Athletics

A's-Yankees a dream matchup for Wild Card play-in game

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A's-Yankees a dream matchup for Wild Card play-in game

Our festival of postseason conclusion-jumping continues today with this disturbing thought: The As, as of this moment, lined up to face in a one-game, winner-take-all-loser-takes-tee-times showdown at the Coliseum with . . .

. . . wait for it . . .

. . . the New York Yankees.

Thats right, the team that devalued the As teams of a decade and change ago. The team that got Derek Jetered in 2001. The team that caused Billy Beane to have his famous, If I had 50 million more . . . post-playoff speech. The team that most starkly defined the As via payroll disparity, and jump-started Beanes cinematic philosophies.

Of course, this all comes with the standard its-way-too-early caveat. The Fightin McCarthys trail Texas by three games, and lead the Yankees and Orioles by two and Rays by five. Nothing is settled, nothing is revealed.

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But imagine it anyway. A sunny day at the ballpark, 28,837 cheering away, watching A.J. Griffin dueling David Phelps. History, backstory, pies vs. pressure punching both teams in the face. Why, it makes you all nostalgic inside.

Except that it actually doesnt when you think about it. The As only got pipped by the Yankees twice, in 2000 and 2001. The Jeter play is extraordinarily movie-friendly and all, but the As have more playoff history with Minnesota and Boston, and the Twins and Sawx are getting into the playoffs only if you look at the standings while hanging from a door jamb in gravity boots.

But the alternatives to the Yankees are Baltimore and Tampa, which are closer to the As in self-imposed fiscal limits. The As have never played Tampa in a meaningful game, and Baltimore lost to the As in the '73 and '74 playoffs when only equipment manager Steve Vucinich roamed the earth.

And to be fair, the Angels are still a distant fourth option, but losing Games 1, 2 and 3 of this series dont exactly make you want to crave their chances.

No, the vortex of manufactured memories demands that this end up being the angst-riddled Yankees and their omnipresent entourage, and the Fightin McCarthys mocking the odds with a smile, a swollen face and a Twitter account that glows in the dark.

In fact, you wont get a better metaphor for the FMCs in 2012 than their namesake, the pitcher who got his face broken by Erick Aybar, had life- and career-threatening brain surgery, and for all we know will be throwing on the side in two weeks in hopes of being a middle-relief fill-in in that Yankee game that we still dont know will happen.

But lets be honest, it should.

An Orioles-As game will be fine -- hell, both teams would sell body parts to be back within a game of the postseason. Rays-As would be grand entertainment, too. Angels-As, even, although weve seen plenty of that already.

But for full drooling East Coast bias-ish effect, for full national notice, for financial comparison points, for all the things that the As have not been in the last six years (interesting), this would be the dream matchup. Especially if we can keep management from turning it into a nine-inning whine-o-mercial for San Jose stadium action from the other 29 owners.

That would be intolerable, and sufficient in my mind to invalidate the move south on its face. You never use a potentially magical moment for shameless huckstering unless you want to look like a shameless huckster.

But we have faith that even they will understand the magnitude of such a moment. The New York Yankees and the Oakland Fightin McCarthys. This can be filed under Oh what the hell, lets do it just for kicks.

But first, lets play those 20 other games that could sink one, or both teams. And remember to be as thankful for what you already have as for what youre hoping to get.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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.