Amidst disappointing seasons marred by significant failures, the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants had few successes to celebrate.
The Successes and Failures of the Bay Area’s MLB Teams
- Promoted to the Major Leagues for the first time at the start of the second half, second-baseman Zack Gelof almost immediately became one of the A’s best and most exciting players. Oakland’s second-round draft pick in 2021 set a host of team records and was named August Rookie of the Month. He became the first player in A’s history with 20 extra-base hits and runs scored in his first 28 games, and he got to 10 Major League home runs faster than any other player in the team’s storied history. Hitting 14 home runs and stealing 14 bases in only 69 games, it will be interesting to see the numbers Gelof can put up in his first complete season.
- Acquired in the Sean Murphy trade, outfielder Esteury Ruiz took advantage of the new rules that limited pickoff attempts and installed larger bases to swipe an American League rookie record 67 stolen bases.
- Outfielder/Designated Hitter Brent Rooker, Oakland’s All-Star representative acquired off the waiver wire, hit a team-leading 30 home runs.
- Rookie pitchers Mason Miller and Joe Boyle showcased high potential in their limited big-league action, with both flamethrowers looking like they can lead the A’s rotation if they stay healthy and consistent. The A’s drafted Miller in the third round in 2021 and then acquired Boyle from the Cincinnati Reds in return for left-handed reliever Sam Moll during this year’s trade deadline.
- After finishing last season with a 60-102 record, the A’s were even worse this year. In manager Mark Kotsay’s second season, the young, rebuilding, and often overmatched team only achieved 50 wins. Their 112 losses set the mark for most losses in franchise history since the A’s moved to Oakland in 1969 and trails only the 1916 Philadelphia A’s team that lost 117 games. Starting the year 12-50, matching the 1969 Mets’ 120 losses seemed in reach. However, thanks to the promotion of second-half rookie sensation Gelof and continued growth from other rookie hitters Ruiz, Rooker, Ryan Noda, and pitchers JP Sears and Ken Waldichuk, Oakland improved post-All-Star break and started to play more competitive games.
- The A’s also came close to breaking records in run differential. They had the lowest team batting average (.223), scored the fewest runs in the Major Leagues (585), and only the Colorado Rockies gave up more runs than the A’s this season. Additionally, A’s pitchers hit and walked the most batters out of all MLB teams, and the team made 102 errors, tied for second with the Boston Red Sox behind the Giants, who led the league with 117. As a result, the A’s final run differential of -339 was the third-worst in the modern era and the lowest since the 1932 Red Sox’s run differential of -349.
A’s Off-the-field Drama
The A’s ineptitude largely stemmed from the owner, John Fisher’s, stingy payroll and frequent cost-cutting, leading the front office to trade or not re-sign effective, well-known players such as Marcus Semien, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman, and Murphy.
As a revolt against Fisher’s dismantling of the roster and plan to move the team, A’s fans started the “Summer of Sell” movement. While the attendance levels were low for most of the A’s home games at the dilapidated Oakland Coliseum, fans packed the stands on June 13 for a reverse boycott. A fan group gave out shirts that said “SELL,” fans yelled “Sell The Team,” and the A’s beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 in a tightly contested game. The movement went nationwide as A’s fans brought it to some road games and the All-Star game, chanting “sell the team” every top of the fifth inning.
- Star pitcher Logan Webb took another step forward and will likely finish in the top tier of the National League CY Young Award voting. The workhorse ended the season 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA in an MLB-high 216 innings pitched. He and Alex Cobb were the only two starting pitchers that consistently performed well for this team. Rookie Patrick Bailey emerged as the team’s starting catcher, and top pitching prospect left-hander Kyle Harrison got his feet wet at the Major League level at the end of the season.
- The Giants’ annual Willie Mac Award went to second-baseman Thairo Estrada, a consistent all-around player. He hit .271 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. First-baseman Lamonte Wade Jr. and fellow infielder Wilmer Flores also helped power the offense, respectively hitting 17 and 23 home runs.
- The team’s bullpen had a solid campaign led by All-Star closer Camilo Doval, who finished the season with 39 saves and 87 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched.
- The streaky 2023 Giants were in contention for a playoff spot most of the season. After a hot stretch, they were 13 games over .500 on July 18. However, San Francisco fell apart over the last month as they went 2-8 on their final road trip and 8-18 in September, costing their manager Gabe Kapler his job and resulting in the team’s first losing season since 2020.
- The Giants’ offense wasn’t up to par to support a pitching staff that tied Cleveland for the fewest home runs allowed. They had the third-fewest hits in the league, seventh-most strikeouts, and third-worst batting average.
At the trade deadline, the Giants were 58-49, the third-best record in their league. President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi only traded with Seattle for outfielder AJ Pollack, who barely played for the club. The Giants slumped to an 18-30 record and eventually fell out of the race as their roster holes and lack of talent got exposed. Yet, unlike other contenders, their front office failed to make any trades for reinforcement.
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