Athletics

Why Bob Melvin has sky-high expectations for A's before 2020 season

Why Bob Melvin has sky-high expectations for A's before 2020 season

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's reported to spring training on time Monday morning for the preseason’s first full-squad engagement. This group, as assembled, is stacked.

It doesn’t take advanced stats experts to see the 2020 crew is loaded with talent, depth and the superstars required to improve upon back-to-back 97-win seasons. That’s even true in an improved AL West and at a point on the calendar where hope springs eternal.

Manager Bob Melvin was quick to point to another reason for extreme optimism this season.

It starts with the A's superstars setting a proper tone throughout the organization. Their work ethic, Melvin said, proves contagious.

“We have a bunch of guys like that, whether it’s Matt Olson or Matt Chapman or Marcus Semien, those guys set the tone for how we do things around here,” Melvin said Monday morning. “When you have younger players coming up or new players coming in and they see how our top guys work, they have no choice to work the same way.

"It’s great when your best players are the hardest workers.”

Those players can absolutely mash. That was clear during the first full-squad workout. Several have been around taking swings in recent days but seeing so many established veterans alternating through the cages around Lew Wolff Training Complex certainly creates belief the A's can score with anybody in 2020. Pair that with a legit frontline starting rotation and All-Star closer Liam Hendricks and even Melvin can see a clear path to great things this season.

Melvin has been around a long time and managed a lot of good baseball teams. His expectations for this group are sky high. He made that clear in his opening speech to the full squad here in major league camp.

“We always discuss in our first meeting what our goals and expectations are,” Melvin said. “We try to keep those to ourselves but, when you have two seasons with 97 wins and 97 wins and you feel like we have a better team this year, yeah I think our expectations are pretty high.”

[RELATED: Why Canha rightfully was named to MLB.com's All-Underrated Team]

Vegas oddsmakers set the over-under line at 89.5 wins for these A's, a significant sum that would put them back in serious contention for a third straight postseason berth. They’ll be gunning for a division title after two straight wild-card berths where the season died out in a one-game playoff.

This largely established group is focused on staying healthy and intact for when the games actually count. That doesn’t mean they’re content to sit back this spring and wait for good times to roll. The grind continues for the entire team as it works to become more versatile.

The A's are placing emphasis on situational hitting this spring, possible going against the grain for a team that as historically liked walks and big blasts.

That will be important in working through offensive slumps like the A’s experienced near last season’s end.

“You can bludgeon teams at times, but there will be times where we go through offensive droughts as a team,” Melvin said. “The defense is always going to be there, but if we can win some games situationally by getting guys over and getting guys in by putting some focus on that, the team will be better because of it.

"We’ll continue to emphasize that.”

Marcus Semien says A's have no room for error in shortened MLB season

Marcus Semien says A's have no room for error in shortened MLB season

Coming off back-to-back 97-win seasons, the A's entered 2020 with aspirations of competing for a World Series title.

Those dreams have been put on hold by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The start of the 2020 MLB season has been delayed until health officials deem it safe for people to leave their homes and gather in large groups.

While MLB and the Players' Association agreed to a number of items regarding the 2020 season, no one knows when regular-season games will be played or how many games the 2020 season will contain.

In the eyes of shortstop Marcus Semien, that shouldn't be a problem for the A's but starting hot will be key.

"We definitely have the talent, the arms, the depth," Semien told The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser on Friday on "The A's Plus" podcast. "You know, it's going to be interesting. Everything is hypothetical right now, so if there's a half-season, you know, three months, whatever, whatever the season length is, we like our chances. It's just different.

"You gotta get off to a better start, I would assume with the shortened season. In the past, we've had slow starts. I don't think there's any room for error there. You gotta come out to a better start."

Based on how the last two seasons played out, Semien is right. If there only is an 81-game season, it could be more difficult for the A's.

Through 81 games in 2018 and 2019, the A's had identical 43-38 records. Both teams were in third place in the AL West and not in possession of a wild-card spot at the completion of Game No. 81.

But both teams finished strong, going 54-27 over the final 81 games both seasons.

[RELATED: How simulated A's Opening Day game went]

If MLB were to shorten the 2020 season to just 81 games, the A's wouldn't have the ability to go on a second-half run.

If the A's don't start the season playing well, they likely will fail to achieve their goal of hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy.

A's pitcher Liam Hendriks says friend died of coronavirus in emotional post

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USATSI

A's pitcher Liam Hendriks says friend died of coronavirus in emotional post

Liam Hendriks' friend died of the coronavirus, the A's pitcher revealed in a post on his Instagram story Thursday.

Courtesy: @Hendriks_31/Instagram

Conrad Buchanan, a Brooklyn-based musician who used the DJ name "Griff Gotti," posted last week on his Facebook page that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Hendriks wrote that Buchanan was survived by his wife and daughter.

"And I implore you: PLEASE take this virus seriously," Hendriks wrote in his post. "Stay home not only for your health, but for the sake of others as well."

The number of deaths in the United States linked to the coronavirus surpassed 1,000 on Thursday, and NBC News reporting has confirmed over 82,000 cases nationwide. State and local governments, including California, have issued shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders in order to halt the virus' spread.