The A’s are the Most Interesting Team in Baseball
Writer: Layten Praytor
If somebody had asked you back in March your top picks for World Series contenders, who would you have picked? More than likely teams such as the Cubs, Red Sox, Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers, and of course the defending champion Houston Astros would have been the obvious answers. They’re all excellent franchises who have had recent success and are most definitely going to continue to be superpowers in the coming years. However, just like in any other sport, especially in baseball, there are always surprises and captivating storylines. From unforeseen breakout seasons, to blockbuster trades and injuries to key players that shake up pennant races, and the one or two teams that are unexpectedly in contention this late into the season. This year, that team is the Oakland Athletics. And they are 100% a threat to the aforementioned superteams. At least for this year anyways.
The A’s are always somewhat of a rogue operation compared to other teams in baseball. They maneuver unlike most franchises, trading homegrown players at the peak of their value in order to get a legitimate enough return to be semi-competitive only to turn around and repeat the cycle. They understand their situation and have made the absolute most of what resources they have. After all, they nearly broke the entire sport of baseball with their infamous “Moneyball” methodology of evaluating players and revolutionized the way not only baseball front offices think, but front offices in all major sports in the United States. While they have had sporadic seasons of contention here or there in the past decade that saw them compete for either a Wild Card spot or division title, it was never actually a sustainable run that would last.
Yet, here they sit in the dog days of August with a record of 71-48 as they now are 2.5 games ahead of the Mariners for the second spot and only 3.5 games back of New York for the first spot. Now they are doing the absolute unthinkable; challenging the vaunted Houston Astros for the AL West crown. Granted, the Astros have had a slew of injuries including seeing Carlos Correa, George Springer, and reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve spend time on the disabled list. They have also had controversy at the back end of their bullpen, including former closer Ken Giles curing at AJ Hinch while on the field that indirectly led to his demotion to the minors and eventually a trade to the Blue Jays for Roberto Osuna. Yes, the same Roberto Osuna that was suspended for 75 games under MLB’s Domestic Violence Policy. Now, while these factors have slightly contributed in aiding the Athletics in their surprising season, it would be a huge discredit to the job that the A’s have done to this point to attribute their success to the faults of another team.
The A’s have been able to stay in the race as long as they have due to a multitude of reasons. For one, they are winning close ballgames an at excellent rate thanks to their bullpen led by All-Star closer Blake Treinen. The front office has done a phenomenal job recognizing their position and being aggressive when making their team better. They added three significant upgrades to the bullpen, which was already the strength of the team, by acquiring Jeurys Familia from the Mets, plus Fernando Rodney and Shawn Kelley off waivers from the Twins and Nationals, respectively. Not to mention they added Mike Fiers from Detroit in order to help out the rotation that other than Sean Manaea has been patched together because of so many guys being lost for the year due to injury. They have also received an MVP type season from slugger Khris Davis, a breakout year from veteran second baseman Jed Lowrie, and a solid year from team leader and fan favorite third baseman Matt Chapman. At this point in the season, it is essentially a lock that the A’s will make the postseason in some form or fashion. But based off of their track record of flipping guys after a couple of years of success, who knows when the next run of great Oakland baseball could be. That is why they must capitalize in every way possible and even be willing to take some chances and perhaps even shock the world. Something like.. Trade for Bryce Harper.
For starters, this is extremely unlikely to happen, but it’s also incredibly fascinating to entertain the thought of one of baseball’s superstars being traded to as the A’s. This would have been a laughable proposal at the season’s beginning to say the Washington Nationals would sellers at all this season. Yet, here we are and the script has been flipped for the two teams. The Nats traded two relievers at the trade deadline and held talks with the Indians about Harper, however Washington has played better since the All-Star break and Harper has been on an absolute tear during that time as well. He is a free agent at season’s end and is likely to command $400+ million this winter and is represented by Scott Boras who is notorious for taking his clients to the open market and demanding top dollar. The Nationals are also in a division featuring the Braves and Phillies who are only going to get better while the Nats have mired in mediocrity all season. Meanwhile, the small market A’s would obviously have zero chance of signing a player of Harper’s caliber to what will likely be the largest sports contract in North American sports history. But, they have no responsibility to do so.
This move would be about the A’s going for it right now with a chance to not only win a Wild Card spot or their division, but it would send a message to the rest of baseball that the A’s are serious contenders for the World Series. And for a franchise that doesn’t operate with much money and doesn’t have many chances to make the postseason, when an opportunity comes along like the one they currently have, it is imperative that they capitalize.