May Record: 16-12
Overall Record: 28-24 (1st place, +1 over Texas)
(1) The End of an Eric: On May 22, DH Eric Chavez was placed on the disabled list with two bulging discs in his neck. Chavez told local beat writers that his condition was a direct result from a collision with a teammate during drills back in Spring Training and that he's been in pain all season. Of course, since Chavez is a HUGE favorite with the Oakland media (great quote, always available) he's earned a lifetime pass from criticism in the press. He says he's been hurt all year? Then, why did he proclaim himself healthy in this April 10 interview? Why didn't he mention his neck in this May 15 piece detailing his season-long offensive struggles? Something stinks here, but nothing offends my sense of smell more than Chavez's numbers (.234/.276/.333). This smacks of a face-saving way to quietly move a respected veteran of the Major League roster. And, it should've been done a month earlier.
(2) Curt Hennig Wants His Nickname Back: SP Dallas Braden is 0-3 with a 4.13 ERA since his perfect game on May 9. I was in the stands for his May 14 start vs. the Angels. Save for one bad inning, he looked terrific. The A's heavily hyped Braden's next start as his first in-game appearance at the Coliseum since his perfecto. But, in the days leading up that game, Braden was battling a stomach bug. He made the start against the Tigers (giving up just two runs in six innings), but this had the low-rent stench of Braden (at less than optimal health) being sent to the mound to keep the promise of a cheesy promotion.
(3) Plenty of Tickets Available...Still: Braden's perfect game gave the Athletics' organization quite a bit of mainstream buzz. The A's parlayed this into an instant -- and incessant -- marketing campaign across all their broadcast platforms. Braden's Mother's Day performance preceded a seven-day road trip for Oakland and when they returned home to face the Tigers on Monday, May 17, the game drew just 10,051 despite the lure of heavily discounted tickets. The next night, the A's drew 10,512 and on May 19 -- featuring Mr. Perfect on the mound -- only 19,284 could be bothered to attend.
(4) Get Lost, Gaudin: Here's what I wrote about Gaudin in my "30 A's in 30 Days" season preview: I'm not sure how much Gaudin's got in the tank after spending the past season-and-a-half in an extended stretch of mediocrity with the Cubs, Padres and Yankees. He's always walked too many and been prone to the long ball. And, now he's nearly three seasons removed from the best run of his career. Gaudin allowed 27 hits (including five home runs) in 17.1 innings for the A's before he was designated for assignment almost immediately after a stink-bomb mop-up job on May 15 vs. the Angels that brought his ERA to 8.83. (I was at that game. The below pic is from BEFORE my A's were annihilated.) That our boy-genius GM didn't see this coming is only my second favorite part of Gaudin's Oakland encore. My favorite was Gaudin's quote after being DFA'd: "I thought they'd have more faith in me."
(5) Avert Your Eyes from Our Offense: Fun fact -- this is the first time the A's have been in first place through May 31 since 1990. In seven of the eight previous times it's happened, Oakland made the playoffs. That 1990 team averaged 4.6 runs scored/game in the month of May. The 2010 A's averaged 3.5. Jose Canseco hit 13 home runs in May 1990 (118 plate appearances). In 2010, Kurt Suzuki, Eric Patterson and Adam Rosales are tied for the team lead in home runs with four each -- FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON (378 plate appearances, combined). And, since most of you have no idea who these guys are: Suzuki, our starting catcher, missed three weeks to injury while Patterson and Rosales are utility players. As a team, the A's are currently 11th in the AL in runs scored, 12th in SLG and 13th in home runs.
(6) The Good & The Bad with Daric Barton: The A's much-maligned first baseman is finally -- FINALLY -- fulfilling the hype and promise that's followed him around for the past five seasons since Oakland acquired Barton for Mark Mulder after the 2004 season. His slash line stands at .280/.396/.429 (and if you prefer your stats more esoteric, his wOBA is .368 -- much like free Frogurt, that's good!) And, if A's manager Bob Geren is reading this: Stop asking Barton to lay down sacrifice bunts! He leads the AL in this category. Seriously! Bunting is almost always a bad decision in the American League and asking your best hitter to intentionally get himself out is eight shades of insane.
(7) Death of the Duke: SP Justin Duchscherer will miss the rest of the season after suffering cartilage damage in his left hip (an injury that occurred in his right hip in 2008). His A's tenure is almost certainly over; so I hope you'll understand that I prefer not to remember the no-velocity slop-tossing tendencies he exhibited in his five starts this year. Instead, I'll remember his anonymous, but awesome work as a middle reliever for most of the last decade. He was also a two-time All-Star when, for a brief moment, the whole world knew his name.
(8) Tha Sheets-nit: After a comically apocalyptic start in Toronto on May 2 (10 hits, 9 runs in 3.1 innings) Sheets' ERA on the season was 7.12. For the rest of the month -- over five starts, including high-octane opponents such as Texas, Tampa Bay and Detroit -- Sheets posted a 2.81 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 32 innings. He's crediting a new cut fastball for the dramatic shift in performance. I'm not going to say I was wrong about the acquisition, so I'll continue to bide my time until an "I TOLD YOU SO" seems convenient.
(9) Wuertz Case Scenario: My A's have had a recent history of overworking certain relievers. In 2002, closer Billy Koch appeared in more than half the team's games (84) and was out of the Majors for good just two seasons later at the age of 29. Kiko Calero set career-highs for appearances and innings pitched during his first two seasons in Oakland (2005-06). Injuries and ineffectiveness plagued the remainder of his A's tenure. In 2007, journeyman Alan Embree set a career-high for innings pitched at the age of 37. Last season, RP Michael Wuertz practically molested hitters with his filthy slider (102 Ks in just 78.2 innings!) This year, he missed all of April with an injury, while his May numbers (4 ER in 8 IP) indicate an absence of stuff and/or an absence of trust from the coaching staff.
(10) Coco No Go: OF Coco Crisp returned from a fractured finger on May 21 and made his season debut against the Giants. He went 2 for 3 with a pair of RBI and added an electric dynamic to the offence. Naturally, he played in one more game before landing on the DL again. This time it's an intercostal strain. Next time, it'll be something else. For the record: I told you so.