After last season’s unexpected run into the playoffs, a lot of folks thought the Oakland Athletics might have a letdown this season. Perish the thought: the A’s are leading the AL West by five games going into the trade deadline, and with a 63-44 record, they’re in a virtual tie for the best record in the American League. With a relatively unheralded cast of characters, including journeyman Coco Crisp and All-Star snub Josh Donaldson, the A’s have ridden strong pitching and timely hitting to a season that continues to confound nonbelievers. And with the addition of infielder Alberto Callaspo, they’ve secured themselves as a short-list favorite to win the AL Pennant.
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In Alberto Callaspo, the A’s have secured a solid everyday player who has experience at multiple infield positions. He adds another right-handed bat to the lineup, and despite less than gaudy numbers, he’s a dangerous doubles hitter who adds a line-drive threat to a streaky, often home-run-happy team (the Athletics are 8th in the MLB in runs scored, but only 21st in batting average). Alberto Callaspo will likely start at second base, where he last played in 2010, and he will strengthen the defensive infield — but since third base is his primary position, Donaldson will be able to take the occasional break and not burn out down the stretch. All of this takes pressure off of young infielder Eric Sogard, while increasing the depth and flexibility of the Athletics’ bench.
Combining a strong pitching staff, a penchant for winning close games and a combination of explosive talent and veteran roleplayers, the Oakland Athletics look like a solid bet to hold on to the American League West. They’ve solidified their infield, their defense and their bench in a single trade, and at 34-1,7, they flourish in their home park. If they secure the American League’s best record, they might be the favorite to represent the AL in the World Series.