Unselfish A's just keep on winning
Team approach working well for American League's top team
OAKLAND -- Don't waste time trying to figure out the Oakland A's.
Just enjoy them.
They may have cutting-edge statistical analysis, but they play the game with an old-school mentality.
It's not about the individual. It's about the team.
And they perfected the approach.
Two years ago, when they rallied down the stretch to overtake the Texas Rangers to win the American League West, they were a surprise team.
Last year they were challenged to prove their success was legit, and they did.
So here they are again, in 2014, just doing what people have every reason to expect them to do.
An Angels team that was in the midst of its best stretch of the season arrived at O.co Coliseum on Friday night with the idea that a sweep would allow them to move to the top of the division, ahead of the A's.
The Angels left Sunday having been swept in Oakland in a three-game series for the first time in a decade. They have lost three games in a row for the first time since they were swept by Seattle to open this season. And they not only remain in second place in the AL West, but they are closer to the third-place Texas Rangers (just 1 1/2 games in front of them) than they are to the A's, whom they trail by 4 1/2 games.
Yeah, those Angels, who have a roster liberally sprinkled with former All-Stars, built around the likes of Albert Pujols, a currently injured Josh Hamilton who rejoins the team Tuesday and Mike Trout, and an Opening Day payroll of nearly $156 million, sixth highest in baseball.
Yeah, these A's, who have only two active players who have ever been on a Major League All-Star roster, and both did it for other teams -- left-handed starter Scott Kazmir with Tampa Bay in 2006 and 2008 and deposed closer Jim Johnson in Baltimore two years ago -- and a payroll of less than $83.5 million, 25th in the big leagues.
And it's the A's who are enjoying the best record in the American League (35-22), heading to New York to open a nine-game road trip Tuesday, having bought into the belief that the individual is secondary to the team. This is a team where there is a need to check the lineup card every day to not only see who is in the lineup, but where they are hitting.
"It's easy to accept because we're winning," said first baseman Brandon Moss, who has hit in five different spots in the lineup in his 46 games started. "Obviously it is a recipe for success. There's no complaining about it. We understand that the key is to win.
"If the team was struggling, it might not be easy to take, but when you are winning, there is nothing to complain about. There's not many opportunities that come along to win on a consistent basis. We realize that."
And the A's are winning on a consistent basis.
The sweep of the Angels was their Major League-leading sixth sweep of the season. They have won 11 of their last 14 home games, and their 18-10 road record is the best in the big leagues.
They were 18-10 in April, went 16-12 in May and opened the money of June with a 6-3 victory over the Angels to complete the series sweep Sunday. They haven't had a losing record since May 2012. That's 13 consecutive winning months.
In the last two years -- since June 2, 2012 -- they are a best-in-baseball 203-126 (.617), which is 11 1/2 games better than Atlanta (193-135, .588), 13 games ahead of Detroit (188-137, .578) and 15 games ahead of St. Louis (188-141, .571).
"Two years ago, everybody made a huge deal [about the A's winning], but it's not that big a deal now," said Moss. "People expect us to play well."
It's not a push-button operation, by any means.
Only nine players remain with the A's today who appeared in the 2012 AL Division Series against Detroit -- Josh Donaldson, Moss, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Derek Norris, Tommy Milone, Coco Crisp, Sean Doolittle and pitcher Ryan Cook, who is on the disabled list.
Even their bullpen has had to undergo a radical makeover. Johnson, whose $10 million salary is the tops on the team, may have saved 101 games the last two seasons with Baltimore, but less than 10 games into his first year with Oakland, he found himself no longer being given ninth-inning duty. He has pitched only 10 innings since May 1.
It's the A's way.
"You feel every day, whether you are on the bench or in the lineup, you are going to get an opportunity with the style we play here," said Donaldson. "We realize it takes all of us in order to win. It's why we jell as a unit. We rely on each other."
And the faith in each other is rewarded.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.