Athletics

Athletics

I was an 11-year-old girl playing on an all-boys little league team when we got wind of an amazing ticket deal to go to an Oakland A’s game. My father, ever the adventurist and one to never pass up a deal, knew we had to go.

He piled four of us and himself in our green Jeep and away we went. A three-and-a-half-hour car ride from Reno, Nev. at that age seemed like an eternity. But I was surrounded by family and little league teammates so I suppose the road trip wasn’t all that bad. 

We were greeted by the sales window in which we heard the ticket deal we looked forward to had those specific tickets sold out. But they wanted us to stay so the $2 tickets were transferred to box seats. My dad lit up. He made a joke that our hot dogs and sodas set us back more than the tickets did.

As we found ourselves behind the third-base dugout, a pop of the bat followed by roars from the crowd swarmed over me. 

I glanced at a program that had fallen on the ground. I picked it up, wiped the peanut shells and dirt away from it. 

His name was Eric Chavez and he gave me my first in-person home run, and we shared a birthday -- about a decade apart, of course. We also shared the responsibilities of playing third base. One of us was about to begin a six-year Gold Glove run. The other, me, was waiting for her growth spurt.

 

I’m still waiting.

After witnessing my first SportsCenter Top-10 play in person, I was hooked. I knew there was something special about this team. The little league All-Star team I would eventually play for even had the green and gold colors.

“Because of the A’s,” one of my coaches told me. 

Fast-forward from that moment to almost a decade later and a man was on the mound who would make an impact on my relationship with baseball and the team to this day.

Perfection

Dallas Braden threw a perfect game on May 9, 2010. And that’s exactly what it was -- perfect. 

The 19th perfecto in history took place on Mother’s Day which held more meaning for the then 26-year-old.

Braden’s mother had passed away from cancer while he was in high school. His grandmother was in attendance and they shared a beautiful moment.

The team celebrated for a week. And then some.

Every year we’re lucky enough to relive the moment during its anniversary. And we get to hear about it from the man himself.

Braden now spends his time being one of the most exceptional talents as a baseball analyst for NBC Sports California. He went from colleague to friend in yet another full-circle moment I’ve experienced with this team.

Goodbye, Chavy

He gone.

In November of 2010, Eric Chavez hit free agency after 13 seasons with the A’s. The following February he would sign with the New York Yankees (as most A’s eventually do) and things would never be the same. Not for the A’s, and certainly not for him.

He would spend those next few seasons in the league being riddled with injuries and ultimately retired in 2014. He’s still around the game, however.

(Former A's third baseman Eric Chavez throws out the ceremonial first pitch before a game in Oakland on March 29, 2019. Photo courtesy: AP)

The rise of BoMel

In June of 2011, Bob Melvin was named the interim manager of the A’s when Bob Geren was fired. In September, he was given the managerial position permanently. The 2012 season would be his first full season as the manager and he certainly made an impression.

Melvin compiled a 94-68 record to start it all off in 2012. He followed it with a 96-win season in 2013.

After that, the team was marred with season-after-season of dwindling numbers, but the organization didn’t give up on him. Melvin was signed to a contract extension following the 2018 season that runs through 2021 with a club option for 2022.

 

His overall record with the A’s stands at 731-664. His 1,224 total wins across three teams are ranked 44th in history and he became the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball.


Céspedes trade

This was … interesting … a doozy … a head-scratcher if you will. All of the terms you could imagine, that’s what the Yoenis Céspedes trade was.

In a move that sent All-Star slugger Céspedes to the Red Sox and Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the A’s -- the team was hoping for a strong postseason run after the trade. At the time, Oakland held a two-game lead in the AL West over the Los Angeles Angels (or whatever city/cities the team was referred to back then).

By season’s end, Oakland had an 88-74 record -- 10 games out of first place. They also just barely squeaked by getting the second Wild-Card spot. 

That wild-card game was intense, to say the least. The matchup against the Kansas City Royals left those watching out of breath and quite upset Oakland didn’t possess the power bat of Céspedes. Perhaps that could have made a difference. 

Nevertheless, that was arguably one of the best wild-card games ... ever. 

Lester would hit free agency during the offseason and the A’s wouldn’t re-sign him.

An honorable mention moment would go to the Josh Donaldson trade that sent the All-Star third baseman to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Franklin Barreto and Sean Nolin.

That wasn’t fun.

Big Sexy

OK, so this didn’t exactly “define” the decade, but ask any baseball fan out there and if they cheer on a team that possessed a roster slot dedicated to Bartolo Colon, it’ll stick out to them.

During the 2012-13 seasons, we got to witness Colon in the A’s colors. He earned an All-Star selection in 2013 at the age of 40 with his 2.65 ERA and 1.166 WHIP. He was also in Cy Young Award talks. 

He’s still a free agent, by the way.

Getting Khris Davis … and then some

Khris Davis came to Oakland from the Brewers in 2016 via trade. He got his first 40-plus home run season and repeated it two times after that. His league-leading 48 homers topped it off in 2018 where he hit a .247 batting average for the fourth season in a row.

He was quite the surprise and a powerhouse bat squished into the middle of the lineup. Fans loved it.

During the 2019 season, Davis signed a two-year contract extension with the A’s which hopefully created some momentum for the team to continue keeping their players.

First playoff berth since 2006

Imagine this. Every fan at the Coliseum is standing up. Top of the ninth, two outs, Oakland has one run up on the Texas Rangers and Grant Balfour has the ball. 

The A’s would win on a Mike Napoli strikeout and would clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2006.

 

This is how they celebrated:

The A's would go on to win the AL West two days later -- the final day of the regular season -- when they finished off a sweep of the Rangers and won the division by one game. 

Un -- bel -- ievable indeed. 

Losing the wild-card games

It hasn’t always been a reason to celebrate, however.

The clubhouse was full, but it was quiet. It was over.

Sean Manaea was sitting at one of the tables in the clubhouse, staring into space. The food in front of him remained untouched.

Homer Bailey gave a small smile to Ramón Laureano and the two embraced. It appeared Bailey had a lot of respect for the young, impressive center fielder who showed off his strong arm during the season.

The A’s had lost their ninth consecutive game of the one-and-done variety. They, once again would not continue their playoff hopes.