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On Aug. 9, the Oakland Athletics were 71-44 and four games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the AL West. While that didn’t make them a lock to win their third straight AL West title, they certainly seemed like the favorite due to the additions of Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija.
Now they’re not a lock to even be the wild card team. The A’s have gone from being four up to being 11 1/2 out and when they gave up six runs in the ninth to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, officially ending their two-year grip on the division.
Then they lost badly again on Thursday afternoon when the Rangers easily cruised to a 7-2 victory and that dropped them to the second wild card position with a one-game lead on the Seattle Mariners.
One thing that’s apparent is that as good as acquiring Lester looked on paper, it has had real life ramifications for the offense since Yoenis Cespedes went to the Boston Red Sox. At the time of the deal on July 31, Oakland had 112 home runs and scored 535 runs.
Since then the Athletics have hit 31 home runs and scored 156 runs. And since the last time Cespedes was on the team on July 30, Oakland is 17-28 while hitting .223 (332-for-1490).
During that period the Athletics have been held to three runs or less 30 times, going 5-25 in those games.
If it looks similar to the 2007 Mets or 2011 Red Sox, that’s because it does appear that way and should Oakland completely collapse, they’ll be placed alongside of those teams as members of the September collapse club.
Can we conclude that trading Cespedes was the sole reason for why this is happening now? No, but even with his .256 average before the trade, replacing someone with that power capability is tough and Billy Beane knew that.
For him it was a risk worth taking even if Lester never pitches another game for the A’s after this season. It was an unusual method of trading for Beane and so far what he left behind has not helped the A’s shake off this no matter how well Lester and Samardzija pitch.
And when this type of stretch happens, these are some of the things you’ll read from key figures on the team to reporters.
“The most important thing for us is trying to create a good feeling here, trying to win some ballgames, trying to get past this very tough period,” manager Bob Melvin said to reporters Thursday.
“It’s not very fun. When you’re in a race, it’s supposed to be fun,” left fielder Brandon Moss said to reporters. “But I don’t see anyone in this clubhouse having any fun, because it’s not. We’re pretty frustrated. We’re disappointed. But it’s not over, and we know that.”
Moss is right, it’s not over. It’s not close to being over but as long as the Athletics remain in free-fall mode, it’s a wreck that people will not be able to take their eyes off of and that Angels fans are rejoicing at since they remember pulling off the same thing in 1995 and eventually losing to the Seattle Mariners in a one-game playoff.
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