The A’s enter the 2014 season in the spot they most prefer, feeling more like the hunter than the hunted. It’s remarkable they can adopt this mentality considering they’re coming off back-to-back American League West championships. But after another offseason of watching their division rivals make headline-grabbing additions, the A’s are not viewed as A.L. West favorites in the eyes of some. That’s welcome fodder for a team that plays its best when trying to prove naysayers wrong. “I think we use it to our advantage,” general manager Billy Beane said during the team’s FanFest. “We kind of like that role.” The Texas Rangers, division runners-up the past two years, acquired five-time All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder and shelled out $130 million for free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to energize their offense. The Seattle Mariners signed the top free agent available, second baseman Robinson Cano, to a 10-year, $240 million contract and added free agent closer Fernando Rodney. The Los Angeles Angels improved their bullpen to complement a star-studded lineup. The A’s, who begin spring training Friday when pitchers and catchers report, were very active themselves this winter. They added free agent Scott Kazmir to the rotation, re-stocked an already impressive bullpen and strengthened their bench. Yet according to some national projections, the Rangers are poised to regain A.L. West supremacy. Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown rated Oakland the fifth-best team in the entire majors in his preseason power poll, but he slotted Texas even higher at No. 3. ESPN’s David Schoenfield ranked the A’s 10th out of the 30 teams, three spots lower than the Rangers at No. 7. “It doesn’t bother me if someone doesn’t pick us to win the division. It didn’t last year,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I think our expectations for our group are more important than what others’ are for us.” Truth is, even if there’s some skepticism on a national level, there’s an expectation among the local fan base for the A’s to advance farther than the past two seasons, when they lost to Detroit in the A.L. Division Series.
Despite back-to-back titles, A's embrace underdog role
CSN Bay Area | Feb 14