Athletics

Naming Coliseum field after Henderson 'a fitting tribute'

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AP

Naming Coliseum field after Henderson 'a fitting tribute'

Rickey Henderson is looking forward to spending more time around the Oakland Coliseum field that the A’s have named after him.

The Hall of Fame left fielder said he was surprised and honored when he got the call that the Coliseum playing surface would be christened “Rickey Henderson Field,” describing himself as “a kid that grew up in Oakland who never thought he’d get a field named after him, especially a major league field.”

Speaking with reporters on a conference call Tuesday, Henderson said he’s looking forward to beginning his role as a special assistant to team president Dave Kaval, though he also wants to continue working as a roving instructor for A’s minor leaguers, as he’s done for several years now.

The A’s will dedicate the field in an Opening Night ceremony April 3, before hosting the Los Angeles Angels. Look for the team to make more gestures to spotlight the legends who have worn green and gold. Some of the strongest feedback Kaval said he’s gotten during his one-on-one meetings with fans is a desire for the A’s to honor their heritage more.

The A’s previously announced they’re remodeling their in-stadium Bar & Grille and will re-brand it Shibe Park Tavern, a nod to their home stadium in Philadelphia.

“We have one of the most storied histories (in the major leagues), and I think it’s important to honor those players and historic teams, and do all we can at the Coliseum, and do all we can to transport that to the new ballpark,” Kaval said.

Naming the field after Henderson, the majors’ all-time leader in runs and stolen bases, was a natural.

“Obviously Rickey is the greatest player we’ve ever had in the history of the Athletics,” Kaval said. “It just seems such a fitting tribute to Oakland, to someone who’s done so much for the club and the community. It just felt right in so many ways.”

Kaval said he values Henderson’s opinions as someone who knows how players think, and what fans would want in a new ballpark. The A’s have narrowed their ballpark search down to four locations in Oakland — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, another site near Howard Terminal, and Laney College.

Team officials got a tour of Howard Terminal last week — at least the second time the A’s have toured that potential site. Holding the team’s recent FanFest at Jack London Square, a short walk from Howard Terminal’s waterfront site, also acted as a good “test run” for the site, Kaval said.

In light of the Warriors’ plan to move to San Francisco and the Raiders’ efforts to bolt for Las Vegas, Henderson said he’s pleased to see the A’s looking to stay in Oakland. He played on the 1989 World Series championship squad and made reference to some of the other winning teams he played on.

“I’m very excited just to be a part of an organization that’s willing to go out and improve the club,” Henderson said. “… We brought success here, and I think that’s what Dave is doing now. The biggest thing is, yes, we deserve a new ballpark and the fans deserve to come out to a new ballpark.”

Why A's should pass on outfielder Michael Brantley in free agency

Why A's should pass on outfielder Michael Brantley in free agency

Michael Brantley surely will be a hot commodity this offseason.

The 31-year-old outfielder has made back-to-back All-Star Games, slashing .309/.364/.468 this past season with 17 home runs, 36 doubles and 76 RBI. In 10 career seasons, all with the Cleveland Indians, he has a slash line of .295/.351/.430.
 
While Brantley figures to be a solid addition to whatever team he joins in free agency, the A's don't need any help in the outfield. Between Stephen Piscotty, Ramón Laureano, Nick Martini, Mark Canha, Chad Pinder and Dustin Fowler, Oakland is set for years to come.
 
Brantley might provide a slight upgrade in left field, but even that is uncertain. Throughout his career, he has averaged 13 homers and 81 RBI per 162 games, with a .781 OPS. Compare that to A's left fielders last season, who notched 18 home runs and 61 RBI with a .761 OPS. Pretty close, right?
 
Oakland's current outfielders also own the advantage of youth. Sure, Brantley still is in his prime, but he's probably on the back end. Meanwhile, all six of the A's aforementioned outfielders are 28 or younger. Laureano, Pinder and Fowler, in particular, have tremendous upside and could reach Brantley's level in the near future. Piscotty already is there.
 
Then, of course, you also have to look at salaries. Brantley earned $12 million last season and is projected to receive around $15 million per year in his next contract. The A's six outfielders will make less than that combined.
 
Oakland's outfield is in great shape for the next several years. Any major free agent discussions should begin and end with starting pitching.

For those reasons, the A's should respectfully pass on Brantley.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Monday is dedicated to Nationals slugger Bryce Harper.
How Brantley could help solve one of the Giants' biggest issues
Why Phillies should pursue Brantley if they whiff on Harper

Does Brantley really fit the White Sox's long-term plan?

A's Bob Melvin should be 2018 AL Manager of the Year, and here's why

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AP

A's Bob Melvin should be 2018 AL Manager of the Year, and here's why

Any other season, Alex Cora and Kevin Cash would have been worthy recipients of the American League Manager of the Year Award, which will be handed out Tuesday.

Cora led the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 wins and a World Series championship in his first season on the job. Cash guided the Rays to a surprising 90-win season, marking a 10-win improvement from 2017.

But in 2018, Bob Melvin was in a league of his own.

The A's manager took a team with the lowest payroll in baseball and led it to the fourth-best record in the league at 97-65, a remarkable 22-game improvement from the previous year. Perhaps most impressive, he essentially did it without a starting rotation.

Injuries forced Melvin to use 15 different starting pitchers, an A's franchise record. Oakland lost a whopping 10 starters -- Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, A.J. Puk, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Andrew Triggs, Daniel Gossett, Paul Blackburn, Daniel Mengden and Kendall Graveman -- to injury, seven of them season-ending. Yet somehow the A's kept winning.

Melvin refused to let his players use the injuries as an excuse. He adapted, and so did they. Melvin relied more heavily on his bullpen, often pulling his starting pitcher before the fifth inning. He also managed his position players brilliantly, using his entire bench and keeping everyone focused whether they started or not.

Before the season, not even the most optimistic A's fan could have expected a playoff berth. Oakland was coming off three consecutive last-place finishes in the AL West. Sure, the team had talent, but it was young and inexperienced, probably two years away from contention. Then Melvin found the perfect balance between fun and focus, demanding hard work from his players while still allowing them to be themselves.

A Manager of the Year nomination is nothing new for Melvin, who already has won the award twice, first in 2007 with the Diamondbacks and again in 2012 with the A's. He's one of just 14 managers to win the award multiple times, and one of six to do it in each league.

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Cora likely will be Melvin's toughest competition this year, but just look at the talent on the Red Sox's roster. Boston entered the season with the second-highest payroll in baseball at over $206 million, more than tripling Oakland's $63 million.

Yes, Cora won the ultimate prize with a World Series trophy. But Manager of the Year is a regular-season award, and Melvin's accomplishments then were unparalleled.