The A's and Houston Astros have had enough on- and off-field tension to make next week's best-of-five ALDS at Dodger Stadium a monumentally mouth-watering matchup.
From the fallout of former Astros (and current A's) starting pitcher Mike Fiers blowing the whistle on Houston's sign-stealing strategies to an on-field brawl at Oakland Coliseum this season, you'd have every reason to expect tensions to be high when the two teams meet again with a spot in the ALCS on the line.
Well, unless you're watching from the A's executive offices or the clubhouse.
“Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, but I’m not quite buying into the whole grudge-match thing, you know?” A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on Friday.
“I’ve seen that out there a little bit. I think we’ve got a lot of respect for them and their players and certainly [Astros manager Dusty Baker], who some of us know very well. We had the little tiff early in the season, but I think that was kind of a one-off. I don’t think it was a result, at least in our mind it wasn’t a result of lingering dislike or anything like that."
The A's and Astros already put their differences aside on the field this season, walking off the field together on Aug. 28 in protest of a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in the back multiple times and, ultimately, leaving him paralyzed.
Baker, for his part, said the Astros aren't concerned with getting payback against Fiers. After shortstop Carlos Correa's comments this week, Houston seems far more driven by proving its doubters wrong than getting one over on Oakland.
That's only natural given the stakes, according to A's infielder Tommy La Stella.
"I don't know, necessarily, that any number of repetitions having played would do anything to that," La Stella told reporters Saturday when he was asked if the hard feelings over the Astros' sign-stealing scandal had subsided.
"I would say it's mostly that this series is incentivized enough with an opportunity to move on to the ALCS. I think that (tension) will always take a backseat for both teams."
Beane told Kawakami that he purposefully didn't say much about the Astros' sign-stealing revelations. The A's executive said he was confused as to why the Astros thought the strategy was necessary, but he never was angry about it and didn't want to "be part of the noise."
Ultimately, Beane felt any tension should be solved on the scoreboard.
“I just don’t like getting caught up in this stuff," Beane told Kawakami. "It gets addressed and you move on. In fact, I always thought, when you start seeing what it looks like, balls being thrown at the players, I’ve never liked that.
"The one thing I will say is that [A's manager Bob Melvin] always … he’d tell us, me and [general manager David Forst] about this. And so to his credit, everything Bob … he very much had his suspicions. But again, it’s not Bob’s style to go out there and squawk, either. You move on, let’s play the game, win on the field and go from there.”