We start a three game series in Oakland against the AL West first place A's, they are sitting at 62-43 and I'd feel happy for them but I can't bring myself to.
I sent off some questions to Nico, blogger for SB Nation's Athletics Nation and he was nice enough to answer them.
I just the obvious first question is, what is it like to be following a winning team?
I remember following winning A's teams back in the 1988-92 World Series years, where you knew the team was loaded, everyone expected the A's to win, and then they did. These past two seasons have been far more gratifying to me: Watching a team that first even I didn't think was going to be that good but had a seemingly magical 2012 season, and then watching a 2013 team that the pundits keep trying to avoid giving any credit or respect, but which just keeps proving its critics wrong.
What are the A's looking for at the trade deadline?
Apparently Jake Peavy, even though starting pitching is the team's strength and acquiring Peavy would force the A's to drop a pitcher, like A.J. Griffin or Tommy Milone, who is having a very decent season. Plus, Brett Anderson is due back next month -- yet the A's are rumored to be very much in on the Peavy talks.
Ideally, I'm sure the A's would love to add a SS so they could move Jed Lowrie over to 2B; Lowrie has been terrific at the plate but pretty rough at times at SS. However, that SS doesn't appear to exist in the trade market, which is probably why the A's are focused on Peavy: because he's available and good.
Who is your favourite A to watch?
Josh Donaldson is sometimes a wonder to watch at 3B. He won't win a gold glove because Adrian Beltre and Manny Machado are also outstanding, but he should be "in the conversation". I love Brandon Moss for his raw power and beautiful swing -- he'll strike out a lot but when ball meets bat it's as pretty as you'll find. When Tommy Milone gets into a groove with his changeup it's like watching Jamie Moyer carve up good hitters in slow motion. But typical of the A's, who are a true "team," there isn't so much "one player I love to watch" so much as I love watching the entire team.
In five years the Athletics will be playing at in...
Three inches of raw sewage? Bud Selig should seriously be ashamed of the way he has handled -- or should I say not handled -- the whole A's venue situation and I doubt that in five years the A's will playing anywhere but where they're playing right now. The only question is what the stadium will be called that year.
Yoenis Cespedes seems to have stopped hitting, what's going on with him?
Cespedes has been incredibly frustrating because he is making the same mistakes over and over and over. His swing is huge, he is trying to pull everything, and as a result he is vulnerable to breaking pitches down and away. He is also swinging through a lot of high fastballs, even in the strike zone. As long as he tries to pull everything, he's easy to pitch to. Today, for the first time in seemingly forever, he snapped out of it sizzling a double to right-center and taking Mike Trout to the CF wall. We'll see if it carries over into the Blue Jays series.
What's the feeling in Oakland, is this the A's year to win it all?
I think the prevailing feeling in Oakland is, "Can the team get past the first round?" because this was an issue not only in 2012 but also in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. Short series definitely have a "crapshoot" aspect to them, and it only takes one Verlander to end a season.
A personal question, I'm going to this series in Oakland, where should I eat before the game? Or drink after the game?
There really isn't much around the Coliseum, which is one of the problems: The stadium is off of a drab stretch of I-80, not downtown not in or near any sort of village-complex. As a result, the best advice is probably to separate "going to the A's game" and "eating/drinking" and just enjoy one of the thousands of great restaurants and bars scattered throughout the East Bay.
Do you think the A's should extend Grant Balfour's contract?
Closers are usually overpaid and if Balfour can command $10M/year on the open market then no, I don't think the A's should shell out that kind of money to re-sign him. But if the price is reasonable, I could see the A's bringing Balfour back on, say, a 2 year/$14M deal and I could see Balfour opting to stay put in a place he's happy rather than packing up and moving again. Given that the A's don't have that many veterans and given how important the depth of their bullpen has been to their success, I have no problem with the A's bringing Balfour back and making him one of the higher paid players on the team (as $7M/year would do). He has been an excellent reliever for many years and probably has a couple good seasons left in his arm.
Anything we should know about the Athletics?
They genuinely enjoy one another and always seem to be teaming up to create charity drives (the bullpen just put together an "A's Relief Program" to recognize unsung heroes in the community). I don't profess to know exactly how real chemistry is, but the A's have it.