The last Oakland team to make it past the first round in the American League playoffs was the 2006 team, one that featured Mark Kotsay in center fielder.
These days Kotsay is the team’s quality control coach, essential a right-hand man to manager Bob Melvin. He’s was a team leader when he played for the A’s, and he’s known for both his communication skills and his knowledge of the game, so much so that the Giants, Padres, Astros and Red Sox talked to him as they were hiring new managers this winter.
The A’s are in the playoffs, currently as the AL’s No. 2 seed, and Kotsay’s opinion on what the A’s need to get through the wild card round and make a serious run toward what would be the team’s first World Series appearance since 1989 is worth seeking out.
“Playoff baseball is about pitching. It’s about defense and timely hitting,” Kotsay said Saturday morning in a video conference call. “Going forward with this club, they’ve showed timely hitting and hopefully it’ll show up going forward.
“We’ve obviously shown we can play with any team.”
Kotsay went right to the hitting that the A’s got Friday night – a game-tying double from Ramon Laureano in the bottom of the 10th inning and a subsequent walkoff homer from Mark Canha – in part because the A’s haven’t hit; they’d been shut out for nine innings before pulling out the 3-1 win.
The Oakland pitching has been top-notch, and the defense has been good, although it’s lessened with the loss of two-time Platinum Glove-winning third baseman Matt Chapman to hip surgery. But the offense has been disappointing.
The hitting has been timely – Oakland is 6-0 in extra innings and the A’s have six walkoff wins. But it’s been exceptionally spotty, too. Oakland comes into Saturday’s doubleheader – the fourth DH in 19 days for the A’s – with a .222 batting average, a mark that will stand as the worst for any A’s team dating back to the franchise’s founding in 1901 if the A’s can’t pick up the pace this weekend.
Admittedly, it’s a 162-game season cut down to 60 games, but still.
Kotsay, himself a one-time hitting coach, isn’t making himself crazy over the lack of hits.
“We focus on the day, not the year,” Kotsay said. “It’s really hard to evaluate this year. It’s 60 games. Guys are personally trying to put up numbers quickly, and that makes this a very difficult year to evaluate.
“As a whole, we’re moving forward and going into the postseason, and those at-bats at all over. The focus Game One will be the value of 90 feet, getting on base and the value of playing team offense.”
Kotsay said that the current group of A’s reminds him of the 2006 team in one important, and non-statistical way.
“Absolutely; if I think about 2006, it was a brotherhood,” Kotsay said. “We had a tight bond. And the guys in the locker room, they have a tight bond. They care about one another. From that standpoint, I definitely see that as a big similarity.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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