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Josh Donaldson: A Microcosm of the Oakland Athletics


It may seem like a distant memory, but it really wasn’t all that long ago that Josh Donaldson was a one time prospect who simply didn’t have what it takes to stick in the Major Leagues.  Lets take a trip down memory lane for a moment, back to the first day of Spring Training workouts in 2012.  After a solid 2011 campaign, the Athletics had apparently found a third baseman who can solidify himself at the position in Scott Sizemore.  As Sizemore took to the field to begin taking his first official grounders of the year, he, and everyone watching heard a pop in his knee.

The coming days would reveal that Sizemore had torn his ACL, and would be lost for the entire 2012 season, an hour after it began.

Jul 14, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) hits a walk-off RBI single against the Boston Red Sox during the eleventh inning at Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics debated the Boston Red Sox 3-2 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletics were in a tough position, they just lost one of the position players they thought they would be able to depend on, and had no time to find his replacement.  In came Josh Donaldson, a converted catcher and former first round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs who had all of 34 uninspiring plate appearances with the A’s back in 2010.  Ever since his cup of coffee in the Show, he’d been plying his trade with the Sacramento River Cats, and seemed destined to be an “organization guy” for the duration of his career.  Suddenly he was granted an opportunity to not only play in the big leagues, but he would be a starting third baseman on Opening Day.

Unfortunately, Donaldson didn’t take advantage of this golden opportunity, hitting .153/.160/.235 in 100 plate appearances before the Athletics sent him back down to Triple A thanks to the signing of Brandon Inge.  Inge took the Athletics by storm, and “Ingesanity” made Donaldson nothing more than an afterthought, and he would be lucky to see the inside of the Coliseum again.  Fast forward to the month of August, Brandon Inge’s shoulder injury put him on the shelf, and the A’s were once again without any other options.  Josh Donaldson had gotten a second chance, and this time he would take full advantage of that chance.  Over 194 plate appearances Donaldson hit .290/.356/.489 during the final 6 weeks of the season.

In 2013, Donaldson, now solidified in his position has taken his game to an entirely different level, one nobody could have expected.  So far this year he’s hit a robust .310/.379/.522 with 16 home runs and absolutely should have been named to the American League All-Star team.

Now, if you stop for a moment and think about Josh Donaldson and about the Oakland Athletics over the last season and a half, you may notice a litany of similarities.  Like Donaldson, the Athletics themselves were expected to fail in 2012, and early on in the season they did exactly that.  Before making their miraculous second half run towards the AL West crown, they languished near the bottom of the division.  Oddly enough though in the context of this article, it was around the same time Donaldson was demoted that the team started to play better baseball, if you look at the numbers though it’s not difficult to see why.

The Athletics started their run in July, and Donaldson in August, and they both ended up at the same destination.  In 2013, both were saddled with another burden, expectations.  And thus far both have met, and perhaps exceeded those expectations.

So what’s the point of all this?  The point is that Josh Donaldson represents the Oakland Athletics in more ways than one.  Surely he’s becoming one of the cornerstone players of this franchise, and in a very literal sense represents the team.  But his journey that started at the bottom, and is heading towards the top mirrors that of the Oakland Athletics. In that sense, he is the perfect Oakland Athletic, and he just may be the one to lead this team to the promise land.