At the beginning of the season, talk around baseball concerning the best starting rotations in the big leagues likely won’t focus on the A’s. But the talk should trend westward because the A’s have the arms, all healthy for once, to orchestrate Oakland’s third consecutive postseason appearance.
The A’s, winners of 97 games each of the last two seasons, will at the minimum enter 2020 with one of MLB’s best young starting rotations. Four of the five starters will be 28 or younger — Sean Manaea (28), Frankie Montas (27), A.J. Puk (24) and Jesus Luzardo (22).
They throw hard. They throw strikes. And backing up ace Mike Fiers (34), they have the A’s in position for a third straight October of playing baseball.
It doesn’t hurt that the best defense in franchise history plays behind those pitchers, anchored by third baseman Matt Chapman, shortstop Marcus Semien and first baseman Matt Olson, all of whom have 30-homer potential to add to their bottom-line balance sheets.
With Manaea, Puk, DH Khris Davis, center fielder Ramon Laureano and right fielder Steve Piscotty healthy again and Montas back from his violation of MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy, small-payroll Oakland figures to fight toe to toe with its bigger-spending brethren.
Opposing Scouts Size Up the A's
“The division has gotten better, so it’ll be harder for the A’s to start slow and rally again. But I really like this team. They have a contact rotation, and they’re built to turn balls into outs like crazy with that defense. Marcus Semien has really improved at shortstop, and third baseman Matt Chapman might be the best defender in the game — great reads, great hands, great arm, and you can tell he never takes a pitch off. They shift a lot, and he can almost cover the whole left side of the infield all by himself. Matt Olson’s a quiet leader with an edge, and Mark Canha and Chad Pinder mix and match really well with Robbie Grossman, Ramon Laureano and Stephen Piscotty in the outfield. They’ll pitch well enough, with Mike Fiers, a full year of Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas back from his suspension — and the young power lefties, Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, could really give them a different look. I hope they put Chris Bassitt in the bullpen; I didn’t realize how good his arm was until they used him out there late in the season.”
Beyond the Box Score
Cut Off The A’s will have to go it alone financially this year. After getting a full share of revenue-sharing money through 2015, they got 75 percent in 2016, 50 percent in ’18 and 25 percent last year. For the next two years at least? Zip. Zilch. Nada.
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A’s executive VP Billy Beane can’t quit on Kyler Murray. The A’s drafted the Oklahoma QB as a center fielder in the first round (No. 9) in 2018, only to see him win the Heisman Trophy as a senior, opt for the NFL and go with the Arizona Cardinals. Beane then drafted Murray as the quarterback on his fantasy football team this year.
Football Free For almost a quarter of a century, the A’s home games over the final month of the season have been played on a Coliseum turf chewed up by the Oakland Raiders. Now that the NFL has allowed the Raiders to slip off to Las Vegas, the A’s will play on a more pristine field during the stretch drive. However, it should be noted that the A’s haven’t suffered that much, going 10-4 at home in September 2018 and 9-3 at home in September 2019, both en route to 97-win seasons.
Flipping Out Mark Canha got some postseason love, being named the winner of the No. 1 bat flip of the 2019 season by MLB Network. He went deep off the Angels’ Felix Pena on March 30 in the Oakland Coliseum. He took a couple of steps before sending the bat flying and saying, “It’s bat-flipping season.” As 2019 proved to be. Hitters spent six months trying to live up to Canha’s big flip.
No June Swoon The Ides of March turned out to be particularly disastrous for Julius Caesar, but the Ides of June have been nothing but brilliant for the A’s. It falls on the 13th of June, and that’s just about the time the A’s seem able to flip the switch. Two years ago, they went 63-29 from June 16 on (best in MLB) to make the playoffs after being 11.5 games out of first. Last year, Oakland went 60-29 from June 17 on (also best in MLB), again making the playoffs after being 10.5 games out of first.
Brush With Tragedy Jesus Luzardo, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, was supposed to be at his alma mater on Feb. 14, 2018, to throw batting practice to his old team. As the Parkland, Fla., shooting unfolded, he was texted to stay away by coach Todd Fitz-Gerald, who told him of the horror. Since then, Luzardo has done fundraising for the school, particularly for the family of one of the victims, athletic director Chris Hixon.
SS Marcus Semien (R)
3B Matt Chapman (R)
1B Matt Olson (L)
DH Khris Davis (R)
CF Ramon Laureano (R)
LF Mark Canha (R)
RF Stephen Piscotty (R)
C Sean Murphy (R)
2B Tony Kemp (L)
C Austin Allen (L)
INF Sheldon Neuse (R)
UT Chad Pinder (R)
INF Franklin Barreto (R)
OF Robbie Grossman (S)
RHP Mike Fiers
LHP Sean Manaea
RHP Frankie Montas
LHP A.J. Puk
LHP Jesus Luzardo
RHP Liam Hendriks (C)
RHP Yusmeiro Petit
RHP Joakim Soria
RHP Chris Bassitt
LHP Jake Diekman
LHP T.J. McFarland
RHP Paul Blackburn
RHP Daniel Mengden