• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Stephen Vogt may be more than just a feel-good story for Oakland A’s

ByRandall B. Phelps

Mar 26, 2022

The Oakland A’s made it official on Thursday afternoon by signing the receiver Stephane Vogt on a one-year contract. It’s an MLB contract, not an off-list flyer, so he’ll be on the team in April.

As far as feel-good stories go, this is top of the line. Vogt established himself in the majors with the A’s in 2013 and spent half a decade playing in Oakland. He’s a playoff hero, two-time All-Star and legendary fan favorite who earned his own chant from the RF bleachers team. Bringing it back is undeniably fun.

It may be nothing more than that. After all, Vogt’s production has dwindled to exactly replacement level for the past two seasons, and he’s battled injuries, and he turned 37 over the winter while recovering from a transaction. This may be his last hurrah, and if everything is fine then it can a serviceable backup. The A’s just tore down their roster and traded a few huge stars for prospects, amid plenty of other negative reviews lately, so a reunion with an old darling is an easy win.

But let’s not dismiss it too quickly as cheap publicity, because Vogt might have a lot to offer beyond just a March headline.

Making that case doesn’t even require pipe dreams about him bouncing back to former glory. Sure, he was a good hitter as recently as 2019, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of veterans working through injuries to show they still have something in the tank. Last summer we saw with our own eyes Jed Lowrie rises from the ashes to help a competing team.

But let’s not assume any of that and take Vogt at face value as a replacement backup. At the very least, that makes him a perfect roster, even if he’s hitting .195 again like last year.

The A’s needed a short-term receiver to partner with the starter Sean Murphy. Acquisition of new prospects Shea Langeliers isn’t quite ready for the majors just yet, but could soon be. They have Austin Allen, but it’s the third time in 13 months they’ve recruited someone to block his dodgy glove (after Garcia and Gomes last year), so maybe it’s time to consider his promising bat at d other posts. Vogt fills the role of a veteran left-handed hitter who can still pull a few steps and do the occasional dinger, and statistically he’s not downgraded from the backups they had last season.

They could have found other cheap options for this job, but Vogt meets the requirements and they get some more intangibles. Many in the Athletics Nation community had long hoped that he would one day be the A’s future manager, and indeed he expressed a desire to manage somewhere after his retirement. With his great reputation, he might have been able to land a minor league coaching job today if he had wanted to.

A young clubhouse needs leaders. Of course they have a skipper Marc Kotsay and a whole coaching staff, and there are still some veterans like Elvis Andrus and Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder, among others. But Vogt might be the elite in this department.

He wasted no time in setting the tone, saying the following on Friday, by Team Insider Martin Gallegos:

“My message is that we have an opportunity. I came here and never said once that we weren’t going to have a good year. We’re going to have a great year. This is what we take advantage of this opportunity given to us. There are a lot of young guys trying to establish themselves now. …

“We have the opportunity every night to show your abilities and help this organization win games. The goal every night is to go out and win the game, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to achieve that.

That’s the kind of attitude you want for your rebuilding clubhouse, and it provides it in abundance. This season could include a lot of growing pains for rookies and a lot of losses, so a positive mindset will be crucial. Whether it’s fighting for more wins than expected or staying focused on long-term development during a frustrating campaign, these words from Vogt are always the right message.

His new teammates are already expressing their enthusiasm. Launcher Sean Manee says the following, via SF Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara:

“Super excited. Just talked to him. … He was there when I was a rookie in ’17 too and he’s always been one of the coolest guys in my opinion in pro ball. So super happy to find it.

Field prospecting Kevin Smith took to Twitterreferencing Vogt’s hit in Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS:

“So pumped, he’s on our team and I’m learning from this guy! I remember watching that game in high school thinking how sick it must have been to take that hit. Glad you guys are in green and gold @ SVogt1229”

The feel-good story is just the beginning, and if that’s all the A’s get out of it, then that’s fine. Happy thoughts might be rare over the next few months, and it will be fun to see Vogt wear green and gold again and hear his name echo around the stands at the Colosseum.

But it can be more than that. It’s a perfect fit for the current roster and a perfect fit for this summer’s clubhouse, whether it’s a last-place doormat or an upstart contender. A positive result could involve him producing a bit of value on the pitch in a position of need, while captaining a young team as an unofficial player/coach, who is starting to cross the relationship cascade line public to a legitimately useful player.

Will all this happen? We will see, but the positive side is there, even if part of it is not quantifiable. It’s not even hard to imagine. All you have to do is close your eyes and repeat these words to yourself:

I believe in Stephen Vogt.