A’s, Holliday both in better places since 2009 union

Matt Holliday was supposed to change the way things were done in Oakland.

An outfielder with a big bat, big RBI potential and a big salary, Holliday was the A’s foray into big-money baseball.

That lasted for less than a full season. Oakland general manager Billy Beane acquired Holliday for a hefty price – letting a proven reliever, Huston Street, and a would-be star, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, go to Colorado.

    When it became clear things weren’t working out with the A’s 15 games under .500 and 17 games out of first place and Holliday hitting an OK-but-not-great .286 with 11 homers, the A’s sent Holliday and about half of his $13.5 million salary to the Cardinals, the team that has been his employer ever since.

Friday night is Holliday’s first appearance back in Oakland since that deal.

“What happened, happened,’’ Holliday said. “It’s part of the business. It was a bit of a transitional year for me. At times, it wasn’t that great, but there was a lot to be learned.’’

Holliday said he still follows the A’s a bit from the distance of a different league half a continent away. And he likes what he sees.

The 2013 Cardinals are tied for first place in the National League Central with the Pirates and have 48 wins. The 2013 A’s are one-half game out of first place in the American League West and have 46 wins.

“They are a fun team to watch,’’ Holliday said of the A’s. “I enjoyed the people I knew when I was here. Billy was great to me. I’m still in touch with Gags (third base coach Mike Gallego). They had a great year last year and they’re off to a good start this year.

“There has been a lot of turnover. I’d have to look at the roster to see if there’s anybody here from when I played here. (There isn’t). Billy is really smart. He has done a great job of building rosters without pricing himself out of the market. He’s traded well and they’ve developed a lot of young players.

“That’s part of being a small market team.’’

For his part, Beane doesn’t seem to have any regrets about dealing for Holliday, or about dealing him away to a team that has gone to the post-season three times in four years, including the 2011 World Series.

“Matt’s a good guy,’’ Beane said. “Things have worked out well for both sides.’’

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.