Athletics For Life

New Year, New A’s

March 31st, 2014

Well it’s that day – Opening Day! The 2014 A’s are ready to kick off the long season against the Cleveland Indians tonight. Despite my lack of blogging, it was an active offseason for the A’s. Not necessarily anything jaw-dropping but plenty of activity and new players to fill the holes vacated by some ex-A’s.

kazmir-oflaherty-ap2The biggest adds were to the pitching staff. After letting Bartolo Colon go as a free agent, the A’s picked up lefty Scott Kazmir on a two-year, $22 million deal. The money in this deal was surprising, but not as surprising as picking up a closer that makes $10 million, which the A’s did when they sent Jemile Weeks to the Orioles for Jim Johnson, to replace departed free agent Grant Balfour. These two pickups are a bit of a head-scratcher when you consider that Colon and Balfour will make a combined $14 million in 2014, while Kazmir and Johnson will combine for $21 million. The new duo is younger though, and Johnson comes with only a one-year commitment while Colon and Balfour both signed two-year deals. We’ll see over the course of this season which pair of pitchers ended up being the better get.

The A’s didn’t stop adding pitchers with those two, however. They also traded Seth Smith to the Padres for Luke Gregerson, which in my opinion is probably the best value deal of the winter. Smith didn’t really have a roster spot on the A’s anymore and was a potential non-tender, so it almost feels like the A’s picked up Gregerson for free. And it’s not like Gregerson is a replacement level reliever – he’s a really good setup man, with a 2.88 career ERA in 5 seasons.

Also added to the bullpen were Fernando Abad, who will begin the season in the big leauges, and Eric O’Flaherty, who will begin the year on the disabled list and probably won’t be a factor until mid-summer.

A number of other pitchers will begin the season on the disabled list, the most notable of course is Jarrod Parker who will miss the season with his second Tommy John surgery. This is clearly a big blow to the A’s, as it’ll be hard to replace the production of a guy they’ve recently trusted with Game 1 of a playoff series. Many will point to a full season of Sonny Gray as a possible cushion for the blow, but I think someone else is going to have to step up and I hope that guy is Dan Straily. He’s entering his third big league season and now would be the perfect time to turn that corner and show that he is a #2 or #3 guy on a big league staff.

Ryan Cook and A.J. Griffin will also begin the season on the D.L., which opens up a spot for Jesse Chavez, who had a really good spring, to start out in the rotation. New acquisition Craig Gentry is also starting the year on the disabled list and minor league signing Sam Fuld will get a shot as the fifth outfielder after his strong spring showing.

Is that it? I probably missed someone but I think I’ve covered the main guys. It all will play out over the next 162. #1 tonight! Let’s Go A’s!

The Offseason Has Begun

November 13th, 2013

I never did write a post mortem of the 2013 A’s. I didn’t even talk about Game 5. It just didn’t feel necessary to me. I think I knew it was over after Game 4. I think most A’s fans did, but didn’t really want to express it. So what was there to say that hadn’t been said the day before and the year before? I just didn’t want to go there.

Nick PuntoBut, that’s in the past now and we’re looking ahead to 2014. The A’s have made their first move of the offseason today, signing infielder Nick Punto to a one-year deal with a vesting option for a second year.

I guess Punto is a good depth guy. He’s like Alberto Callaspo with less bat and more glove. Does that make these two redundant on the team? Not necessarily. As we learned in 2013 (aside from the playoffs), depth is an important thing to have over the course of a long, 162-game season.

The other thing that you have to wonder is if this has anything to do with the report that came out yesterday that the Cardinals are interested in Jed Lowrie. Now, Lowrie to Punto would be a big downgrade, but I’d like to think that the A’s will listen to offers on any player and make a deal when it’s too good to pass up, like the A’s did with the shock trade of Nick Swisher in 2008. But it’s only November, and the Cardinals are kicking the tires on all the shortstops. Lowrie’s probably something like 4th or 5th on their list.

