Sunday, May 31, 2009
10 Thoughts on the Oakland A's – May 2009
Current Record: 19-29
May Record: 11-18
GB – AL West: 10 (Texas Rangers)
GB – AL Wildcard: 8.5 (Boston Red Sox)
(1) Last year, the A's 2008 campaign officially ended on July 13th when closer Huston Street crapped away a late lead against the first-place Angels. That kicked off a stretch in which the A's lost 29 of their next 38 games. In 2009, the A's were kind enough to wrap things up six weeks earlier. The first-place Rangers swept a doubleheader from Oakland on May 29, dropping the A's 10 games back. The next night, Texas won 14-1 as the A's packed it in around the 3rd inning and never looked back.
(2) Oakland acquired 2B Adam Kennedy from Tampa Bay in exchange for a minor leaguer on May 8. With starting 2B Mark Ellis on the 60-day DL (calf), Kennedy hit .441/.507/.644 in his first 15 games. Those fluke two weeks have sparked a ridiculous debate on A's blogs and message boards by those who say Ellis will have a hard time getting his job back and/or the A's should continue to play Kennedy as long as he wields a hot bat. Balderdash. Kennedy is 33 years old; he's been in decline at the plate since 2005; he's never hit LHPs and the clock is ticking. Let's hope he's still overachieving four weeks from now and is flipped to a contender when Ellis returns.
(3) Of all the infuriating managerial traits Bob Geren brings to the A's dugout every evening, his slow trigger on struggling starting pitchers is the most maddening. What makes it worse is that he's obviously trying to get his starters through five innings so they'll qualify for a "win". On May 1st, fat load Dana "Eatin'" Eveland took a 6-3 lead into the fifth inning. He then yielded a walk, a deep flyout, a home run, a hard lineout and a solid single. With his gas tank clearly empty and the score now 6-5, Geren left him in to surrender a two-run bomb before finally pulling him, now down 7-6. Two weeks later, Geren did the exact same thing with Dallas Braden in the fifth inning of a tied game.
(4) On May 18, back-up catcher Landon Powell injured his hamstring while running out of the batter's box in a blowout loss to Tampa Bay. It looked serious enough for the media – and casual idiot observers like me – to assume Powell was headed for the DL. But, no! The next day, Powell and the A's announced that it was just a "tweak". The truth? GM Billy Beane assembled a 40-man roster with only TWO catchers (Powell and starter Kurt Suzuki) on it. TWO! Beane would have to bump someone off the 40-man to put Powell on the DL. On a related note, here's Powell's first big league home run – hit a week after his "tweak" on May 24. Kirk Gibson had a steadier gait in the '88 World Series.
(5) In an attempt to stimulate ticket sales, the A's have embraced that staple of Minor League baseball…the postgame concert. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks will perform after the A's/Orioles game on June 6. And, speaking of "minor league", here's the commercial for the concert. I want to believe that the A's players involved simply didn't know the camera was rolling.
(6) The defining game of the month might end up as the one that encapsulates the season. On May 18th against the Rays, A's starter Sean Gallagher was staked to a 1-0 lead starting the bottom of the first. What followed next was a gutless, embarrassing performance that rightfully earned Gallagher a ticket back to Triple-A. In one inning, he gave up six runs in the inning on TWO HITS, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and – the highlight reel moment – a pitch that Gallagher lost control of, nailing his own crossed-up catcher square in the collar bone.
(7) The A's need to immediately start auditioning hitters for 2010, but any real youth movement is currently blocked by several old and/or ineffective corpses in the lineup. SS Orlando Cabrera (.224/.246/.294 in May) has already checked out, it seems. He goes to the plate looking to end each at bat as quickly as possible and has become sloppy and disinterested on defense. Bobby Crosby has a .399 OPS since May 13 and rubs salt in my eyes with his abominable defense at first and third base.
(8) LF Matt Holliday (.313/.450/.488 since May 5) is obviously the most attractive trading chip. Don't be surprised if Oakland aggressively attempts to move DH/RF Jack Cust, as well. Too many A's fans can't look past his strikeouts, ignoring both his power and innate ability to NOT make outs. But, since his breakout 2007 season, his OBP and SLG has steadily declined. He'll probably make $3.5 – $4.0M next year with a skill set that generally doesn't age well.
(9) I'm reluctant to invoke the concept of "chemistry", but this squad… I mean, a lot is made of "veteran leadership", but watching someone like Nomar Garciaparra – when he's not shuffling off to the disabled list twice in two months – carry himself as if the entire A's experience is beneath him just sticks in my craw.
(10) The lousy atmosphere has even turned Jason Giambi into a dead man walking. It's telling that Nick Swisher is getting all sorts of publicity with the Yankees for livening up the New York clubhouse with his unassuming goofball schtick. Giambi personified that gimmick during his first run in Oakland, before having his carefree spirit surgically removed in the Bronx. I'm pretty sure "Smiling Jason G" ain't coming back.
Thanks to That Mets Fan Guy for the inspiration…