Oakland has had it rough. Forever overlooked, always the brunt of jokes, a revolving door of mediocre players.
Yet somehow, the A’s are at it again and find themselves back in the thick of the playoff hunt after winning 10 of their last 12 games. And doing it in style no less.
With Wednesday’s game tied in the bottom of the ninth, shortstop Brandon Hicks smacked his first career homerun of the centerfield wall to give the A’s the walk-off win, which has become this team’s speciality. In fact, of the A’s 10 wins in this stretch, 4 have come off of walk-off hits.
Looking at Oakland’s roster, it seems nothing short of a miracle that this team is only a game out of the wildcard. They lack any sort of a star player, represented in last week’s All-Star Game by relief pitcher Ryan Cook. In fact, the A’s have not had a position player make the All-Star team since Ramon Hernandez in 2003.
The A’s are relying almost exclusively on the one thing their offense does have: power. Right Fielder Josh Reddick is 1oth in the AL in home runs with 21, and has provided consistent offense in the middle of the order. Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Seth Smith, and Johnny Gomes have also contributed to the power game, with 42 homers between the four of them.
And given Oakland’s recent pitcher firesale in which Andrew Bailey, Gio Gonzalez, and Trevor Cahill were traded away, the A’s have been able to piece together a fairly decent pitching staff. Somehow, someway, Billy Beane appears to have done it again.
The Oakland GM made famous by Michael Lewis book Moneyball and last year’s film by the same name has made a career out of trading away promising young players and scrapping together a team full of undervalued players. The strategy worked for him in 2002 and it appears to be working again a decade later.
This A’s team is the product of the past decades work and the many trades Beane made.
in 2007, pitcher Dan Haren was traded to the Diamondbacks for multiple prospects, among them Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, and Chris Carter. Gonzalez was later traded to the Rockies, but Anderson has been a solid pitcher for Oakland for a few years (although he has been injured this season) and Carter, a recent call-up, has played well so far with 5 HRs and 9 RBI in 11 games, including a 3-run walk-off homer against Seattle.
Oakland acquired Reddick in the trade that sent Bailey to Boston, got Derek Norris back in the Gio Gonzalez (who was originally acquired for Nick Swisher in 2008) trade to the Nationals (Norris contributed one of the walk-off homeruns), and swapped Trevor Cahill for Ryan Cook.
This web of trades, combined with a shrewd drafting strategy over the years (most recently Jemile Weeks and Kurt Suzuki) and smart free agent signings of Brandon Inge, Coco Crisp, Cespedes, and Moss have allowed the A’s to put together yet another playoff contending team for cheap.
Only time will tell if this A’s team will force Brad Pitt and Columbia Pictures need to team up for a sequel.