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View from the other side: A’s questions for Nico of Athletics Nation

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics

The Blue Jays start a three-game series with the Oakland A’s tonight, in Toronto.

The A’s are second in the AL West at 74-60, 4.5 games behind the Astros, and 2 games in back of the Red Sox for the second Wild Card spot (3 games ahead of the Blue Jays).

The A’s are ninth in the AL in runs scored per game at 4.45 (Jays are fifth at 4.97). And they are fourth in runs allowed per game at 3.98 (Jays are fifth at 4.08).

I sent off some questions to Nico of Athletics Nation, SB Nation’s flagship blog, started way back in 1948 by ‘Grandpa’ Tyler Bleazno Blasins Blezaski Blez. Of course, Tyler would have to wait over 50 years for someone to invent the internet before anyone could read his blog (some of this is actually true, well, the part about me not being able to spell Tyler’s last name and the part about Athletics Nation being SB’s flagship blog, the rest is just to see if Tyler reads it).

Anyway, Nico was kind enough to send answers back in record time.

I think I ask this every year, but what is the status on a new ballpark? Where will the A’s be playing in 5 years?

The Howard Terminal project still has umpteen hurdles to clear and even the most optimistic officials are now citing 2027 as a target date for opening a new stadium. So you can bet that the A’s will be playing at the Coliseum in 5 years — assuming that Las Vegas is the empty threat most believe.

A month later, what do A’s fans think of the Starling Marte trade? Jesus Luzardo isn’t having the best of times with the Marlins, but he seems like a good prospect.

Certainly, at the time many fans were skeptical of dealing 5 years of Luzardo for a couple months of Marte. But we also didn’t realize just how good Marte was. He is really an electric 5-tool player, 20 for 20 in stolen base attempts for Oakland and batting .320 for the season overall. Luzardo still may become a top SP and if he does the trade will sting from 2022 forward, but it’s hard to be too upset given how Marte has almost single-handedly made the 2021 season interesting.

Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Blue Jays are likely to see?

Sean Manaea had a great first half, with his velocity ticking back to old levels of 93-94 MPH. Lately, though, he has been very shaky and has had trouble getting past 5 IP, often giving up a series of hits from location mistakes. Paul Blackburn’s stuff is pedestrian at best, but he has strung together 3 serviceable starts in Chris Bassitt’s spot, most recently blanking the Yankees for 5 IP with his special blend of smoke and mirrors. Cole Irvin has been a surprisingly excellent 5th SP who leads the league in fewest pitches per inning. He is a strike-throwing machine whose worst inning is often the 1st. Like Manaea, though, lately, he has scuffled a bit.

You guys picked up one of my least favorite players (except when he is booting balls in playoff games), Elvis Andrus…how is that working out?

As guys who slug .300 go? Not bad. Andrus was the worst qualified hitter in the AL for the first 6 weeks of the season, but has been “positively so so!” since. He has played an average shortstop and his contact skills sometimes come in handy, but mostly his best contributions are in the clubhouse where his infectious love of the game plays well.

Who is your favorite A’s player to watch?

Matt Olson has a sweet swing and magical glove at 1B, and a baseball IQ that is off the charts. I’ll go with him.

Who are the A’s using in the closer/setup roles? Are you confident with a close lead late in games?

Ha ha ha ha ha! If “close” means “12-3” then sure. Andrew Chafin, a deadline acquisition, has helped a lot and Sergio Romo, after a woeful first 3 weeks, has been excellent since, but no lead is exactly safe this year. Lou Trivino has closed most of the season but took losses in each of his last 3 appearances, and was given a break from closing before succumbing to back spasms Wednesday. He still hasn’t pitched since that third consecutive loss.

How are you feeling about the team’s playoff chances?

45%? Oakland trails Boston by 2 in the wild card, 1 in the loss column. Both teams are good and both teams are flawed. Give the Red Sox a slight edge just because they have a 2 game head start on the stretch drive, but don’t be surprised if either team snatches the second wild card. Oakland isn’t catching Houston, or New York, in my opinion — unfortunately because those are my two least favorite teams in MLB. (not even going to mention the Blue Jays out of courtesy? Oh ok. I mean, you could throw us a tiny bone, maybe ‘oh, and the Blue Jays have a shot too’. Something like that. I thought we were friends. But ok.)

Anything else we should know about the A’s?

They’re eminently likable, and they will play hard, and grind, until the 27th out. Like the Blue Jays, they have talent and they have flaws. May the best team win, eh?

Thank you, Nico.