Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick

The Athletics are killing it in the run differential department

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If you’re the type who likes to use run differential as a quick and dirty gauge of a team’s talent, you’re probably very impressed with the Athletics thus far. Sunday’s 13-3 victory over the Indians leaves them 3.5 games ahead of the Angels for first place in the AL West. The win also brought their run differential to a staggering +95, putting them on pace for +350 over a full season. Typically, the best teams finish in the +150-200 area.

The Athletics have nine players, minimum 80 plate appearances, with an above-average wRC+ which is a Sabermetric stat that individually weights each of the various components in which a player contributes offensively. 100 is average. Reddick is close to joining the list at 94.

Dan Straily has been the only starter who hasn’t done a good job, posting a 4.93 ERA before his recent demotion to Triple-A Sacramento. Scott Kazmir has been a godsend and Jesse Chavez has been a surprise, seeing as he was an emergency addition to the rotation when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin succumbed to injuries. And Sonny Gray has been as good as he advertised last season. In the bullpen, off-season acquisition Jim Johnson has been the only unreliable contributor.

Many are gawking at the Tigers and they’re not wrong for doing so, but the Athletics are looking like the American League’s best team, at least at this point in the season. The Tigers are the second-best team in baseball in terms of run differential, but they’re a whopping 44 runs behind the Athletics. It’s only fitting that the Athletics and the Tigers are the class of the American League at this point, though, as they were foes in last year’s ALDS, with the Tigers narrowly escaping the five-game set.

Doesn’t anyone want to sign Edwin Encarnacion?

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — Edwin Encarnacion began the offseason as, arguably, the second most desirable free agent on the market. As the Winter Meetings approach their end, however, he is a man without a team. And may not have a team any time soon.

Many teams have been rumored to be checking in on Encarnacion, but the defining trait of his free agency thus far has been clubs taking a pass. The most recent one being the Rangers, who are reported to simply not have the money to sign him, despite him filling a clear offensive need in Texas. Maybe the Rangers would be more competitive on the free agent market if they had a new stadium. Who knows?

The Blue Jays, for whom he most recently played, offered him a four-year, $80 million deal that most figured was a lowball, and when he rejected it, they moved on to Kendrys Morales. The Red Sox acquired Mitch Moreland. The Yankees are reported to be passing. The most recent team linked to Encarnacion is the Indians, who are reported to have an offer out to him, but at this point it’s likely far lower than what most free agent watchers thought he might get a few weeks ago. A four-year, $90 million deal did not seem crazy for him in October. In December, there is speculation that he could be had for $60 million over that same term which, frankly, would be a bargain. That’s less than Mark Melancon, the third best closer on the market, got from the Giants.

There have been a lot of remarkable things that have happened in the past few weeks, but one of the most unexpected things would be one of the top bats in the game getting second-tier closer money.

Late Athletics broadcaster Bill King wins the Ford C. Frick Award

bill-king
CSN Bay Area
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OXON HILL, MD — Bill King has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

King, one of the iconic voices of Bay Area sports, was known for his handlebar mustache and his signature “Holy Toledo!” exclamation. King broadcast A’s games for 25 seasons, from 1981 through 2005. He likewise broadcast Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors games and got his start as an announcer for the Giants in the late 1950s after they moved to San Francisco.

King passed away in October 2005. With the Frick Award, however, he has now been immortalized among baseball broadcasters.