In the spirit of the season, let’s look at five things that Oakland A’s fans have to be thankful for these days.
Some are obvious points, a couple might have flown under your radar. And if you were to make up your own list, granted it might look a lot different than this one.
But to get the conversation started, here’s five things A’s fans can be thankful for:
1. Three playoff appearances in three years: It’s sort of a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and appreciate how good this team has been since 2012. Why was last season’s second-half crash and Wild Card exit such a disappointment? Because there were huge expectations, and something is going right when expectations are such that fans demand the A’s not only reach the postseason, but advance once they get there.
[STIGLICH: A's name Dan Kantrovitz assistant GM]
Remember 2007-2011? Well, maybe you don’t. For five seasons, the A’s were painfully mediocre, going 381-428 (.471) and failing to capture our imagination. They weren’t great, they weren’t terrible. They were just plain boring. That’s not the case anymore, with the product on the field and the personalities in the clubhouse.
2. The draft class of 2012: The marquee pick of that class was the since-traded Addison Russell. Let’s not even go there. But that draft also brought the A’s shortstop Daniel Robertson and first baseman Matt Olson, and both look like promising future pieces of Oakland’s infield. Robertson’s tools aren’t as flashy as Russell’s, but he led the Single-A California League with 170 hits in 2014 and has impressed with his defensive instincts. Olson’s 37 home runs were third-most in all of the minor leagues, and though he’ll probably always post high strikeout numbers, he also drew 117 walks last season.
And it appears the A’s might have gotten a nice steal in that draft with 20th round pick Boog Powell (no relation to the former Baltimore Oriole great of the same name). The center fielder had a nice showing in the Arizona Fall League and is learning how to tailor his game to take advantage of his speed.
3. The Bringer Of Production: Josh Donaldson has developed into one of the American League’s finest all-around players. The self-proclaimed “Bringer of Rain” has averaged 27 homers and 96 RBI over the past two seasons while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base. He’s also notched consecutive top-10 MVP finishes.
[STIGLICH: A's acquire 1B Davis from Pirates]
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out between Donaldson and the A’s in his first go-round with salary arbitration this offseason. Last winter, his contract was renewed at the league minimum of $500,000 -– not an uncommon occurrence for top players who have yet to become eligible for arbitration. He’s due a hefty raise this winter and we’ll see how easy or difficult it is for Donaldson’s camp and the A’s to find common ground on a salary for 2015. And surely it caught Donaldson’s attention that the Mariners reportedly are giving their own third baseman, Kyle Seager, a seven-year $100 million contract.
4. The Miracle Of (Baseball) Medicine: Take a look at the quality arms the A’s stand to add at some point next season with pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery. We caution that absolutely nothing should be taken for granted in the comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery. But if the current timetables hold, the A’s could get starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin back around May or June, and that would provide quite a boost for the rotation. (Parker is coming off his second Tommy John procedure, so his rehab bears watching in particular.)
Looking down the pipeline, minor league right-hander Raul Alcantara should return at some point in ‘15 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last May. Alcantara, who turns 22 in early December, was ranked as the A’s top pitching prospect by Baseball America before last season.
5. Modern Scoreboards!: New hi-def LED scoreboards should be up and running at the Coliseum for the start of the upcoming season, a team official confirmed. And anyone who ever squinted up at the old, outdated scoreboards, trying to make out a player’s stats among all the missing bulbs, knows this development is worth celebrating. The new video boards will be mounted in left and right field, same location as the old ones. Two full-color “ribbon” boards will also be installed between the first and second decks, stretching about 400 feet from each dugout to the outfield. As the wait for a new ballpark stretches on and on, you might as well endulge in this small victory that should improve your Coliseum experience.