Leadership. Over the last two AL West championship seasons the A’s have had a lot of it. It starts from the top, Bob Melvin and his coaching staff, and trickles down to the players from there. Certainly coaches are the face of the leadership of a team, but the players have the most important role in keep a clubhouse in check. A lot has been said about “team chemistry” since last season’s Red Sox run to World Series victory. The sum of ones parts is greater than one part itself. A collective group striving for the same goal is what wins games. That at least has been the take out from many people in the baseball world this offseason.
The A’s had a similar run built off of “team chemistry”, but it didn’t generate as much noise since they did not advance past the ALDS. That run came in 2012 where a young A’s team led by Jonny Gomes and Brandon Inge shocked baseball and won the AL West on the last day of the season against the Texas Rangers. The veteran leadership kept the younger players such as Josh Donaldson and Jarrod Parker grounded even after achieving success at the highest level.
In the 2012/2013 offseason Gomes and Inge left and left a leadership hole in the clubhouse. No one really knew who would step up into those roles, but it was quickly figured out as Coco Crisp and Grant Balfour took over. It seemed to work again as the A’s again repeated as AL West champions, but this time by a wide margin. The focused group went on a terror at the end of the season and eventually over took the Rangers early on in September and cruised to the title from there.
The same questions are going to be asked going into this season. With Grant Balfour departing who will step up again to be the leader. Coco Crisp will be there again. Josh Reddick certainly has a strong voice, but his over-competitiveness at times can be a block. Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson are just now coming into their own as everyday players. It seems as if this year the team leadership will come from everyone. One player who potentially could stand out sans Coco Crisp is that of newly acquired Nick Punto. Punto has been around the Majors long enough to have a grasp on the “feel the room” theory and get the team up or settle the team down.
As I mentioned above, a lot has been made about the Red Sox run to the World Series last year. They got rid of some players who were seen as bad apples and added some who were considered “model” teammates. While some of that certainly may be true, the fact is their team produced. The A’s in back to back seasons have produced. Did their leadership help them get there? Absolutely. It takes two sides to make a story, leadership and production. The A’s have the production ready to go for 2014. But do they have the leadership?