Athletics

Why ex-A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell rejected spring training return offer

Why ex-A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell rejected spring training return offer

Bruce Maxwell had a chance to return to MLB.

The former A's catcher -- who became a national symbol for the sport by being the first player to kneel during the national anthem -- was told Oakland wanted to bring him in this spring when the team's depth at the position appeared minimal.

But Maxwell turned down the offer, as he still feels the pain of seeing the reaction to his protest from around the baseball world. He felt the offer was a courtesy to his agent, former A's star and NBC Sports California analyst Dave Stewart.

"I didn't feel there was a real want for me," Maxwell says. "I told Dave, 'I don't want a job because you're my agent.' I didn't want to be a charity case. I think Dave thinks I made a mistake, and I respect that, but here's the real: I still had a lot of pent-up feelings about being there, and as I told Dave, I didn't want to mess up his reputation if I walked in there and couldn't make it work. I just kept asking myself if I wanted to be subjected to all that again, walking in there, with everyone wondering what my face meant and if they were going to judge me because I wasn't as cheerful as they wanted me to be, or they were just waiting to call me a failure if I didn't play well. I didn't need it. They did a favor for Dave."

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Stewart told ESPN he didn't agree with Maxwell, saying that the choice was all Maxwell's when it came to his return to MLB.

"Bruce couldn't get past his ego. That's why he's not in the major leagues," Stewart says. "I told him, 'You have to humble yourself sometime.' He wasn't willing to do that. I had to go back to the A's and tell them we weren't going to be able to work something out."

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

A's executive vice president Billy Beane reflected on the opportunity, emphasizing that he's always had a soft spot for Maxwell.

"I certainly have a personal and professional relationship with Stew, and we have an affinity for Bruce because we drafted him," Beane says. "But this has always been who we are. We liked him as a player, and we've always been able to adjust to unique personalities. Would we do Stew a favor? Yes, he had a credit bank with us, but that's not why we did it. Bruce worked hard to be a major league-level player. He is a major league player, and Stew's right: We don't just hand out major league jobs."

The A's selected Maxwell in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft, going No. 62 overall. He began his protest near the end of 2017 and played one more season in Oakland before entering free agency in 2018. He's played the past two baseball seasons with Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican Baseball League. Maxwell slashed .240/.314/.347 with five home runs over 412 career MLB plate appearances with the A's.

Even in spite of the consequences, Maxwell sounds content with his choices.

"The last three years of my life have been hell. I lost my money, my job, my wife, and I've finally gotten to a place where I could figure myself out," he says. "When I came down here, all eyes were on me, without backlash. Honestly, I've never been happier. I busted my ass to become myself. I like myself now, and this opportunity here, nobody gave it to me. I earned it. I finally feel like I belong somewhere, and I cannot put that aside right now. My happiness makes me money, 'cause when I'm happy, nobody can touch me. People love me unconditionally down here, unlike in the States."

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Austin Allen’s single to score Matt Chapman in the bottom of the 13th set the things up for Marcus Semien in the A’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Semien sealed the deal with a walk-off single to center field. Semien smiled celebrated with an ice bath from Tony Kemp. It was a much-need victory over the Astros for both Semien and the A's.

For Semien, the big hit was a long time coming. 

“For me, it’s trying to be on time,” Semien told reporters following the 13-inning game. “I’ve been struggling with my timing a little bit, so just being on time, and same thing with Austin. Like I said, that guy was getting guys to chase up, so anything that is hard and a little lower, just attack it. I put a lot of work in earlier in the day just trying to hit line drives to the opposite field and it’s a good feeling when it clicks because for a while it hadn’t been clicking.”

Semien wasn’t hitting the ball hard, he explained. And when that happens, there’s a reason for it.  

“My stroke feels good, but sometimes it’s approach, sometimes it’s timing -- body position, a lot of things that could be,” Semien added. “That’s what early work is for, cage work. Once you get in the game, you just have to compete.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Semien said he has to create habits that work.

“It’s tough because you think you have to tinker with everything,” Semien added.

Semien wasn’t sure what that tinkering would consist of: Would he need to work on his swing? Not necessarily. The timing was definitely a factor, but Semien also believes opposing teams were attacking him differently.

That seems to be the case when he leaves a third-place AL MVP season behind him in 2019.

“They’re being more careful, you saw that with Texas,” Semien said. “I’m trying to take the low pitches, sometimes they’re calling them, and you just find yourself in 0-for-3 like that. I think today was a good day to build off.”

“They know last year I put up some good numbers and you’re not getting as much to hit. You think that you’re just going to get the same pitches that they threw last year and that’s part of it, kind of created some bad habits early on. Even since spring and Summer Camp, just hadn’t really been driving the ball well.” 

Semien said he’s working on that every day. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

“Marcus, I think has set the tone and built the culture here,” A’s starter Chris Bassitt told reporters during his postgame availability. “Obviously I think [Matt] Chapman and [Matt] Olson and those guys have caught on to just the work ethic that Semien brings every single day.”

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Bassitt himself had a good outing, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings. That brings his total to just two earned runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings this season. But this wasn’t about him at the moment despite his solid outing in the 13-inning game. He wanted to give Semien his moment.

“It’s not a matter of when [Semien] walks up to the plate, but whenever he does, you know you are getting the best effort from him every single night,” Bassitt said. “Doesn’t matter what at-bat, what inning. Anytime he walks up with the game on the line, I’m extremely confident in him.”

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in walk-off win over Astros

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in walk-off win over Astros

BOX SCORE

It’s a series the A’s and their fans have been looking forward to since November, and the first game lived up to the hype.

The A's hosted the Houston Astros on Friday for the first time since a sign-stealing scandal was revealed, and Oakland won 3-2 on a walk-off single Marcus Semien in the 13th inning.

Austin Allen’s single to left field tied the game ahead of Semien’s game-winning hit. 

Despite no fans being in attendance, the A’s faithful made their presence known. 

An A's fan created a GoFundMe account to have a plane flyover the Coliseum with a "Houston Asterisk" sign being towed behind it to troll the Astros.

Astros starter Zack Greinke made himself comfortable in the stands among the cardboard cutouts in between innings, something you’re only allowed to get away with in 2020.

Here’s what you might have missed on Friday night: 

Typical Laureano

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Laureano hit a ball to center fielder Myles Straw, who fell onto his back which caused the ball to roll all the way to the wall. Laureano ended up with a triple, but would stay there as Matt Olson and Matt Chapman struck out, and Mark Canha flew out.

Laureano has been on a roll all season long. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bassitt’s back

Facing Jose Altuve in the fifth inning, Bassitt unleashed his long, slow curve ball on the fifth pitch of the at-bat to get the Astros second baseman to fly out to right field.

It’s a pitch manager Bob Melvin has discussed before and it’s perfect to throw to keep batters off balance, which is exactly what Altuve did landing on his knee after he swung at it. That pitch averaged around 71.4 mph on the night. The velocity, of course, doesn’t matter, but it made its presence known.

Bassitt went seven innings and allowed three hits, one earned run while walking three and striking out three.

[RELATED: Don't expect A's to retaliate against Astros]

Grossman’s adjustment pays off

Robbie Grossman hit a solo shot, his first homer of the season. in the bottom of the seventh inning. He had been working on an adjustment since spring training and while he wasn’t specific as to what it was, it’s been working.

It was a game-changing home run, so whatever it was, it’s paying off. 

Still, once again, the A’s continue to depend on the home runs. This ended up being the reason why the game went into extras.