OAKLAND – Losses never sit well with A’s manager Bob Melvin, but there’s consolation during the regular season because each day brings a new game and a new shot at redemption.
Playoff-elimination defeats are toughest because there’s no tomorrow, and the A’s have now experienced back-to-back Game 5 losses in the American League Division Series. The disappointment sticks with Melvin as winter sets in.
“Incrementally you get over it some, but I don’t know that it completely goes away,” he said. “Then to have this type of year, and the same type of finish, it sucks. … We’ve beaten on this door a couple of times. We need to actually kick it in.”
Advancing deeper into the postseason will headline the list of goals next spring for the two-time defending AL West champs. But as Melvin and general manager Billy Beane conducted their respective season-ending press conferences Friday, it was apparent that neither man believes major changes are necessary for the A’s.
Oakland went 96-66, the second-best record in the league. They held a 2-1 lead over Detroit in the ALDS but blew two leads in a tide-turning Game 4 loss at Comerica Park. Melvin and Beane both bemoaned the lack of execution in that game, but they viewed it in an isolated sense, not as an indicator of major flaws with the club.
“Most of these guys won the AL West the last 2 years, so they’re worthy of bringing back,” Beane said. “It’s a group of players that is still young, and it starts with the pitching staff. In some cases they should only get better. I feel good about the group.”
Melvin said his confidence stems from the fact the A’s broke out by winning the 2012 division title, then backed it up this season.
“The first year was kind of a novelty thing, we came out of nowhere,” the manager said. “Now, when you have to do it when you have expectations, you find out who you are as a team.”
The A’s could have a somewhat uneventful winter, though that’s been said in past years and Beane has gone on a wheeling and dealing bonanza. But most of Oakland’s core players for 2014 are under team control.
A major piece of business already is decided, as Beane said the A’s will pick up the $7.5 million option on center fielder Coco Crisp. Crisp told CSN California on Thursday night that he would like a multi-year contract, but that scenario will play out.
[RELATED: Beane -- A's to pick up Crisp's 2014 option]
Left-hander Brett Anderson also is likely to have his $8 million option picked up, Beane said, with Anderson getting a chance to re-establish himself in the starting rotation. The A’s also want veteran starter Bartolo Colon back if the 40-year-old is willing to return for a 17th big league season.
One major task for the A’s will be sorting out the closer spot. Grant Balfour will be a free agent and could get offered big money on the open market that Oakland won’t be willing to match. If he leaves, the A’s don’t have a proven reliever for the ninth inning.
Melvin noted that Ryan Cook, and, to a lesser extent Sean Doolittle, have gotten some experience closing, but it seems unlikely the A’s will hand the ninth-inning keys to one of them and consider the problem solved.
“It’s an area we’re gonna want to address over the offseason,” Beane said.
It sounds as if the A’s won’t pursue an impact middle-of-the-order bat, which is OK if Yoenis Cespedes can make bigger strides offensively than he did in his second big league season. The left fielder saw his batting average drop from .292 as a rookie to .240. He hit 26 home runs but drove in just 80 runs.
“He’s a spotlight guy,” Melvin said. “In the last month he was really good and in the postseason he was really good. I expect him to have better numbers overall next year, but he certainly didn’t disappoint coming down the stretch.”
The A’s have a logjam of catchers, but it seems unlikely the A’s would pick up Kurt Suzuki’s $8.5 million club option. Melvin is high on Derek Norris’ potential and Beane said Stephen Vogt showed a better throwing arm than he expected.
John Jaso remains under team control and if he shows no ill effects from concussion-related symptoms, he could also re-enter the mix.
It stands to reason the A’s won’t pick up Chris Young’s $11 million club option, so the A’s could be looking for an extra outfielder. Enter Michael Choice?
The 2010 first-round pick made his big league debut by hitting .278 in nine games in September.
“I think he is ready,” Melvin said. “It’s just whether a consistent opportunity is there for him.”