First-time All-Star Moss exemplifies A's approach
Slugger, after bouncing around big leagues, thriving for Majors' top team
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sean Doolittle is one of only two homegrown players residing on a first-place A's roster. Sonny Gray is the other. The rest?
"We get the label of castoffs a lot," said Brandon Moss. "For most of us, we were just in situations where there just wasn't an opportunity, and we end up here.
"That speaks to our front office and the way they recognize talent. You can't always control where you are in the Draft, and you can't control your payroll, so you have to identify talent in other ways. They've done a really good job of that."Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, Yoenis Cespedes and Jeff Samardzija, along with Scott Kazmir, making his third career Midsummer Classic trip but first since 2008.
The A's had not sent at least six players since 1975, when they had seven on the roster. They hadn't even had as many as four since 2003, which also marked the last time they sent a position player.
Baseball's best team is also baseball's best story, driven by characters like Moss, who is the poster boy of an organization that has made a habit out of extracting talent from the undervalued. Then there's Donaldson, the former catcher who was voted by fans to start the All-Star Game at third base, and Kazmir, the former first-round Draft pick who lost his way and left professional baseball for more than a year before returning to the big stage. He's sporting a 2.38 ERA.
The mullet-and-beard-wearing Norris has spent much of his career in a platoon. Cespedes defected from Cuba.
"You put all those guys in the same room," said Moss, "that's a lot of resiliency. It's really rare to see a team built the way ours was."
And really remarkable.
"They give continued opportunities," said Padres All-Star closer Huston Street, whose 2005 rookie season in Oakland ended with AL Rookie of the Year Award honors. "They definitely did that with me. There were a number of times they could've pulled me out of the ninth, and they didn't, and I'm thankful for that, because I'm still here."
Creating closers is one of Oakland's many specialties. Their latest project was Doolittle, who finished the first half with a 63:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 14 saves -- the same Doolittle they drafted as a power-hitting first baseman with the 41st overall pick in 2007.
"I know I surprised myself, and most definitely the people working around me," said Doolittle.
That's what the A's do best. Only now are they getting recognized for such efforts -- and soaking it all in.
Even Jayden Moss is hamming it up, just like Dad.
"He goes up to everyone that's here," said Brandon of his 4-year-old son. "He goes up to Jon Lester and says, 'I know who you are. Are you an All-Star?' I tell him, 'Buddy, every player that you're going to see here is an All-Star.' Then Miguel Cabrera comes in and he goes, 'Dad, that's Cabrera.' I go, 'Buddy, he's lucky to be on this team.'"
Moss was in dad mode on the A's charter jet to Minneapolis following Sunday's win in Seattle, watching movies and playing video games with his two sons. Donaldson did the talking. Doolittle did a lot of oohing and aahing.
"I've never been on a private jet," said Doolittle. "Then we get here and see a limo pull up. You don't see those at the O.Co very much."
"It's all very overwhelming," said Moss. "But, man, it's awesome. It goes back to the A's giving me an opportunity, and a good one at that. They ran me out there every day, dealt with my struggles. I strike out a lot and look overmatched at times, but they let me overcome that, and now I'm coming out on the other side, sitting here in a room full of really good players."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.