Can they keep up the momentum? After a magical season where no one expected much from this homegrown team, A’s fans look towards 2019 and pray they can hold on to the guys who make this team so special.
2018 Record: 97 – 65
2018 Projected Record: 77-85
It truly was a season as shocking as it was inspiring. If you’d asked an A’s fan at the top of the season what they expected you’d have gotten a lot of, not much’s. For instance, remember those three straight last-place finishes in the AL West?
Yet despite all the odds and low expectations, the A’s kept finding ways to win.
In something like a baseball horror movie: the A’s had almost two starting pitching rotations go down with injuries. Nope, I’m not kidding. In fact, it was an injury ridden end to an otherwise surprisingly impressive season and the most surprising fact being that the injuries didn’t appear to slow them down.
However, the wins kept coming while pitchers joined the DL as quickly as millennials add avocado to sandwiches. What could the postseason have looked like had the team not been plagued with injuries? Here’s to hoping we find out in 2019.
As September drew near, the A’s were becoming the talk of the MLB. Many thought they had a shot at riding their regular season wizardry deep into the fall. Then the Yankees cast their own spell, Expelliarmus, and just like that the A’s magical season was extinguished. Their unexpected season ended in the Bronx during their Wild Card loss.
The season’s success was probably the Biggest Surprise for Oakland’s beloved franchise. No one expected them to show up like they did and finish so ahead of schedule. If we’ve learned anything from the green and gold, it’s to never discount Billy Beane and the chemistry A’s clubhouses manifest.
We can’t talk about surprises without mentioning Matt Chapman.
“It’s about as good as it gets. It’s about as good as I’ve seen. You see it from the minute you watch him play.” – A’s manager Bob Melvin on Chapman’s defense
Matt Chapman batted .278 with 24 home runs in a breakout season no one saw coming. The defensive powerhouse was swimming in awards and nabbed every coveted fielding honor in the game.
He won his first Gold Glove, the Platinum Glove (an offshoot of the Gold Glove awards, voted by the fans), Fielding Bible Award (the best 3B in the majors) and the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, as the overall top fielder in all of MLB.
The A’s offense was gelling last season too. In fact, as they headed into the All-Star weekend, they had one of the best offenses, defenses
Looking Forward to 2019:
Staying healthy is imperative and the off season kicked off with more surgeries for the A’s lineup.
Chapman, the bright star in 2018 ended the year having surgery on his left shoulder in December after complaining of discomfort during off season workouts. This will be his second surgery after wrapping the 2018 season. On Oct 16th, he underwent surgery for his right thumb. The team expects a full recovery from that operation by spring training.
I can’t help but wonder how this will affect the 2019 season. It could be a factor as the A’s gear up to make another run at the post season. Most importantly, Oakland needs Chapman to have another golden glove caliber season.
Will Chapman show up as baseball’s best defender again this season? I’m inclined to say yes and after last season I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
Can the rest of the lineup stay healthy and avoid injury? I’d love to see what a healthy bullpen could do for Oakland in the post season.
The question remains, can the Athletics head into the 2019 season keeping the momentum alive?
Clubhouse chemistry isn’t talked about nearly as much as I believe it matters. When teams are truly vibing magic happens. The camaraderie, environment and overall temperature in the locker room play a big factor in effective bats and explosive defense.
The Oakland Way
Billy Beane knows how to build a team. However, Beane’s track record in keeping what he’s built intact conjures pain for Oakland fans; especially if the words Billy Beane and trade are ever uttered together. I mean, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Holliday…I’ll stop.
There are still some missing components the organization is looking to fill and those final additions could prove to be the key elements for a legit chance to play at the end of October.
“There are a lot of guys out there, and there are still some options in both of those areas [pitching and catching] for us,” executive vice president of baseball operations and arguable mastermind Billy Beane said. “We’re having conversations, but in some cases, some of these guys may not end up signing until we get right up into Spring Training.
“It’s getting later and later each year, and this one, especially. There are a number of guys that we would have interest in that are out there that we’re still having conversations with.”
Case in point, the addition and homecoming of Jerry Blevins this season. 35-year-old Blevins pitched for the A’s from 2007-13 and was 13-6 with a 3.30 ERA and two saves during that span. Some A’s fans may be wishing for a higher profile pick up, but Blevins excelled in Oakland before.
The A’s love bringing back old faces. There’s something about a player who can seamlessly transition in thanks to their familiarity with the club that just feels quintessentially Oakland. It’s not flashy or pricey, it’s nostalgic and a steal. Fans who loved Blevins charm and personality from his prior time in the bay should feel optimistic about the energy an addition like Blevins brings to this team.
In conclusion, despite all there is to be excited about heading in to spring training, I’m left pondering this: can the genius of Beane, their homegrown players and the organic chemistry that lead the A’s to a stellar 2018 propel them into fall of 2019? I know Oakland fans can’t wait to see. It sure feels like their due.
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