OAKLAND -- It seemed too early to be thinking about tomorrow, especially considering these A's players had been groomed by their manager to keep their focus on today all year. But they just couldn't help it after their eliminating loss to the Tigers on Thursday night, when all they wanted to do was start next season now.
"You can only hope that they put a similar team back out there because I believe it's a great team with great chemistry," Grant Balfour said. "We did a lot of special things this year, and I think we can be in a very similar situation next year and moving on even further. I'm looking forward to it."
Much of this 2012 club should remain intact, considering its small list of players entering free agency. That group includes Brandon McCarthy, Jonny Gomes, Brandon Inge and Stephen Drew, should his $10 million mutual option not be picked up. There's a good chance McCarthy and Gomes could return, and the remainder of the A's roster is anticipated back, including Balfour, who has a club option for 2013.
"We got the core intact, and everybody is under control for the most part," Brett Anderson said. "Going into this year, you expected Trevor [Cahill] and Gio [Gonzalez] and [Andrew] Bailey to be here but they weren't, and this group came together better than any team I've ever been a part of."
The A's aren't expected to make as many headline-grabbing trades as they did last winter, especially since the goods from those deals have nicely positioned Oakland into good standing for the future. Yet this organization isn't afraid of change, so don't expect the winter months to pass quietly.
While the outfield trio of Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick is likely to be untouched, it remains to be seen how the A's infield shapes up, what with the decision on Drew looming on top of the one at second base, where Jemile Weeks faded late in the season, as Cliff Pennington stepped up and resumed the everyday role. Moreover, the A's are always intrigued by added pitching depth, which proved vital to their second-half run this year.
But, overall, there's no denying the comfort Oakland's players felt on a rather heartbreaking night in thinking that, in a few short months, they could resume a unique journey they started this year.
"This is the most fun I've had playing the game," Crisp said. "Playing with this group of guys and being a part of what we accomplished, it was something special. Obviously it's a tough pill to swallow when you're not able to continue on, but I'm proud of these guys here. We played all out all year and nobody didn't give 100 percent, and that's what got us here. You'd like to see that continue."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.