A Fan’s Notes-

Inspired by Mark’s valiant struggle with a second division pathology.

(This started, once again, as a comment that got out of hand)

My beloved Oakland A’s left such a significant imprint in my youth with their early 70’s title run that I can never quite abandoned them.

Their 2018 performance, however, gives credence to the notion that irrelevant narratives are given an unencumbered range to unfold naturally, but that the outcomes of key games are foretold.

The 2018 A’s left the gate with an historically bad defense and yet, by the end of a 97 win campaign, their two corner infielders had snagged the first of many Gold Gloves to come. (Matt Chapman, the A’s third baseman, is being groomed for super-duper star status, thus guaranteeing his best years will be spent in either Boston or New York)

I cannot fathom how the same guys went from lead gloves to gold in a two month period, but by June the A’s kicked it into high gear. And to add to the mystery, they had almost no starting rotation that was worthy of the term, and still managed to win 97 (ninety effing seven!!!) games.

They raided waiver wires and discount bins and Skipper Bob Melvin surely deserved his third manager of the year award as he harbored the most brittle pitching staff in memory to a wild card berth.

How this gang of irrelevants did this, I can only guess, and that guess is that we A’s fans witnessed what can be done if a team, a franchise, is allowed free reign to just play to win. The 2018 A’s, with no control from beyond, showed what a clean game can produce, all things being equal- and that includes not being burden by Pujols-sized contracts forcing an also ran to produces fatal numbers of offensive outs.

I want to believe that, I really do.

But by September, and with a wounded Houston Astros having healed, it was obvious the A’s were going to have to play the Yankees in New York for the wild card berth in the division series. Everyone, including my biggest local detractors, agreed that there was no way the A’s were going to be allowed to win that game. A Yankee/Red Sox series is de facto sanctioned, whenever both teams are available, and so, out of sheer loyalty, I deigned to join my fellow fans in viewing the relatively painless execution.

And the A’s went out of their way to help. First, Skipper Bob loaded his WC roster with relievers, save one spot for starter Edwin Jackson. Jackson, the most traded player in history, is as salty a veteran as there is and had been pitching the best ball of his career, going deep into games to give the hard whipped pen a few extra innings rest. An unfazeable veteran, it was his turn to pitch that day, so of course Melvin picked a non-descript one inning at a time middle reliever to “open” the game. Liam Hendriks is his name. Sounds like a beloved character actor best known for a couple of Star Trek OS cameos.

This spare part dutifully walked the first batter and then dutifully grooved one to Marmaduke who’s exit velocity broke the speed guns as it left the yard, killing two and injuring four others.

Jackson never even warmed up.

The A’s hung around the game until the middle innings when some force must have sent word to take the dive, already. The A’s booted the ball around and the Yanks went up 6 zip. At the plate, the A’s waived feebly at pitches they had spent the whole summer watching dip out of the strike zone as they worked deep counts.

By the late innings I had to stand and applaud as the young upstarts were clearly showing contempt for the PTB, doing a Liston-like splat to the canvas, baseball style. And they weren’t trying to hide it. They were pissed, but had to hold their spleen to a degree just this side of a deliberate wardrobe malfunction. They knew they would have never gotten that far if they hadn’t signed their souls away with their first professional contracts and that reality was having a tough time sinking in.

The A’s will regress to the mean next year as even the useful remains of that phantom rotation are gone, baby, gone. Melvin will have to formalize the new approach to pitching staffs started in Tampa*: Openers, Long Men, Situationists, Set-Ups, and the fabled Closer. No need for starters any more, at least in secondary markets that can’t afford them. The lands of irrelevant narratives.

*Tampa Bay has an old school starter, Blake Snell, who won 21 games with a sub two ERA which netted him the Cy Young Award. He pitched all of 180 innings. He averaged less than 6 innings per start. Twice through the batting order. Expect that to be trimmed to once through the order** for future Starters whom have not been replaced altogether by Openers.

**This trend is part and parcel of the fact that young arms simply can’t bear the stress of pitching high 90’s fastballs and torqueing their elbows with low 90’s sliders. Tommy John surgery is MLB’s HIV, and the only cure, if the speeds of pitches are to be maintained, is one or two innings per pitcher, two or three times a week, maximum.

PS- Yes, I’m speaking metaphorically, re: HIV- And I should mention again that exotic injuries with Greek and Latin roots and familiar abbreviations (ACL) , real or not, would be the best way to manage rosters to steer teams in and out of relevance.

