BRANDON MOSS: THE ULTIMATE ATHLETIC?
Brandon Moss may be the ultimate Oakland Athletic. He’s someone who has persevered and proven his critics wrong. After years of cameo appearances in The Show, he not only has stuck with the A’s but has blossomed into an authentic star. Since the 2013 All-Star Break, the raw-boned Georgian has driven in the most runs (96) and launched the second most home runs (30) in all of baseball. Did you hear that? Our guy, the erstwhile platoon player with a penchant for strikeouts, is arguably the top slugger in Major League Baseball in what amounts to almost a full season. He’s already hit two grand slams this year—including one yesterday in Baltimore that may have sealed an 11-1 win—and appears headed toward a monster season. Yet, it may have not been his bat but a fielding play in right field in Yankee Stadium last week that told me more about Brandon Moss as a winner. In the series finale, it was Moss who misplayed a ball that skipped past him in left field for an unearned run that contributed to a 2-1 loss to the Yankees. A night later in Baltimore, Moss, now in right field, faced a split-second decision that might have frozen some outfielders. With Nick Markakis as the potential winning run at second base with one out in the 10th inning of a 2-2 game, the gifted Adam Jones stroked a single past Nick Punto. Moss, who had been embarrassed by his miscue the day before in New York, knew the only way he might throw out Markakis at home plate would be the charge the ball in a full sprint and make an accurate throw home. He also knew that it was a do-or-die play with a high degree of difficulty. But anyone who knows Brandon knows he’s “all in, all the time.” While a more selfish player might have played it a little more safely, so not to risk committing costly errors in back-to-back games, it was quite clear that the only thing on Moss’ mind was he had to stop the Orioles from winning the game, right there, right now. He made a spectacular pick up of the ball and an even more spectacular throw to cut down Markakis to prolong a game that was eventually won by the A’s in 11 innings.
Of course, to truly wear the badge of the ultimate Oakland Athletic, Brandon Moss must also be a character. It’s a franchise tradition. And Mossy may have more personality than some MLB clubs combined. He’s always the instigator in the clubhouse. A chatterbox non-stop. Before Saturday’s game in Baltimore, he spent a good 20 minutes trying to convince whatever teammates would listen that he was the second tallest position player on the team. “Except for (Kyle) Blanks, I’m the only one who’s a legit six feet tall!” Jesse Chavez was a wonderful catalyst in the discussion, disagreeing with Brandon’s assessment as he shook his head. Unbowed, Mossy proceeded to ask one of the visiting clubbies if he might have an official measuring device. The best the clubbie could come up with was an 18-inch ruler. This did not dampen Brandon’s spirit, as he promptly walked to the nearest wall in the clubhouse. “C’mon Jesse, measure me!” Back to the wall and head erect, Moss began to raise his voice so that his teammates would turn his way from their lockers to bear witness of his height claim. Once Chavy had marked a line above his head on the wall, Brandon quickly turned around and from the floor upwards, he began measuring his height, 18 inches at a time, until he reached the top mark. Acting like a 12-year-old whose mom just informed him he had hit a milestone, Moss quickly shouted with glee, “See, see, I am six feet tall!” The under-six-feet club, the likes of which are Callaspo, Sogard, Cespedes, Norris, etc., could only shake their heads and return to watching the Stanford-Vanderbilt NCAA baseball playoff game on television. “See, I’m a legit six feet!”
Of course, that was the pre-game show Saturday. Yesterday before our final game at Camden Yards, it was hard rock day on the clubhouse sound system. Normally, it’s the starting pitcher choice of what music to play. Whether Scott Kazmir requested it I’m not sure. But no matter, Brandon Moss found himself compelled to jump in. I think the song blaring had some reference to a sweet fragrance. Every time the lyrics would hit a crescendo about the smell, Mossy would enhance the experience by spayinging an aerosol can of deodorant in the middle of the clubhouse while mimicking the words. If you ask any of his teammates, many of which previously played with him at Triple-A Sacramento, about his antics, they probably would simply say, “That’s normal for Brandon Moss.”
One thing that is not normal about Brandon Moss is his offensive statistics this season. He currently ranks second in the American League in RBI (53), fifth in home runs (16) and has played three positions with aplomb as well as DHed. So, while he may be the Man Who Keeps Us Loose, he’s also fast joining Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes as the key Men in the Middle of one of the most productive lineups in Major League Baseball. While neither Moss nor Cespedes appear within range of finishing atop their position vote, let’s make sure to make a strong statement for their candidacy so we might land more than one position player on the All-Star team. If our wishes come true and Brandon Moss writes another chapter to his amazing baseball story, I can only imagine what Derek Jeter and Miguel Cabrera might think when they see Moss in their AL All-Star clubhouse. Hopefully it will be a few other A’s, most notably Donaldson, who can try to explain that his behavior is actually normal. We love Brandon Moss. I’m sure they will too.