Now that Mark Kotsay appears to be signed, it's time for the very informed fans who frequent this site to take a step back and realize who the A's are, both permanently and for now.
Permanently, they are a team that is about winning. Small market or not, the A's make--or don't make--trades with a clear focus on building and sustaining a winner. Back when we traded Big Mac to the Cards that wasn't really the case. Now it always is. So, permanently, we have plenty to look forward to.
For now, it helps define our team. Beane was not going to trade Kotsay unless he could help it (or unless he got a ridiculously good deal) because Kotsay is a huge part of the A's identity right now. I don't mean solely clubhouse presence (though I'll get to that later). I mean he's a huge part of the on-field identity of the current club.
No longer the walks and shots team of Jason Giambi, the A's are now a team that wants to win with solid starting (which they do have and will), a great pen (which they seem to be building and might even be close to having), and with tight defense. Kotsay is a key (along with Crosby and Chavy) to that last one. And, of course, we're not talking about fielding percentage; we're talking about all the balls he gets too. More than that, Kotsay also represents another shift in how the A's now win. (Beane clearly understands that there are all sorts of ways to win, though some are better than others.) We now win by putting the ball in play, by having tough at bats stringing hits together. Kotsay does that. Kotsay is part of why we strike out less than any other team.
And in terms of Kotsay's presence in the clubhouse and on the field, he represents a personality shift for the A's. We now also win with grit. That's Kendall and Kotsay completely. Gritty, gutsy gamers. Completely dedicated professionals. The A's still have a great clubhouse from all reports. But it's no longer mostly a frat. It's a bunch of young guys, sure, but it also has a couple of veterans in key spots. That's a huge change.
I loved the A's of 99-04. It's hard to imagine a better season than the first playoff run, ending with Matt Stairs and Frankie Menechino carrying Giambi around the field after Huddy's win over the Rangers. But this team, a different team, is one that's easy to love, too. And it's still the best organization in baseball to be a true fan of--young talent, a great spirit, a bright future.