Forgive me for acting the role of a withered old man and opening this conversation by talking about the weather, but the days are getting noticeably cooler and downcast and I am embracing the respite from the sun. When the sky is cloudless with a light grey hue it tends to dismiss humans and their petty vocations because its less violent and talkative creatures need vital H20. It gives me the feeling of ennui that I embrace like a long forgotten friend who ignites and inspires my creative energies with truthful exuberance. I imagine it’s the same feeling of animated sprightliness and mischievousness that caused Phillies fans to boo Santa Claus. They claimed he was drunk, skinny and beardless and who can blame them?
There is a sushi restaurant less than a block away from my house that I like to patronize on occasion. Today I stopped in for a few .99 cent sake bombs and there was an interesting article in the newspaper (now printed with soy ink!) concerning stat guru Bill James. According to James and his own Pythagorean formula the A’s should be 7 games over .500. I’m not sure whether it was Billy Martin or Earl Weaver or every other manager in the history of baseball that said your team can only go as far as their bullpen; but whoever it was they were certainly correct as far as the 2015 Oakland A’s are concerned.
Coco Crisp returned from the D.L. on Monday accounting for 2 hits, all but doubling his season total and raising his average to .082. Although the aforementioned feat happened at the hands of a 9-2 drubbing by the Orioles, this seemed to be a special moment because of Senior Crisp’s injuries and dwindling ability to help this team. I would compare the moment he stepped into the box to a Rolling Stones concert–very expensive, way past its prime, and incipient of a moment that should be enjoyed presently because it will be over before you know it. Perhaps Mr. Jagger, he of the peacock candor, can tip his cap to that.
“The fact is, we’re not going to blow teams away right now playing short. It’s more frustrating when you’re losing and you can’t explain it, but we knew when we starting losing those guys that we had a challenge ahead of us. It doesn’t make me happy, but I understand why it is happening. We’re going to have to hope the rest of division treads water.” –Billy Beane on the injuries the Athletics have faced this season.
The 2015 Oakland Athletics’ season has all the elements of a fireworks display– first, the excited anticipation, then the spectacular show, a near deafening explosion, and finally, silence. As of this writing the team has lost six in a row and are currently residing in the cellar like a red-headed step-child. They lead the league, in a pathetic display, with errors…32. (2nd baseman Eric Sogard, by himself, has 3 errors. In contrast, Mark Ellis, he of the same position had a grand total of TWO in 123 games in 2006.)
We shouldn’t be so surprised to find the ancient spirit of Pythagoras in our modern ballparks. The world is now conceived in a quantitative way more than ever before and it is seen as constituted by numerical magnitudes. Here is a but a small taste of the numerical horrors that played out before our very eyes:
— Coco Crisp came off the D.L. and perhaps showed his age or lack of passion. He is 0 for his first 21.
— The bullpen is stinkier than diarrhea on a hot tin roof in a Southern heat wave. They are a collective 2-10 with a 5.18 ERA.
— Drew Pomeranz is is proving why the Rockies gave up on him so early; even as a promising “bonus baby.” He is the poor man’s Kenny Rogers….a very, very poor man from a third world country. He is 1-3 with a 5.13 E.R.A.
Sure, there have been injuries and a bit of bad luck. Baseball is by definition the epitome of bad luck. Here are a few of the more exciting things to happen to the Oakland ball-club during this season so far: Brett Lawrie sliding into an over-rated Alcides Escobar, prompting fans in Kansas City to make the shirts on the right…
and two teammates standing next to each other in an unfortunate and funny display of the baseball gods coming together and dangling the proverbial losing yarn in your face.
Does that sum up the baseball season so far for the Oakland Athletics? In my humble opinion, yes. The rest of the baseball world laughs at Billy Beane’s failures hysterically as the faithful remain steady….and then as soon as there is a semblance of hope, ex-Giant Pablo Sandoval hits a game winning home run for the Red Sox in the 10th inning. I curse, shrug my shoulders and fall into a slumber. What does that feel like?
Semen in the eye.
Hard to understand what Billy is doing in Oakland. Turning over the entire roster and then trading away a top prospect for what? A couple of decent guys with no real upside down the road? This is a very strange trade that somehow makes sense through the fog known as the 2015 offseason. Zobrist is the WAR poster boy–and this blog doesn’t put much stock in a statistic that NO ONE knows how to compute (yet clueless nerds seem to bring up endlessly) and ultimately makes no sense. WAR doesn’t work because it says Ben Zobrist is about as good as Miguel Cabrera or Robinson Cano. Bill James, the ultimate statistical guru agreed with my assessment recently:
“Well, my math skills are limited and my data-processing skills are essentially nonexistent. The younger guys are way, way beyond me in those areas. I’m fine with that, and I don’t struggle against it, and I hope that I don’t deny them credit for what they can do that I can’t.“But because that is true, I ASSUMED that these were complex, nuanced, sophisticated systems. I never really looked; I just assumed that the details were out of my depth. But sometime in the last year I was doing some research that relied on these WAR systems, so I took a look at them, and … they’re not very impressive. They’re not well thought through; they haven’t made a convincing effort to address many of the inherent difficulties that the undertaking presents. They tend to get so far into the data, throw up their arms and make a wild guess. I don’t know if I’m going to get the time to do better of it, or if it will be left to others, but … we’re not at anything like an end point here. I assumed that these systems were a lot better than they actually are.”
Why was he acquired? Because he can do the one thing that gets Billy Beane hotter than a truck stop hooker–play multiple positions.
Yunel Escobar, who is the epitome of a lazy player with little desire, stoked my own desire in the laziest way possible. A shrug. A “who cares?” My desire to drink hot apple cider and return to bed was an infinitely stronger emotion. I barely knew the guy EXISTED. There was also the incident in Toronto where he wore his eye-black emblazoned with the words ‘TU ERE MARICON.’
The words can be translated to mean “you are a fag” or a “pussy.”
Strange considering one of the players he was traded for–John Jaso–is sort of a poster boy for gay men as the “cutest baseball player.”
You can’t make this shit up. We here at the ‘Fro certainly don’t condone that sort of behavior, and I’m sure most Athletics fans would agree. Paying money and being at rapt attention for a lackadaisical homophobe is far down my list of enjoyable pursuits, right above getting kicked in the nuts after a bad date.
assessment: starting SS with the other horrible acquisition, Marcus Semien being moved to 2nd base.
In the end, this isn’t a BAD trade. We acquired two starters for an often concussed catcher and two minor leaguers that may never even see the AAA level. I may even learn to appreciate Zobrist’s ability to “pick and grin” or run down flies for the ONE season he will be in Oakland. The fans will probably love him for his “gamer” style of play. On a more personal level this trade just didn’t do much for me because I have no affection for the players acquired or traded away. C’est la vie. The life of an A’s fan.