Perhaps the unlikeliest of the A’s six All-Stars this season was absent when manager Bob Melvin announced the selections in a clubhouse meeting Sunday morning.
Brandon Moss was getting an MRI on his sprained left ankle, so Melvin called Moss with the news. Moss’ wife was with him when he took the call, he said, and immediately saw “my face drop.”
“I was in shock,” Moss said. “I think she thought it was something bad because I was so shocked. He’s telling me, and I’m speechless.”
That is rare for Moss, one of the most gregarious A’s and recipient of last year’s Bill Rigney Good Guy Award for his dealings with local media. Later in the day, even, Moss did an admirable job characterizing the team’s large All-Star contingent, citing the “pretty interesting paths” taken by their honorees.
“We got a guy that came from Cuba (outfielder Yoenis Cespedes),” Moss said. “We got a guy that was pitching for the (independent Sugar Land) Skeeters a few years ago (Scott Kazmir). We got a guy that was a hitter, and now he’s our closer (Sean Doolittle).”
Moss also spoke highly of catcher Derek Norris, saying he told his wife after seeing Norris in Triple A in 2012 that “this guy’s going to be an All-Star – he can hit,” and of third baseman Josh Donaldson, the A’s lone All-Star starter. The only player omitted by Moss in his answer was himself. Norris, later, did not make the same omission.
“You know, with all the guys that got in, in my opinion, he’s probably the most deserving candidate of all,” Norris said. “I think if you strictly look at what he’s done this year – he definitely gets overlooked by some of the names in baseball, but as far as our team, I think Moss is the most deserving candidate of all, just as far as production.”
Moss, who was back in the lineup for Monday’s Bay Bridge Series opener after missing two games because of his injured ankle, entered tied with Donaldson for the team lead in home runs (19) and RBIs (62). Both ranked sixth among A.L. players. Moss’ slugging percentage of .530, meanwhile, ranked seventh in the league, and his OPS of .889 was 10th.
Yet while Donaldson, Norris and Cespedes scored highly in fan voting for the All-Star Game, Moss placed fifth in voting at designated hitter. He was designated as such despite Monday night being just his seventh start at DH this season. Defensively, Moss has been as versatile a player as the A’s have had, starting 40 games at first base, 17 in right field and 13 in left field, perhaps making his All-Star candidacy difficult to define.
Manager Bob Melvin, though, said after the teams were named Sunday that while the A’s “had a feeling” about their other three position players, “we were all hoping for” Moss to be selected as well. Moss was one of six players selected by American League manager John Farrell of Boston in conjunction with Major League Baseball.
“It’s very special,” Moss later said. “It’s an opportunity I never thought I would have.”
That’s partly because, while not the movie-script type of Doolittle or Kazmir, Moss’ path to All-Star status was also pretty interesting.
He got his first shot at being a full-time player in the majors with Pittsburgh in 2009 – and failed to seize it. He hit .236 with seven home runs in 133 games, was later demoted and spent most of 2010-11 in the minors. He began 2012 with the River Cats, was called up to Oakland in June and arrived as the power hitter the A’s have now come to rely on in the middle of their order.
Moss has talked at length about the adjustments he made in the minors – embracing his natural tendencies as a pull hitter with power and the accompanying strikeouts, and opening his stance to put himself in position to drive more balls. Since his A’s debut on June 6, 2012, Moss is tied for sixth among major leaguers in homers (70), is tied for 17th in RBIs (201) and ranks seventh in slugging percentage (.544).
But what was not guaranteed, Moss acknowledges, was the opportunity the A’s gave him, originally as part of a first-base platoon.
“Usually when a guy gets an opportunity in the big leagues and struggles, he doesn’t get another opportunity to show he can do something different,” Moss said.
In Oakland, he found an organization that values his assets and a staff “that encourages you to go out and just be you. It makes the game easier to play.”
Moss hypothesized that the latter quality may help explain why some players seem to thrive in Oakland more than previous career stops. It certainly has been the case for Moss, who for all his insight was still struggling Sunday afternoon to put his response to Melvin’s call into words.
“I had an opportunity to play early in my career and didn’t do anything with it, and you fight just to get back, just to be anything,” Moss said. “Then lo and behold, you find an opportunity, and something like this happens. It’s hard to grasp.
“I’m appreciative, and I’m thankful, but I’m in shock. Because I didn’t expect it.”