Preseason predictions were meant to be defied. That’s true in every sport, but baseball can particularly throw you off, given the length of the seasons and how teams can be prone to lengthy hot or cold streaks. A bad month may be masked over a full season, and a bad team may have a good month that goes unnoticed, but both are harder to miss — and potentially more impactful — when they happen early on in the regular season.
Here are ten teams that have surprised onlookers so far in 2019 — either in a good or bad way.
10. Atlanta Braves
The Braves were expected to take a step forward this season after breaking into the playoffs last year, but they’ve instead loitered around .500 through the first month or so of the season. A big part of this is down to an unreliable bullpen and a pitching staff that, in general, has really struggled to settle into a groove. They have plenty of time to turn it around, especially with no one seizing the initiative in the NL East.
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The Oakland Athletics took the opportunity to troll their neighbors after locking down a key player.
The Athletics locked down outfielder Khris Davis on a two-year contract extension this week. It’s big news for an organization that has, at times, struggled to retain their key players.
It also gave them the opportunity to troll the Golden State Warriors, which they did in a full-page ad in Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) April 19, 2019
The joke, of course, is that Warriors star Kevin Durant’s future is very much not settled. It’s not often that the Athletics can claim a move like this, especially with the joke being at Golden State’s expense. They might as well take the opportunity to engage in some friendly prodding.
The Oakland A’s made a valiant effort to convince Kyler Murray to report to spring training and forget about football, but ultimately the Heisman Trophy winner chose to pursue a career in the sport that has made him a household name. Murray left a lot of money on the table with that decision, and the signing bonus he had to return is apparently only a fraction of it.
Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated took a closer look at what went on behind the scenes before Murray chose to enter the NFL Draft, and he was told by a source that the A’s offered Murray a guaranteed contract worth $14 million in addition to his signing bonus, which was $4.66 million. The offer was reportedly presented to Murray when a group of A’s executives flew to Dallas to meet with him in January amid increasing talk that the former Oklahoma star was leaning toward football.
As Klemko notes, offering Murray that kind of contract would have meant the A’s would have to add him to their 40-man roster. The more than $18 million guaranteed would have been comparable to what a top-10 NFL Draft pick makes, so Oakland was essentially taking money out of the equation. Still, Murray’s father Kevin says Kyler had already decided he was going to pursue a career in the NFL before the January meeting and took it out of respect for the A’s.
Assuming the $14 million offer actually happened, that says a lot about Murray’s commitment to football. His path to become a star in the NFL may be a lot more realistic than it would be in Major League Baseball, but turning down more than $18 million guaranteed when you’re unsure of when you might be drafted can’t be easy to do. If you didn’t believe what Murray said about his career choice two months ago, you probably should now.
Kyler Murray’s statement released on Monday will not stop the Oakland A’s from continuing to pursue the two-sport star.
Murray announced on Monday that he is committing fully to a future playing football. He is expected to attend the NFL Combine to be evaluated ahead of the draft.
Though Murray — a likely first-round pick — is declaring his choice to pursue football, the A’s will not be deterred.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal says Oakland remains motivated to continue trying to get Murray to play baseball. He says the team always told Murray that they are open to him attending the draft and combine to gather as much information as possible. Rosenthal also points out that the A’s can offer Murray a big league contract and top whatever financial offer an NFL team gives him.
Oakland will not receive a compensation pick even if Murray chooses another sport because the Heisman Trophy winner already signed his minor league deal, and compensation picks only go to teams unable to sign their first-round pick. The A’s may be motivated to continue pursuing Murray, but absent a pro football career that fizzles out, it does not seem like Kyler will be switching sports.
The Oakland A’s will likely never have anything to show for drafting Kyler Murray with the No. 9 overall pick in the MLB Draft, but that does not mean they regret taking a chance on the two-sport star.
Murray officially announced on Monday that he is fully committed to pursuing a career in the NFL, meaning he will not be reporting to training camp with the A’s later this week. He’ll have to repay the portion of his signing bonus that he already received, though the A’s will keep his rights. Shortly after Murray made his intentions clear, A’s general manager David Forst said the team does not regret drafting Murray.
It's unclear when the A's learned of Kyler Murray's decision, but GM David Forst says, "We’ve known from the tone of the conversations that he could choose the NFL."
— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 11, 2019
Forst: "We took the best athlete on the board and what we thought was the best baseball player on the board too. We don’t regret the pick at all."
— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 11, 2019
The A’s had no idea Murray would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and become a potential first-round pick, so you can’t blame them for taking the best player available. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer.
Some scouts have said they view Murray as a second- or third-round pick in the NFL, but it seems unlikely that he would choose football if he wasn’t fairly certain he will be drafted in the first round. The way NFL executives reportedly feel about Murray is likely a better indicator of his current draft stock.
Kyler Murray’s decision to pursue an NFL career certainly shook the sports world on Monday, but nobody more than the entire Oakland Athletics organization.
The decision will have particularly clear ramifications for Oakland’s minor league affiliates, including the Single-A Vermont Lake Monsters. They were pretty sad to see Murray go, and they made it pretty clear in an amusing Twitter post.
He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
— Vermont Lake Monsters (@VTLakeMonsters) February 11, 2019
The Lake Monsters probably are disappointed to miss out on Murray, as he would’ve been a big draw. Ultimately, though, he always seemed like he preferred to play quarterback in the NFL, and he’s now decided that he’s going to do just that, much to the disappointment of baseball fans.
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Position players are scheduled to report to training camp on Friday with the Oakland A’s, and the team is still uncertain if first-round pick Kyler Murray will be among them.
According to Carrie Muskat of The Associated Press, Murray has a locker and a No. 73 jersey waiting for him at Oakland’s facility. However, the A’s do not know if Murray intends to report to camp later this week, and general manager David Frost said Sunday that team executives have been in contact with the former Oklahoma star’s family.
Murray is likely trying to get a better idea of what his chances are of being a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. Pursuing a career in football makes more sense financially if he will be selected in the first round, as the guaranteed money he would receive from the team that drafts him will be about the same as what the A’s have offered him. If Murray does decide to go through with playing football, teams will have to be certain he is not going to change his mind before they consider spending a high pick on him.
Considering Murray is reportedly planning to attend the NFL Scouting Combine later this month, it would be a surprise if he reports to training camp with the A’s. While he still could play baseball, the way some NFL executives feel about him will probably make playing football an easier decision.