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9×9: Non-tender deadline could reshape A’s

The A’s have some serious decisions to make before the evening is over.

The club has nine men on the roster who are arbitration eligible and by 9 p.m. this evening Oakland must decide which of the nine will be tendered contracts.

The group includes pitchers Jerry Blevins, Jesse Chavez and Fernando Rodriguez, catcher John Jaso, first basemen Daric Barton and Brandon Moss, shortstop Jed Lowrie and outfielders Josh Reddick and Seth Smith.

Those players who are tendered contracts are those the club is willing to go to salary arbitration with, although typically the A’s like to avoid arbitration whenever possible. Non-tendered players become free agents.

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Generalissimo Y takes center stage in Oakland

It’s way too early to know if there is a new Mr. October on Oakland’s horizon, but it’s at least worth keeping an eye on the A’s Yoenis Cespedes this month.

In Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Tigers Friday, the A’s left fielder shrugged off the effects of a sore right shoulder to triple and hit a two-run homer, producing the only runs the A’s scored in a 3-2 loss.

He came back Saturday with a pair of singles, the second of which touched off the winning rally that culminated with Cespedes scoring from third base on Stephen Vogt’s bases-loaded single for a 1-0 win.

Those were the sixth and seventh games in Cespedes’ admittedly short post-season career. But they are built upon a base that has the chance to be molded into a towering legacy in baseball’s center stage month. He’s the personification of Generation Y in Oakland. Call him Generalissimo Y.

He’s hit in all seven games while averaging .370 with an OPS of 1.006. Small sample size or not, those are impressive numbers.

There are some players who are just built for the spotlight, and Cespedes seems to be one of those. He floundered most of the year, but when there was a chance that the A’s might not make the playoffs, Cespedes shrugged off September shoulder issues to average .314 with six homers. For a little perspective, his best average in the five previous months was July’s .237.

In his first September pennant drive in 2012, he had season monthly best of seven homers and 19 RBIs as the A’s chased down the Rangers.

There are some classically great hitters who have wilted on the big stage. Just last year Robinson Cano of the Yankees was a woeful 3-for-40. A’s RBI machine Miguel Tejada was 2-for-23 after having racked up 70 extra base hits and 106 RBIs in the 2003 season. Manny Ramirez drove in 165 runs in the 1998 season for the Indians, then went 1-for-18 in the playoffs.

Not to tell A’s manager Bob Melvin how to work his lineup, but he’d be well advised to support Cespedes by keeping Seth Smith in the lineup as the DH for the next few games. Smith had two hits Saturday, both following Cespedes hits and the second setting up the winning run, and Cespedes could use the threat of a hot, productive bat behind him to get better pitches to hit.

All Smith did was hit .393 in September, even when he couldn’t get in the lineup every day. He only played in 15 games and started just seven of those, but .393 is .393, and is going to get respect from the other side. That can only help Cespedes.

(Not that it particularly means anything, but while writing this I went back and looked up what A’s starters did when Smith was hitting behind them during his September hot streak. They went 12-for-23, .522. Add in Cespedes on Saturday and it’s 14-for-27, .518).

Whatever the A’s can do to get Cespedes to get better pitches to hit is a terrific idea.

After all, it’s October. It’s the Generalissimo’s time.

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ALDS Game 2 wrapup: A’s show their fight once again; Coliseum had room for more than baseball

This was what Raul Ibanez meant.

Last week when I was talking with the Mariners outfielder, he praised the A’s mental toughness, their inability to stop fighting. He called them one of the grittiest clubs he had ever seen.

Saturday’s 1-0 win over Detroit was the personification of that game. They scored not a run against former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander for seven innings, then didn’t score in the eighth after putting two men on base.

Come the ninth inning, the A’s were still clawing. Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith backed up doubles, and after Josh Reddick was intentionally walked, Stephen Vogt came up with the game-winner.

On paper, the Tigers may have the better team. They certainly hit for a better average, and as good as the A’s starting pitching is, the Tigers will say theirs in better. There is no Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander in Oakland.

But as Ibanez was pointing out, some things can’t be measured in statistics alone.

The result makes for some very good baseball. Saturday’s game was as good an exhibition of high-quality baseball as you’re likely to see.

As Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “This is post-season pitching. That’s what you saw tonight at its best.’’

This kind of victory actually speaks well for the A’s going forward. The Tigers have sent their best two starters at Oakland and only got a split of the games. Jarrod Parker, who pitched a solid Game 1 in Comerica Park last year, goes against the Tigers in a day game Monday, and Dan Straily, whose win on Aug. 28 came at the expense of the pitcher he’ll oppose Tuesday, Doug Fister, has been pitching as well as anyone.

