No, that headline is not a misprint.
If there’s one thing that’s familiar about being a fan of the Oakland A’s, it’s going into every offseason with an odd mixture of emotions regarding the state of the team going forward. This can be described most accurately as “exuberant trepidation”. If you think those two things are contradictory, then you haven’t spent much time at the Coliseum between the months of April and July.
That’s not to say that Oakland doesn’t enjoy the some of the most loyal fans to be found in any ballpark — and, one could argue, any venue, in any sport — throughout the world. It’s simply an admittance that most of the time A’s fans are forced by past experiences to approach each season as a skeptical, emotionally guarded bunch; you expect Billy Beane to make some moves, pray for a healthy roster coming out of spring training, and hope for the best while expecting the worst.
However, this offseason has a decidedly different vibe to it. Instead of dumping salary and stockpiling prospects, the East Bay Brain Trust that is the Oakland front office came out early to say that they were going to bring back most of the squad that shocked the baseball establishment in 2012 on their way to coming within one win of the ALCS.
Who would have thought that a little more than a year after essentially throwing in the towel on the idea of fielding a competitive team at the Coliseum, the A’s would take such a philosophical shift in the other direction and become beaming optimists with their sights set on repeating as division champs?
Today the A’s signed Bob Melvin through 2016, and the stability he brings to the team will be a huge asset going forward as Oakland tries to keep up with the likes of the Rangers and Angels, which will be no easy task as both teams have made a considerable effort to upgrade their rosters to ensure that what happened last year never happens again.
If you liked that 2012 A’s team, this is great news, and if you didn’t like that team, then you obviously don’t like fun or baseball, and you may want to check to see if you have a pulse.
Keeping this group together is exactly what the fan base needed going into next season. As opposed to coming to Opening Day wondering who the second basemen is or if the starting pitcher is old enough to drink a beer, they’ll actually get to wear some of the jerseys they bought last year knowing those players are still around, and do things like this. And this.
Even more, they know where they’ll be going to watch the team for the immediate future. That’s usually key for keeping fans engaged, so kudos to Oakland for that. Maybe next year Bud Selig will actually do some work related to being a baseball commissioner, and the A’s will have an answer to their long-standing stadium woes.
These players proved last year that they have enough talent and determination to compete for — and win — the division. They deserved the chance to come back and defend that title, and they earned the respect of the fans in the process. Anyone that attended that game can tell you how electric that atmosphere was, even though the A’s got mowed down by an other-worldly performance by Justin Verlander.
And the level of performance throughout that run, by the players as well as the fans, seems to have been enough to prove to ownership and management that there is something special happening with this group, but they’ll have to keep everything the same to find out what that something is. Sometimes it really does come down to one simple maxim: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
While the A’s may be forced to adhere to that idea since they don’t have the money to even try to keep up with the comparatively astronomical payrolls of Texas and Anaheim (sorry, still not calling them the Los Angeles Angels), in this case it’s for the best. Beane is going to get a chance to prove if there’s any sort of recipe there for long-term success or if his Moneyball magic merely produces teams that are memorable fan favorites with little tangible success in regards to World Series rings.
While 2013 won’t be a referendum on his acumen as an executive, it will be a year where fans are expecting more, and should the Athletics fall short of the playoffs, one thing they won’t want to see is the complete demolition of this group, because they want to have hope in a team beyond a season-by-season basis.
Extending Melvin through 2016 is the first step in the process of instilling that hope, and if things keep going this way, with owner Lew Wolff gushing over what a good job his staff is doing, he may end up overseeing the most stable and fruitful period of baseball in Oakland since Walter A. Haas, Jr.