The fact that the A’s were able to clinch the American League West title on Sunday, the final home date of the regular season, worked out well for Billy Beane.
Securing the title meant the A’s general manager could stay at home and not join the team Monday in Anaheim for a possible clinching party there. Beane isn’t much for road trips these days.
As it was, Beane stayed mostly out of the clubhouse celebration Sunday and was uncontaminated by the sprays of champagne and beer that coated most of the rest of the members of his organization.
He was with his twins, Brayden and Tinsley, when I caught up with him far from the madding crowd.
“You mean I have to talk?’’ he said with mock indignation.
Well, yeah. That’s kind of the way it works. Beane is as responsible as anyone for the A’s success the last two seasons, and Sunday was one of those days where being quietly off on the sidelines doesn’t work.
Back in February the A’s were the defending American League West champs, but the Rangers seemed to have more muscle and the Angels seemed to have more everything with the addition of Josh Hamilton during the winter.
By Sunday, the Angels had been out of serious competition for months and the Rangers were barely holding on. Texas lost its grip finally Sunday when the A’s clinched.
So how did the A’s do it?
“This was about as smooth a season as you could have,’’ Beane said. “There weren’t any major crises. From the start to now, we played solid baseball and we never were in a situation where he had to spend time working or focusing on the unusual.’’
That’s not to say that they A’s didn’t have issues. Oakland lost opening day starter Brett Anderson in late April and didn’t get him back until the final five weeks of the season, by which time the best option was to have him pitching relief.
They didn’t know if the Biogenesis probe of the use of performance-enhancing drugs would take starter Bartolo Colon from them for a second year running.
Right fielder Josh Reddick was the team’s homer and RBI leader last year but struggled after slamming his right wrist into a wall while chasing a foul ball during the first road series of the year in Houston in early April.
Starting catcher John Jaso was just what the A’s needed – a left-handed on-base machine with occasional power – until concussion problems ended his season in late July. When fellow catcher Derek Norris was hurt about the same time, the A’s were going with two catchers – Stephen Vogt and Kurt Suzuki – who weren’t in the organization to start the season.
At the trade deadline the Rangers made headline-making moves, but the A’s picked up infielder Alberto Callaspo who has been a welcome addition, playing a creditable second base and hitting .277.
When the A’s needed help, it was always there.
“We knew going in this was the deepest roster we’d ever had here,’’ Beane said. “We needed that depth, and it paid for itself.’’
So how good is the 2013 version of the A’s heading forward?
“We’ve got 93 wins with six games to play,’’ Beane said. “We’re third in scoring runs and second in preventing them.
“We’re doing something right.’’
–Coco Crisp got to 20 homers before he got to 20 steals. In fact he got to 22 homers before he got to 20 steals.
He clubbed his 22nd homer with two men on in the second inning, then followed Eric Sogard, who was stealing third, in the sixth inning.
That got Crisp his 20th steal and made him the first 20-homer, 20-steal man for the A’s since Ruben Sierra in 1993, something that Crisp calls “quite shocking.’’
The steals have always been there. Even though he’s had some leg issues this year, Crisp had 39 steals last year and 49 the year before. It’s the power that’s the surprise. He’d never had more than 16, had just 11 last year and the Coliseum isn’t exactly a homer-hitter’s paradise.
“I’m having a lot of fun,’’ Crisp said. “The homers – that’s when I get my hands shaken. I enjoy it more when others hit the home runs, although I don’t want (his own homers) to stop.’’
–Sogard was with the A’s in 2012 when they beat the Rangers on the last day of the season to earn the AL West title, so he knows what the celebration process was like.
Sunday’s was far different for him, far better. The second baseman had a grin that stretched from here to next week.
“This means a lot to me,’’ he said. “Last year I didn’t play that much. This year I’ve been a much bigger part of the team. I feel like I’ve really contributed.’’
That he has. After hitting .167 in 102 at-bats last year, Sogard won the second base job in spring training by hitting as well as anyone, and he hasn’t really stopped. It was his double that put the A’s in front to stay Sunday and he heads into the final week of the season hitting .267 while having played extensively at second base and creditably at shortstop.