A’s oblivious to everything except winning

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — Yes, gone. With only a few traces. The baseball diamond still was there, most of all the dirt infield that the NFL teams despise, the last one. But already, an hour after the A’s home stand had ended, the scoreboard was showing the Raiders, who won’t be there until Friday.

That’s the way it is for the Oakland Athletics, second-class citizens of the Coliseum. The best baseball team in the Bay Area, in California — at least the California team with the best record — the fourth-best record in the major leagues, and to borrow that ancient but poignant Rodney Dangerfield comment about himself, they get no respect.

You think a few minutes after the conclusion of a Raiders game in Oakland the scoreboard would be flashing an upcoming A’s game? Not a chance.

But the A’s seem oblivious to slight, as they are to everything else, small crowds, a ballpark that’s really a football stadium, the leaking toilets — since repaired — and an occasional defeat, as was the case Wednesday, when Oakland fell to the Texas Rangers, 4-2.

The A’s are thinking big, as in big picture, as in the World Series. Baseball is a sport of percentages, not of perfection. You’re going to lose games, a lot of them when you play 162. The key is to win two-thirds of the time; especially when, as for the A’s, it gives a team one series after another — for Oakland, 18 of 19, virtually unheard of. Other than the Red Sox.

And going away for a week doesn’t faze the Athletics. “We’re one of the best teams in the league on the road,” said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, “and we have a built-in home field advantage here because it’s a graveyard. Teams don’t like playing here.”

He apparently was referring to the way balls don’t travel well, other than for day games, not to a burial location, although there is something about the stadium that makes its occupants think of final resting places. Long ago, players for the great A’s teams of the 1980s called it the mausoleum.

Into the mix for the A’s is the announcement from president Dave Kaval that the team has hired a Danish architectural firm, Barke Ingels Group (BIG), to design the new ballpark that someday may be constructed someplace. Maybe it will look like a pastry or a hunk of smoked salmon.

What the A’s look and sound like is a team brimming with self-belief, which is understandable. The more you win, the more confidence you have, and the more confidence you have, the more you win. That is if you have pitching, of course.

In the previous two games of the series, the A’s shut out the Rangers. Wednesday quickly ended any thought of that occurring a third straight time when the first man up for Texas, Shin-soo Choo, homered.

The Rangers built the margin to 4-0, but in the ninth, the crowd of 13,139 having shrunk, Oakland loaded the bases without a hit. A bit of excitement, but not a victory.

“It would have been nice to finish off the third one,” said Bob Melvin, the A’s manager, about the last game in this series and the Houston series, “but looking at the home stand, and the series, we’ll take two out of three.

“It’s gotten to the point where we know who we are and what’s going on around us. We’re not looking down the road. We are just trying to win the game at hand. I think that’s what this team does best.”

Lucroy offered affirmation. “We shouldn’t scoreboard watch," he said, "just worry about the game we’re playing."

They lost that game on Wednesday. And then, as the players headed to the airport, the Coliseum was being reconfigured for a Raiders exhibition game.

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