The trade deadline came, and Sonny Gray went. It’s not a surprising result, but it’s always gut wrenching to see a fan favorite go, specifically to that evil team on the other coast. While he’ll look good with a clean shave and still handsome even in those dumb pinstripes, it’ll look wrong seeing him on a team other than the Oakland A’s.
His tenure ended sooner than we all would hope on a team that is completely disappointing, but we can still celebrate Sonny Gray, awesome Oakland Athletic.
It’s true, the A’s don’t produce “homegrown” players all that frequently. The merits of that are up for a rather annoying debate, as is the definition of the term itself, but one thing is for sure: having a homegrown player is satisfying.
Sonny Gray fits that description, the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft by your Oakland Athletics. He had another qualifier that made him even more loveable: he’s short.
In spite of his height being an actual dumb red flag to some, Gray shot through the minor leagues. He threw just 22 professional innings in the year he was drafted prior to putting in a full season in the minors in 2012. That’d be his only full minor league campaign as in 2013, he started twenty games at the minor league level before being called up to the big leagues as a reliever.
The great promise of prospects is usually met with disappointment as more often than not, the youngsters we envision being big league stars can’t hack it beyond AAA. Many players come up but just never progress, and the minor leaguers we fawn over never materialize into great players we love.
That wasn’t even a little bit true for Gray. After shooting through the minor leagues with ease, Gray was up in the thick of a playoff race. From the jump, Gray he was dominant. His fastball jumped out of his hand, his slider dove straight to the ground, and in some what of a rare feat, it was obvious the A’s top prospect had arrived and was here to stay. He was obviously the real deal.
The playoff start
In a franchise rich in pitching history, Sonny Gray still stands out with one of the greatest outings in recent memory. As a rookie with just 64 innings under his belt, Gray thoroughly dismantled a monstrous Tigers lineup centered around future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera in the ALDS.
The start had it all - a rookie on national TV, a crazy home crowd, an ace opposing him, and a loaded opposing lineup. Yet Gray didn’t flinch, carrying his team by not allowing a single run in his eight stellar innings. The A’s needed every bit of that flawless start, unable to muster anything against another potential future Hall of Famer, Justin Verlander.
They’d eventually win. This is not possible without Sonny Gray.
It may be the greatest all around game in recent A’s history, and the foundation of that joy was a 5’11” rookie incapable of growing a beard.
Big game Sonny
That wouldn’t be the only time Gray would dominate in an important game. At the end of the 2014 regular season in which the A’s had a nearly historic collapse, Sonny saved the day. He threw an absolute gem in game 162 to seal the A’s a Wild Card berth, taking matters into his own hands and willing the A’s into the playoffs.
Some other Sonny things to love
-Sonny has had some of the least comfortable dominant starts in baseball history. In between pitches he’d hem and he’d haw and he’d stretch the way you do after a huge meal, then he’d unleash a filthy slider to strike out his victim.
-The beard was just awful, but so very Sonny and so very fun during a somewhat boring year.
-His pathetic hit, an accidental squibber turned hilarious single.
Sonny, the New York Yankee
It’s true, Sonny now plays for the evil empire. Losing a favorite to any team is hard, losing a favorite to one of the more despised teams out there is torture.
Still, you can root for him in his starts and give a tiny begrudging hope that he wins a ring. He was fantastic in Oakland, always a class act, and the bright side here is that he’s going to spend some of his best years contending for a title. Here’s to continued health and success.
Favorite Sonny memories?
Favorite Sonny memories. Put them below, friends, and let’s remember Sonny Gray as a wonderful Oakland Athletic.