“We wear jerseys. We don’t wear contracts.”–A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes
Well, now. How’s that for calling out the elephant in the room? The A’s have the 29th-largest payroll in Major League Baseball, and so here they are tied with the team with the sixth-largest payroll. It’s not just that the A’s have caught the Rangers by getting a MLB-record 53 victories from rookie pitchers. It’s just as interesting how their club has evolved through the season. They were 22-30 on June and 13 games behind the Rangers on June 30. They were dead last in the American League in runs at the All-Star Break.
General manager Billy Beane worked his magic in the off-season in acquiring a pair of 13-game winners, Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker, along with reliever Ryan Cook, outfielder Josh Reddick and catcher Derek Norris. Milone and Parker gave the A’s enough pitching depth to withstand the loss of four starters.
But just as interesting is how he transformed his offense. The A’s led the American League in home runs after the All-Star Break and were second only to the Orioles in runs as Beane made changes at third base, catcher, shortstop, second and first. His trade acquistions: shortstop Stephen Drew and catcher George Kottaras. He also promoted Norris from the minor leagues and signed free-agent third baseman Brandon Inge. He switched shortstop Cliff Pennington from short to first. Manager Bob Melvin came up with a workable platoon at first with Brandon Moss, Chris Carter and others.
The A’s have gotten hot at the right time. Six Oakland players are among the top 39 September home-run hitters in the American League: Yoenis Cespedes (7), Brandon Moss (6), Stephen Drew (5), Chris Carter (4), Josh Donaldson (4), Josh Reddick (4). The A’s are 50-25 since the break, best record in the majors.