–Billy Beane was asked how Saturday’s scoreless battle between starters Verlander and Sonny Gray matched up with A’s post-season pitching matchups.

Misunderstanding the question, Beane said it reminded him of the 1991 Jack Morris 10-inning 1-0 win, outlasting Atlanta’s John Smoltz, who like Morris did not allow a run.

After that, Beane came up with Barry Zito vs. Mike Mussina of the Yankees in the 2001 playoffs, and Tim Hudson vs. the Yankees Andy Pettitte, also in 2001.

The fact is this one was a classic, for most of us anyway.

Late in the game the A’s general manager brought his kids down to manager Bob Melvin’s office where they, along with A’s managing partner Lew Wolff broke out the crayons and did some coloring.

The preschoolers (not including Beane Sr. and Wolff) “didn’t even know when we scored the winning run,’’ Beane said.

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ALDS Game 1 wrapup: Reddick earns his pay with bullet throw; A’s looking at lineup change at first base; Moss says Scherzer the best club has seen

When Josh Reddick doesn’t hit – and too often this year that’s been an ongoing story – there are questions that A’s manager Bob Melvin gets as to why Reddick is in the lineup.

Friday should have dispelled some of those questions. For the fifth time in his last eight games, the rifle-armed Reddick threw out a runner, this time preventing Detroit from scoring a fourth run and potentially blowing open Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

With slow-footed Victor Martinez on second base, Omar Infante sliced a single past first baseman Daric Barton. Martinez got a good jump, but as we say, isn’t fast. Still Reddick came up throwing to catcher Stephen Vogt to get the out and keep the A’s deficit at the time at 3-0.

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Game 160 wrapup: Cespedes shoulder trouble an issue for A’s; Norris homer-or-nothing in pinch; Cook getting back to form out of the bullpen

The A’s started Friday with a good idea of how they’d be structuring their starting lineup in the playoffs.

Then they played the first game of their final series with the Mariners and things changed dramatically.

The idea was that Yoenis Cespedes, who hadn’t been in left field since Sept. 13, was once again healthy, able to throw and ready to man his position. He’d play all three games in left this weekend to get himself ready for the playoffs.

That meant the resurrected Daric Barton was ready to play first base and Brandon Moss, who can play both first base and the outfield, was going to be the designated hitter. He was in Friday’s lineup as the DH, the first time all season that’s happened.

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Game 143 wrapup: A’s offense roars back to life; Colon feeling better each time out; Smith makes contribution at last; Moss due to have tooth pulled

There was a stretch in May and June when it seemed like the A’s offense was first-class.

The A’s got away from that some in July and early August, but in the last few weeks the A’s seem to be back with bats blazing.

Oakland scored seven runs in a 7-2 win over the Astros Sunday, a total that isn’t amazing on its own. But when you consider that all seven runs came home after there were two out in the third inning the picture changes.

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Smith sets sights on big finish after eye surgery

sethsmith

When A’s outfielder/DH Seth Smith smoked a Bruce Rondon out of Comerica Park in the rain Tuesday night, he brought to an end a 40-game stretch without a homer and a month without an RBI.

The homer came in his fourth game back in the starting lineup after taking a couple of days off to have some touchup Lasik surgery on his eyes.

And it gives a suggestion that his 40-game stretch in which he averaged just .189 may be at an end, which could be great news for an A’s team still scrambling to put together consistent offense.

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Game 106 wrapup: Smith, Blevins halt troubles

There is almost nothing similar to the skill sets possessed by Jerry Blevins and Seth Smith except that both are left-handed.

Smith is the A’s regular designated hitter. Blevins is the A’s No. 2 left-handed reliever in the bullpen.

Of late they’d been sharing something that brought them together: a seemingly endless series of poor performances.

Smith came into Monday’s 9-4 win over Toronto hitless in his previous 29 at-bats. As recently as July 12 he was hitting .270 and was a vital source of offense for a team that was struggling to come up with runs.

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Game 81 wrapup: A’s selectivity at plate shows up once more; pitchers ability to avoid walks pays off

If there was one inning in the first 81 games of the season that defined the A’s offense, it was the second inning Friday.

The A’s worked Shelby Miller, a rookie who’d already won eight games for the Cardinals, for 51 pitches in the inning, with Miller getting just two outs.

He eventually gave up five runs on five hits and two walks as the A’s hitter made him unable to close out the inning no matter what pitches he threw.

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Game 73 wrapup: A’s are in Darvish’s head; Moss finally has his swing the way he wants it

Chili Davis liked to play mind games when he was a player, and that hasn’t changed since he’s become a coach.

Asked what it was that his hitters have done to win four of five decisions against Texas ace Yu Darvish, Davis just smiled.

“I think we’re in his mind more than he’s in our minds,’’ Davis said.

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