Athletics

Alonso: A's 'gotta bear down' even before smallest crowd in six years

Alonso: A's 'gotta bear down' even before smallest crowd in six years

OAKLAND — It was the opponent on the mound that hurt the A’s most Monday night, first baseman Yonder Alonso insisted, not the environment inside the ballpark.

The A’s went down quietly against Tampa Bay, as Jake Odorizzi and two Rays relievers held Oakland to just two hits in a 3-2 loss before a crowd of 9,736, the smallest at the Coliseum since the 2011 season.

Not that this was particularly unusual for the A’s. Their Monday night home crowds typically are very light throughout the season. Add in the fact the A’s are in last place and the Rays are not a great box-office draw, and the ingredients were there for the smallest home turnout in six seasons.

“No excuse,” Alonso said afterward. “You’ve got to go play, do what you gotta do to win a ballgame. You’ve gotta bear down, stay focused. It’s always nice to have a packed house, no question about it. But at the end of the day, you’ve gotta go play for each other, for the crowd, and go out there and give it your all.”

The A’s were coming off a weekend sweep of a first-place Cleveland team, and two of those games drew impressive crowds. On Saturday night, when Rickey Henderson was honored in a pregame ceremony, 33,021 were on hand. Sunday afternoon’s sweep-clinching win attracted 25,509.

But Monday goes down as a defining symbol of one of the most dismal seasons of Bay Area baseball in recent memory, with both the A’s and Giants mired in last place. With the A’s failing to crack 10,000, across the Bay the Giants saw their National League-record 530-game sellout streak end against the Indians. (Of course, it’s all relative. They still drew an impressive 39,538).

A’s team officials deserve credit this season for many upgrades made to the Coliseum game-day experience as they work toward announcing a site to build a new ballpark in Oakland. It also doesn’t help the A’s cause when both them and the Giants are playing at home at the same time.

At any rate, this was the introduction to the Coliseum for new A’s reliever Blake Treinen, who surely had plenty of adrenaline flowing no matter how many people were in the stands. Acquired from the Nationals on Sunday in the deal that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington, Treinen popped the catcher’s mitt as high as 99 miles per hour during a scoreless eighth inning.

He consistently hit 98.

“It’s an easy 98,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It doesn’t look like a red-line max effort-type delivery with it. It looked like he had a sharp slider. He threw a changeup. He’s got three pitches and the ball gets on you.”

Treinen was drafted by the A’s in 2011 and sent to Washington in a three-time trade before the 2013 season. He expressed enthusiasm about rejoining the organization and looked forward to a fresh start after a rough start to his season with the Nationals.

He was happy with Monday’s outing but jokingly pointed out the challenge of joining a new team mid-season.

“The hardest thing is trying to remember names,” Treinen said. “I’m used to seeing the name on the back of the jersey, not the first name. Everybody’s introducing their first name, and I’m like, ‘What’s the last name?’, trying to figure it out.

“People look different outside the uniform. I need to get flash cards with pictures and names and I’ll be good.”

Why Manny Machado to A's not worth it with giant contract and headache

Why Manny Machado to A's not worth it with giant contract and headache

Let's be clear right from the start: The A's aren't signing Manny Machado. His projected $300 million-plus contract doesn't quite fit into Oakland's budget.

The question we want to examine is whether he'd really even improve the team.

There's no denying Machado's talent. The free agent third baseman/shortstop is one of the best all-around players in baseball. He already has been in four All-Star Games at the young age of 25, with a career slash line of .282/.335/.487. Last season, he tallied 37 home runs and 107 RBI with a .905 OPS.

But let's not forget, the A's have a pretty good third baseman and shortstop of their own. Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien form arguably the best defensive duo of any left side of the infield, and they can both swing the bat pretty well, too.

Chapman, 25, slashed .278/.356/.508 in his first full season, belting 24 home runs, 42 doubles and 68 RBI. Semien, 28, added 15 homers and 70 RBI after blasting a career-high 27 round-trippers two years ago.

Most importantly, the A's have a unique chemistry that was vital to their success last season. Machado is far from the most well-liked guy in the league, and adding him could hurt the clubhouse atmosphere.

Part of what makes the A's so special is that no one has an ego. Even veteran stars such as Khris Davis and Jed Lowrie carry a team-first mentality and don't care about the spotlight.

Machado, on the other hand, has openly admitted to not hustling in playoff games, and he has pulled some questionable -- if not dirty -- maneuvers on the base path. He also doesn't have the greatest history with the A's.

To reiterate, Machado unquestionably is a special talent. There's a reason he'll likely get more than $300 million in free agency. But baseball is a funny game. Individual numbers don't always translate to team success.

Oakland has something special in its clubhouse, and there is no reason to mess with that. Chapman and Semien have earned the right to hold down their side of the infield for years to come.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Wednesday is dedicated to free agent infielder Manny Machado.
Why Machado doesn't fit with Giants
Would Machado fit with rebuilding White Sox? 
Machado's talent worth betting on for Phillies
Yankees signing Machado would put pressure on Red Sox

Many reasons why Bob Melvin was right choice for AL Manager of the Year

Many reasons why Bob Melvin was right choice for AL Manager of the Year

Bob Melvin is Manager of the Year in the American League. Not only recognized by The Sporting News a few weeks back, but now, on the grandest stage by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Melvin clearly deserves this honor on his own merits, but it’s even more impressive that he won what could have been a popularity contest. Considering Alex Cora and the season had by his Boston Red Sox. Or Aaron Boone with the Yankees, who wasn’t even named as a finalist. Both of those first-year skippers run huge payroll teams in huge media markets, and obviously lived up to some expectations.

But for Melvin, he took an emerging 2017 A’s group and raised the bar by 22 wins. That was despite enduring a completely broken-down starting rotation and a franchise that began Opening Day with the lowest payroll in all of baseball.

For reference: No team in the last 30 years of Major League Baseball has started the first game with the lowest payroll and gone on to the playoffs. Until the A's did in 2018.

Knowing some of the inner workings of this team without giving too much away, I can tell you that Melvin has a tremendous grasp on his club, both when they are surging and when they are struggling.

After Melvin won this award, analysts will try to point to tangible things such as in-game decision-making when it comes to quantifying how he managed his group so well. And yes, the A's did lead all of baseball in one-run wins.  

But for me, it’s all that you can’t see that makes Melvin the runaway winner for Manager of the Year.

For example, he facilitated the transition of one-time left fielder Khris Davis into an everyday designated hitter, and saw him hit more homers than ever.

Melvin guided Jed Lowrie through a career season where trade talks and the potential of a young prospect taking over at any minute could not have been higher.

Melvin established a back-end of the bullpen that fashioned Lou Trevino and Blake Trienen into one of the best setup/closer tandems in the game.

And last but not least, Melvin helped evolve players like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman during their first full MLB seasons into bonafide leaders on and off the field.

In short, the A’s are lucky to have Bob Melvin in the dugout. And even luckier that his recent contract extension will keep the Bay Area native at the helm for multiple years past the 2019 season.