I didn’t even shell out the six bucks for a copy of Baseball Prospectus.
It’s not important that I bring to task a Spring Training update; personally I find them to be tedious, but I suppose I must write something considering that this humble dissemination has over 2,500 followers and people actually read the thing for crissakes.
After last years embarrassing one game playoff loss to the Devil Rays, the following remarks swirled in my mind: pointless, not again, now what?, same old shit…who in the hell is Yandy Diaz? The ever graceful and future ace Sean Manaea blamed himself for the loss although it was a team effort as the offense was anemic and made to look bush-league. Watching the game was every bit the “Babylonian” experience. This squad, however, isn’t a “soft reboot” as the youngsters have aged a year and have playoff experience with the following players expected to have a breakout year: Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano. Little was added or subtracted this off-season because of the aforementioned. The template for most prospective playoff teams is a daily set lineup, (depending on L/R matchups, of course) and this team doesn’t have many question marks. Bob Melvin should only have to do a bit of airbrushing here and there.
No Spring Training review is complete without a contrarian view and the second base/bullpen situation must be addressed here. Second base: Franklin Barreto has proven to be impotent, still can’t lay off the slider, and has spent more time in Nashville than Johnny Cash. He has two things going for him: he is young and the A’s front office refuses to get fleeced in the Josh Donaldson trade. Sheldon Neuse should get a look at the position as well because of the big season he had in the desert for Las Vegas. Bullpen: This was definitely a weakest spot as the ‘pen blew more than 25 saves last year with most of the guys being question marks except for Petit and Hendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of non-roster guys made the team. Melvin will be working with patchwork and will be criticized many times this year for how he handled it whether it be his fault or not.
I see no reason why this team can’t pull together, win a roll of the dice in the playoffs and haul the “piece of metal” as Ron Manfred so elegantly called the WS trophy. I think the Nats of 2019 proved that miracles can still happen when you have strong pitching and a lineup that works together without one self-absorbed prick mucking up the works.
We lost to the Tigers in game 5 AGAIN….and sure, it hurts… yet I was prepared for this. Sure, like every other fan there was self-induced bravado and the predictable ” Justin Verlander isn’t as good as he used to be” sort of talk. But deep down in my decrepit soul I knew better. The A’s are 1-12 since 2000 in elimination playoff games. That’s A LOT of nail-biting, fist clenching, teeth gnashing and over all screaming your head off until you feel like an asshole…all for naught. So I felt a bit at peace. I accepted the Japanese word “Shoganai,” which if translated means “it can’t be helped.” The philosophy states that if something is out of your control it is better to accept it and move on. This was the ONLY was to watch this game in a semi public setting without looking like a psychopath, so I accepted the philosophy, drank a beer, and sat down to watch the game that was being played in the concrete monstrosity where I first pissed in a trough.
The first 3 innings go by pretty well, goose eggs across the board. It all turns into a giant shit sandwich when Miguel Cabrera takes Sonny Gray deep into the left stairwell for a 2-0 lead. This is the point in time when you get that “oh fuck, not again” feeling. Ok, buck up buttercup…it’s only the 4th. Verlander is on fire…he’s spotting pitches and also getting a strike zone a foot off the plate outside by umpire Tom Hallion. I know we’re fucked…and we are. Verlander pitches a perfect game until a Reddick walk in the 6th, and a no-hitter until Cespedes base hit with 2 outs in the 7th. Detroit had already scratched another run across to make it 3-0 by then. I know the game is pretty much over, yet I fancy myself a super fan, so I listen to announcers Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley (sorry Eck) suck Verlanders dick for the next hour. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard, “he’s really on tonight” or “he’s got so much in his arsenal.” Usually when I watch a game I prefer the Vin Scully approach…some tidbits of information about the city the player grew up in, some inside baseball information or perhaps a joke or two. Couldn’t you lay off another “his breaking ball is devastating” and perhaps tell us where Jed Lowrie grew up!? Or maybe the hardships Yoenis Cespedes had growing up in Cuba? A lot of the people watching playoff baseball are fair- weathered fans, and I could only imagine their boredom when these guys talked about Verlander ad nauseam. Fuck, it bored me and I’m a diehard.
There is much debate by the announcers as to if Justin Verlander is the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Apparently Jim Leyland doesn’t think so, as he brings in Joaquin Benoit to close it out in the 9th. A couple of guys get on, and suddenly Seth Smith is up with 2 guys on and 2 outs. A homer ties this one. One brilliant, deep, soaring tater into the Oakland night, and this game is tied. I’m paying attention now, I’m imagining what I am going to do WHEN it happens. He then proceeds to hit a lazy fly to Torii Hunter as I watch worthless GM Dave Dombrowski celebrate behind the Detroit dugout. The disappointment doesn’t sink in for a while. I’m not angry, just quiet. I go to get some of that organic pizza that all the kids are talking about. Congratulations TBS, you got what you wanted…a RedSox/Tigers A.L.C.S. We’ll be back again though, trying to fuck up your television ratings …like we always do.