The Oakland Athletics finally have a position player in the All-Star Game again.
They have four, in fact. 2014 marks the first time since 2003 (catcher Ramon Hernandez) the A’s have had a position player voted into the AL squad, and the first time since 2000 (Jason Giambi) they have a player starting. Josh Donaldson will be taking the field in the first inning when the 2014 All-Star Game begins in Minneapolis, doing his part to secure home field advantage for the American League in the World Series (hopefully in Oakland). Also selected are Yoenis Cespedes, Derek Norris, and Brandon Moss; the former two missed out on starting spots by a hair. Rounding out the pitchers on the AL squad are the excellent Scott Kazmir and Sean Doolittle, who are both having fantastic years on the mound. Overall, the A’s have six All-Stars for the first time since 1975.
It’s great to see multiple A’s in the squad, as Oakland’s successful campaigns over the last three years seem to have finally broken through into the national spotlight. While fan voting can have its drawbacks, such as voting an out-for-the-year Matt Wieters into the starting lineup over a healthy player, all six Oakland representatives are fully deserving of the honor. The A’s All-Stars have either made great strides to enter elite status or regained the form that made them All-Stars in the past. Let’s recap the seasons that have gotten them here.
The runaway favorite for the AL at third base, Donaldson currently owns a .244/.323/.464 slash line with 19 home runs and 62 RBI to lead all MLB third basemen in those categories. Even though a deep slump since the beginning of June have cut into his stats, we can point to his .259 Batting Average on Balls In Play as a harbinger of the return to elite production. Since the beginning of 2013, Donaldson is 3rd in the majors in WAR (behind only Trout and McCutchen), as his combination of power, run production, and incredible defense puts him among the most talented and well-rounded players in baseball.
Oh, and he also does things like this:
We’ve already looked at some of the strides Cespedes has made in terms of contact and pitch selection during this year, and that has put him on pace for his best overall offensive season yet. Currently producing at a .262/.316/.475 slash line with 14 home runs and 55 RBI, Cespedes is one of the main offensive weapons in the Oakland lineup, and his success very often dictates the team’s success. The winner of the Home Run Derby in 2013, Cespedes has shown interest in defending his title in 2014, for better or for worse. Regardless, having Cespedes in the All-Star Game in the outfield means we have the opportunity to possibly see him do things like this:
Maybe it’s the beard, or maybe it’s the breakout year he’s currently having. Derek Norris has greatly improved his strikeout and walk rate since 2013 to post a ridiculous .302/.405/.495 slash line in 2014. His .405 OBP and .900 OPS rank him second and fourth respectively among all MLB catchers. With Matt Wieters (on the DL for the rest of the year after elbow surgery) being voted as the starter for the AL, Salvador Perez will get the start behind the dish, with D-No getting plugged in at some point off the bench.
The former Red Sox cast-off has remade himself as a middle-of-the-order slugger who can carry a team. Currently batting .272/.359/.530 with 19 home runs and 62 RBI, Moss has thrived in the walk and power-centric Chili Davis hitting environment of the A’s. If there weren’t a number of elite power hitting first basemen in the AL, Moss might’ve gotten a bit more attention from the voters. As it stands, his inclusion in the squad is completely deserved for what he means to the best team in baseball.
After resurrecting his career for the Cleveland Indians in 2013 after being close to out of baseball, Kazmir has continued his late career renaissance with a 2.53 ERA & 1.01 WHIP in 2014, which rank 8th and 6th respectively in all of baseball. Given the injuries to the A’s rotation to begin the year, he’s been the outstanding anchor the team has needed, posting microscopic counting stats along the way. This is his first All-Star selection since 2006, when he was with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Sean Doolittle is simply one of the most fun pitchers to watch in all of baseball. Hitters know the fastball is coming, they still can’t hit it, and usually it’s an automatic three-and-out in the ninth to give the A’s a win. He has a historic 60/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 2.83 ERA, and an absurd 0.68 WHIP. Doolittle strikes out over 39% of the batters he faces. Heat.
I for one can’t wait to see a lot of green and gold when the players lineup in Minneapolis on July 15th.
Note: Jeff Samardjiza was also chosen as a member of the Cubs, but he is ineligible due to the trade to the A’s. I won’t speak for him, but he might take that tradeoff. He’ll suit up in Minneapolis in an A’s uniform. Seven All-Stars!