OAKLAND — Jeff Larish barely rates a footnote in A's history. The infielder played 24 games for Oakland in 2010, hit .175 with a couple of homers, and was granted free agency after that brief East Bay blip.
Larish's greater contribution to the A's was indirect — he may be largely responsible for Brandon Moss being their first baseman today. That's the way Moss feels about it, anyway, and he maintains he owes Larish a major debt of gratitude. Perhaps the A's do, too.
Moss and Larish crossed paths in 2011, when both played Triple-A ball for the International League's Lehigh Valley IronPigs in the Philadelphia Phillies' chain. They became good friends, and with Moss eligible for minor league free agency at the end of that year, he was considering his options.
“Larish told me, 'Dude, you really should look at Oakland, because they won't care about your batting average and strikeouts so much as you just making an impact,' “ Moss said. “So when I declared for free agency, I called them and found out there was mutual interest.”
Obviously, the A's didn't know exactly what they had in Moss when he was signed to minor league deal on Dec. 1, 2011, particularly with a player who had logged only scanty experience at first base during 10 previous years in pro ball.
But things have turned out fairly beautifully for both player and team since he was called up to Oakland on June 6 of last season. Combining last year with this season, Moss has played roughly a full season in an A's uniform — 157 games — and his impact is obvious. He's hit 35 home runs with 92 RBIs, coupled with a .267 average, a .331 on-base, and, OK, he has struck out 170 times.
In short, the 29-year-old Moss has delivered the kind of corner offensive production the A's gave predecessor Daric Barton every opportunity to provide and didn't. Over parts of seven seasons in Oakland, Barton hit just .248 with 28 home runs in more than 1,900 at-bats, and topped out at 57 RBIs in a 2010 season in which he played 159 games. In fact, he drove in just 166 runs in nearly 500 games with the A's.