A's loss of revenue sharing brings up more questions

A's loss of revenue sharing brings up more questions

Details are beginning to trickle out about baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, with the A’s getting some clarity on one important issue in particular.

According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the A’s will be phased out of Major League Baseball’s annual revenue sharing plan over the next four years. That’s no small chunk of money being taken away — the club has been receiving in the neighborhood of a reported $30 million annually in MLB’s attempt to redistribute wealth and help out the game’s “have-not” franchises.

With that source of money eventually drying up, it brings up lots of big-picture questions about the A’s future. Primarily, does it crank up the urgency for them to build a new ballpark, one that will attract more fans than the antiquated Coliseum and become in itself a vital new revenue stream?

It seems that urgency already has taken hold within the organization, perhaps in the anticipation that the revenue-sharing checks would stop being provided. Two weeks ago, the A’s announced that managing partner Lew Wolff was stepping down and selling his ownership stake in the team to the other owners. Majority owner John Fisher has taken the reins as the new managing partner, and given Fisher’s increasingly hands-on efforts in searching out a ballpark site, it only adds to the belief that team management is more serious than ever about identifying a site upon which to build.

Dave Kaval has replaced Mike Crowley as the A’s president, and Kaval’s experience in helping the San Jose Earthquakes build their soccer stadium was a main reason he was tapped for his new role with the A’s. His primary task is helping the A’s identify and build their new ballpark somewhere in Oakland, with Howard Terminal, Laney College and the Coliseum site itself all believed to be among the top locations the A’s are considering.

Other questions loom about the A’s payroll in light of the lost revenues. Will it slice into what they’re willing to spend this season? General manager David Forst, addressing reporters Wednesday afternoon before the CBA details were announced, was asked if he was worried about the potential loss of revenue sharing.

“That’s a question for Dave or for John,” Forst said. “We’re going to operate as we’ve done. I haven’t put a lot of thought into it until ultimately we know what’s going on.”

Will things run business as usual for the time being?

“I think that’s fair to say,” Forst said. “We’re in a place, we know we need to build and get better. … Billy (Beane) and I have continued to operate as we have in the past. And we’ll continue to work on the team and the things we’ve talked about.”

There’s also the possibility that Fisher goes the other way and, with the loss of revenue sharing, ultimately decides to start spending more on payroll in order to boost fan interest, perhaps fill the seats more at the Coliseum, generate more revenue that way and try to create some momentum going into a new ballpark, which could still be roughly four years away even after any announcement of a ballpark deal is made.

Kaval, addressing the media upon his announcement as the A’s new president, was asked about the possibility of the team’s payroll increasing.

“I think all that is possible. I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he said. “Billy has operated the baseball operations part of the business a certain way, and he has a great track record and done a great job with the resources he’s had … but (things) could slightly change, it’s certainly possible. All I want to do is make sure I support (baseball operations) in the best way possible.”

A's on verge of AL playoff spot thanks to three surprising rookies

A's on verge of AL playoff spot thanks to three surprising rookies

OAKLAND -- A grounds crew tractor prepared the Coliseum infield Saturday evening. Shadow slowly overtook the pitcher's mound, and made its way towards second base. The mesmerizing ritual of dragging the infield dirt smooth is an art form performed 81 times per year here

It’s no easy task prepping a big-league diamond, but it’s always done to perfection at the Coliseum, regardless of the quality of team taking the field. 

A clean infield might be the only thing that was truly expected this season from the A’s. The crowd is hit-and-miss, depending on the day of the week. The stadium is well known for its faulty plumbing. And the team?

The prevailing thought coming into the season was that maybe they were a year or two away from competing, and that was before the Tommy John Fairy came to visit the pitching staff.

Call it kismet. Call it an anomaly. Call it whatever you want, but the Oakland Athletics are the best story of the 2018 MLB season. They're an unbelievable 60-25 record since June 16.

There is a randomness to this campaign in Oakland. They knew they had young players ready to blossom at the corner infield spots. The production from veterans Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis was also something manager Bob Melvin could pencil in. The bullpen coming out of spring training was also a strength, but there were plenty of other question marks.

With seven games remaining in the season, the A’s are a game away from clinching an improbable American League playoff berth and they couldn’t have done it without some surprise contributors. 

“It’s a combination of young talent with veteran players that are producing at a high level,” Lowrie told NBC Sports California. “You can’t fake talent over the course of 162 games.”

Davis is in the conversation for AL MVP, while Lowrie has set new highs in home runs and RBI in his 11th season in the bigs.

Blake Treinen is 9-2 with 37 saves and a 0.81 ERA. He’s one of the most dominant closers in the game, and will receive votes for the Cy Young.

Matt Chapman has walked away with the Gold Glove at third base and Matt Olson has 27 home runs at first. 

So many more have played well, but the A's would not be where they are without some surprises.

Lou Trivino made the club out of camp and -- outside of some recent hiccups -- he’s been about as important as any other player on the roster. Since getting a call-up in early August, Ramón Laureano is turning heads with both his play in center and his approach at the plate. And then there’s a 28-year-old rookie, Nick Martini, batting leadoff and playing left field after toiling in the minors for eight seasons.

