For those of you (everyone!) who always underestimate the A’s

In evaluating teams this spring Buster Olney identified five that have filled more holes than most teams. In fact he says that more teams have had holes created this spring, which is of course true.

Yu Darvish going down was somewhat of a surprise. He’d been shutdown early last season with elbow soreness but it seemed more like a precaution at the time with the team so far out of contention. It wasn’t and now Darvish is out for the next year and, probably, a half after Tommy John surgery.

Not long after more and more players started dropping like flies and there was little left available out there either via free agency or trade, for teams to try and obtain to fill those holes.

A's win their 20th straight game on a walk-off HR by Scott Hatteberg in the bottom of the ninth.
A’s win their 20th straight game on a walk-off HR by Scott Hatteberg in the bottom of the ninth.

Whereas, there are teams like the A’s, who seemed to have filled the gaps they had last year and probably not one of those other teams traded away five All-Stars. No, that was just Oakland that did that, Oakland and Billy Beane (who had a birthday Sunday! – seriously! How did I not know this? Happy Belated Birthday to the man!! In Billy We Trust!!!).

Billy Beane has revamped the A’s more often than not during his tenure as the team’s general manager but this year may have been the biggest. 2011 was a year in which he made some big trades and the A’s were predicted by all the “experts” to lose 100-plus games.

So what happened in 2012? Oh, yeah, they won the American League West on the last day of the season. It was the only day of the season that they A’s were in sole possession of first place in the A.L. West – and as I remember manager Bob Melvin saying some like (but this isn’t an exact quote) – “Well we were in first place on the one day that really mattered.”

2012 A's recieve a 5 min ovation from fans after 6-0 loss to the Tigers in game 5 of the ALDS
2012 A’s recieve a 5 min ovation from fans after 6-0 loss to the Tigers in game 5 of the ALDS

And that is a very true statement. It doesn’t matter how many days a team is in first place, what matters is where they stand after game 162. I know, I know, the A’s got beat up by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series that year and the next – but they didn’t lose 100 games now did they?

See how underestimated they were? Only to once again defy all odds (remember the A’s had a dismal start to their epic 2002 season in which they won 20 straight games – and ended up losing to the Twins in the ALDS but the point is that people had written them off before the streAk started) and rise to the occasion.

I know most of you are thinking “well they didn’t win a ring” – yeah but they always seem to be in contention don’t they?! How many of you can say that about your team? Not even the San Francisco Giants are always in contention! They had losing records in 2011 and 2013 and didn’t even make the playoffs.

*sidenote: (Now, I never addresssed this specifically but that is the reason they are NOT a  dynasty. They didn’t become dominant and remain dominant, they got lucky a couple times and were actually good like once. A dynasty means at the very least they should have been in the playoffs in 2011 and 2013. I’m not going to go too far into it and explain my football theory but if you’re interested in how I relate this to football, leave a comment and I will happily respond. The Bay Area’s first true dynasty were the 1972, 1973 and 1974 A’s. Hell the late 80’s-early 90’s A’s were more of a dynasty that these recent Giants teams – they at least one three straight A.L. pennants and one World Series …. but I could talk about this all day and that isn’t the point of this post.)

Scott Hatteberg wins game 20 with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Scott Hatteberg wins game 20 with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

So, as I was saying, in a recent poll among my colleagues at Baseball Hot Corner on who would win each division, awards, etc. – we were doing predicitions and the A’s only got very few votes to do well in the AL West and I believe they only got mine to take a Wild Card spot. They may be my team but the Mariners are going to be hard to top to win the division this year! Yet, once again, even by my friends and colleagues they’re being underrated …

Here are just a few reasons why they might not be terrible, why they may surprise everyone (again) and why getting rid of five All-Stars did not ruin the team. The team will be fine and they will contend! In Billy We Trust!

(I know that spring training numbers don’t count but the A’s are leading both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues in wins …. ya know, just fyi.)

ESPN’s Buster Olney writes,

“Oakland Athletics

Rival evaluators have walked away from this spring impressed by Oakland’€™s depth, which was restored with another round of reconstruction by general manager Billy Beane (who turned 53 Sunday). Look, spring training statistics are what they are, but success for newcomers to a team can’t be a bad thing, and generally speaking, a lot of the players plucked from other organizations in deals have enjoyed good results.

Marcus Semien, the infielder targeted by Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija deal, is hitting .288 this spring with an .832 OPS, and has participated in 10 double plays. Kendall Graveman, one of the players yielded from the Josh Donaldson swap, has allowed only one run and seven hits in 15 innings. Jesse Hahn, who came to Oakland in the Derek Norris trade, has also thrown well. Scott Kazmir had a strong outing Saturday. Ben Zobrist is batting .326. Ike Davis probably needed a good spring, after bouncing to his third team in less than a year, and he’s hitting .433 with a .500 on-base percentage; maybe he’s finally realizing the offensive skills we saw at the outset of his career.

It’s just the exhibition season, and in five days, all of the numbers are erased. But for the Athletics, all signs of things to come are extremely positive, in the eyes of scouts and rival executives.”

All I have to say is that I agree and I wonder why are people always so surprised when the A’s are contenders? One of these days, maybe not this year or next, they will win a World Championship under Billy Beane. Just wait and see.

5 more days! Let’s Go Oakland!!

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