I started this article yesterday and was planning on highlighting the A’s recent road trip where they took two out of three in Tampa and Boston and came within a Grant Balfour meltdown of taking two out of three from the surprising Orioles.
I was going to show some optimism and point out that if the A’s can hang in there through the rest of May’s very tough schedule, they’d be in business.
But before the first pitch was thrown yesterday, the A’s mood changed from the positive atmosphere left over from the promising road trip to doubt and concern with the news of a couple of injuries.
It’s tough to be excited about the direction of the team when Brandon McCarthy, the A’s best pitcher, is being held back from his starts with his reoccurring shoulder issues and Yoenis Cespedes, the A’s best hitter, is taken out of the lineup because of some wrist problems.
It took the wind out of the sales of the entire A’s community and it carried over into the game. Parker turned out another fine start, other than walking five batters, but the lineup was uninspired, with the exception of a Reddick home run.
Until the ninth.
In case you missed the drama on Tuesday night, in the ninth inning, down another run because of another Balfour incident, Michael Taylor lead off with a double. It was a great sign for a guy who’s getting his chance to produce now. Cliff Pennington brought him home with a single. He stole second, so the Jays walked Reddick. After the runners advanced on a pitch in the dirt, the Jays also walked Gomes, brining Brandon Inge, the A’s new third baseman, to the plate with the bases loaded.
Earlier this month, Inge was released from the Detroit Tigers, the team he had played for his entire career, and was picked up by the A’s. In his first home game as an Oakland Athletic, Inge sent the pitch from Francisco Cordero over the left field wall for a walk-off grand slam in what was the most exciting moment in this young season.
I texted my brother after the game saying, “it’s borderline time to believe.” And why the hell not?
We’ve been hearing how bad the A’s will be all offseason, and all they’ve done so far is compete every game, winning far more than I would have thought. As I alluded to before, the A’s are entering a very tough stretch in their schedule where they will have to face the Angels, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Tigers and the Giants. If they can come out clean on the other side or even (gasp) looking better, Oakland will be in business. And at that point, it won’t be “early” anymore and it will be time to believe.
That’s a ways off, though, both literally and figuratively, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
To get through this stretch, the A’s need good news on the injuries I mentioned earlier. With regards to McCarthy, a shoulder issue is the last thing you want to hear about for pitchers. On the other hand, he’s dealt with these issues before and he said (he’s always very honest) that this time is much better. He feels he caught it early and just needs rest. Keep in mind he had similar issues last year and still had a great season. So there is no use freaking out about what we don’t know. He’s set to through a bullpens session on Thursday so we will find out more then.
With regards to Cespedes, wrist injuries are the shoulder injuries for power hitters. They are never good and can linger and sap the power out of his bat. He had X-Rays on it on Wednesday and the A’s are optimistic it isn’t anything serious, so again, I’ll try to stay positive. We should now more by Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
If these guys miss significant time, the A’s won’t overcome it. I think they have a near impossible road even with those guys. But they’ve been exciting so far and with an offense that has been last in several categories all year long, the A’s are playing over .500 ball. How good can this team be once the lineup gets going? If Cespedes is ok, we may get a chance to find out.
I saw an interesting take on what would be a successful season for the A’s on a local sports talk show this week. Ray Ratto, a longtime Bay Area sports writer said that, in his eyes, the A’s would be deemed successful if we get to August 1st, and the A’s haven’t blown up their roster. If Oakland gets passed the trade deadline and Billy Beane hasn’t traded away all their veteran talent, the A’s will be within striking distance of a playoff spot.
I couldn’t agree more. Let me be clear, even if the A’s are not “sellers” they will most certainly NOT be “buyers” at the trade deadline. Billy Beane won’t change the plan and mortgage the future for the 2012 season, nor should he. But if the A’s are playing well enough for him to keep the team together then the season and the rebuilding plan working. The objective is simple for the A’s players: Force Billy Beane to believe in this team.
We’ll see where they are come June.
UPDATE: According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the results of Cespedes’ X-Rays show a muscle sprain in his injured hand. There is no ligament damage or broken bones which is what the potential problems were. This is great news and a huge weight off everyone’s shoulders. Cespedes will likely miss a couple games but a trip to the DL is unlikely.
Up Next: I’m going to be doing a full update on lots of A’s prospects. I’ll be comparing the pieces dealt in all the major moves for the A’s in the offseason, and will be checking in on all the A’s top prospects.
About the Author
Written by Josh Muller
My name is Josh Muller. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and currently live in San Francisco. I watch sports religiously and organize my calender year to coincide with baseball season. I'm a diehard A's and Warriors fan, love talking sports all day and believe that the words "Opening Day" are the two greatest in the English language.