“You need contributions like that from guys that you don’t expect,” Melvin said Saturday evening, ahead of a wild A's win. “You want your key guys to have good years or close to their numbers, but when you have guys that can come in that you didn’t expect, that makes your team that much better.”

Trivino's struggles are blips on the radar. Before the A’s stockpiled arms like Fernando Rodney, Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley around the trade deadline, the 26-year-old rookie was Oakland’s setup man. In the first half of the season, Trivino posted a 7-1 record with 1.22 ERA. Without his contributions, Oakland's season would have been over early.

Melvin said the team is working through some of Trivino’s recent struggles, and pointed to a lack of movement in his pitches and a few mechanical issues. There is no plan to move away from his high-90’s fastball as a bullpen option.

Dustin Fowler was supposed to be the center fielder of the future in Oakland, but that plan is on hold. Laureano’s arrival looked like nothing more than a short-term cup of coffee in the bigs, but he instantly caught the team's attention.

His catch and throw from deep center field against the Angels on Aug. 11 might go down as the defensive play of the year. With the bat, he’s managed to hold his own, hitting .295 with five home runs and 18 RBI in 146 plate appearances. 

“It’s so much fun in this clubhouse and everybody gets along so well,” Laureano said. “It’s not something that you set up, it just has to happen organically, like everyone’s together. That’s what we’ve got here. We’ve got something special for sure. ”

After playing 854 games at the minor league level, Martini finished Saturday’s game batting .295 with a .390 on base percentage. He’s made some highlight reel plays in left and his approach at the plate has helped set the table for the A’s big bats in the middle of the lineup. 

While he has plenty of confidence in his ability as a player, the gravity of his situation -- as well as Oakland's -- is not lost on Martini.

“It’s definitely crazy that I’m leading off on a team like this and in the hunt,” Martini said. “I’m super grateful for it.”

It’s a next-man-up mentality. In a game known for huge personalities, the A’s are putting their egos on the shelf and forging forward as a collective unit.

“That’s probably the underlined theme of this team that kind of makes us who we are is that everybody plays for the guy next to him, not necessarily themselves,” Melvin said.

Players like Mark Canha and Chad Pinder have been valuable members of the A’s squad as well, but there are times when they have had to take a back seat to the young guys. They’ve both found ways to make an impact, whether as a starter or coming off the bench. 

“Everyone buys in to the same thing, everyone just wants to win and wants to succeed at this level, everyone is willing to do what it takes to make that happen,” Martini said.

It’s not a fluke. As the sample size gets grows, the young A’s continue to prove that they are a team worthy of their record. They’ve held their own against the best baseball has to offer, and they are ready to do damage in the postseason.  

The all-for-one, one-for-all mentality has created a perfect storm in Oakland. A lot of credit goes to the veterans for creating the right culture in the clubhouse, but the production from the unexpected has helped make this a memorable season in Oakland. 

The front office will have a few tough decisions to make heading into the playoffs, but it’s clear that Trivino, Laureano and Martini have earned their spots on the postseason roster. 

A's notes: Oakland finds wild new way to walk off Twins

A's notes: Oakland finds wild new way to walk off Twins

OAKLAND — The A’s are so close they can taste it. After a Tampa Bay loss and a second straight win over the Minnesota Twins, Oakland is within a single game of clinching an American League playoff spot. 

Like most nights for Oakland, the 3-2 win came in dramatic fashion: Stephen Piscotty scored off of a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. 

--- Quality Start, Quality Starter: In a season where the A’s have struggled to keep arms glued onto their pitchers, Mike Fiers has been a revelation. Since coming over from the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 6, the 33-year-old starter is 5-1 with a 2.91 ERA. He didn’t get the win Saturday, but he was in line for it when he came out after six innings. It’s the fifth quality start for Fiers in an A’s uniform, and he’s allowed three runs or fewer in all but one game in green and gold. 

--- Shutting it Down: Blake Treinen improved to 9-2 on the season with a league-best 0.81 ERA (minimum 12 innings pitched). He’s added another 37 saves and stuck out a blistering 96 batters in 77.1 innings pitched. On the downside, Treinen gave up a two-out single in the ninth to Willians Astudillo, ending his hitless streak after 13.1 innings. 

--- Just Walk Off: Oakland has made habit out of the dramatic this season. This was the A's 10th walk-off win of the year, but first on a wild pitch since April 26, 1997. On that day, Damon Mashore scored the winning run to beat the Kansas City Royals 7-6 in the 11th.  With the win, the A’s moved to 33 games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 24, 2003.

--- Just Walk Away:  The Twins can’t catch a break. With another defeat in the final at-bat, the Twins have now fallen victim to a walk-off loss 15 times this season. It ties a club record set in 1964 for the most walk-off losses in a single season. 

--- Held at Home: Oakland came into the night having scored seven or more runs in eight straight home games. Over the stretch, the A’s scored 76 runs, averaging an impressive 9.5 runs per game at the Coliseum. They had a few chances to bust the game open on Saturday, but the Twins staff held them in check for most of the evening. The eight-game stretch was the longest in Athletics history. 

--- Best in Baseball: Since June 16, the A’s have the best record in baseball at 60-25. The Red Sox are second at 57-27.