Nobody, it seems, ever picks the Oakland Athletics to win anything, and yet, they’ve won the American League West each of the last two seasons.
Still, this year’s team, on paper, doesn’t seem to fit the traditional Oakland template. Is that accurate?
“I think in any competitive business, you’re going to have to make changes and evolve – so (there’s) no question we’ve done some things differently,” Oakland general manager Billy Beane said on The Morning Show. “But going back to the term you used, I think the template is the same. Because of the information that we now have access to, we like to think that we can prove (people wrong and have success).
“We feel pretty good about our club,” Beane continued. “I think we’re pretty balanced – pitching, defense and offensively. I think every general manger (just wants) to get through spring training healthy and having your pitchers stretched out to six or seven innings. Once teams start reporting to camp and having their first workouts, that’s when you start to see the injury list already begin. I’ve seen that with a couple of clubs already – there’s guys on the shelf. So you really cross your fingers this time of year as far as keeping guys on the field.”
Injuries aren’t the only thing out of Beane’s control; in many ways, so was free agency, as several former A’s sought greener (read: richer) pastures, including Bartolo Colon (Mets), Grant Balfour (Rays) and Chris Young (Mets).
As a result, Beane signed Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Craig Gentry.
“I’d like to think that we have replaced (the three guys we lost),” Beane said.
Brandon Tierney, however, doesn’t think that’s the case. In fact, he thinks Oakland has regressed.
Then Beane stated his case:
Kazmir has struggled for the last few seasons, yes, but he did go 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 28 innings last September for the Indians. Johnson, meanwhile, has saved 50+ games in back-to-back seasons, which is incredibly rare, and Gentry hit .280 with Texas last season.
“Bartolo was great for us last year and Grant was great for us the last couple years. No question (they’re) big replacements,” Beane said. “But we’ll find out whether (our replacements are) above or below the level those guys provided for us.”
Kazmir signed a two-year, $22-million deal, while Johnson signed a one-year deal worth $10 million.
“One of the good things about having a young team is you’ve got a number of players who are making the minimum salary, which gives you a lot of flexibility with other parts of the team,” Beane said. “You can afford to go spend $10 million on a Jim Johnson.
“We’re always going to have a fluid roster here in Oakland, but that’s the deal. In some cases, we think it’s actually healthy.”
Healthy or not, winning a third straight AL West title will be a tall task, especially since Prince Fielder and Robinson Cano signed with the Rangers and Mariners, respectively.
“Every team is better, in my opinion,” Beane said. “I think that we are still very deep and should be competitive, (but) I wouldn’t want to have to pick the winner of this division.”