Athletics

A's aren't ready to let this end

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A's aren't ready to let this end

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Grant Balfour didn't even pitch in Game 4, yet he still had a huge impact on the game. Facing elimination and down two runs in the ninth inning, the A's season looked to be on life support. That's when the ultra-intense closer fired up the A's dugout with a passionate speech. Four hits later the A's were on the field celebrating their 15th walk-off win of the season and seventh in A's postseason history.During the ninth inning Balfour was told to go to the bullpen to warm up. He eventually did but not before giving the A's a pep talk. "It was no disrespect to anyone but I said 'We are going to rock this guy's world tonight. We're going to walk it off in A's fashion, that's what we do," Balfour recalled. "Believe it. Every one of you put your mind to it and believe it, and see yourselves running onto that field with that walk-off victory," he told his teammates."See it and believe it," he repeated.They believed alright. As the sell-out crowd of 36,385 wondered if the A's had any magic left in them this season, the A's answered their question. Josh Reddick hit a leadoff single. Josh Donaldson doubled off the wall in left field -- just missing a game-tying home run. Seth Smith smacked a game-tying two-run double to right field. Coco Crisp then connected for the knockout blow, a walk-off RBI single to right field to give the A's a 4-3 win. "I believe in the mind as a powerful thing," Balfour said. "It was unbelievable. If you really want something bad enough and you've got every guy in the dugout that wants it and he's thinking the same thing and believes it, it just goes to show."Maybe what the A's are accomplishing isn't magic. They are just insanely determined, and a little ignorant.
RATTO: A's are more than just magic
"We've heard a lot of people say we aren't smart enough to know when to lose a game like most people do," Josh Reddick said. "We've been battling to the 27th out all year and we are not going to stop now." Reddick said he took the brunt of Balfour's rage in the dugout before he led off the ninth inning with a single. Maybe he needed the abuse. Reddick struck out in his first two plate appearances running his strikeout total in this series up to eight -- the most by any A's hitter in a single playoff series. "He was hitting me and hugging me and all that crazy stuff he usually does," Reddick said. "He kept telling us 'We aren't going to lose this game. We aren't going to lose this game.' We firmly believe in that." "A two-run deficit isn't enough to hold us right now," Reddick added. The A's often say they don't quit until the final out. It's hard to doubt them at this point. This game was all Tigers until the sixth inning. Detroit's starting pitcher Max Scherzer struck out eight and had the A's hitters baffled. When Oakland finally got on they made a seemingly crippling mistake. Stephen Drew doubled home Crisp in the sixth with no outs but got thrown out at third by several steps as he tried to make it to third. A's third base coach Mike Gallego didn't put on the stop sign. At that point it was a 2-1 game and Drew would have been the tying runner with Yoenis Cespedes due up. "It wasn't a good call, it wasn't a good play," Gallego said. "I felt that I couldn't have stopped him either. If I would have stopped him I would have gotten him hung out to dry in the middle of the base paths." It seems there's always a moment like that that unravels the A's in the playoffs. The moment where Jeremy Giambi doesn't slide in 2001, or when Eric Byrnes doesn't touch the plate in 2003. It looked like Gallego would be the scapegoat for the A's getting eliminated. Things looked even more bleak when the Tigers added a run in the eighth off reliever Sean Doolittle. The 2012 A's aren't phased by these things. In the end, the play and the Tigers' insurance run didn't mean a thing as the A's got the last laugh in the bottom of the ninth. "It's huge, it's playoff baseball," Donaldson said. "We're down to our last three outs right there. For me to come through right there the amount of emotion going through me right there was just uncontainable at the time."Like Balfour, Donaldson was so fired up after the game that he didn't flinch when asked if he was going to sleep tonight. "I'm not," he said. Crisp might have sweet dreams. He was still sticky from the postgame pie and Gatorade after the game when he addressed the media. A veteran in more ways than one, at this point he is used to taking the brunt of the A's celebratory dessert. He is responsible for four of the A's 15 walk-offs. "There's certainly guys we feel good about," Melvin said. "But I don't think there's anybody we feel better about in that situation than Coco."The A's live to fight another day again. After dropping the first two games of the series in Detroit they will play a win-or-go-home fifth game here at the Coliseum on Thursday night. One thing is clear, they aren't ready to go home. Not if Balfour has anything to say about it. "I want it so bad," Balfour said. "I know everyone in here wants it so bad. I didn't want to go home tonight. No chance."The A's have now won back-to-back elimination games for the second time in Athletics history. The last time they did it was in the 1973 World Series when they ended up beating the Mets after trailing 3-2. If the A's can continue their improbable run they will have to defeat reigning American League MVP and Cy Young award-winner Justin Verlander. He is 3-0 against the A's this season. Jarrod Parker will get the ball for the A's.

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

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USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.