Athletics

Neshek's loss reverberates through A's

904833.jpg

Neshek's loss reverberates through A's

The Oakland Athletics have never been truly happier, whether they were the young and very impressionable ones who just emerged to begin their careers, or the veterans who have known the force of the games backhand. They had made history, and their euphoria would last forever.

Then Pat Neshek, one of their own, tweeted the ghastly news that the boy, Gehrig, he and his wife Stephanee had brought into the world only the night before had died suddenly and without explanation. And suddenly even historic achievements became insignificant, almost as if they had never happened at all.

REWIND: A's Neshek loses newborn baby boy

Neshek had flown back to Florida be with Stephanee, and had tweeted the good news Wednesday morning, the day before the As biggest day in 23 years. Life was good, life was exciting, and after the As crushed the Texas Rangers, 12-5, life was as good as it could ever be.

And then it stopped.

There is no better way to explain it, not until the Neshek feel up to talking about it. An infants death is universally horrible, but for anyone who hasnt experienced it to try to explain it is the zenith of presumption and arrogance. It is life at its most cruel and capricious.

And the As, stuck with the same feelings of shock and horror because, though Neshek is the second oldest player on the roster at age 32 and only came to the As at midseason, he is one of them based on shared space and experiences. Gehrig was the couples first child, and many of the younger married As are in roughly the same place in their family time line.

In sum, this was a collective punch in the stomach -- one that devastated the Nesheks, and one that all his teammates and coaches and manager and front office people felt.

And it stopped the party cold. One of theirs was in unimaginable pain, a pain that the wives and girlfriends felt just as strongly as the men. The As as an extended family took the secondary blow, and now the effervescence of the day cannot be regained. It is, in the most horrible way, time for them to get back to work.

The As have made no announcements about what they plan to do about Nesheks spot, nor do they have to. They will leave it to the family to decide if and when he should return, be it the division series against Detroit, or later, if there is a later. This isnt the sporting world of 30 years ago, where family does not intrude. The teams needs come second, unless the player chooses to put them first.

Neshek has pitched in postseasons before, in 2006 for Minnesota against the As, but his climb back to the majors has been derailed by injuries and releases. This was going to be his dream season, too. Now, it is his annus horribilis, in which he can never think of his first year in Oakland without thinking of his son.

And for the moment, neither can his mates. They can deal with lots of hard turns in life, because baseball is a daily experience where life often intrudes. But an infants death hits home, and Gehrigs passing, coming when it did, hits them all.

The As fly to Detroit today, and work out tomorrow before Saturdays first game of the division series against the Tigers. They will field all the questions about the magnificence of Wednesday, and of the past three months, and they will give stock answers that will satisfy everyone a little bit.

But the larger truth is this: They arent as euphoric as they were, and they wont be again. The day they beat the odds and became Americas new instant darlings is also the day that one of theirs lost their day-old child. His empty locker will bear testament to it every day, a reminder that every moment is just that -- a moment. The best and worst times collide every now and then, but time never stops. Pat and Stephanee Neshek just learned that the hardest way imaginable, and the emanations struck their friends across the country with a force that will linger through the October of their dreams.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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

marcell-ozuna-marlins-ap.jpg
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?

khris-davis-funnylook-usatsi.jpg
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.