The A’s open their road portion of the 2015 schedule tonight in Houston after finishing a very up-and-down homestand which concluded with a 3-4 record. One of the reasons I love baseball season is because of its everyday nature and nonstop story lines throughout a season. Well, these opening seven games for Oakland possessed a season’s worth of intrigue, triumph and disappointment. The three victories were shutouts, which leads all of MLB in that category in these early days. The A’s scored runs for fun in those three wins, looking as potent and as confident as could be. Two of the losses were in extra innings where the A’s had plenty of opportunities to win. Only one loss was by blowout. But there was one constant theme throughout the homestand: Oakland played sloppy defense and is now second in the majors in errors with seven.
There were still some flashes of brilliant leather from the likes of Ike Davis, Brett Lawrie and Sam Fuld. But it seemed that when the A’s did make a boneheaded error, it cost them dearly. Jesse Hahn was the main victim, having been betrayed by his teammates in both of his starts. Yesterday right fielder Josh Reddick buggered a Robinson Cano sinking liner which would have ended an inning with a 3-1 A’s lead but ended up 4-3 in favor of Seattle. The Mariners went on to win 8-7 in 10 innings.
A person in the pressbox at the Coliseum said to me, “It’s Reddick’s first game back, so it’s to be expected.” Wrong. He’s a big league player. He would be the first to tell you he should have caught the ball. I make no excuses for professional athletes.
Shortstop Marcus Semien seems to be the guy who came billed as, “all bat, no glove.” A’s fans certainly saw him have a horrendous defensive series against Oakland last year when he was a member of the White Sox. Last month I asked Melvin at Las Vegas’ Cashman Field about Semien’s defense, and he told me that Semien was not going to be yanked around the infield but would only play at short, hence getting more reps there and improving.
On Saturday Semien made an unreal and backbreaking error when reliever Eric O’Flaherty got a made-to-order comebacker which looked to begin an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play. Semien took the throw, did not step on second, and then bounced his relay to first. It was beyond lame and you’d rarely see such a gaffe at the high school level. Then yesterday Semien earned another E-6 on a routine two-hopper in which he had plenty of time to throw to first but still couldn’t manage it.
So I asked Melvin after yesterday’s game if Semien’s poor throws were a mechanical issue or if he was just too relaxed, as it appeared to me. Melvin responded by saying that Semien is not too relaxed but does need to find his arm slot and be more aggressive with his throws. Arm slot? He’s not a pitcher. Just throw the ball to first base, already.
There was also a failed safety squeeze from Josh Phegly on Saturday and a putout at home when Ben Zobrist showed he’s not exactly Usain Bolt. The A’s look to be a very slow team with players like them along with Billy Butler, Ike Davis and Stephen Vogt. And when Coco Crisp returns, I doubt the A’s will give him many green lights on the base paths due to their kid-gloves policy with him this year. But the good news is that A’s were in every game save one.
The lone blowout was on Thursday when Kendall Graveman got his first big league start. It was virtually over in a matter of minutes. On Opening Night, Damon Bruce asked me on 95.7 The Game, “The next 30 days is most important to which member of the A’s?” I answered: Kendall Graveman. I said he needed to prove that his excellent Cactus League could translate to regular season success. He will get a few more chances to prove himself.
One last item about the opening homestand: we saw in the last two games this weekend about ambitious payroll. My point is that without Nelson Cruz’s home runs in each of those games, I believe the Mariners would have lost both of them. Seattle signed him in December for four years and $57 million. He’s a subpar defender (ask the Cardinals) but the Mariners don’t care. So as the A’s move on to Houston tonight, they still have no idea about any sort of identity just yet. It will take time for all these new guys to gel. But with 2 Wild Cards and every game meaning more than ever, they better gel pretty quickly.