The Athletics just completed their 54th season in Oakland, and ended a streak of three straight trips to the playoffs. This time around, the frustrations of a campaign cut short are amplified by what should have been, combined with the questions of what comes next.
Below is an overall view of the last six months.
What went right
-- Chris Bassitt was having a Cy Young-caliber season before being struck with a line drive on Aug. 17. His recovery from surgery in five weeks was a testament to personality and perseverance in itself, but well before that it was clear: Oakland’s ace was on his game in 2021, both on and off the field.
-- Matt Olson improved his batting average by 80 points, cut strikeouts in half from last season and flirted with 40 homers for the first time. His 39 dingers were a new career high, in addition to surpassing the 100 RBI mark for the first time. Don’t be surprised if Olson also finds a third Gold Glove on his mantle as well.
-- The trade deadline was Oakland’s best in the last 20 years. Starling Marte, Josh Harrison, Yan Gomes and Andrew Chafin might not have been the headline names on the market, but they were the perfect puzzle pieces to a team with some needs.
What went wrong
-- Streakiness plagued the A’s more than they benefitted from it. For example, during a most critical 25-game stretch of the season from Sept. 3 to Sept. 29, Oakland did this: Lose four, win three, lose three, win five, lose four, win three and lose three.
-- Oakland’s bullpen went full circle in 2021, from a question mark to an exclamation point, ending with more questions than answers. In the months of August and September, it seemed like no lead was saf and there wasn’t just one individual suffering through the late innings. They ended up blowing 28 saves in 2021. Oakland spent the entire season without Trevor Rosenthal, who was expected to close games on a one-year, $12 million contract.
-- The Seattle Mariners beat the A's in 15 of 19 tries, including the final 12 games in a row. Eleven of those 15 losses came by two runs or fewer. Had the A’s reversed just half of those results they’d be in the playoffs right now.
-- The offense all season struggled with consistency and runners in scoring position and led MLB in the devastating stat of solo home runs. Oakland also hit under .240 as a team for just the fourth time in the last 54 seasons.
What comes next
-- Will the A’s retool or overhaul their roster? The streak of three straight playoff appearances have been noticeable across Oakland’s last 20-plus years, and their core of players under team control is one year closer to free agency. No matter what, it seems like the bullpen is a place to start -- adding more velocity and closing capability.
-- Labor issues could impact every team this winter, with MLB’s current CBA expiring on Dec. 1, 2021. There are known issues of contention between the players and league, and no guarantee all will get resolved to start spring training on time.
-- Stadium decisions remain a top priority for A’s fans, above all else. While the team and city still remain apart on a binding agreement, the next public move relies on Alameda County’s commitment to the IFD (Infrastructure Financing District) at Howard Terminal. There’s no question Oakland’s waterfront remains the frontrunner in this process, but if Las Vegas can be narrowed down to a single site by Opening Day 2022, the plot will become uncomfortably thick.