Sorry, Oakland Athletics, your World Series trophy is in another castle. And, hopefully it’s not filled with sewage.
The A’s are a team that traditionally fluctuates between under-appreciated overachievers and not-quite-there youngsters. Well, file this season under “not quite there.” It was another rough one for the A’s — and not just because they had the most famous clubhouse fight in a while.
Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the A’s, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The A’s scored the fifth fewest runs in MLB while having the sixth worst ERA. That’s not a formula for success. The problem that sticks out the most is staff ace Sonny Gray, who went from Cy Young runner-up last season to full-blown disaster in 2016. Gray was 5-11 with a 5.74 ERA, which has to make you wonder if the real Sonny Gray was abducted by aliens. He was expected to the one big bright spot for an otherwise ho-hum A’s team and even he didn’t deliver. When you add the Billy Butler drama and the spying drama, it wasn’t a great year in Oakland. (Mike Oz)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
This section is a little lean for the A’s this season. The single best thing about their offense was left fielder Khris Davis, who has hit 40 home runs in 2016, up from 27 in 2015. That’s a huge but very welcome jump. In fact, he’s fourth in homers in all of baseball. And the combination of set-up man Ryan Dull and closer Ryan Madson looked great. Madson’s in his second full year of baseball after being out of the game for four full years, from 2011-2015. The A’s had a leadership transition just a year ago, moving longtime GM Billy Beane into the position of Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and promoting Assistant GM David Forst into Beane’s old job. At the very least the A’s will probably finish with a better record than the 2015 club, which isn’t high praise for the new-look front office, but it’s better than nothing. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
The aforementioned Davis is the latest in the long line of classic Oakland A’s pickups over the last 15 years. Acquired from the Brewers in the offseason for two minor-leaguers, Davis has been one of the bright spots on this A’s team, reaching the 40-homer mark. His powerful swing was at its best May 17 when Davis smashed three home runs in an 8-5 win over Texas, including the walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. It was only the second time in major-league history that a player hit three homers and closed it out with a walk-off grand slam. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
This isn’t to suggest the A’s should clean house in the front office, but the “Money Ball” days are long gone. The league has caught up and even surpassed the tag team of Billy Beane and David Forst when it comes to structuring a roster and squeezing the most out of the least. Unless the financial restrictions change, which isn’t going to happen, then the philosophy must evolve. Beane has always been good about staying ahead of that curve, but the recent trade of Josh Donaldson and failed signing of Billy Butler suggests this front office is looking for magic in the wrong places. (Mark Townsend)
WARP TO THE FUTURE
One positive that might come out of that Donaldson trade is shortstop Franklin Barreto spent most of 2016 in Double-A before making a brief debut at Triple-A before the season ended. He could compete for a job on the major-league roster next spring, and seems certain to debut for Oakland at some point next year.
Other promising pieces remain a year away. Pitcher A.J. Puk was, at one point, considered the best college player available in the 2016 draft, but back spasms caused him to fall to the A’s with the sixth pick. Even if he moves quickly, he’s not a good bet to reach the big league club until at least 2018. (Chris Cwik)
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