MESA, Ariz. – Brandon Moss’ first two at-bats against his former A’s teammates went pretty much like the last couple he had with Oakland — a pair of crush jobs most mortal men aren’t capable of delivering.
The first traveled well above the 410-foot marker in center field at Hokokam Stadium, and without the high hitters’ backdrop that knocked the ball back into play, Moss would have been an epic homer. He had to settle for an epic triple, but then he did homer in his next at-bat — against tough lefty Fernando Abad, no less.
In short, Moss delivered a pretty loud message – the A’s just might miss this guy who slammed 76 home runs for them over the past three seasons. That total doesn’t count the two he launched in last year’s American League wild-card game against Kansas City that should have pushed Oakland deeper into the playoffs but didn’t.
That sobering fact still burns a bit in Moss’ belly, even though he is plenty happy to be a new member of the Cleveland Indians this spring.
“I honestly felt if we’d gotten through that game, we were going to the World Series,” said Moss. “I honestly believed that. The way we were going to match up against all the teams that were there, I just felt like we were better. It was just a matter of getting through that game. But we didn’t.”
When the A’s lost 9-8 to the Royals in 12 innings, it also represented the end of an era for a team in which Moss not only established himself as a major league slugger but played on a team that went to the postseason three straight seasons. But with the A’s never really getting very far once they got there, he thought a breakup might happen.
“I didn’t make much of it, but I could kind of see it coming,” he said. “We were losing some guys (to free agency), guys were getting more expensive, and some of us were hurt. So there were questions on the production and what it was going to be like the next year even though we were going to be more expensive. So I don’t think I really ever questioned it. I just took it for what it was and ran with it. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Moss was traded to Cleveland on Dec. 8, 2014, for minor league infielder Joey Wendle. Arbitration eligible, he settled for $6.1 with the Indians, and he expects to fulfill the same role he did in Oakland — a little first base, a little outfield, a little DH, and a lot of long-ball hitting.
The Moss trade, just part of a bigger Oakland overhaul, was a quiet end to an impressive run. He was an All-Star last year but a hip condition that troubled him all season and resulted in a horrific second half – a .173 average and just four homers and 15 RBIs after hitting 21 homers with 66 RBIs before the break. And when Moss’ offensive numbers plummeted, particularly following the Yoenis Cespedes trade, so did Oakland’s.
“It started to be where I couldn’t hit on the front side anymore and I tried to figure out ways to combat that and I started hitting away from the front side,” Moss said. “That’s why even when I hit a ball and barrel it, it didn’t go anywhere. I get my power driving through my front side. I was one of those situations where what do you do? Do you play through it because you’d been playing so well? Or do you end the season right there?”
Moss elected to play even though he struggled, and just before the playoff game, received a cortisone shot he thought would get him through a deep playoff run. When he hit the two homers against Kansas City, it seemed like a sound strategy.
“I couldn’t even feel my hip, and I should have gotten that earlier,” he said. “But I was afraid to get that sooner because it’d wear off as we were progressing through the playoffs.”
Moss had offseason surgery to repair the problem and says he now feels great. And despite the bitter outcome in the playoffs, Moss definitely wasn’t bitter about his departure from Oakland, even though he called the Coliseum a hitter’s “graveyard” he won’t miss.
“Obviously, I’m more than appreciative of my time in Oakland,” he said. “I wouldn’t be standing here without it. But I understand that it’s part of it, and I’m happy I got traded to a place that there’s a great group of guys and a good team and the opportunity to be in a similar situation as I was the past three years. Anytime you get traded, you can wind up in some places that aren’t the best situation. but I don’t think I could have ended up in a better one than over here.”
Moss said he will always reflect on Oakland’s three-year run fondly, even with the short-circuited ending in Kansas City.
“Win or lose, that was the most exciting baseball game I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I’ve never played in a baseball game that was that much fun, that there was that emotion. And I’ve never been that un-disappointed after we lost the game. We literally gave it everything they had. Guys were playing hurt. D-No (Derek Norris) was hurt, J.D. (Josh Donaldson) was hurt, Redd (Josh Reddick) was hurt. Coco (Crisp) had a broken neck, basically. Jed (Lowrie) had a broken finger. (Stephen) Vogt was playing with a broken foot.
“So to accomplish what we did as a team when we were on balance, I was proud of us. We were all proud of each other.”