As long-time Oakland fans know, The Big Three is a cherished term in A’s baseball lore. Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito arrived at the Coliseum with much anticipation and fanfare, and they did not disappoint. Seemingly overnight, this young triumvirate became the talk of baseball as the core of a young A’s pitching staff that fueled four straight playoff teams from 2000-03. Well, we may soon be talking about The Big Three II. Don’t look now, but Sonny Gray (4-1, 2.17 ERA), Scott Kazmir (5-1, 2.28) and Jesse Chavez (3-1, 2.44) have risen from relative obscurity to form the best three starting pitchers on one team in Major League Baseball this young season, at least statistically. Together, they have chiseled out a 12-3 record and 2.29 ERA. That’s better than the Detroit Tigers’ trio of Rick Porcello (6-1, 3.22), Max Scherzer (5-1, 2.04) and Justin Verlander (5-2, 3.15), better than the St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright (6-2, 2.11), Shelby Miller (5-2, 3.22) and Lance Lynn (4-2, 3.83), better than the San Francisco Giants’ Tim Hudson (yes, that Tim Hudson, 4-2, 2.09), Madison Bumgarner (5-3, 3.25), and Tim Lincecum (3-2, 4.78), and superior to the Toronto Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle (7-1, 2.04), R.A. Dickey (4-3, 4.53) and Dustin McGowan (2-2, 5.08). Which begs the question: If Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin had not succumbed to Tommy John surgeries, would they have surpassed or even matched the remarkable performances of Gray, Kazmir and Chavez, The Big Three II….
Just how big as the “Careless Whisper” walk-up song for Josh Reddick become? Well, yesterday morning I got an interview request from James Montgomery, sports editor of Rolling Stone magazine. Reddick’s peculiar selection of the old Wham! hit song has gone viral, and Rolling Stone felt compelled to chronicle the new phenomena that seems to have lit a fuse in Redd’s bat. Of course, as I reminded him before yesterday’s game, he’s always in the middle of everything. It wouldn’t be the Oakland A’s unless our whacky right fielder was creating a buzz doing something.
You have to love Bob Melvin. Not only is he able to manage a bullpen by committee and make it work, but he also hasn’t missed the fact that our defense has committed 32 errors—tied for second most in the American League—despite the team’s 25-16 start. He and his staff have conducted short infield practice sessions prior to batting practice during night games of this just-completed homestand. And he presented it to his players not as a form of “punishment” but one of simply “helping” his infielders improve their glove work to reach a championship standard. This is why this team continues to get better. And it is also why Melvin has managed the A’s to the best record in the majors since the start of the 2012 season.
And speaking of Melvin, the former signal-caller, he must relish the fact that the Oakland A’s currently feature the most lethal one-two catching punch in baseball. There’s Derek Norris, who is starting to look like the second coming of Thurman Munson these days. He’s batting .415 (22 for 53) over his last 19 games and hitting .352 overall with four home runs and 20 RBI, and would be leading the American League in batting average by around 20 points if he had enough at-bats. And on the left side, there’s John Jaso, who’s scorching the ball at a .307 clip with four homers and nine RBI, and is batting .444 (16 for 36) over his last 11 contests. For those of you scoring at home, that means the A’s catching tandem has combined for a .330 average with eight home runs and 29 RBI this season. And to think that Stephen Vogt, one of our playoff heroes last fall, has just been activated on the Triple-A Sacramento roster….
If you want to see great, competitive baseball and also support the A’s, there may be no better stretch at the Coliseum than the next two homestands. The Detroit Tigers (May 26-29) and Los Angeles Angels (May 30-June 1) visit later this month, while the New York Yankees (June 13-15), Texas Rangers (June 16-18) and Boston Red Sox (June 19-22) follow about the time school lets out in the Bay Area. All five teams will figure in playoff races, so get your tickets early. It promises to be an exciting time, just what we like if you’re an Oakland A’s fan!
We may be a small market team with a modest payroll. We may be overlooked because we play mostly in the Pacific Time Zone. Despite winning back-to-back AL West titles, we may not be considered the favorites to repeat in 2014 because we have no mega-contract players like the Rangers, Angels or Mariners.
But what we do have is one of the best all-around players in Major League Baseball. His name is Josh Donaldson. Of course, being an A’s fan who watches him patrol third base every night, you already knew that.
As you remember, J.D. was a voting anomaly last season. He was not selected for the 2013 American League All-Star team, yet the Baseball Writers Association of America cast enough votes for Donaldson that he finished fourth in the American League MVP balloting. His 222 votes were more than Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Beltre and Manny Machado.
Every team needs an anchor player, someone who leads with his production and clutch play. Every manager needs a player he knows he can write on his lineup card each game. Donaldson is clearly that man, a very strong athlete who thrives on playing every day. He may not always be 100% healthy—at times nursing leg strains—but there’s no doubt he is a firm believer of the school of strap-it-on-and-play. And while a very humble person who’s truly grateful for the opportunity the A’s have given him, Josh also brings that swagger on the diamond that can intimidate the opposition and embolden his teammates.
Since the start of the 2013 season, Donaldson has ranked among the American League leaders in most important offensive categories. He’s fourth in doubles, seventh in RBI and on-base percentage and ninth in slugging percentage. And maybe more significantly, he ranks first or second in virtually every category among AL third baseman during that period. First in game-winning hits. First in OPS. First in RBI. First in runs scored. First in on-base percentage. First in slugging percentage. In games, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, batting average and extra-base hits, he’s second.
Then add his remarkable range, arm and glove as a human highlight reel on defense—what other third baseman had a bobblehead designed as a diving catch over a tarp?—and J.D. is unquestionably the complete package.
So what is this leading to? We have clearly established that Josh Donaldson has always been there for you. Now, it’s time for you to be there for Josh Donaldson. We need to join together and create the buzz and excitement that will drive All-Star voting for Josh this year. It would be a grave injustice if he was denied that special distinction two years in a row. Luckily we have the best, most die-hard fans in baseball. We already have seen your social media power in propelling Eric Sogard to the championship round of MLB.com’s #FaceOfMLB competition.
Now, we need to show Josh how much we appreciate his play and how he gives everything he’s got in every game he plays. Starting today, we need to start the voting campaign. Fans around the world can cast their votes for starters up to 35 times here on MLB.com and athletics.com online and on your mobile devices. You will also have the opportunity to vote for Josh and the rest of your favorite A’s players at the Coliseum when in-stadium balloting begins May 6. The A’s haven’t had a position player named to the All-Star team since catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003 and shortstop Miguel Tejada in 2002. We’re long overdue.
Use the new #BringerOfVotes hashtag, and we’ll feature the best ones on the team’s social media platforms. Create attention-grabbing signs and display them in the stadium for other fans and TV viewers to see. And encourage your friends and family to vote daily for Donaldson. We already know that Josh has played like an All-Star. Now it’s time to crown him with the honor, so he can make A’s fans proud when he’s introduced at Target Field in Minneapolis on July 15!