So this is probably what it looks like – a depth move. But despite its lack of excitement, it signifies the building of the 2014 A’s has really begun. Go A’s…

There is an A in FAIL

October 9th, 2013

628x471Is Josh Reddick’s ugly swing and miss at ball four with the bases loaded in the 8th inning of Game 4 of the 2013 ALDS going to be this season’s version of Jeremy not sliding or Byrnes not touching the plate? T-Long watching strike three or losing the ball in the sun? Is Bob Melvin’s sticking with Sean Doolittle despite righty batters hitting him hard going to be as bad as Ken Macha pinch hitting for Jermaine Dye when the Red Sox were about to intentionally walk him? Ugh. Just ugh.

Forgive me for my pessimism, but these are the Oakland A’s in the playoffs. The history is there. Since the 1990 World Series, the A’s have had twelve chances to close out a playoff series and move to the next round. You know how many times they actually came through? Once. Yep, they’ve lost eleven of those games and won only one, which was Game 3 of the 2006 ALDS against the Twins. Every other time, they’ve failed, often times in heart-wrenching fashion. They’ve also never won a Game 5 of the ALDS in five chances.

But here we are again, headed to Game 5 of the ALDS. The A’s will be at home, facing Justin Verlander like they were in Game 2. They won that game, as Sonny Gray matched the Tigers’ superstar inning after inning until Stephen Vogt could come through with an RBI single in the ninth. But can lightning strike twice? Can the A’s actually beat Justin Verlander twice inĀ  a playoff series?

If they can, they will have definitely earned it. But if they can’t, add this series to the long list of playoff failures that this team has been racking up in the Billy Beane era. Go A’s….

One More

October 8th, 2013

balfourWell once the A’s got past Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, things got easier for the A’s offense. I know Anibal Sanchez led the American League in ERA this year, but they A’s haven’t had much trouble with him in the past – at least this season – and a lot of the team’s lefty hitters seem to like the hitter friendly confines of Comerica Park. Six runs – including homers by Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, and Seth Smith – knocked Sanchez out the game in the fifth inning.

It helps that the Detroit’s offense has just been anemic (or has the A’s pitching just been that good?), as their three run burst to break a 20-inning scoreless streak only momentarily tied the game. They wouldn’t be able answer the three runs the A’s responded with and the A’s pretty much cruised to a 6-3 victory (with a little distraction from Grant Balfour and Victor Martinez in the 9th).

Anything can happen in a short series, so even though you could say the A’s are in the driver’s seat, I’m not going to feel comfortable with anything until a final out is made with the A’s having more runs than the Tigers. And you’ve got to figure Game 4 is a must-win for the A’s. Do you want to see Game 5 with Scherzer and Verlander both on full rest? I sure don’t.

Dan Straily goes for the A’s and Doug Fister for the Tigers in Game 4 today. The last time these two squared off in Detroit, this happened. I really, really hope it happens again. Go A’s!!!

SONNY

October 6th, 2013

bd10a1ddad7562213f0f6a706700d5cbHe wasn’t in the rotation until August, and he was making his 11th big league start in the ALDS. And he was going up against A’s killer and 2011 Cy Young and AL MVP Justin Verlander. It was very much the David vs. Goliath matchup as far as name recognition goes, but man, did Sonny Gray deliver for the A’s when they needed a win.

Gray pitched eight shutout innings, striking out nine (including Austin Jackson four times) and giving up only four hits. Verlander was just as masterful as you’d expect him to be, but thanks to Gray, the A’s got themselves into the ninth inning with the score still zero-zero, where they could string a few hits together and come up with the walkoff single, as Stephen Vogt singled home Yoenis Cespedes to seal the 1-0 victory.

This was a must-win game for the A’s, as they’ve got to go on the road for the next two games and now there’s still a chance that they could take care of business without having to see Max Scherzer or Verlander again. Winning on the road isn’t going to be easy, but neither is beating Verlander when he throws 7 shutout innings and strikes out 11, and we just watched them do that.

Monday morning (thanks TV schedule), it’s Jarrod Parker and Anibal Sanchez in Detroit. Go A’s!!

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