Athletics Chapman Tries to Put Frustrations Behind Him, Gears Up For a Big 2020

John Hickey

The worst of Matt Chapman’s frustrations seem to be behind him now that the Oakland A’s are back in the Coliseum and working out, building toward a July 24 opening to the 2020 season in the Coliseum against the Angels.

But when other teams were opening their camps on July 1, the A’s didn’t. Then Oakland wound up not getting position players onto the field until July 5, Chapman says he was “definitely frustrated.”

A lot of that had to do with Major League Baseball’s intake testing procedures, which broke down and forced not just the A’s but about one-fifth of all big-league teams to cancel or delay workouts. But he wished the A’s had been able to get players on the field on Day 1, although some of that was out of the organization’s hands, as the demands of coronavirus had to be dealt with first.

The Alameda County Health Care Services Agency cleared the Coliseum for use by the A’s as of July 3, and the A’s scheduled pitchers and catchers showed up that day, with the position players due for the Fourth. But when testing went awry, the position players were scratched on July 4 and 5, finally getting on the field late in the day July 6.

“I know this is uncharted territory for everybody, including the MLB front office,” Chapman said in a Thursday conference call. “You like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but from a player standpoint we feel like this year we have a really good ballclub and we have a chance to make a long run. In a short season, we know how valuable every single day is, especially when it comes to spring training.

“We were disappointed that our organization took those few extra days … when we were all ready to go on July 1. But, you know, we’re on the field now. And that’s all that matters, and it’s all than we can control. We want to move forward.”

Oakland manager Bob Melvin said that when the A’s were in the process of standing still, he said he felt the A’s were “five days behind.” Looking back, he doesn’t still feel that way. And he seems to understand Chapman’s emotional swing.

“He wants to get out there,” Melvin said. “We took the time to get ready. But I don’t think it’s a big deal.

The A’s, who have been doing some simulated games, have been working out in the afternoon for the most part, have been having simulated games the last few days in which Chapman says the pitchers are definitely ahead of the hitters.”

Starting with Thursday, the club will work out later in the day, the better to be adjusted for the night games that are coming down the road. And Chapman says it’s up to the players to take advantage of the time they have.

“And I think this team is really good about that,” the third baseman said, “about not focusing on the negatives, but focusing on the positives and trying to make the most of … a weird year. A lot of things have been thrown at us in 2020; we’ve just got to keep rolling with it.”

The A’s, coming off back-to-back 97-win seasons, start 2020 as one of the best teams in baseball. Chapman wants his club to do everything possible to live up to that expectation. His goals would see Oakland back in the postseason come October.

And that’s going to have to begin on July 24. The A’s have been just a .500 team over the first 60 games of the last two seasons before turning it on. In a 2020 season that is limited to 60 games, that won’t work.

“The team’s goals are still the same, you know – win, win as much as we can,” Chapman said. “Getting off to a good start, you know that’s extremely important now. You can lose a season in two weeks, it seems like, in this short schedule. You know you can’t fall too far behind, but you can also jump out to a good lead.

“I think it’s exciting, because every game seems like it’s going to be a playoff game.”

Chapman spent most of baseball’s downtime in Arizona where he and center fielder Ramon Laureano were able to find a batting cage to keep their swings intact. He’s working now on getting his defensive reactions back.

He, along with his teammates, is learning how to play a socially distanced version of a game he’s been playing since he was a kid. And he’s learning to be a leader. It was his voice that general manager David Forst heard most loudly when the first scheduled workouts for position players were scratched. And he’s a spokesman for the team and someone the club can rally around.

“As a team player, after talking with Marcus (shortstop Marcus Semien) and some of the guys, we know that we do have a few high-risk guys on our team,” Chapman said. “Everybody’s still kind of getting acclimated and getting used to this route and all the changes. We have the stuff at the ballpark down, the wearing of masks at all times. Taking precautions. Washing your hands. Guys are starting to come together more and more.

“We know that every day matters. We know we’re not just some other team,” he said. “We consider ourselves one of the best teams in the big leagues.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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