October 5, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt (21, center) is congratulated by his team after hitting the game-winning single to score left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52, not pictured) after game two of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Tigers 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bay Area Buzz 3/8: The Over-Achieving A’s, Colin Kaepernick, Randy Bennett


A’s sum is greater than their parts

The Oakland A’s aren’t afraid to try something different.

Right now, they are thriving on a time-share approach among the players on their roster.

It allows them to maximize the bang for their buck. The A’s have won back-to-back American League West titles, negating the free-spending ways of the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels with an Opening Day roster that has ranked 29th and 27th in baseball’s payrolls.

Oakland’s moves may not always make sense, but they seem to work.

Many in the baseball world looked at the A’s willingness to trade prime outfield prospect Michael Choice to the Rangers last December for journeyman outfielder Craig Gentry, and wondered why they would make that move. Choice was, after all, Oakland’s No. 1 pick and the 10th player selected overall in 2010. He hit .302 at Triple-A last year, and he is ranked the 72nd-best prospect in baseball.

The A’s responded very simply, “Why not?”

Gentry fits Oakland’s approach. The A’s have gone from building teams around on-base percentage and defense to a roster built around versatility. Gentry is a defensive asset in all three outfield spots, critical for a team that seems him as a versatile fourth outfielder.

“A guy like Gentry is used to playing that role,” manager Bob Melvin said as the A’s went through their morning workout on Thursday. “I think he understands what we are trying to do.”

It’s not about having an All-Star roster. Those games are played in mid-July. Oakland is building a roster designed to play games in October.

A year ago, Chris Young was the club’s highest-paid player at $8.7 million, tied for 120th overall.Yoenis Cespedes ($8.5 million), Coco Crisp ($7 million) and Brett Anderson ($5.75 million) were the only other A’s among the 225 big league players who had base salaries in excess of $4.5 million. Cespedes and Crisp are the only players among the top seven highest-paid A’s of a year ago who are in green and gold this year.

In Oakland, it’s about the team, not the individual.

The A’s mix and match to such a point that a year ago Josh Donaldson, who started 155 games at third base, was the only player on the team to start as many as 108 games at the same position. Oakland didn’t even have a player start 100 games at catcher, first base, second base or left field.

“It takes the ego out of it,” said A’s bench coach Chip Hale. “Our front office does a good job of finding out who is going to fit in the role. … It can be a big problem for a young guy who comes up and doesn’t play every day. Sometimes they can’t handle it.

“But historically, in this system, each guy is going to get a lot of at-bats.”

Donaldson finished 12th in the AL with a .301 average. The next best on the team was Crisp at .262, which ranked 47th in the AL. Donaldson led Oakland with 668 plate appearances, which tied him for 20th in the AL. Only four other A’s reached the 502 plate appearances needed to quality for a batting title, but 10 A’s had 300 or more plate appearances, 12 had 200 and 16 had at least 120.

The whole, however, is bigger than the sum of the parts in Oakland.

–Tracy Ringolsby, MLB.com

49ers should wait to pay Kaepernick, for several reasons

Over the weekend, a report emerged that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wants $18 million per year.  Some have thereafter suggested that he wants $20 million per year.

If that’s true, our advice (money-back guarantee) for the 49ers is simple:  Wait a year.  For several reasons.

First, Kaepernick currently has no leverage.  (He’d have even less if the 49ers had moved up not to the top of round two but to the bottom of round one in 2011, since the 49ers would then hold an option for 2015.)  Unless he plans to hold out of training camp, which would squander plenty of goodwill with the fan base, Kaepernick has to play out the 2014 season before the 49ers face the sign-him-or-tag-him dilemma.

Second, Kaepernick has started only 23 regular season games.  That’s not nearly enough to come to the conclusion that he should be paid at the top of the market.

Third, Kaepernick has struggled at times in the regular season.  He had a few ugly stretches in 2013, and his numbers when under pressure aren’t stellar.

Fourth, Kaepernick’s success may have more to do with coach Jim Harbaugh than with Kaepernick’s abilities.  If, as it appears, Harbaugh knows how to get the most out of any given quarterback, Harbaugh would still be successful if given another quarterback with NFL-caliber skills.

Fifth, by not paying Kaepernick a contract worth $20 million per year as of 2014, the 49ers automatically bank $19 million for future use, since Kaepernick’s 2014 salary is below $1 million.  That works out to $3.33 million extra per year on a six-year deal.

Sixth, the salary cap suddenly is expected to grow at a rate higher than the top of the quarterback market.  That will make it easier in future years to fit a $20 million quarterback contract under the cap.  It also will make it easier to apply the exclusive franchise tag to Kaepernick in 2015, in order to eliminate the risk of someone signing him to an offer sheet and giving up a pair of first-round picks.

–Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com

Saint Mary’s coach Bennett has reason to smile

Saint Mary’s men’s basketball coach Randy Bennett is feeling pretty good these days. And he should be.

Yes, his Gaels posted their worst West Coast Conference record (11-7) since 2006-07.

Yes, the Gaels know their only chance of making the big dance is winning the conference tournament.

Yes, the only thing most people have heard about the Gaels is their coach was suspended for the first five conference games of the season.

But that all points to why Bennett should feel good, and does. He’s turned around the Saint Mary’s program such that a 21-win season is a down year.

“You could complain about it, people thinking 20 wins is a disappointment,” Bennett said by phone from Las Vegas. “But in the end, that’s what you want. You want the bar set high. This is the level we worked to get to.”

No doubt, putting together a run as the No. 4 seed in the WCC tournament would change how the Gaels’ season is described. It would be the kind of bang at the end to match the early-season hype they garnered with a 9-0 start.

It’s been a turbulent ride for the Gaels, no doubt. They’ve swallowed heartbreaking losses to Hawaii, George Mason and rival Santa Clara. They squandered a second-half lead at home to BYU. They closed the regular season by getting destroyed by Gonzaga in Moraga.

The campaign to salvage the season starts with No. 5 Pepperdine in Saturday’s quarterfinals. It would likely have to include wins over Gonzaga, the top team in the conference and Saint Mary’s bully, and No. 2 BYU — which would more than make up for the handful of games the Gaels squandered during the regular season.

Stealing the WCC’s bid to NCAA tournament would also be a rewarding end to a trying season for Bennett, who after battling with the NCAA for three years was penalized for “recruiting violations.”

But Bennett has all the vindication he needs. The Gaels’ RPI of 64 is nowhere near the previous two seasons, 29 and 30, but it’s still better than Clemson, Marquette, Maryland, Georgia and half the Pac-12.

That’s down because the last six seasons were up, as Saint Mary’s won at least 25 games and made four NCAA tournaments (got robbed the other two).

“We were in the ballpark,” said Bennett, concluding his 13th season as Gaels coach. “Sure, we would like to have been better. We had some games we wish we could have back. But we’ve been right there.”

Bennett says winning the WCC tournament is doable. Of course, that’s what he’s supposed to say as the coach. And, considering this is March Madness, the annual home of basketball miracles, you’d have to say he’s right.

–Marcus Thompson II, San Jose Mercury News

Tags: Colin Kaepernick.randy Bennett Oakland Athletics Saint Mary's Gaels Basketball San Francisco 49ers