Alas, tragedy has once again befallen my beloved A’s. That’s a baseball team to those not in the know. If that previous sentence was particularly enlightening to you, you may want to skip the rest of tonight’s post 😛
It’s an odd feeling, a new feeling this year as my favorite team in whole wide world has stumbled like they always do when it comes down to the wire in the postseason. I feel more detached. When we lost in 2001, I was stunned. 2002, I was enraged. 2003 felt like it was our fate, which made me more enraged than the previous year. 2006 was complete shock. 2012 felt like getting robbed. 2013 made me want to punch anyone from Detriot and like it might never ever happen that we’d win against them. This year…2014 was different.
I wrote back on July 24th that this was a special team, a team that might actually be destined and deserved for greatness. At least to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. Then, within a week, the collapse was on. Many will cite trading our clean-up hitter Cespedes for Jon Lester, and there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it was a huge factor. There’s also no question that Lester saved our team from not going to the playoffs at all. His games were the only ones we won in the last two months of the season. Look it. That’s *barely* an exaggeration. Really, the story is injuries. Losing Cespedes was the main factor in our offense declining…but not the ENTIRE decline.
I looked it up, we were 15-13 in one-run games on July 31st. After that we went 6-15 in one-run games. 9 games under .500. That’s how we lost the division right there, which means just ONE more run in each of those games and our offense suddenly doesn’t look so bad. Cespedes couldn’t have been the difference-maker for 21 separate games. The collapse was team-wide, and quite simply, it was because of injuries.
The A’s were not the same team that had been on the field for the first 2/3 of a season. It felt like that and looked like that because it WAS that. Sam Fuld over Craig Gentry. Johnny Gomes instead of Yoenis Cespedes. Derrick Norris and Giovanni Soto instead of Jaso/Vogt/Norris. Sogard at 2B every day instead of platooning with Punto (injured) and Callaspo, which also stuck Moss at 1B everyday too. That also meant Lowrie at short every day. That’s 2/3 of our line-up outside of what the plan was. Losing Jaso, for me, was the biggest blow down the stretch. Post-Cespedes trade, anyway.
Ultimately, Beane had planned and played everything out JUST well enough. We made the postseason. We were in. And, we had our GUY on the mound, Jon Lester. The single reason that Cespedes and all those prospects were gone. Big-game pitching. And it didn’t work. We went all in, and it didn’t work. In the meantime, we wasted what could have been an amazing season. Jon Lester failed. But, really, it was just being in the Wild Card game in the first place that was the real failure. One game. Anything can happen. It’s too precarious a scenario for such big moves. And, we saw that play out tonight: our big-game piece, the one to get us over the hump, the rental…failed. And, so, we’re left with failure and nothing else. He’s gone next year, and so are all the pieces we parted with. It’s a worst-case scenario…almost. We DID make it to this game tonight, at least.
But, to get back to what I was saying earlier…it wasn’t surprising. You really see what kind of team you have down the stretch, and the team we had just wasn’t good enough. We’d never figured out how to fire on all cylinders, starting pitching, offense, and bullpen. Consistently, even when we were winning, one of those three components would struggle. That was hard for me to watch, and so I didn’t watch. I listened sometimes and I read about it, but I expected our team to lose. It’s what I expected tonight. I would have called it a miracle if we’d won, and we SHOULD have…but we also SHOULD have won half the games we lost in August and September.
So…that’s the book being closed on an incredibly frustrating season. We were a good team…until we weren’t. The Royals deserved it tonight, and we almost denied them…but the baseball gods were not smiling on us tonight. Not after two blown saves in one game and 6ER from our starter.
The next logical question is, “what about next year?” Last year, I knew we were good enough to make it back to the postseason. That we’d be adding pieces instead of subtracting. THIS year…I don’t know. We’re caught in the middle – it’s not a forgone conclusion we will actually be any good next year. It’s a question of how close? Do we add pieces, or do we sell and restock all the prospects we’ve lost this year. I mean, we traded away EVERYBODY. We’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, the sting of those two blown saves will redden my cheek for as long as I feel like holding it there. I hope this team wins a World Series for me some day.