During last off-season, the Oakland A's traded their top two starting pitchers and their closer. Their entire 2011 outfield declared for free agency. While Billy Beane did make a splash by signing Cuban phenom Yeonis Cespedes, the remainder of his off-season signings were an uninspiring list headed by Manny Ramirez, Bartolo Colon, Jonny Gomes and Coco Crisp.
The A's, as you know, were faced with playing in the same division as the Texas Rangers, who had only gone to the World Series the past two years AND signed Yu Darvish. The division also contained a team in the Angels that signed both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
To combat this, the A's trotted out an opening day 2012 lineup of:
Jemile Weeks, 2B
Cliff Pennington, SS
Coco Crisp, LF
Seth Smith, DH
Kurt Suzuki, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Yeonis Cespedes, CF
Brandon Allen, 1B
Erik Sogard, 3B
In the opening week, Oakland would also start Kila Ka'aihue, Deric Barton, Josh Donaldson and the aforementioned Gomes. They would later add Brandon Inge, Stephen Drew, Chris Carter and Brandon Moss.
The A's initial starting rotation consisted of Colon, Brandon McCarthy, Tommy Milone, Graham Godfrey and Tyson Ross. They would early on add Jarrod Parker to the mix and later would add 29 year old rookie Travis Blackley and another rookie A.J. Griffin. They wold get all of six starts out of Brett Anderson and would eventually use three different closers.
So, of course the won 94 games. Of course, Oakland would not only make the post-season, but do so by winning the A.L. West. All that and with a payroll of $57 million.
Truthfully, look at that lineup. Heck, look at the lineup they are using in the playoffs. Would you trade the Royals' starting nine for that of the A's. Certainly not at the start of the season and, probably, not now, either. Likely the same for the bullpens.
Certainly at this point, one would gleefully exchange rotations, but at the beginning of the season? Maybe, maybe not.
Probably there was a little baseball magic to what the Oakland A's accomplished this season. Yet, you look at their off-season and their opening day roster and wonder just how they ended up winning 22 more games than the Royals.
It can't all be dumb luck, can it?