Athletics

Five best anecdotes from Josh Donaldson's A's-Phillies 2014 walk-off

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AP

Five best anecdotes from Josh Donaldson's A's-Phillies 2014 walk-off

The Bringer of Rain returns.

Josh Donaldson was one of the A’s brightest (and most brief) stars, dominating the hot corner in Oakland from 2012 through 2014.

During that final season with the A’s, Donaldson already had clubbed several walk-off homers going into a late-September series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

After speedster Billy Burns took the field to replace Nate Freiman as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 10th inning, Donaldson strode to the plate and crushed his third walk-off homer of the season.

But you can see the game in its entirety on Sunday, as it will air at  5 p.m. on NBC Sports California.

Here are five anecdotes from a wild Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum.

Clutch gene

As I previously mentioned, Donaldson already had hit a pair of walk-off home runs in 2014. One came off former Detroit Tigers shut-down closer Joe Nathan, while the other came courtesy of then-Baltimore Orioles pitcher Zack Britton's fastball in mid-July. 

Donaldson hit an astounding .362 with two outs and runners in scoring position that season, as he was one of the team’s most reliable players when it mattered.

Familiar foe

Now with the A’s, relief pitcher Jake Diekman was just a spry, 27-year-old in his third season with the Phillies back in 2014. Philly drafted Diekman in the 30th round of the 2007 draft, and the southpaw eventually made his MLB debut in May 2012.

Diekman also spent time with the Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Kansas City Royals before finding his way to Oakland in 2019.

Diekman threw one inning in that contest back in 2014, allowing one hit while facing four batters in the bottom of the eighth inning. Donaldson happened to be one of those four, but Diekman struck the slugger out swinging.

Where’d everybody go?

Year-to-year roster turnover obviously is common in MLB, but teams usually have at least one player whose career with the club spans at least a decade.

Not with these two teams, however. Not one player who took the field for either team that day in 2014 still is with the A’s or Phillies. Talk about turnover.

Feels weird, right?

Rivalry renewed

A’s-Phillies used to be one of the bigger rivalries in baseball, as both teams occupied the City of Brotherly Love between 1901 and 1954. The “City Series,” as it was known, pitted Philadelphia’s two professional baseball clubs against each other. The initial vitriol between the crosstown rivals even kept the teams from playing each other until 1903. 

Now on opposite ends of the country and in opposite leagues, there isn’t much fire between the clubs.

They still meet every few years, but this was the last time the squads faced off in Oakland. The A’s took two out of three in Philadelphia back in 2017. The two former neighbors were supposed to play each other this upcoming season, although it remains to be seen how the MLB schedule will be adjusted after the coronavirus pause.

[RELATED: Exclusive: Melvin explains how MLB could return post-absence]

When it rains, it pours

2014 was one of Donaldson’s finest professional seasons, as the third baseman finished eighth in AL MVP voting and was named to his second All-Star team.

However, after an offseason trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, Donaldson won the AL MVP in 2015 after hitting 41 home runs and finishing with a league-leading 123 RBI.

The slugger did encounter some injury trouble in the years following his MVP honors, but he made a major comeback in 2019. Donaldson smashed 37 home runs with the Atlanta Braves en route to winning the NL's Comeback Player of the Year award last season.

A's president Dave Kaval offers stadium update after deferred payment

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Getty

A's president Dave Kaval offers stadium update after deferred payment

The A’s deferred a $1.2 million rental payment due to the Oakland Coliseum in April.

They told NBC Sports California last month that the stadium authority “has been unable to make the Coliseum available for use by the A's" due to the coronavirus. Dave Kaval, the team's president, told The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Thursday that the reasoning behind the deferment was due to lack of use.

“Being able to use the facility is obviously very critical,” Kaval said. “We’ve been adhering to the provisions of the lease, which specifically state the payment is due when you can actually use it. ... Hopefully, we can get in there and start training; some other teams already have been doing that and we haven’t been able to.”

Kaval also told The Chronicle there is a chance for a rent reduction if there's a shortened season, as the current agreement is on a per-game basis. 

“You pay the full amount and then there is adjustment based on how many games you play,” he said.

[RELATED: A's might have delay in 2023 targeted ballpark opening]

For now, there is no final decision on a 2020 season. After roughly four weeks of negotiations between MLB and the Players Association, the union called for a 114-game season that would begin on June 30 and end Oct. 31. While there are more details to the recent proposal including the health and safety of the players, time is ticking for that date.

