Athletics

Why A's will be parading World Series trophy through Oakland by 2022

Why A's will be parading World Series trophy through Oakland by 2022

OAKLAND -- Wait till next year.

Those four words have unfortunately become the A's mantra over the last 30 years. But this time, it feels different.

With the talent the A's have in place for the next handful of seasons, this is truly the best chance they've had to win a World Series since their last title in 1989.

Let's begin with the starting rotation, a group once considered the weakness of the team. Now, all of a sudden, it's shaping up to be one of the best in baseball.

Think about this -- Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers -- the A's No. 1 and 2 starters to end this season -- could very easily be their fourth and fifth starters next year. That's because Oakland's first-half ace Frankie Montas will be back from his PED suspension, while top prospects Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk are poised to be "stars," as manager Bob Melvin put it.

"We really feel good about the group here," Melvin said. "I believe everybody in that room thinks we will be better next year."

Added general manager David Forst: "You look around that room and see the possibilities going beyond. We're definitely in a different place than we were a year ago after this game, where we were creating a rotation from scratch, almost. Now we have depth on both sides -- position players and pitching -- so it does help you look forward to 2020."

Luzardo, in particular, is endlessly exciting. The hard-throwing left-hander just turned 22 this week, and already, he looks like an ace. Luzardo dominated hitters with his high-90s fastball and a soul-stealing slider, allowing just two runs on six hits in 15 innings, with 20 strikeouts.

Montas, 26, has also shown the ability to dominate opposing lineups. In 16 starts this season, the right-hander went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Most importantly, Montas looked just as sharp following the PED suspension, limiting the Angels to one run on four hits in six innings, with six strikeouts, as his fastball touched 98 mph.

At 6-foot-7, Puk has already earned comparisons to Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. The 24-year-old southpaw pitched 11 1/3 innings for the A's with a 3.18 ERA and 13 strikeouts after missing the previous year due to Tommy John surgery.

Luzardo, Puk and Montas are all under team control for at least the next four years, while Manaea has three more years of arbitration control. In other words, good luck scoring against Oakland before 2023.

That brings us to the lineup. The A's ranked fifth in MLB with 257 home runs this season, a franchise record, and eighth with 845 runs scored. The scary part is that both of those numbers will likely go up next year.

Oakland returns its top seven hitters and has the option to retain its entire starting lineup. In fact, sluggers Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Ramón Laureano are all under team control through at least 2023, with each still approaching his prime.

Then there's the even younger crop of talent -- prospects like Sean Murphy, Sheldon Neuse and Jorge Mateo. All three enjoyed tremendous seasons in Triple-A, with Murphy and Neuse finding late-season success in the majors.

Oakland's lineup will continue to strike fear into opposing pitchers for years to come, while simultaneously racking up Gold Gloves on defense.

[RELATED: A's plan to focus on situational hitting in spring training]

The A's also have excellent leadership, both on and off the field. Oakland's clubhouse is one of the most cohesive units in the league, thanks in large part to Melvin, but also because of the players. Chapman, in particular, has already developed into a team leader, even at the young age of 26.

"From the minute he got here, he showed leadership qualities," Melvin praised. "I remember when he first got here, during his first half-season here when we were struggling, he told me, 'This is the first losing team I've ever played on and it's going to be the last losing team I ever play on, too.' To this point, he's right. But that's the type of guy he is. His expectation, first and foremost, is to win and to get the most out of himself and his teammates, and that's what leaders do."

So while the sting of Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game defeat will linger in the days and weeks to come, there are brighter days ahead. Mark it down, A's fans -- the Green and Gold will be parading a World Series trophy through the streets of Oakland by 2022.

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

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AP

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

Yankees star Aaron Judge tweeted "Wait... what....?"

He was quote-tweeting the SportsCenter account that possessed a story on how the Houston Astros used a camera in center field during their 2017 World Series run to assist in stealing signs electronically.

The original story Passan aggregated from was via The Athletic by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich. 

Mike Fiers was on that Astros team and earned a ring of his own. Now, a member of the A's, he not only confirmed the setup of technology but commented on how it was affecting the game. 

“I don’t know if we really had any hard proof, but I’m sure there was (some evidence of other teams’ conduct),” Fiers told The Athletic. “Going into the playoffs, we had veterans like Brian McCann -- we went straight to multiple signs (with our pitchers). We weren’t going to mess around. We were sure there were teams out there that were trying certain things to get an edge and win ballgames. I wouldn’t say there was hard evidence. But it’s hard to catch teams at home. There are so many things you can use to win at home.”

Fiers then added how there were some guys who didn't like it as they would prefer to know what was coming, but there were guys that benefitted as well.

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said. 

After the story hit, the Astros released the following statement:

A former player told NBC Sports California on Tuesday most teams participate in stealing signs electronically, but the Astros will flirt with the system.

"The Astros are super talented," the player said. "But ... they will do whatever they need to do to get an edge."

[RELATED: Daniel Hudson potential trade target for A's]

"In my honest opinion, they got beat by their old bench coach Alex Cora," the player said. "He knew all the Astros secrets, weaknesses, everything. Then, this year it seemed like the Astros only hit well when pitchers were tipping pitches. It happened with [Stephen] Strasburg the first two innings of Game 6. He cleaned it up in between innings and Houston couldn't hit him."

"Teams steal signs, it's been happening for years," the former player added. "Astros take it to another level."

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

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USATSI

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

Stephen Vogt could be staying in the Bay Area after all. But the catcher might choose a reunion over the option to continue wearing a Giants jersey.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday morning that the A's have contacted the agent for the free-agent catcher.

Vogt, 35, proved to be fully healthy after what was once seen as potentially career-threatening shoulder surgery. After missing the entire 2018 season, Vogt was one of the Giants' most reliable bats this past season. 

The veteran catcher signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February, and went on to be a steal for San Francisco. He played in 99 games, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 40 RBI as a spot starter and backup to Buster Posey. Vogt also played seven games in left field last season. 

Vogt became somewhat of a cult hero over his four-and-a-half seasons in Oakland. He broke through as a 30-year-old for the A's in 2015 when he made his first of back-to-back All-Star Game appearances. 

The left-handed hitting catcher had a .255 batting average with 49 homers in 458 games with the A's. Even as someone who turned 35 on Nov. 1, he could be the perfect fit for an Oakland reunion. 

Adding Vogt likely would be the end of the Josh Phegley era. The A's have one of the best young catchers in the game in Sean Murphy, and could pair the 25-year-old right-handed hitter with Vogt, a veteran lefty. 

[RELATED: Vogt's championship desires might hinder Giants return in 2020]

Vogt could start games here and there behind the dish, as well as at DH, play left field and even first base, while being an incredibly serviceable bat off the bench. He hit .325 with two homers in 43 games off the bench for the Giants last season.

At this stage of his career, Vogt has one thing on his mind: A World Series ring. The A's could fit his desires while keeping him in the Bay Area on the team that truly gave him his first chance.