I had gotten quite comfortable the last few seasons enjoying the A’s. Sure, those seasons continued to end in familiar heartbreak, but I has just gotten used to following a relevant team. I had gotten used to actually caring about watching MLB Network shows and watching games and tweeting about this and that, but that just all faded away.
But this year, by early summer, I found myself pretty much checked out. There were a few things that reeled me back in, like the trade deadline and the return of Barry Zito. But the day to day grind of games and losing were just not something that held my attention most of the time.
It became clear after this season that the A’s really struck gold in 2012. That was the year where they traded away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey in the offseason, and then added Yoenis Cespedes right before spring training. Even with the new Cuban star, the baseball world expected rebuild. A last place finish was expected. But then they shocked the baseball world with a magic summer full of come-from-behind victories and walkoffs and won the division on the final day of the season.
But lightning doesn’t strike twice. This past offseason’s blueprint looked similar to the 2012 one. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Jeff Samardzija were dealt away and then Billy Butler and Ben Zobrist were added. It looked like a good, versatile team on paper and one that could contend if things broke their way. But things just never did. The massive amount of one-run losses, the bullpen blown leads – these were just not things that happened to the 2012 A’s. These are the luck things that will make or break a team, and they just broke the 2015 A’s, all the way to a 94-loss season, second worst in the Beane era.
I’m just glad that they at least saw the writing on the wall and made the trades that needed to be made at the deadline. Scott Kazmir to Houston, Ben Zobrist to Kansas City, and Tyler Clippard to the Mets netted a decent crop of prospects. But now the question is, do they go deeper that direction or build on what they currently have?
Personally I hope it’s the latter, and not just because I’m a fan of relevant Oakland A’s baseball. There is only one guy they have right now that is at peak value and that’s Sonny Gray. With the 94-loss season, the ripple effects that are still being felt from the controversial trades of last summer, and Supreme Court shutting down any hope of San Jose, is that really something we want to add to the List of Things That Piss Off A’s Fans? And is it even smart from a baseball standpoint? Gray is a young, cost controlled starter who is one of the best in the American League. He’ll likely be in the top 5 in Cy Young Award balloting this season. Do you trade that guy? I know Billy Beane will trade literally anyone. But do you? I don’t want to see it.
This year’s team had problems, some of which may include a bad clubhouse mix and a really expensive DH that didn’t pan out. But it has a lot of things going for it as well, things that could see improvement next season. Marcus Semien – a good bat at shortstop and improved defense over the course of the season. The catching tandem of Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley – the former an All Star and the latter a guy good enough to play every day and and one of the better catchers throwing out runners that we’ve seen in the green and gold. Chris Bassitt in the rotation and Ryan Dull in the bullpen – the A’s always seem to have this factory that churns out big league pitchers. And I can’t not mention Billy Burns, the likeable young center fielder who made me most of the time forget about Coco Crisp. There are plenty of hopefully things here to maybe feel a little optimism toward 2016.
It’s never a boring offseason with the A’s and after a slog of a season like this, I’m ready for it. Do the things, Billy. I can handle it. Probably.