As Oakland's designated hitter and fill-in first baseman last season, Jaha contributed mightily to the surprising run of the small-payroll ($23 million) A's at a wildcard berth, hitting a career-high 35 home runs, driving in 111 runs and making his first AU-Star team. But when the season ended, he opted not to capitalize on a market in which All-Stars go for a bit more than $3 million per. He chalks up his decision to loyalty.
At this time last year Jaha was a ghost. After hitting .300 with 34 home rims and 118 RBIs with the Brewers in 1996, he missed most of the next two seasons because of bone spurs in his left foot and a torn left labrum. He was a free agent after the '98 season, but nobody was calling him. Jaha pondered playing in Japan and considered the independent Northern League. Then, shortly before spring training, A's general manager Billy Beane offered him a $400,000 minor league contract (with incentives, Jaha has earned $525,000).
"He was the only guy who gave me a shot," says Jaha. "Then, when I made the All-Star team, Billy said they wanted me back next year. When someone treats you like that, you want to show your appreciation."
He believes the A's, who also re-signed second baseman Randy Velarde, righthanded starter Kevin Appier and righty reliever Doug Jones, and who lured free-agent lefthanded reliever Mike Magnante into the fold, will again be a playoff contender. " Oakland," Jaha says, "is becoming a place where people want to be."