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Keeping it simple, A's just keep winning, baby

After back-to-back AL West titles, Oakland has kept its successful formula

SEATTLE -- The late Al Davis coined the motto "Just Win Baby" for his NFL Oakland Raiders.

It is baseball's Oakland A's, however, who have embraced the philosophy.

They may not have the glitz of their AL West rivals in Texas and Anaheim and even Seattle with its offseason splurge on Robinson Cano.

But they have what it takes to find a way to win.

As if winning back-to-back division titles that were supposed to belong to the Rangers and the Angels isn't enough, check out the A's in the opening days of 2014.

They lost their No. 1 starter, Jarrod Parker, during Spring Training when he underwent his second Tommy John surgery, and A.J. Griffin, a projected member of the rotation, also went down in the spring with what is being called flexor tendinitis, although he is still shut down.

Their closer, Jim Johnson, who saved 101 games over the past two seasons for the Orioles and was signed to a $10 million deal after joining the A's, imploded the first week of the season, prompting manager Bob Melvin to opt for a closer-by-committee approach for the time being.

Troubled times in the East Bay?

Yeah, right.

With a 3-0 victory over the upstart Mariners at Safeco Field on Sunday afternoon, the A's not only took two of three from the Mariners for the second weekend in a row, but they also regained their hold on the AL West lead.

The final outs in the two victories? Luke Gregerson, the right-handed member of the closer committee, on Saturday, and Sean Doolittle, the left-handed member of the closer committee, on Sunday.

And the latest success against Seattle comes after Oakland swept a three-game series in Minnesota without leadoff hitter Coco Crisp in the lineup.

So the A's left Seattle on Sunday afternoon bound for Anaheim, where they open a three-game series on Monday night, once again sitting atop the AL West. With an 8-4 record they are 1 1/2 games ahead of Seattle (6-5), which is the only other team in the division with a winning record.


Don't be.

Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon isn't. The only two times his team has been able to beat the A's this season was when Felix Hernandez was pitching.

"They're a tough team," McClendon said. "They're division champs, back to back, so they're no fluke. We played well, but you don't get the ice cream for playing well. You get the ice cream for winning ballgames."

And that's what the A's do -- win.

There is nothing fancy about this Oakland team, yet it has won 190 games over the past two seasons, a number that ties Atlanta for the most regular-season victories in baseball.

The A's have done it without a lot of recognition. Third baseman Josh Donaldson finished fourth in AL MVP voting last year, and Yoenis Cespedes was 10th in 2012, the only A's players to finish in the top 10 either year despite the A's winning back-to-back division titles.

Bartolo Colon, who followed free agency last winter to the New York Mets, was sixth in 2013 Cy Young voting, the only A's pitcher to get a vote the past two years.

"One of the things that made an impression on me since the middle of the `12 season is this team's resiliency," Melvin said. "Someone goes down, and they look at it as an opportunity for someone else to step up.

"They really do play for the day. They don't wear tough losses. They aren't worried about who we play next or who picked us to finish where or what anybody things about us. There are certain guys on the team who probably don't even know what our record is. It's all about winning a game today."

It's probably a good thing the A's don't get caught up in who has what.

It keeps them from feeling sorry for themselves.

They live on a beer budget in a division of champagne-spending franchises.

Don't get caught up in the Houston Astros, for now. They are the new guys on the block, having moved from the NL Central to the AL West prior to last season, and they are undergoing a massive rebuilding program that makes them an outlier in terms of financial discussions.

Keep the focus on the Angels, the Rangers, the Mariners and the A's.

Oakland opened the season with an $82.3 million payroll and with salary commitments that extend only through 2016 and total about $135 million.

Seattle opened the season with a payroll of $90.2 million and a long-range commitment of $451 million in salaries.

The Mariners are a distant third in the AL West financial standings. Texas had an Opening Day payroll of $133.5 million, and a long-term commitment of $616 million. The Angels checked in at $154.5 million for this year, and $700 million over the long-term.

Not that the A's care.

"Really the one thing we concern ourselves with is ourselves," Melvin said. "We know what we want to do."

The A's goal is to Just Win Baby.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for
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