Bruce Rondon’s early struggles this spring led to reports that the Tigers were trying to acquire a closer, but the rookie fireballer has bounced back quite nicely of late.
Rondon allowed three runs on five hits and five walks over his first 3 2/3 innings during Grapefruit League action, but after taking a few days off to work on his mechanics, the 22-year-old right-hander has five straight scoreless appearances to go along with a 9/2 K/BB ratio and two hits allowed over five innings. This includes three consecutive hitless appearances.
Rondon had perhaps his biggest test this afternoon when he faced the heart of the Nationals’ lineup. After getting Jayson Werth to ground out, he ran the count full against Bryce Harper before walking him with a fastball off the plate. However, he bounced back by striking out Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche swinging to end the scoreless frame.
Rondon posted a 1.53 ERA and 66/26 K/BB ratio over 53 innings last season between High-A Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. The 22-year-old right-hander probably still has a lot to prove in order to gain Jim Leyland’s trust in the ninth inning, but he’s at least making a strong push for a bullpen spot.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?