsdale Stadium.

Not exactly regular-season like conditions. And with both teams’ everyday players having exited the game early, the A’s held on for a 5-4 victory that ran their Cactus League winning streak to seven over the Giants.

Counting exhibitions in the Bay Area too, the A’s are 18-6 against their Bay Area rival in their past 24 spring games.

“Look, when the Giants and A’s play, there’s a little more to it,” said Melvin, who grew up in the Bay Area and played three seasons for the Giants. “You play your spring games and you’re excited about getting to play these guys. And, especially, our youngsters should be. They know the way I feel about it. The whole Bay Area is watching when we play each other.”

Matt Joyce homered deep to right off Jeff Samardzija in the top of the first, giving the first-year Athletic two home runs in two games with his new club. Stephen Vogt blooped an RBI single in the first and Ryon Healy doubled home two runs in the second.

The Giants rallied to tie it 4-4 in the seventh with three runs off minor league reliever Trey Cochran-Gill. But Adam Rosales drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth to give the A’s the lead back as they posted their first victory in three Cactus League games this spring.

NOTEWORTHY: Starters Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea both threw for the A’s, with Manaea in particular earning strong praise for his two scoreless innings.

The lefty felt very good about his slider and changeup, and according to Healy, when he went to the plate for his third at-bat, Giants catcher Buster Posey commented on how good Manaea’s changeup looked. Manaea got both Posey and Kelby Tomlinson swinging on the pitch in the third.

It was the slider, his third-best pitch, that Manaea is trying to hone.

“I was really, really happy with how my slider was,” he said. “It was probably the best one I’ve thrown in a couple years. It just felt really good out of my hand and had some good movement.”

Added Melvin: “If he gets that one to (the) back foot of a rightie, now he’s going to have three plus-pitches.”

Graveman escaped his one and only inning of work unscored upon when he stranded runners on second and third.

NEW GUYS: Joyce, likely to platoon in right field with Mark Canha, has played in two exhibitions, and twice he’s gone deep on 1-2 fastballs that caught the inner half of the plate. On Monday, Melvin batted him second and Joyce went deep off Samardzija.

“I can’t even talk to that guy,” Healy said with a smile. “He says he’s just trying to put the bat on the ball, and he has two homers.”

As for another first-year Athletic, there’s still no concrete word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will report to camp. He remains held up in the Dominican Republic as the visa process plays out. Melvin admitted a bit of concern just because Casilla is slated to play for his national team in the World Baseball Classic, and Melvin would like to get Casilla in camp for a stretch before he departs for that.

The Dominican Republic plays its first game March 9 in Miami.

“I’d like to get him here — I’d like to meet him,” Melvin said. “It’s not his fault.”

Melvin said a typical schedule would have relievers appearing in nine or 10 exhibitions before the team heads north, but that he didn’t think that would be necessary for Casilla. It’s also worth noting that none of the A’s other front-line relievers have pitched in their first game yet.

ODDS AND ENDS: Vogt, getting his first start behind the plate, and Rajai Davis each had two hits. … Shortstop Franklin Barreto, the A’s top prospect, played the final four innings at second base. Yairo Munoz, another highly touted infield prospect who’s in his first big league camp, entered in the same inning at third base. … Melvin praised reliever Kyle Finnegan, who came over from minor league camp for the day and handled the ninth for the save.

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017.