If there's a season, there's a chance it would happen without fans. Kaval is not only prepared for the possibility, but he's fully embracing it. He’s ensuring the Coliseum is adhering to safety precautions and county guidelines. 

“I think they were impressed with the scope and how it was put together," Kaval said of Alameda County officials." ... We’re going to make sure we’re going to adhere to (county) guidelines because they’re the authority on business operating in this environment.”

Bruce Maxwell's Colin Kaepernick kneel still sparks hate, misunderstanding

Bruce Maxwell's Colin Kaepernick kneel still sparks hate, misunderstanding

Programming note: Tune in to "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. this week on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming here.

Like Colin Kaepernick, he is a black man who saw injustice and was compelled to respond.

Unlike Kaepernick, his chosen field is dominated by whites.

Like Kaepernick, he imperiled his career over a matter of principle.

Unlike Kaepernick, he has been largely forgotten.

Bruce Maxwell is neither bitter nor regretful. He is scarred. And when he speaks, it is with a strong sense of emotional fatigue. As if he has been through the fire and accepts that the burns upon him will ache forever.

“I still have the messages,” he says. “I had a kid the other day come out on my team and just said, ‘Eff you,’ on my Instagram. He was like, ‘People like you are the problem that we have in this country.’ I had a guy reach out to me last year ... in the middle of my season, down here in Mexico, that told me that he hopes me and my family die a horrible death. I still get ...

“Three years and I still get it. It's the hate. It's the hate.”

Maxwell was speaking this week as a panelist on an NBC Sports Bay Area roundtable discussion, “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” in reaction to global outrage after George Floyd was asphyxiated beneath the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. This was the latest example of the conduct Maxwell had hoped to eradicate.

On Sept. 23, 2017, Maxwell, a biracial catcher for the Oakland A’s, decided to bring attention to police brutality afflicting the black community. Following the lead of Kaepernick, Maxwell dropped to one knee during the playing of the national anthem before an A’s-Rangers game at the Oakland Coliseum.

“I was just going into a year in the league,” he says. “I was a nobody. I was still technically a rookie. I didn't have millions of dollars in the bank, but this was much bigger than my paycheck.”

With baseball being a sport that generally tilts to the political right, Maxwell might as well have put a bullet into the leg of his Major League career.

Maxwell finished the season with the A’s and, with 109 games on his resume, all with Oakland, hoped to compete for a job in 2018. Five weeks after kneeling for the anthem, he was arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz., and initially charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon – pointing a gun at a food deliverer – and disorderly conduct. In July 2018, after pleading guilty disorderly conduct, Maxwell was sentenced to two years' probation.

A bullet into the other leg of his career. Maxwell appeared 18 games in 2018 and saw his statistics decline for a third consecutive season. He was not re-signed by the A’s that November and has not since been signed by any of the 30 MLB teams.

Maxwell, 29, took his career to Mexico, where last season he was an All-Star, posting a .325/.407/.559 slash line, with 24 home runs and 112 RBIs in 109 games with Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League.

Though the light that represents MLB gets a little smaller every day, Maxwell, 29, hasn’t given up. He’d love another chance at the bigs. He also realizes his social-justice moment has become a burden that can’t be rinsed off his back.

And he’s OK with that. Indeed, the Floyd tragedy causes Maxwell to relive his own experience, all while the resultant global outrage -- the rioting and looting and increasingly violent police response -- simultaneously drops a knot into his belly.

“I have so many raw emotions about this,” he says. “All I can see is everybody, including George Floyd, I can see everything that came before him. I see Breonna Taylor (an African-American EMT shot in her bed in Louisville on March 13) sleeping in her bed peacefully. I see everything. And it's so many ways to feel and you can't really put it into words.”

[RELATED: Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in "HEADSTRONG"]

What seems to bother Maxwell most is not what he might have given up, or what he might never again have. It’s the lack of progress on an issue that, in all humanity, should not be an issue at all.

“Nobody wants to see the message,” he says. “All they see is who's doing the stance. It's difficult to comprehend. It's sometimes difficult to stay on that path, but at the same time, it makes it worth the fight because these things need to happen for change to commence in the world that we live in.”

Maxwell dared to make a highly visible but inarguably peaceful protest for a cause any human must consider just. He did it on a baseball field, which takes monumental courage.

Bruce Maxwell should be remembered. Forever. As will Colin Kaepernick.