The case for Yoenis Cespedes as American League Most Valuable Player comes too late, flies in the face of the two actual candidates, and really has no constituency.His numbers arent good enough to match Miguel Cabreras. His WAR doesnt even merit comparison with Mike Trouts; hell, hes tied for 61st with Desmond Jennings. He plays for the Battling Piefaces, the team that laughs at conventional analysis.And without him, the Oakland Athletics are . . . well, the Chicago White Sox.But with him, the As are positioned unusually well to end up with the best record in the American League of Baseball Clubs after all the games are played. Thats right. Theyre only two games behind Texas, with the faltering Rangers coming into Seagull City for the final series of the year. They are also a game behind both Baltimore and New York. In short, they could Cespedes their way to the absolute top of the game that has stood on their necks for the last five years.But Johnny Lawns (the rough English mang-lation of his name) isnt an MVP candidate. He is that bane of the sabermetricians skills and the traditionalists biases the guy you have to actually have to see to comprehend. And since Oakland has been baseballs must-see-something-else team, Cespedes doesnt register on radar.But a game-winning home run, a triple, a stolen run because he decided to gamble on a close play at the plate, and his general command of his new position has made him The Best Candidate Who Missed The Filing Deadline.Bob Melvin knows his value. So does Wm. Lamar Beane, who committed 20 percent of Johnny-Boy Fishers payroll to the notion that Cespedes might be ready to be functional major leaguer by June.As it turned out, Beane was too generous by three months, underpaid Johnny Lawns based on productivity and general eye appeal, and is now reaping the benefits of the guy who fixed not only Melvins lineup card but his outfield defense. He got Coco Crisp out of the holding cell of left field and back in center, where he rightly belongs, and took the bull by the pointy hat to learn left field. Add Josh Reddick, and the As may have the most productive O-D outfield combination in the game.Now we ask is that valuable, or what?Of course it is. And while we dont mean to suggest that this alone cured the As of their hardened arteries, irregular heartbeat and gout, it did change the nature of the team. The pitchers didnt have to win their game, 0-to-minus-one. The other hitters didnt have to master the five-run homer. The third baseman and shortstop werent responsible for any fly ball between the infield dirt and the warning track.And yes, we understand that hitting .291 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs in 126 games isnt Triple Crown stuff, and a WAR that is almost seven games lower than the league leaders. We get that he will get approximately no first-place votes, and frankly, he shouldnt. Mike Trout is a better candidate, and so is Miguel Cabrera.But the As are one game away from savaging baseball logic, dismembering the pundit class, and making the We Believe Warriors look like a dull, featureless collection of disinterested parties. They also are the new model in lie detectors anyone in this plane of existence who says he or she thought this was better than a 75-win team is a liar and should be treated as such.Thats valuable, too. Defying gravity always is.So maybe Bob Melvin can reflect on Monday morning what he might have done had he sold Cespedes a little harder to the notebookedmicrophoned hyenas. Maybe Beane could have made a few calls to schmooze the electorate, and lets be frank here, the electorate is always willing to be schmoozed.But it wouldnt be the same. Yoenis Cespedes, Johnny Lawns, has created a new template for the award, one that means more actual money and automobile fuel to be expended.The MVP you have to watch play to understand.Nahhh. Thatll never catch on.
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.