The Oakland A’s are used to starting the season with the odds against them. And even as the defending AL West champions, the respect still lacks, but why should they care? If anything, it just adds more fuel to their fire when West Coast teams continually get dismissed.
Oakland won 97 games in the previous two full seasons and have only added more experience to their already strong 2020 squad. With most of the core group returning, along with key new additions, the A’s are more confident than ever.
So when players heard they were projected to finish third with 82 wins in 2021, they took issue. Jake Diekman had a few things to say about the A’s always seeming to be the underdogs:
“Whatever analytical people, they picked us to be third. That’s all we know…they show it everywhere, we also watch TV… It’s not fun, like hey that’s perfectly fine. I feel like every year the A’s aren’t picked to win, that’s fine. I thought it was nice it was over .500 so that was cool.”
It’s hard for players to ignore the lack of respect the A’s organization gets year after year despite advancing further and further into the postseason. Matt Chapman on the A’s having to face the Dodgers and Astros in the first ten games:
“Those teams have to play us too… We are excited to play the Astros, it’s always fun playing them. That’s probably, in our opinion, our biggest competition in this division. But we are the reigning champs so they have prove it to us. We are not taking these games lightly but these are good teams. We are definitely going to be battle tested here early having to play the Dodgers and the Astros twice but they have to play us and we like to believe that these are our games.”
The Astros seem to get the best of off days over the A’s and Angels. The Astros get their first off day of 2021 just a week into the season after four games against the A’s and two against the Angels. Houston gets four off days in the first month of baseball, while the A’s don’t get their first until April 11 after their road series against the Astros.
Chapman is aware of the projections but doesn’t agree and enjoys being the underdog:
“We are playing with house money. We aren’t expected to do anything so everything we do is great… It’s a different vibe, different feel in this clubhouse. We are expecting to win the division. I think this is the best team we’ve have had since I have been here so 97 wins, two years in a row, I think we can get to 100.”
Chapman made it clear he uses these projections as a motivation. He said the prediction is “absurd” but he respects the fact that everyone has their own opinions and he certainly has his. He explained why this is the best team the A’s have had during his stint in Oakland:
“I believe its the best team we’ve had because our core group of guys are only getting better. We are getting more experienced. I think our returning guys are used to playing with each other. We are comfortable, we are more of a team, and the guys that we brought in seem to fit right in.”
General Manager David Forst said he wished everyone had Chapman’s confidence, and touched on the A’s main focus now:
“That’s what we are always thinking about, is keeping this group healthy, making sure we have the depth to fill in when it’s not. You look at pitching both starting and relief, you look at the offense, the defense, I think all the ingredients are there from my seat. We are always trying to make sure we stay as healthy as possible.”
Bob Melvin said the schedule “is what it is” and its not in their control. He doesn’t normally stress about the first month but considering the strength in their schedule the first month, they will have to play their best baseball as soon as they step onto the field:
“It really doesn’t matter how you start out. It gets your attention right away I think for a fans perspective, us against Houston right away is certainly intriguing, it’s not going to dictate where the season goes but you would like to get off to a good start like we did last year and you know you are going to have to play your best against both these teams to get off to good start.”
Melvin explained how he will treat this first month:
“It’s tough to really get a ready 7 or 10 games into a season, so I won’t put too much thought in that. We are playing the same team for 7 of those 10 games. So for me it usually takes a month before you get a pretty good feel and we still have a lot of the same guys on this team so we have a good feel of this team regardless. The guys that we brought in, we feel like make us better, so we will go in with a positive outlook and a positive attitude. Then you start looking a little bit farther down the road whether you need to make some adjustments or not but I like our team.”
Both Melvin and Forst feel better about their team’s depth after a month of Spring Training. There are still some decisions that need to be made as far as who the fifth starter will be and what exactly each relief pitcher’s role will be. Forst made it clear the roster you see on Opening Day will change:
“What it looks like tomorrow may not be what it looks like a week or a month from now as far as who is pitching where but we feel good about the options that are out there.”
The A’s will begin the season limited to 26 percent fan capacity which will be around 112000 fans. Everyone is excited to have fans back: players, coaches, fans themselves. Baseball is starting to feel normal again and unfortunately that comes with low expectations for your 2021 Oakland A’s.
The Astros lost their star center-fielder George Springer to the Toronto Blue Jays. With Justin Verlander dealing with Tommy John and Framber Valdez‘s fractured finger, the Astros rotation is relying on younger talent. It’s shocking to think the A’s can’t have another repeat of 2020. The power in the American League has shifted from the Western Division to the East but the Angels have the best player in baseball along with veteran studs like David Fletcher, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols, and Anthony Rendon. They seem to always have a tough roster but it never seems to come together. With Ohtani healthy, their odds are favored. We already know everything the A’s lost and they believe they have strengthened themselves.
When it comes to the AL West, the Seattle Mariners are still rebuilding and a shortened season didn’t help. The Rangers now have former Oakland A’s DH Khris Davis and Jonah Heim. When it comes to AL West fans, if your teams name doesn’t start with an A, it is unlikely you will be watching your team come October.
AL West prediction
- A’s: 99 wins
- Angels: 92
81 (Just kidding … 90)
- Rangers: 83
- Mariners: 75
Matt Chapman believes this is the best team the A’s have had since he signed… Jake Diekman is concerned how young pitchers will handle a full 162 game season. Bob Melvin has yet to announce who earned the fifth starting rotation spot between Cole Irvin, Daulton Jefferies and AJ Puk.
Simone McCarthy is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @SimoneMcCarthy0 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.