For those of us in the Heartland or on the Right Coast who believed the Oakland A’s peaked with the “Moneyball” movie, it has been easy enough to scoff these last few years. The feel-good film ending where Billy Beane turns down the Boston Red Sox has not looked like his best move. He may have been in the forefront of an attitude revolution about the best use of players, but when other teams with more money saw the advantages, Beane and Oakland were pretty much doomed.
Over the last couple of seasons it seemed as if the A’s traded off just about every player whose name we knew to acquire prospects. It appeared to be a gesture of futility. No more than three or four weeks ago I took the A’s to be one of the most hopeless teams in the majors this year, one written off as a contender even in a season of expanded playoff opportunities.
But now they are worth a second look. Employing players few of us know much about and locking in with youth, Oakland is looking like a resurgent team. Just a few days ago the A’s concluded a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And while it is too soon to view the A’s as a team that can threaten the Rangers or Angels over the long season in the American League West, the squad is knocking on the door of .500.
Although he really hasn’t done that much for the big club yet, my favorite potential success story among A’s players is Sean Doolittle. During the earliest days of his career, in high school in New Jersey, and at the University of Virginia, the left-handed throwing Doolittle was both an outstanding hitter and pitcher. The A’s saw him as a first baseman-outfielder when he was drafted in 2007.
However, Doolittle has been injury prone, including two knee surgeries, and he was on the slow track to nowhere, missing almost two full seasons. In 2011, the decision was made to remake Doolittle as a pitcher and voila, earlier this month he was promoted to the Major League roster. At the moment, although his ERA is over 5.00, Doolittle is 1-0.
Among the starters, Tommy Milone has won seven games, the A’s have milked good useage out of aged Bartolo Colon, and Brandon McCarthy is hinting at the stardom long-ago predicted for him. Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook anchor the bullpen. Still, the A’s don’t have much firepower in the batting order. Josh Reddick, acquired from the Red Sox in a trade, has flourished, but there are not enough big bats. Touted Cuban acquisition Yoenis Cespedes has been solid, but not great, helpful, but not a guy who can carry a team.
The A’s are after a new ballpark and a shift to San Jose, which may or may not cure some of the team’s ills. More importantly, this youthful core cannot languish. If the A’s are to have any credibility with their fans they must keep building, not merely recycling young players who go off and have the best years of their lives elsewhere.
It would be nice to see the A’s actually finish above .500, but locking in with players and commitment to the future is critical.
Topics: Bartolo Colon, Billy Beane, Boston Red Sox, Brandon McCarthy, Grant Balfour, Josh Reddick, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Moneyball, Oakland A's, Ryan Cook, San Jose, Sean Doolittle, Texas Rangers, Tommy Mione, University Of Virginia