"It's a really cool comparison," first baseman Brandon Moss said. "But at the same time, those teams had quite a few Hall of Famers and something else we don't have -- which is World Series titles. At the end of the day, it's all about, 'Did you win, or did you not?' The past two years, we've had really good teams, and we haven't even gotten past the first round of the playoffs. That's very frustrating."
Beane had a firm handle on what this team was all about in spring training, when he focused on the depth and functionality of the roster. The A's are fond of platoons and big on resilience, traits that helped them overcome potentially devastating elbow injuries to starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin in the Cactus League.
"The strength of our club is there are 25 good players," Beane said in February. "There are no bad players. There may not be any sort of stars, but we have 25 good players and depth beyond that. So we're sort of built for a long season."
Events since Opening Day have proved Beane correct -- though he might have underestimated the star power in his midst.
Earlier this week, the A's took a brief pause from winning games to send a major league-high 6½-man contingent to the All-Star Game in Minnesota. Third baseman Josh Donaldson was chosen by fans as the AL's starting third baseman, and Moss, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, catcher Derek Norris, starter Scott Kazmir and Doolittle also represented the A's, while Samardzija's allegiances were split between Oakland and his former employers in Chicago.
It's a likable group filled with fan- and media-friendly players and some inspirational backstories. Donaldson, the self-proclaimed "Bringer of Rain," is a WAR machine who plays the game with a fervor reminiscent of his high school football days in Alabama. Cespedes dominates Home Run Derbies and makes throws that blow up YouTube. Moss blossomed as a power hitter in Oakland at age 28 after putting up nondescript numbers in Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Kazmir, a former elite prospect with the Mets and an All-Star with Tampa Bay, resurrected his career in independent ball in Sugar Land, Texas. And Doolittle, a converted first baseman, throws his fastball 86 percent of the time and walks a batter every other month, whether he needs to or not.
Doolittle is also entertaining off the field. During All-Star media day, he bantered with reporters about his fondness for pizza, his lack of rhythm and his perceived resemblance to the rapper Macklemore. When asked about the flight the A's took to Minneapolis, Doolittle joked that Donaldson, the team social director, had packed plenty of juice boxes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to go around.
At a time when "development from within" is a baseball-wide mantra, starter Sonny Gray and Doolittle are the only players on Oakland's active roster who were acquired through the draft. The rest of the roster was diligently cobbled together through trades, waiver pickups and relatively modest free-agent signings. On Opening Day, the A's ranked 25th in baseball with an $83.4 million payroll, and they have only six players (Cespedes, reliever Jim Johnson, Kazmir, outfielder Coco Crisp, shortstop Jed Lowrie and reliever Luke Gregerson) making more than $5 million.