I Love The 2017 Oakland A’s…Wherever They Are
It’s almost an annual tradition in Oakland. The Athletics fail in yet another attempt to combine youngsters and veterans to create a pennant winner. Seems the plot of the movie, “Major League” works best in the movies.
With failure comes boatload of changes as fan favorites, real talent, and we-hardly-knew-ye-but-you-wouldn’t-take-a-walk-if-your-life-depended-on-its are shipped out of town.
As they go to playoff contenders and the team drops eight in a row to end August and welcome September, a question poses itself inside my head:
“Putting aside salary caps and player opt-outs, what if the A’s actually kept their home-grown talent and what if they hadn’t traded away their best players?
What would those 2017 A’s look like?
Answer? Kinda old…but not bad. Not bad at all.
The team would be built around starting pitching, but would have plenty of fire power.
Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray would lead the rotation: 2-3 record, 2.70 ERA, 26 strikeouts, 13 walks, 1.200 walks/hits per innings pitched in return from injury. He was Oakland’s number one draft pick in 2011.
Second up: Washington’s Gio Gonzalez 13-6, 2.58 ERA, WHIP 1.139.
Third up: Boston’s Drew Pomeranz: 14-4, 3.23 ERA in 26 games, 142 Innings pitched, 149 K’s 57 BB’s.
Fourth: Jon Lester, who the A’s briefly had after the trade for Yoenis Cespedes. That ended with a nuclear implosion in the wild card game of the 2014 playoffs.
Lester’s won 38 games over the last three years with an average ERA below three-and-a-half. Though, the ol’ left lat tightness and shoulder fatigue landed him on the DL for ten days.
But that’s okay. we also have Miami’s Dan Straily: 8-8, 3.80 ERA, 138 K’s, 44 BBs, 23 HRs allowed and a 1.174 WHIP.
Fifth: San Francisco’s Jeff Samardzija : 4.43 ERA leads the team of Giants pitchers with at least 25 starts. The way things are going with the “juiced baseball” 4.43 for a fifth starter ain’t bad.
In the bullpen? How about Boston’s Fernando Abad: 2-0, 2.92 ERA in 37 games with a WHIP of 1.135. Sean
Doolittle hasn’t been bad either: 48 K’s, 7 BB’s and an ERA of 3.12 for the year.
Let’s be real. Not every player would have panned out for this year. But some have had pretty good success since leaving the gigantic confines of O.Co Colliseum.
Anaheim’s Huston Street is in his 13th season with 324 saves lifetime. He last pitched with Oakland in 2008. Until last year, had never had an ERA over 3.86 and that includes three years in Colorado. He’s out with an Injury this year.
And what about Tommy Milone? I railed against Beane when he traded Milone back in 2014, and though Milone had a solid 2015, he has started just 20 games in the last two years and has ERA’s of 5.71, 6.43, and 8.57 with his last three teams. He’s currently on the DL too.
Back to the field of fulfilled promises:
In left field, Matt Holliday is on the downside of a great career, spent mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies. It may even be a hall-of-fame career: .300 lifetime average as one of the game’s best hitters for more than a decade. Last year, he played half the season in the outfield. This year as the designated hitter for the Yanks at age 37. For the sake of argument, let’s stick him in left for the 2017 A’s. He has 18 HR’s and 55 RBI.
The only player still playing who had any success in center is Rajai Davis, but he’s not making this club, in part because he was already on the real 2017 team. Unfortunately, Davis’ on-base percentage was sub .300 before he was let go.
That’s okay. In our happy valley of unicorns and puppies, Houston’s Josh Reddick’s fits in quite nicely. He’s having another year: 303 average, 12 HRs, and 66 RBI’s in 115 games.
And in right field? How about Yoenis Cespedes: .292 average in 81 games, 17 HRs and an .892 OPS. Sure, he’s on the disabled list, but wouldn’t it have been nice to have him for half a season… or the last six for that matter with his 154 HRs and 495 RBI’s?
Toronto’s Josh Donaldson almost won the MVP his last year in Oakland before Beane traded him and the third baseman responded by going ahead and winning the MVP in 2015. He’s only been top-8 in MVP voting four times. No reason to keep that guy. Hitting .255 with 23 HRs and an .897 OPS in a down year.
At shortstop, the Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell. What was the point in drafting a shortstop of the future and then trading him? Only Beane knows. Russell ‘s a .240 hitter, granted. But, he has 20-HR-a-year power and has been top-five in defensive WAR each of his three years in the league. Bummer right now: he’s on the DL for three weeks for plantar-fascitis-like symptoms,
Over at second, Milwaukee’s Eric Sogard. The bespectacled one is hitting .285 in 200 at-bats and has a .394 on-base percentage. He was a fan favorite while in Oakland and now he’s raking as a Brewer.
Utility guy/platoon guy: Cliff Pennington. The Angel’s infielder has had some stinker years at the plate, but this year, he’s posting a .267 average and a .983 fielding percentage at shortstop. He played second for the team last year.
At first, Yonder Alonso: hit .266 with 22 Hrs and 49 RBis in 100 games.
And behind the plate, Milwaukee’s Stephen Vogt is hitting .316 in 22 games and has an OPS of .958 since being traded.
Now, a couple of those players with talent remain in Oakland and would start:
Designated hitter Ryon Healy, who has hit better than .300 for the last month and has 24 homers on the year.
Infielder: Jed Lowrie is steady as they come with a .278 average, 12 home runs and five errors in 500+ chances and Marcus Semien, who turned himself from a horrifically-bad shortstop into a serviceable one and who has 30-HR/year power.
And then there are the call ups, the no names, who so far have fared rather well: infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. They’re twins almost, hitting around .260 with a little pop.
Add in what could be a bonafide center fielder in Boog Powell who started off hitting barely over .190 for Seattle and now is hitting 100 points better in the green and gold.
So what would the 2017 A’s look like? A really good, fairly deep team with 90 wins, maybe 93? Maybe more.
Of course, we’ll never know…
So, the question now is, will this group of call-ups and veterans make a run next year? For all the grief Beane gets during the down years, it wasn’t that long ago the A’s were the toast of Oakland and would have done some serious damage in the playoffs were it not for a late inning meltdown in the 2014 Wild Card game.
Maybe next year, “Major League” will play out for real in the other city by the Bay.
Beane does know something about movies.