Mark Kotsay

Kotsay sets .500 record as ‘challenge' for A's in 2024 season

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Mark Kotsay has high hopes for the Athletics in 2024 after enduring a 112-loss 2023 MLB season. 

In an exclusive interview with the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea, Oakland's manager explained the high standards he's setting for his team during its upcoming 162-game gauntlet.

“I’d like to set that expectation, yeah, I would,” Kotsay told Shea about reaching .500. “It’s a challenge. You’re talking about an improvement by 31 games. That’s a large task, but it’s not something that’s unaccomplishable.”

The A’s finished 50-112 last season. Oakland hasn’t finished above .500 since 2021, where it ended the year 86-76 without an MLB playoff berth. 

Oakland last made the playoffs during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season after finishing 36-24 -- The A's ultimately were defeated by the Houston Astros in the ALDS in four games.

While recent history and predictions aren’t in Oakland’s favor, Kotsay remains optimistic. He pointed out the Baltimore Orioles' turnaround from a 110-loss team in 2021 to a 101-win squad in 2023 as a source of inspiration, per Shea.

“The only message to them right now,” Kotsay explained to Shea, “is the expectations have to be higher for us as a group and holding them accountable to that performance and how we do things out of the gate. 

“The goal is to get out of the gate a lot better than we did last year and build confidence with this group, and they are confident, which I love. What we went through last year made us harder and tougher with the amount of losing we had to deal with.”

Oakland started last year 6-26 and placed itself in a deep hole right “out of the gate.” 

But Kotsay attributed some of the A’s lows in 2023 to insecurity within the roster, as players focused on making the team rather than winning games, per Shea.

But the vibes are different to begin 2024.

Kotsay believes the clubhouse prioritizes team success over individual success and will have improved results as roster security heightens.

The players set the tone,” Kotsay declared to Shea. “Every once in a while, I go in and like to have fun and turn the music up. Last year, I think they were in that clubhouse wondering if they were going to make the team, wondering how long they would be on the team, wondering what it meant for them as individuals. This year, I think they know their role.

“It’s not about them as individuals as much anymore as it is about the team.”

Due to uncertainty about the A’s potential relocation to Las Vegas and the team only carrying a combined 110 wins over the last two years into 2024, critics aren’t placing high expectations on the A’s.

Kotsay refuses to cave into outside expectations, instead leaning into optimism arising internally. 

The 48-year-old manager won't be surprised if the A’s finish 2024 above .500.

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