Aug 17, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) reacts as Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson (23, right) rounds third base after Johnson

Athletics Week in Review: Jumping Out of Windows

I apologize in advance, but I’m going to change up my format a little bit for this week, because it has been such an awful week.

What a terrible, awful and dismal week. A week where the Athletics lost 6 of 7 games and had to begrudgingly share their best record in baseball with their division rivals. I follow a lot of A’s fans on the Twitter machine and I honestly had to step away a little bit this week from the A’s Twitterverse. Just look at Tony’s Twitter Roundup, I’m not alone in noticing the tone of my fellow fans.

Actually, I was thinking this, because 90’s rock references never get old:


I got the sense that many fans, not all but many, have begun to panic about this Athletics team. These Athletics have seemed like a juggernaut at times, a multi-headed hydra that can do almost anything to win on the baseball diamond. Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss played like MVPs for the first three months of the season, Stephen Vogt  was doing a Ted Williams impression for the first month he was called up. We were getting surprising performances from a bullpen of nobodies and a rotation that at times featured two former relievers (Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz).

Then came the trades. Billy Beane mortgaged the team’s shortstop-of-the-future (trading away top prospect Addison Russell) and traded the team’s crazy-freaky-athlete in Yoenis Cespedes to rejuvenate the rotation, adding Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester. This is as much of an all-in signal as we’ve ever seen from Beane, and it changed the expectation of the season. The Athletics started scrappy and surprising, these trades made them favorites to win the division and make a run deep into the playoffs. As fans, we started to collectively imagine a parade in November. We liked that idea, we still like that idea.

I mention this, because I know how much this team inspires and frustrates me. We, fans of the Oakland Athletics, are always outnumbered. Not a single zip code in the country boasts more Athletics fans than fans of another team. Our team plays in a stadium that they share with the football team that ruined the view, with sewage and live possums and jokes flung at us from across the bay and around the country. Our team operates at the bottom of the league in payroll every single year and has to compete with three teams with money to burn. But our team always outperforms its expectations, just like Athletics fans have passion and volume that outpace attendance. I’m proud to root for this team. I love its storied history and I love it’s cutting edge analytics.

Part of me wants to pitch this week as a narrative change. Maybe the A’s aren’t any good when they’re on top. Maybe they need to be the underdog. Maybe this is a team built to chase not be chased. But that’s all nonsense, we all know it, just like all the other narrative change stories that have been floating around. The Oakland Athletics, our Oakland Athletics, just dropped six of seven games and five straight. The offense which had been so prolific, is suddenly struggling. We’re all looking for answers. Did the trades change some basic chemistry that held the team together? I have trouble buying that, especially since the chemistry argument has to account for the addition of Petaluma’s own Johnny Gomes and the gritty Sam Fuld, both of them noted glue guys if you believe in glue guys. Yeah, the guys don’t look like they’re having as much fun right now, but that’s because losing sucks.

So yes. It was an awful week. I hate watching this team lose, and I certainly hate sharing the top of the West with the Angels. But this is baseball. Even when the best teams play the worst teams they don’t win every time, and it’s not fair to ourselves or to our favorite team or its players to make a bad week against two hot teams the story of our season. Sure, maybe our hitting has regressed a bit. Maybe teams have the book on how to pitch to us now. But we’ll have to wait and see. We’re not guaranteed to make the playoffs now, but we never were. We certainly had no guarantees in 2012 when the A’s beat Texas on the last day of the season to take the division.

The Athletics still have the most wins in the MLB, they still have four ace pitchers and they still have 38 games to play. And we can say that after the team dropped six of seven this week. As far as I can tell the narrative hasn’t changed: Even if they drive me crazy, the Athletics are still the best team to watch and root for in baseball.

Let’s go Oakland!!

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Tags: Oakland Athletics

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