PPS- The A’s lineup was anchored by a monosyllabic talent known as Khrush. This guy has hit exactly .247 for four straight seasons, the last three with over 600 plate appearances each. Nothing like that has ever happened, ever. He’s not trying to do this. He has one move: Swing from the heels. His approach works in the context of the A’s. He lead the world in homers. He even chipped one into the, relatively, cheap seats in Yankee Stadium in the ill-fated wild card game. Is there numbers magic afoot? If there’s an unseen hand at work here, please enlarge me on the topic. I am no mathlete.

5 thoughts on “A Fan’s Notes-

  1. Storylines drive ratings. Remembering this I’m trusting this piece is based on facts since I’ve no clue as to anything being real other than name Bob Melvin. Otherwise I’ve just read synopsis to The Little Train that Could…n’t? Hard to forget name that includes Melvin. Sounds children’s novely. What’s the Melvey known for? My guess is every team in league but a winner catcher? Aka MLB lifer. Is he good looking or fiery like Scoiscia? No pulse Boche proved only looks are needed. If neither Melvey won’t ever win World Series or coach serious contender or in Boston or NY except position coach. Okay so let’s see. Last I looked The Raiders were sucking on lemons and are moving to L.V. Last I looked The Raiders were sucking on lemons and moving to L.V. Look for The Raiders to finish somewhat strong since according to the piece the A’s playoff report card was B’s and C’s? And therein lies the Real storyline of the Little Train that Could…n’t. The A’s 97 win season is direct result of Oakland losing The Raiders. And soon losing Mark I mean Matt Chapman? The Raiders result is directly related to getting fans thinking good riddance attempting to brainwash fans mindsets for change. That’s my take. Again storylines drive ratings. Going for A’s on your ratings is not a bad thing. P.S. I believe the site The Fix Is In is controlled opposition. It took me several years to conclude this. I believe he’s Rush Limbaugh of fixed sports. The Fix Is In is where I learned of storylines and ratings.

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  2. Interesting thoughts on the Raiders tanking this year prior to leaving the scene of the crime. They have long wanted out of Oakland.

    Tyrone, I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis and then went on to read some of Bill James’ stuff, which I found even more interesting. I thought, since the Reds at that time (like now) were a watch-the-paint-dry franchise, that I would transfer loyalty to Oakland instead. But I could not do it. Branding is branding. You watched the A’s as they headed to the World Series a number of times in the 1970s, once to lay out the Reds, and I watch the 1990 triumphant sweep of the A’s by the Reds,as surprised as anyone at their victories. Ahead lay the Pete Rose scandal.

    Here’s a Bill James story which he claimed really happened. Dodger catcher Steve Yeager posed nude for Playgirl Magazine, a product surreptitiously aimed at gay men but which was promoted as being for women. Later during a game Yeager was involved in a collision at home plate and was doubled over in pain. An opposing player looking on said “What happened Steve? Did he get you in the staple?”

    Sounds too funny to be true.

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  3. Mark who exactly are Michael Lewis and Bill James besides two names containing four first names? My living in the Northbay of NorCal I guarantee you neither are sports writers from around here I’ve ever heard of. Moneyball is a crookbook how Billy almost flipped his pinto ingredients into the green manalishi with a two pronged crown. Someone else did too turning Faked Beanes into a movie starring fake deather Philip Seymour Hoffman and Brad moneyPitt. If I remember correctly the movie came out about an hour after the crookbook went on sale. Jonah Hill plays noneother than Billy greenBeanes partner in crime… Peter Brand. Fe Fi Fo Fum.

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    1. Moneyball is simply the entry of computer power into sports, the ability to make connections using vast pools of data. The same thing happened in the 1980s with financial markets. Lewis has written on finance and other stuff, and seems a real journalist, a generalist. Bill James is a baseball analyst who worked for the Red Sox and had a nice quality about his writing, including a sense of humor.

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  4. Oakland CA. What a hotbed of activity in every regard. Black Panthers founded there Oct 15 1966. 1966! Same year Anthony Levey aka Anton LeVay founded the Church of Satan at the former Hotel California. 1960’s Hells Angles MC Oakland chapter esp notorious. The whole while those A’s & Raider clubs were putting teams on the covers of national magazines. Wait ALL the above were on the cover of national magazines durning that turbulent 1960’s-’70s. Bottom line the pro sports keeps that Peter Pan deal strong in the back of the mind. What some of you are fans over 50-60 years now. I must: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQveng3Wxz8

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