Who is next to go? Will the rise in ticket prices attract enough fans? Speaking of fans, where will the new stadium be? The one question the Oakland Athletics truly have answered is that they will be playing a full 162-game delayed season, which they will open on Friday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies . But despite being out of the league’s lockout, the team is anywhere past the roller coaster met by turbulent bumps that has gone on since last season’s disappointing end. Here are the changes and questions surrounding the A’s as the start of the regular season nears.
Offseason Notable Changes
A New Face Leading the A’s Dugout
As if this offseason was not full of enough roster turnover, the centerpiece of this team over the last decade, manager Bob Melvin is on the move. He signed a three-year contract with the San Diego Padres early in the offseason. His replacement? A familiar face among the A’s franchise, one who has been a respected face in the A’s clubhouse as a player and an assistant coach. Newly hired Mark Kotsay spent four of his 17 seasons in the MLB with the green and gold. He batted a career-best .314 in 2004.
While this will be his first crack at a manager role, he brings a wealth of baseball experience, both from his playing and coaching. Since retirement Kotsay has built up quite a resume as an assistant coach. He served various roles with the team including bench coach, quality control coach and most recently third base coach. While hiring a first-time manager never goes without posing a risk, the team made clear that in this hiring they are looking towards their long term success. They have brought in a younger voice to lead the team.
Three All-Stars Out But Two Former All Stars Return
Following a season which saw the team under achieve and really start to tank down the stretch, the A’s officially entered full rebuild mode. Full rebuild mode is something the fans have become all too familiar with. A flurry of star players were dealt including both of last year’s All Stars, first baseman Matt Olson and starter Chris Bassitt.
Additional notable losses were outfielders Mark Canha and Starling Marte, as well as relievers Jake Diekman and Andrew Chafin. They also just traded starting pitcher Sean Manea, who had really established himself as a great teammate and part of the pitching rotation. This comes just after an offseason that saw star players Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks leave as free agents. Who is on the team now? The fans should know the answer to that.
Amongst the losses, two former All Stars have returned to the team. Jed Lowrie has rejoined the team for the fourth different time in his career, five if one were to count the fact that he signed with the team after becoming a free agent from them this past season. The 37-year old veteran infielder has seen the most career success with the A’s. This has also been the one landing place in his career where he has managed to stay healthy.
His resume with the team includes a career-best .290 average in 2013 as a member of a successful A’s team that won 96 games and the American League West. He was also the team’s All Star as an instrumental part of their improbable late season wild card run in 2018.
Fans should best believe that he is back, Stephen Vogt that is. A two time All Star and fan favorite with the team, Vogt has bounced around several times since 2017 including a stint as the backup catcher for last year’s World Series Champion Atlanta Braves.
Lowrie and Vogt should both have their fair share of opportunities to make a major mark on a team with low expectations around the world of baseball.
Biggest Questions For the Team
Las Vegas or Oakland?
It recently seemed like the team and the city were in a positive direction with finally getting a deal done at the Howard Terminal site in Oakland. However, some recent hurdles have potentially allowed Las Vegas, Nev. to catch up in the stadium race. On Friday a lawsuit was filed by the Alameda County Superior Court against the city of Oakland. The lawsuit claims the proposed project is non-compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act.
This comes after the Seaport Planning Advisory Committee recommended last month that the property only be used for Port of Oakland activities, according to Mercury News. A meeting is scheduled to begin in May on if the port will grant the exemption to the ballpark.
Meanwhile, team president Dave Kaval also recently announced that next month the preferred Las Vegas site for the potential $1 billion domed stadium could also be announced according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Which Fans Will Stay Loyal?
Well without a doubt fans are being put to the test, which is something the fans have had to go through before. But this season will test the fans’ limits in all facets from the team rebuilding on the playing field, to location uncertainty and raised ticket prices. Yes, raised ticket prices. Despite the lower expectations, season ticket prices reportedly nearly doubled for fans.
How Will This Rebuild be Different From Previous Ones?
The A’s are no strangers to overcoming a bitter offseason of challenges to defy expectations. Going into the 2012 season the team suffered through five straight seasons without a postseason berth. Major offseason trades and a threat to move the team to San Jose at the time only made matters look more grim. Yet a team of unknowns shocked everyone by winning 94 games and the American League West Division Championship.
In 2018, what was expected to be another rebuilding year started out looking that way, yet ended with the A’s making an unprecedented second half surge and returning to the postseason. Both of these seasons set off a burst of three straight solid seasons which saw October baseball in Oakland.
However, the increased value of the breakout players after three seasons and the team’s minuscule payroll, led to the same result both times; big impact players being traded and as a result another rebuild. When will an A’s rebuild result in longer term success? Expect the future of a new stadium to play a major factor in this, as well as the team’s ability to potentially defy expectations.
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