Athletics

A's continue to be incredible second-half team as MLB playoff spot nears

A's continue to be incredible second-half team as MLB playoff spot nears

OAKLAND -- It's really quite incredible how closely the A's last two seasons have mirrored one another.

In 2018, Oakland got off to a sluggish 34-36 start through 70 games, only to finish the season 97-65. This year, the A's found themselves in a similar position at 34-34. Since then, they have gone 57-27 to put themselves in prime playoff position once again. So what is it that has made the A's such a great second-half team?

"It really is hard to say," third baseman Matt Chapman said. "I think at the beginning of the year, there's just a lot of different pieces -- maybe some guys going up and down, guys not knowing their roles right away, maybe certain guys trying certain things. Once we get into a groove, I feel like we kind of find our niche and we stick with it. And it's a long season. A lot of other teams start off really hot and then they kind of cool off. ... It is a marathon, not a sprint."

The familiarty of last year's run also has conttributed to the surge this season.

"I think there's no panic," Mark Canha said. "We were able to do it last year somehow. We knew at the beginning of this year when we didn't come out of the gates roaring just to kind of hang in there and we're definitely more than capable of turning this thing around. It's just a belief and confidence that lets us kind of do what we do."

But it's not just the last two years where the A's have found second-half success. In 2012, Oakland went just 39-42 in the first half of the season. They followed that up with a 53-28 record in the second half, winning the final six games of the regular season to claim the AL West title.

"It's not how you start, it's more how you finish and how you play in the second half," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's the great thing about a 162-game season. Usually, the talent level takes over at some point in time. You kind of are who you are. Your record indicates what kind of team you really are and it usually plays out at the end."

Last season's experience certainly has helped the A's from a mental standpoint this year. The entire team remained calm and level-headed throughout their early-season struggles, never doubting their ability to climb back in the playoff race.

"I think last year gave us a bunch of confidence," Chapman said. "We made the playoffs when nobody expected us to do anything. We were all a bunch of young kids. Now we've been there. Now we know what it takes. That's why we didn't panic at the beginning of the year."

[RELATED: Hendriks rebounds to break Fingers' A's reliever K record]

Now the A's find themselves in position to reach the postseason for the second straight year. At 91-61, Oakland leads Tampa Bay by two games and Cleveland by 2 1/2 in the AL wild-card standings with just 10 games remaining.

"We're confident," Chapman said. "We expect to be in the Wild Card Game. We want to host that thing."

Why A's shortstop Marcus Semien could be MVP candidate again in 2020

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USATSI

Why A's shortstop Marcus Semien could be MVP candidate again in 2020

Marcus Semien fell short of winning the AL MVP Award, but his third-place finish might be just the beginning.

At 29 years old, the A's shortstop still is very much in his prime and has significantly improved in each of his five seasons with Oakland.

When Semien first joined the A's at the age of 24, he was a decent hitter but looked completely lost in the field. In 2015, he committed a league-high 35 errors, prompting many to believe that he could never develop into a major-league shortstop.

But with the help of Ron Washington, Semien went to work. He spent hours upon hours working on his footwork, glovework, and consistency. Fast forward to 2019 and Semien has transformed into a back-to-back Gold Glove Award finalist.

Semien's offensive development has been just as impressive. This past season, the Bay Area native slashed .285/.369/.522 with 33 home runs, 43 doubles, 92 RBI, and 123 runs scored. He notched career-highs in just about every offensive stat imaginable, ranking near the top of the majors in all of the important categories.

Most impressive, Semien's 8.1 WAR (wins above replacement) was fourth-best in baseball, behind only Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, and Cody Bellinger. Semien started all 162 games at shortstop, batting in the leadoff spot for 145 of those contests. And the scariest part for the rest of the league is that he continues to get better.

"He becomes a better hitter every year," A's manager Bob Melvin said earlier this year. "Nobody works harder than Marcus Semien. He knows what he needs to work on."

After the All-Star break, Semien arguably was the most productive hitter in baseball. In 70 games, he slashed .304/.396/.621 with 19 homers, 22 doubles, five triples, 44 RBI, and 62 runs.

If Semien continues at that rate next season, it would translate to 44 home runs, 51 doubles, 12 triples, 102 RBI, and 143 runs over the course of 162 games. That certainly is MVP-caliber.

Of course, the A's have a major decision to make -- Semien is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and figures to see some big-money offers. Will Oakland sign its star shortstop to an expensive extension or instead turn the reigns over to young prospect Jorge Mateo?

[RELATED: A's Luzardo an intriguing case for 2020 Rookie of the Year]

Semien is entering his final year of arbitration, where he is projected to get $13.5 million. After that, the A's could choose to make a qualifying offer to Semien for 2021, but there is no guarantee he would accept.

If 2020 does end up being Semien's last year in Oakland, it figures to be another special one. This year he was an MVP finalist. Perhaps next year he'll just be the MVP.

A's gain hope as City of Oakland drops lawsuit against Alameda County

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AP

A's gain hope as City of Oakland drops lawsuit against Alameda County

There's still a long way to go, but the A's are one step closer to getting a new stadium built in Oakland.

On Wednesday, the Oakland City Council directed the City Attorney to immediately drop Oakland's lawsuit against Alameda County, paving the way for the sale of the Coliseum.

"We are pleased that the Oakland City Council has directed the City Attorney to immediately drop this lawsuit," A's President Dave Kaval said in a team statement. "We are committed to the long-term success of East Oakland and the Coliseum site. We look forward to finalizing our agreement with Alameda County, and creating a mutually beneficial partnership with the City of Oakland."

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred previously had warned Oakland officials in October to drop the lawsuit for fear of losing the team to relocation.

With the lawsuit dropped, the City of Oakland and the A's can move forward on the sale of the Coliseum land, on which the A's intend to develop housing, shops, restaurants and a park that will help fund the Howard Terminal site.