Who I’m Rooting For in the LCS

I have an easier time paying attention to the playoffs in a year in which the A’s weren’t in contention. Somehow having the A’s more removed from things makes it easier to just sit back and watch it. But this year, even though the A’s finished in last place in the A.L. West and had no prayer of the playoffs past June, they are very much connected to some of the playoff  narratives. This – along with various other irrational feelings of like and dislike to certain players and teams – affects how I root come playoff time. Let’s break it down.

NLCS: Cubs vs. Mets

USATSI_8760221_168381093_lowresA’s connections on the Mets: Yoenis Cespedes, Bartolo Colon, Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins (DL), Anthony Recker (not on playoff roster), Bob Geren (bench coach).
A’s connections on the Cubs: Jon Lester, Addison Russell (injured for LCS), Jason Hammel, Trevor Cahill, Chris Denorfia.

There are a number of A’s connections here – some that make me cringe and others that don’t. And really, the ones that make me cringe are the ones on the Cubs. Two of these players are directly connected to last season’s epic failure. Jon Lester signed a free agent deal with Chicago after the half season rental failed to win the Wild Card game for the A’s. And Addison Russell is the shortstop we could’ve had but don’t, because of the trade that brought Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakaland last summer. At least we got some decent talent back for Samardzija, but there are just too many reminders of A’s failures on the Cubs for me to root for them to win. After all, the better the Cubs do, the worse it makes the A’s look.

On the other hand, Yoenis Cespedes is also directly connected to those failures as he was dealt to Boston for Lester. But I don’t have those same hard feelings seeing him gun down runners from the outfield at Citi Field. The Mets are Cespedes’s fourth team and third since being traded from the A’s. The connection lines have been muddled too much for me to care. And I just love watching Yoenis hit baseballs and hit them far. I’m rooting for the Mets.

ALCS: Blue Jays vs. Royals

A’s connections on the Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson, Cliff Pennington, Jeff Francis (not on the playoff roster).
A’s connections on the Royals: Ben Zobrist, Jonny Gomes (not on the playoff roster).

Fewer connections here but there is one big one here and it’s Donaldson. The trade was controversial and the Blue Jays’ success and Donaldson’s likely MVP seasons coupled with the A’s crappiness make this continue to look very, very bad for the A’s. That is a huge reason to root against the Blue Jays. They’ve got an MVP at the A’s expense; we don’t want them to have a World Series too!

But then there’s those supremely unlikealbe Royals. The A’s connected players do not invoke strong feelings. But the other connections to the A’s – mainly last season’s Wild Card game and the dust-up with them early in the season over a Brett Lawrie slide at second base – have them low on the list of teams A’s fans like. And then I also have one more personal beef against the Royals, and that’s that I will never forgive them for losing to the Giants in the World Series, just like I haven’t forgiven the Rangers or the Tigers.

So a team whose success makes the A’s look bad, or a team that I flat out just don’t like? It’s really a tough call in this one but for this one I’m ever so slightly siding with Canada. I’m rooting for the Blue Jays.

Thoughts on a Lost Season

I had gotten quite comfortable the last few seasons enjoying the A’s. Sure, those seasons continued to end in familiar heartbreak, but I has just gotten used to following a relevant team. I had gotten used to actually caring about watching MLB Network shows and watching games and tweeting about this and that, but that just all faded away.

Bob MelvinBut this year, by early summer, I found myself pretty much checked out. There were a few things that reeled me back in, like the trade deadline and the return of Barry Zito. But the day to day grind of games and losing were just not something that held my attention most of the time.

It became clear after this season that the A’s really struck gold in 2012. That was the year where they traded away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey in the offseason, and then added Yoenis Cespedes right before spring training. Even with the new Cuban star, the baseball world expected rebuild. A last place finish was expected. But then they shocked the baseball world with a magic summer full of come-from-behind victories and walkoffs and won the division on the final day of the season.

Josh ReddickBut lightning doesn’t strike twice. This past offseason’s blueprint looked similar to the 2012 one. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Jeff Samardzija were dealt away and then Billy Butler and Ben Zobrist were added. It looked like a good, versatile team on paper and one that could contend if things broke their way. But things just never did. The massive amount of one-run losses, the bullpen blown leads – these were just not things that happened to the 2012 A’s. These are the luck things that will make or break a team, and they just broke the 2015 A’s, all the way to a 94-loss season, second worst in the Beane era.

I’m just glad that they at least saw the writing on the wall and made the trades that needed to be made at the deadline. Scott Kazmir to Houston, Ben Zobrist to Kansas City, and Tyler Clippard to the Mets netted a decent crop of prospects. But now the question is, do they go deeper that direction or build on what they currently have?

Personally I hope it’s the latter, and not just because I’m a fan of relevant Oakland A’s baseball. There is only one guy they have right now that is at peak value and that’s Sonny Gray. With the 94-loss season, the ripple effects that are still being felt from the controversial trades of last summer, and Supreme Court shutting down any hope of San Jose, is that really something we want to add to the List of Things That Piss Off A’s Fans? And is it even smart from a baseball standpoint? Gray is a young, cost controlled starter who is one of the best in the American League. He’ll likely be in the top 5 in Cy Young Award balloting this season. Do you trade that guy? I know Billy Beane will trade literally anyone. But do you? I don’t want to see it.

""This year’s team had problems, some of which may include a bad clubhouse mix and a really expensive DH that didn’t pan out. But it has a lot of things going for it as well, things that could see improvement next season. Marcus Semien – a good bat at shortstop and improved defense over the course of the season. The catching tandem of Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley – the former an All Star and the latter a guy good enough to play every day and and one of the better catchers throwing out runners that we’ve seen in the green and gold. Chris Bassitt in the rotation and Ryan Dull in the bullpen – the A’s always seem to have this factory that churns out big league pitchers. And I can’t not mention Billy Burns, the likeable young center fielder who made me most of the time forget about Coco Crisp. There are plenty of hopefully things here to maybe feel a little optimism toward 2016.

It’s never a boring offseason with the A’s and after a slog of a season like this, I’m ready for it. Do the things, Billy. I can handle it. Probably.

It’s Trade Week

Well the A’s weren’t supposed to be this bad, but they are this bad and this was bound to happen if they were this bad by this point. Last week got it started with the trade of Scott Kazmir to the Astros, and coming off an embarrassing weekend sweep against the hated Giants, it’s time to prepare for more A’s to be on the move.

0135833001437672330_usatodaysportsimages.jpgIt sounds like Tyler Clippard could be gone as soon as today. And of course Ben Zobrist is next. Those three are the highest priorities to be dealt as they are free agents after the season, and it makes no sense to hang onto them given the current state of the A’s. Zobrist in particular is a highly coveted trade target and will hopefully next the A’s a really good return.

Speaking of a good return, the general consensus is that the A’s got one for Kazmir. As good as he was for the A’s, the injury concerns that have plagued him for years are still there, so he wasn’t going to command the price of a Hamels or Price. But the guys they got in return for him should have an impact on the A’s in future years. Catcher Jacob Nottingham is having a great year in A-ball and experts prBL9O0878-850x560oject him as a middle of the order power bat, while pitcher Daniel Mengden is a polished though lower ceiling player who could be a fourth or fifth starter, and sounds like the kind of guy the A’s have success developing.

It’s disappointing that the season has turned out this way. Last year at this time, we were looking forward to the playoffs with newly acquired Jeff Samardzija in the the fold, and days away from the controversial Cespedes/Lester trade. That feels like a lifetime ago. But these are the moves that have to be done and I can’t wait to see it all go down this week. Go 2016 A’s…