Athletics

How Sean Manaea used Asia trip to move on from A's wild-card game loss

How Sean Manaea used Asia trip to move on from A's wild-card game loss

Sean Manaea follows strict routines designed to maximize starts in the A's rotation, but such regimentation doesn’t extend to all aspects of his life. The left-hander freely admits he isn’t much of a planner outside baseball, which is how he ended wandering through Australia in 2018.

Manaea traveled across the globe on a whim, all by himself.

“That was really the first time I ventured outside the country on my own,” Manaea said. “I loved it. It was awesome. I didn’t have to listen to anybody. I just traveled and immersed myself in the culture.”

That experience was strictly for fun. This last offseason trip abroad had a purpose.

Manaea needed a hard reset only distance could provide. The 28-year-old had just wrapped a season saturated in stress, most of it spent rehabilitating a shoulder injury that kept him out a calendar year. Then came a triumphant return, with five dominant starts spent on top of the world.

The AL Wild Card Game sent him crashing back to earth. The Tampa Bay Rays rocked Manaea in a 5-1 victory that ended the A’s season, driving him from the game with four earned runs on three jacks in two-plus innings. A 97-win season came to a crashing halt, fortifying the A’s horrid reputation in elimination games.

Manaea swore he would help buck a bad trend and couldn’t, saying the loss was "solely on me." Failure stuck with him against his will, try as he might to move on from a bad moment. That’s when he decided, on a whim, to stuff one backpack -- yeah, that’s all he brought -- and get out of his own head.

Manaea spent a month in in Southeast Asia, far away from the game and his haunting mistakes. He took a companion to Maldives before wandering through Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia alone.

“I wanted to get lost and see how that side of the world works,” Manaea said. “That was a reason why I wanted to take off, but I also wanted to get baseball out of my head. I was thinking about it too much and needed to back away and reset some things.”

Manaea can afford to travel in style, to hire drivers and local fixers and stay in fancy hotels. That’s not his preferred mode of travel.

“I’m there for the experience of the place I’m in,” Manaea said. “I don’t have an interest in going somewhere else and then living a life of luxury. I want to experience the local culture, to get outside the cities and head for the villages and learn as much as I can about people in a different part of the world.”

Even while doing that, it still took a while to truly let go. Baseball left his head after a week or two, allowing him to properly recalibrate.

Manaea wasn’t longing to stay away forever. The month away left him recharged, rejuvenated, ready to come home and get back to the routines that make him a dominant pitcher when healthy.

“That was huge for me,” Manaea said. “I came back with a reignited passion for the game. I was really raring to go after I got back.”

[RELATED: How Sean Manaea is taking on leadership role with A's]

Manaea entered spring training ready to be a leader and dominant part of an excellent A’s rotation, with last year’s struggles now and forever in the rearview.

“The wild-card game sucked,” Manaea said. “It was really, really disappointing. After taking all this time off and getting so far away from everything, I slowly realized that I learned so much from it. I’m not happy about it but in a way, I’m glad that it happened. I don’t think I was mentally ready for that moment, but after this experience I feel like I can’t be beat.

"You get knocked down sometimes, but you get back up smarter and stronger.”

MLB The Show 20 player ratings: Where A’s roster ended up on 100 scale

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MLB The Show 20 player ratings: Where A’s roster ended up on 100 scale

We won't have live Oakland A’s baseball for a while. For now, we have to improvise.

One of the ways the league is making sure everyone stays home is by implementing a way to watch MLB The Show 20 in a tournament put on by the players themselves.

In the game, you’re able to create essentially your own legacy in Major League Baseball.

Just like most games based on professional sports, each individual is given an overall rating.

Here are how some of the A’s players fared, out of a possible best score of 100:

3B Matt Chapman: 92
Closer Liam Hendriks: 88
1B Matt Olson: 86
SS Marcus Semien: 85
CF Ramón Laureano: 83
RP Joakim Soria: 83
SP Sean Manaea: 81
RP Yusmeiro Petit: 81
RP J.B. Wendelken: 78
P Frankie Montas: 76

You can see the rest of the A’s numbers, as well as other players across the league, in this video:

For Matt Chapman, he’s unsurprisingly one of the best third basemen in the game according to The Show’s player ratings -- No. 4 in that category to be specific. Right behind Houston Astros star Alex Bregman, who was rated a 95. 

Nolan Arenado leads the hot corner with a 99 overall rating. Chappy earlier this year told NBC Sports California where he believed he ranked compared to Arenado, Bregman and even Anthony Rendon. Rendon was signed by the Angels in the offseason, which only beefed up the AL West at that position.

Last season, Chappy put up solid numbers earning his first All-Star selection and his second, and consecutive Gold and Platinum Glove Awards. He hit 36 home runs and slashed .249/.342/.506 with 91 RBI.

For Liam Hendriks, who was rated the second-highest on the team, he was the third-highest among closers, with Kirby Yates leading the category.

Last season, Hendriks was sensational with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.965 WHIP in 85 innings. He also earned the first All-Star selection of his career.

[RELATED: Mike Fiers details mentality behind no-hitters]

Marcus Semien also earned high marks with his 85 rating. He was tied with the likes of Adalberto Mondesi, Carlos Correa and Trea Turner. Not a bad group to be associated with.

The ratings at shortstop had a lot to do with fielding abilities. Despite the shift in power we get to see among middle infielders, the glove was a highlight here -- but the bats were all but ignored. Semien has improved drastically over the last couple of seasons with both his glove and offensive game. He was appreciated here.

Angels star Mike Trout also received a 99 rating, which goes to show who the rest of the league has to measure up to.
 

A's Mark Canha misses hitting the most amid MLB's coronavirus hiatus

A's Mark Canha misses hitting the most amid MLB's coronavirus hiatus

A’s outfielder Mark Canha was sipping on a glass of Lagavulin 16 scotch when he recently sat down for an interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil, via FaceTime, of course.

Canha remained in Arizona following the cancellation of spring training and delay of MLB's Opening Day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He stressed the importance of self-quarantining during the hiatus, but admitted he was really missing baseball. He misses his teammates for sure, but especially his time in the batter’s box. 

“Hitting a baseball is such an imperfect art, or -- maybe not an art, but an imperfect thing -- just perfection is never attainable,” he said. “So, it’s just like there’s always something to work on.”

Last season, Canha was dubbed one of the most underrated players in the game. He told NBC Sports California during spring training, he was ready to become more than that as a more well-known name this season. He mirrored those sentiments with Brazil. 

“You’re always looking for more, striving to be the best you can," he said. “In my personality, I’m kind of like a workaholic -- not a workaholic, but I’ll hit in the cage until my hands bleed, kind of guy.

“I really miss it," he added.

[RELATED: Canha could see birth of second child during COVID-19 hiatus]

In 2019, he hit a career-high 26 home runs and slashed a terrific .273/.396/.517, good for a 146 wRC+.

“I suppose I could try and go out and hit right now, but it just feels like it doesn’t make any sense,” Canha said. “It’s kind of one of those things where if you’re not facing pitching, you’re going to make adjustments anyway, so what’s the point?”