The success of a baseball team can only truly be measured by the outcome produced between the lines. Nothing bears weight comparable to that of a win. Or a loss.
How a team tallies those wins and losses, though, will fluctuate.
The 2017 Oakland Athletics, on the surface, appear to be a team whose success will be built on pitching. That pitching staff, however, is flushed with youth, particularly the rotation. That is where Stephen Vogt comes in.
A two-time All-Star, Vogt has been a productive member of the offense since he first donned the green and gold in 2013, posting a .260/.319/.423 slash in his four seasons with the team. Over that stretch he has also developed leadership qualities, and a reputation as the glue that binds a clubhouse.
Free agent Trevor Plouffe cited Vogt’s work in the Oakland clubhouse when discussing his choosing the A’s. Starting pitcher Sean Manaea told SFBay that being able to lean on players like Vogt makes improving within the game easier. But Daniel Mengden, another of the young hurlers, summed up Vogt’s impact on the team with a title not often thrown around in professional sports:
He told SFBay:
“It all starts with Stephen Vogt. He’s our captain in a lot of areas. He keeps everyone in line, and he’s a great leader both on and off the field. I look up to a guy like that. Great guy all the way around and a great leader, someone you really want in a clubhouse.”
The solidarity he provides in the clubhouse, the work ethic he teaches the young players through his example and the fact that he is among the most productive catchers in the game make the 32 year-old an invaluable asset for his current team. The guy once scraped off a trash heap in Tampa Bay, when the Rays asked for nothing more than cash in return for his services.
And the aid he provides his team goes beyond what he has continued to do with a staff growing younger each year, this year he will take on a new duty — grooming the man who may be his replacement.
Bruce Maxwell came into the major leagues a season ago carrying high expectations for his defensive contributions, and while he surprised with his offensive numbers he immediately developed a rapport with his staff.
Maxwell told SFBay that while he feels the guidance Vogt provides has been and will continue to be paramount:
“It’s huge. This guy has been in the big leagues, in this organization, for years. He knows how to play ball up here — he’s seen the years that we’ve played well, he’s seen the years that we’ve played bad — his wisdom and knowledge will help us settle in.”
Under “Vogter’s” tutelage, Maxwell went from a July call-up struggling to find his way, or playing time, to a guy whose production over the last month of 2016 (.361/.418/.508) has forced the organization to consider carrying three catchers come Opening Day.
Manager Bob Melvin, who spent 10 year behind the big league plates himself, echoed the sentiment of his young backstop, adding that Vogt is also a “great resource” for veterans new to the A’s.
For Melvin to have a player like Vogt — another coach, in many ways — is huge. His guidance comes from a place of both peer and leader. The fact that he is a catcher only magnifies that, as he can impact the growth of the team on every level. And his influence on the wins and losses of this team, though profound and all-encompassing, begin with building a strong clubhouse:
As he said:
“That’s everything. A lot of that, over the last couple years, got away from us. With the changes in the offseasons of ’14 and ’15 it just got blown up. But we really gelled well there the last six to eight weeks of the season. We have a good feel in the clubhouse, and everybody is excited.”