It’s just over the halfway point in the season and the Oakland Athletics are one game under .500 entering a huge home series against the Mariners. With a series win, the A’s will have the same number of losses as they will wins; with a sweep, their victories will exceed their defeats. Either way, the A’s have proven that they are not a team to be overlooked.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s pretty amazing how expectations dictate how we view the relative success of a season. I think most everyone figured the A’s would be fighting for third place at this point. But every time they go on a losing streak, they counter it by winning eight out of ten and get right back in it.
You hear words like resilience, grit, toughness, blue-collar, and chemistry. But I want to emphasize another word: hope.
And not hope meaning this is a team of destiny, or hope that they can become a Cinderella story, or even that this team will make the playoffs this year. I’m talking about hope for the future. The baseball world laughed in General Manager Billy Beane’s face when he made questionable off-season trade after questionable off-season trade. But as the season progresses, each of those trades is proving more successful than the last.
Acquisitions like Seth Smith and Josh Reddick are a big part of a much improved offense. Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks are finally getting hot with the weather. Brandon Moss, one of the better stories in the majors right now, and Chris Carter are finally filling the power void over at first base. And with Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup, the A’s are just a different team. He is a special talent.
Then there is the stellar pitching staff that goes seemingly eight guys deep. Jarrod Parker looks like an Ace in the making. Tom Milone looks as good or better than Braden, A.J. Griffin reminds me of Joe Blanton and will be valuable in any rotation. Bartolo Colon is the consummate professional. Brandon McCarthy would be in the Cy Young discussion if he could stay healthy. Who saw Travis Blackley coming? And more help is on the way. Dan Strailey is knocking on the door at AAA and Brett Anderson is set to start a rehab assignment soon.
I guess my point is this: With the second wild card this year, the A’s are still very much in the playoff race, something no one predicted coming into the season. But more importantly, with the pieces they have now, and the pieces they have coming up in the next year or two, the A’s are set up to compete sooner rather than.
The Rangers and Angels are better than the A’s. I can’t argue otherwise. But the perceived gap between the A’s and those other teams is significantly smaller than any of us could have guessed in spring training. This is the hope to which I’m referring. With all the negativity surrounding the stadium situation, this group of players has given the fans the hope for the future and a reason to forget all that other stuff and just have fun watching baseball. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
More Prospect Updates: Last week I gave some midseason updates on some of the A’s top prospects. Here are a few more.
- A.J. Cole- I touched on Cole last time and pointed out that he has been a big disappointment so far, though his numbers were improving. Well, since I wrote that he’s made two appearances and pitched 12 innings giving up a total of 1 earned run while striking out 18. I guess he’s moved on from that slow start.
- Addison Russell- the A’s first round pick this year is hitting an incredible .448/.600/.724 in his first nine professional games.
- Michael Ynoa- The once highly touted pitcher from the Dominican Republic has had his career derailed by injuries. Still just 20, he’s just starting to pitch in some games professionally. It certainly doesn’t put him back on the prospect map, but he’s pitching so that’s nice to see.
Up Next: Just like last year, I’m working on a mid-season report for the entire A’s team. This year’s version will look a little different. I should have it up by Monday.
About the Author
Written by Josh Muller
My name is Josh Muller. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and currently live in San Francisco. I watch sports religiously and organize my calender year to coincide with baseball season. I'm a diehard A's and Warriors fan, love talking sports all day and believe that the words "Opening Day" are the two greatest in the English language.