Rebuilding A's send Manaea against Angels' Nolasco

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It is never a good thing when the Oakland Athletics are drawing comparisons to the Kansas City A's.

The K.C. A's, for those born after World War II, were one of the most woebegone franchises of the modern era. The Philadelphia A's moved to K.C. after drawing 304,666 fans in 1954. They lasted 13 seasons in K.C., did not have a winning season, then moved to Oakland.

The K.C. version is best known for Charlie Finley, the miserly owner who once had a donkey as the team mascot and served as an unofficial affiliate of the Yankees. The Yankees would trade for the best A's players and send them players on the wrong side of their career.

The Oakland A's enter Sunday's final game of their series against the Los Angeles Angels having posted nine consecutive losing months, an Oakland franchise record. The K.C. version had 21 consecutive losing months (June 1963 to August 1966).

The question begged here is whether the current A's reflect just another phase of Billy Beane's modus operandi -- stripping the team bare, struggling for a while, then rebuilding it into a contender with the prospects obtained by stripping -- or something more in line with its K.C. legacy.

Beane became general manager in 1997 and by 2000 the A's were one of baseball's most intriguing teams. Eight straight winning seasons, five trips to the postseason, and doing it with a low-cost roster. The team hit the skids from 2007 to 2011, then won 94, 96 and 88 games the next three seasons. But now, they're headed to their third straight last-place finish in the American League West.

There is just one player left from that 2014 team, Jed Lowrie. Players who were dispatched via trades and free agency include Josh Donaldson, Yeonis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Sonny Gray, Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, Gray most recently at the trade deadline to the Yankees.

The 2017 A's have run a frequent flier program through Triple-A Nashville as the team fills holes while waiting for prospects to mature. There are some good players in Oakland -- the team can still rake with the best of them -- but the bounty to come will be better, presumably. In the wake of the trade deadline deals, the A's prospect list bounced to sixth-best in baseball. Dustin Fowler, 22, could be the starting center fielder next season. Jorge Mateo will play somewhere. A.J. Puk and James Kaprielian should be in the rotation by 2019, if not sooner. Paul Blackburn, a player the A's stole from Seattle in the offseason, was the winning pitcher on Saturday against the Angels.

Fowler and Kaprielian are coming off surgery, but the A's viewed them as their kind of player.

"We viewed that as an opportunity, as long as we felt good about their prognosis," Beane told USA Today after getting Fowler and Kaprielian from the Yankees. "I can certainly tell you it would have been very hard to acquire ... these guys had that not been the case.

"The acquisitions here were meant for the long term. We're saying, 'We know it's going to take time. Let's take the best talent available along the way."

Left-hander Sean Manaea (8-6. 3.88 ERA) starts Sunday's game for Oakland, and the 25-year-old second-year player looks like a keeper in the rotation for the next few years. He is 0-2 lifetime in four starts with a 5.23 ERA versus the Angels, and he is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles this season.

The Angels, suddenly warm and in the AL muddle of a half-dozen teams fighting for a wild-card spot, will start Ricky Nolasco (5-12, 4.90). They need to see the version of Nolasco who has five quality starts in his last seven outings, and not the version that has allowed 27 home runs in 125 innings.

Nolasco is 4-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 10 career starts against the A's, and he is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in his three starts against Oakland in 2017.

"When Ricky is focused, he can beat any team," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's just had a lot of games where he loses command and a couple of mistakes come back to hurt him."
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