The Oakland Athletics did the improbable in 2012. Not many people would have picked them to make the playoffs, even as a wildcard. Instead, the A’s finished with 94 wins, the second best record in the American League and the AL West championship, defeating the heavily favored Texas Rangers on the final day of the regular season.
All of this with one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball, an owner that wants to move the team out of Oakland, one of the lowest attendance rates in professional sports and a stadium that…well, let’s be honest, a stadium that sucks.
But enough about what the A’s didn’t have. What they did have have was a former Manager of the Year at the helm, a highly coveted rookie from Cuba and a general manager that had just had an award-winning movie made about him in which he was portrayed by Brad Pitt (not bad, huh?).
The Athletics have lost a few pieces this off-season but the core of what got them to the playoffs last year remains.
Josh Reddick will be returning in right field after his first Gold Glove season. Yoenis Cespedes will be looking to smash more balls into the left field bleachers after finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year voting. The core of the rookie pitching staff which helped the A’s to 54 of their 94 wins are also set to return. And (prep “One” by Metallica) Balfour #RAGE is returning to Oakland as well after the Aussie’s option was exercised by the club.
The real question with this team is if the starting rotation can survive with their wealth of youth after losing one of their veteran leaders, Brandon McCarthy, who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks this off-season. The team surprisingly let him go while re-signing Bartolo Colon to a one-year, $3 million deal, even after being sentenced to a 50-game suspension for a positive test for testosterone in August.
There are still many changes to come in the months leading up to the 2013 season, but some things never change. The A’s are once again long-shots to win the division. They are expected to have one of the bottom five pay rolls in baseball yet again. Even after the results of 2012, expectations going forward are low.
The A’s got big hits when they needed them most and many of those same bats are coming back for another run in 2013. The chemistry that this team developed in the first half of the 2012 season is going to have to be rebuilt all over again. Walk-offs and pies are a thing of the past. This team is going to have to create a new identity for themselves to have success in 2013. The Oakland A’s are underdogs again and they wouldn’t have it any other way.