SEATTLE -- The Cinderella story of the 2012 Oakland Athletics continues to captivate. Fresh off getting swept by the Angels and losing their best pitcher in a freak accident, the A's began a seemingly daunting stretch in which 17 of their next 20 games were on the road. Worse, they had to face a surging Seattle team that boasts three of the hottest pitchers in baseball. It looked like the deck was stacked against the A's. Instead of complaining about the sinister hands they had been dealt, they went all in. They are playing with house money after all.Oakland swept aside the surging Mariners with relative ease. The 4-2 victory on Sunday was highlighted by the pitching of rookie Tommy Milone. With Brandon McCarthy out indefinitely, Milone, 25, is now the oldest pitcher in the starting rotation. He certainly looked like a crafty veteran on Sunday. Not only did he tie a career high with 10 strikeouts, he also tied the Oakland rookie record after earning his 12th win and didn't walk a batter, which tied another Oakland record extending his streak of 14 consecutive games allowing one walk or less. Milone seemed surprised to hear about what he had accomplished. "I didn't know that," he said. "I'm not really trying to break records, I'm just trying to go out there and throw quality games and keep the team in the game. If stuff like that happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it's not something I'm striving for but it is cool if it does." Milone allowed two earned runs in six innings of work. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced and ended each inning he pitched with a strikeout. He was dealing."Are you impressed? 'Yeah,'" Gomes said of Milone. "But at the same time we kind of expect it. He's probably the most consistent pitcher we have."Gomes did a good job deflecting the credit, he is a veteran after all. His fifth inning three-run home run gave the A's the lead and ended up being the game-winning hit. Gomes has done a lot with a limited amount of playing time this season. He has 16 home runs in 83 games. Eight of his homers have come since the All-Star Break and 10 of them have come against lefties like Mariners' starting pitcher Jason Vargas. Yet, Gomes was slightly surprised to see his name in the starting lineup on Sunday. "Coming into today I was joking around with Bob Melvin about why I am even starting today," Gomes said. "He's the last lefty this year that has really given me the biggest headache." Melvin was rewarded for his faith in Gomes. It seems Melvin can do no wrong lately with his managerial maneuvering. Largely because of Gomes' blast, the A's scored four runs on just five hits in the series finale. "We feel like we don't need to string hits together to score runs like we did earlier in the season," Melvin said. "We can do it via the long ball, and do it in a hurry."Speaking of home runs, Josh Donaldson added a solo shot in the ninth inning to give the A's an insurance run. He has six home runs and 24 RBI since being recalled on August 20. The A's bullpen locked down the lead and secured the sweep. They pitched a combined four innings of one-hit shutout baseball. Grant Balfour secured his ninth save in as many chances since retaking the closer's role. Next up is a flight to Los Angeles where the Angels will be waiting. The A's have won three games in a row, but the Angels have won six straight after sweeping the Tigers this weekend. The four-game series between the division rivals could be a pivotal clash with playoff implications. "They did a really good job coming into our place and sweeping us, now we have momentum after this sweep," Milone said. "We'll go in there and battle and they're going to battle. It should be a good series."
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.’”
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.
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.