Athletics

With stadium site chosen, it’s time for A's to put their big boy shoes on and be winners

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AP

With stadium site chosen, it’s time for A's to put their big boy shoes on and be winners

The Oakland Athletics have made their stadium site choice, and as expected, it was the proud halls of the Peralta College District.

Or, as it shall be henceforth known by shorthand fans everywhere, the Laney Site.

The A’s were hoping to keep it a secret until a grand and grandiose unveiling Wednesday morning, but they surely should have known that no apparent secret goes unrevealed in Oaktown. The San Francisco Chronicle’s two famed buttisnkys, Phil Matier and Andrew Ross, ferreted out the info – and by that we mean some cheery blabbermouth blew the A’s gaff by spilling the surprise. And, good reporters that they are, they produced information the A’s would have preferred to save for themselves.

All that said, the race is now on, with the A’s battling the A’s in hopes of reaching the tape at the same time.

In other words, in recreating the Giants’ happiest times, they want to open their new park in 2023 at exactly the time that they stop being sub-mediocre. The Giants actually became good before their new yard opened in 2000, but their best days coincided with the new park.

Maybe they should honor history by scandalously overpaying for Giancarlo Stanton.

Oakland’s new park will not have the same geographical advantages, given that they rejected the Howard Terminal site as being too – well, expensive seems the best term here --  but if A’s management makes the stadium construction march hand in hand with the roster construction, they will have at last a fighting chance to march the Giants blow for blow in a market that has tilted far too long to the west.

But that’s what it will take to pull this off, because the A’s are so far behind in attractions. They have in their time made fetishes out of being the smaller sub-market, of being dogged by a media conspiracy against them, of a lousy stadium, of Major League Baseball’s disinterest in their plight, of a small budget, and of the difficulty of creating sustained excellence in a market made for lowballing.

They now have to make baseball a greater priority than revenue sharing, and merging that with a baseball palace that will catch and hold the eye. In other words, it’s time to put the big boy shoes on and be what other teams need to be – winners.

They do have an advantage in that the Giants are the worst they’ve been in 30-plus years, but they can no longer rely on the kindnesses of strangers to save themselves. That’s how former owner Lew Wolff convinced himself that former commissioner Bud Selig wanted him to have access to San Jose, and that’s why Lew Wolff got shown the door.

But now the last impediment to seeing if the A’s can join the adult swim is gone. They have the site, they have the timetable, and all they have to do now is shove three camels through one needle’s eye simultaneously.

We give them a counterpuncher’s chance.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.