Year of highs, lows and plenty of change for A's
In-season moves don't lead to title, then shakeup begins in offseason
OAKLAND -- The year 2014 was a tale of two seasons for the A's, who provided their fans several memorable moments but also some not-so-good ones along the way. A season that began with so much promise and ended in so much disappointment was followed by a wave of equally stunning offseason moves.
MLB.com has chronicled them, condensed down to the top five A's storylines of 2014:
5. A's send seven to Midsummer Classic
Amid a wildly successful first half, the A's were proud owners of seven All-Stars, including Jeff Samardzija, who was selected as a National League reserve just two days after being traded by the Cubs to Oakland. No other club had more than four representatives. Lefty Scott Kazmir made his third career trip to the Midsummer Classic, and he was joined by several first-timers: Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Sean Doolittle and Derek Norris. The A's, finally getting the attention they had long deserved, saw all but Samardzija appear in the game. Twice they had as many as four players on the field at the same time.
4. Gray dominates in clincher
At a time the A's needed him most, Sonny Gray renewed his status as a big-game pitcher when he tossed his second career shutout on the final day of the regular season in Texas to nail down a postseason spot and send the A's into the American League Wild Card Game. The A's had lost 30 of their previous 45 games before winning Game 162 and were in danger of missing out on the playoffs despite spending much of the first half in first place. Gray, though, saved the day in the six-hit, no-walk performance that proved perhaps the most joyous moment of the 2014 season.
3. Donaldson, Moss, Samardzija depart
Just months after holding baseball's best record, the A's found themselves staring at yet another premature postseason loss. In evaluating the future, general manager Billy Beane was short on long-term pieces and saw a team in decline. Never one to embark on a complete rebuild, he set out to balance the short term with the long term and, in doing so, parted with three of his biggest assets in All-Stars Donaldson, Moss and Samardzija.
In return, the A's brought back a total of nine players, many of whom are expected to make an immediate impact on the big league club. Notably, Beane found his next shortstop in Marcus Semien, acquired from the White Sox in the Samardzija deal, and several potential rotation pieces in Chris Bassitt, also traded from Chicago, and Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, packaged in the Donaldson trade.
2. A's, Royals engage in game for the ages
The A's barely made the playoffs but felt extremely confident about their chance of a lengthy run with Jon Lester in tow. Their rented ace, acquired from the Red Sox just two months prior, was on the mound for the AL Wild Card Game in Kansas City. Then madness ensued. The A's jumped in front, 2-0, only for the Royals to come back and take a 3-2 lead. Just when Royals righty James Shields appeared to be settling in, Oakland got the bats going again and posted five runs in the sixth for a 7-3 advantage. Kansas City clawed back for three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth to tie it, though, leading to epic extra innings. The A's were first to score, but the Royals came back again and ultimately won in 12 innings, leaving Oakland fans in shock.
1. Beane swaps Cespedes for Lester
Ever the risk-taker, Beane made his boldest move yet in 2014, acquiring Lester at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and sending slugger Cespedes to Boston in a move that rocked the baseball world and sparked a debate that continues today. Beane maintains the A's don't make the playoffs without Lester, while others argue Cespedes' absence largely provoked Oakland's second-half collapse.
Either way, Beane's intentions were clear: He was obviously going for it. He desired short-term help with an eye on a 2014 championship and believed Lester to be the man to help him there. The A's had their man on the mound for the AL Wild Card Game, but Lester quickly lost grip of a four-run lead, and the Royals would go on to win in 12 innings.