Athletics

Kyler Murray 'thankful, blessed' to sign with A's: 'I can't put it into words'

Kyler Murray 'thankful, blessed' to sign with A's: 'I can't put it into words'

This fall, Kyler Murray will be starring at quarterback for the University of Oklahoma.

After that, it's all about baseball.

"We're going to get (his) best years," said executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane. "He'll have fun this fall, but he's going to have a really long and very productive baseball career, and we're looking forward to seeing it."

The Athletics officially introduced their first-round draft pick Friday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. Murray, 20, and the A's agreed to a $4.66 million signing bonus, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis. 

"It's a little surreal, growing up as a kid dreaming to play a professional sport, whichever one it is," Murray said. "I'm just thankful, blessed. I can't put it into words, just thankful."

The A's turned some heads when they drafted the two-sport star ninth overall, but they are comfortable with Murray playing one more season of football before focusing on baseball full-time.

"In January, we're going to be so excited that this kid is playing for the Oakland A's," Beane said. "We (would) be hitting ourselves in January if we haven't taken this kid."

"I've been doing it my whole life," Murray said of playing both baseball and football. "Obviously I worked hard for the opportunity to be the quarterback at the University of Oklahoma. For me, that's a huge deal."

On the baseball field, Murray slashed .296/.398/.556 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 51 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound outfielder also recorded 13 doubles and three triples, stealing 10 bases in 14 attempts.

Murray has drawn comparisons to major league outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jackie Bradley Jr. But he likes another comparison.

"The big one is Rickey Henderson," he said. "I've watched a lot of his film. He's a great player, a great legend obviously. But I'm pretty confident in my own skills, so hopefully one day, dudes will be looking up to me."

Jessica Mendoza blames A's Mike Fiers for making Astros scandal public

Jessica Mendoza blames A's Mike Fiers for making Astros scandal public

Blaming the whistleblower is far too popular these days. On Thursday morning, Jessica Mendoza became the latest to join the wrong side of history. 

Mendoza, a former gold medalist softball player, blamed A's pitcher Mike Fiers for the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal becoming public information and the way it has "hurt the game." 

"Going public, yeah," Mendoza said Thursday morning on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" when asked if she had a problem with Fiers speaking out on the Astros cheating while with a new team. "I mean, I get it. If you're on the Oakland A's and you're with a different team, I mean, heck yeah. You better be telling your teammates, 'Look, hey, heads up when you're pitching and you hear some noises, this is what's going on.' For sure. But to go public, yeah, it didn't sit well with me. 

"And honestly, it made me sad for the sport that that's how this all got found out. I mean, this wasn't something that MLB naturally investigated or that even other teams complained about because they naturally heard about and then investigations happened. It came from within. It was a player that was a part of it, that benefitted from it in the regular season when he when a part of the team.

"And when I first heard about it, it just hits you like any teammate would. It's something that you don't do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it's hard to swallow." 

Mendoza later tried to explain her remarks. 

Her original comments are wrong on so many levels, but let's start with the conflict of interest here. Mendoza is an MLB broadcaster for ESPN while at the same time working in an advisory role for the New York Mets' baseball operations. There's conflict of interest No. 1. And it doesn't stop there. 

Carlos Beltran was a player on the Astros when they won the World Series in 2017, the year that Houston is accused of electronically stealing signs. He also was the only player named in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's report on the cheating scandal. How does this tie back to Mendoza? Beltran was hired as the Mets' manager on Nov. 1, 2019.

There's conflict of interest No. 2. 

Shortly after Mendoza's remarks Thursday, Beltran and the Mets mutually parted ways.

In a November report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich, Fiers, who joined the A's halfway through the 2018 season, was the first player to confirm the Astros used technology to steal signs. 

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said

On Monday, MLB looked to clean the game up like Fiers wished. 

Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow were each suspended by MLB without pay for the 2020 season. Houston also had to forfeit its first- and second-round picks for the 2020 and '21 MLB Drafts. On top of that, the Astros were fined $5 million -- the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution -- and former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman was placed on baseball's ineligible list through the end of the 2020 World Series. 

Later that day, the Astros announced they fired Hinch and Lunhow.

Alex Cora, who was an Astros bench coach at the time and was linked to electronically stealing signs, parted ways with the Boston Red Sox as their manager Tuesday.

[RELATED: Where Luzardo, Puk rank among lefty pitching prospects]

What Fiers did in November was far from a sad day for baseball. It was an act of courage to put your name next to strong statements instead of hiding behind anonymous quotes. 

What Mendoza did Thursday, however, is nothing more than cowardice.

Where Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk rank among left-handed pitching prospects

Where Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk rank among left-handed pitching prospects

The A's have three no-hitters in their rotation between Mike Fiers and Sean Manaea. They have one of the most intriguing pitchers in baseball with Frankie Montas. And yet, none of those three bring as much excitement and reason for optimism as two young lefties. 

Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk are two of the best young lefties in the game. MLB Pipeline agrees. 

Both Luzardo and Puk were highlighted Wednesday when MLB Pipeline released its list of the 10 best left-handed pitching prospects in the game. Luzardo leads the way for Oakland and is ranked behind only San Diego Padres prospect MacKenzie Gore as the best southpaw prospect. 

Luzardo, 22, jumped one spot from his previous ranking. He made his major league debut last season in September and immediately looked like a future star. The first Peruvian-born big leaguer struck out the first batter he faced in the majors, Houston Astros infielder Aledmys Diaz. 

Luzardo suffered a few setbacks last season, including a Grade 2 lat strain and a shoulder injury. He finished the season with a 1.50 ERA in six appearances out of the bullpen and struck out 16 batters in 12 innings. 

The A's expect Luzardo to play a large role in their rotation next season, however, they likely will limit his innings and keep a keen eye on his health.

Puk dropped two spots in MLB Pipeline's rankings, from No. 5 to No. 7. He also is expected to be a big factor among A's starters this year. 

The 6-foot-7, former No. 6 pick in the 2016 draft, had Tommy John surgery in April 2018 and will need to prove he's built to be a starter. Puk made his big league debut in late August and showed he has plenty of strikeout stuff, though he did struggle with his control at times. 

[RELATED: MLB execs: A's prospects Luzardo, Murphy will thrive in '20]

The former Florida Gator went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings last year. Puk can hit triple digits and has an absolutely nasty slider. 

Luzardo and Puk should be a nightmare for opposing AL West teams for years to come. That's the dream scenario for the A's and their fans alike.