… but it’s better than nothing.
In a season filled with promise on both sides of the bay, the local baseball franchises will spend the playoffs like the rest of us, watching them on the couch. Actually, that’s not true: pro athletes will be on vacation somewhere the minute they can rip off their uniforms, and I don’t blame them. There’s money to be spent, lads. But the sad reality is that the world champions and a team on a three-year run in the post-season are kaput for 2015.
For the A’s, it’s hard to say the future is bright. The rotation has one awesome pitcher and then just a “bunch of guys.” I have high hopes for Jesse Hahn and Chris Bassitt, but they aren’t the real deal just yet. Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Chavez, and A.J. Griffin don’t inspire me with confidence. And Aaron Brooks, Cody Martin and Felix Doubront make me downright yawn. Meanwhile, Sean Manaea and Dillon Overton are the only minor league starters I’m looking forward to seeing.
As for the outfield, the original center field platoon of Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld didn’t last long. Neither one of them could hit major league pitching, and Gentry spent almost all of the season in Nashville. Coco Crisp, once again relegated to left field, was a mere shadow of his former self as he fell prey to numerous ailments and injuries once again. Mark Canha ended up being an RBI guy, but he was awful from May through July, which only added to the terrible season for the team — but better late than never — some guys on this team were “never.” Left field was an open audition for a while, and the formerly released Jake Smolinski will end the year out there. Billy Burns was a nice surprise in center field, however. And Josh Reddick had a good year in right field, which will help him in his final arbitration hearing, if it gets to that point.
The infield was another problem, as ground balls became Rubik’s Cubes of mystery to the left side of the diamond. The lead conductor in this out-of-tune symphony from Hades was shortstop Marcus Semien, and his main minion was third baseman Brett Lawrie. I will spare Lawrie a thought, because he had an overall solid season at the plate and did make the odd spectacular play. Second base began with an absolute stud in Ben Zobrist, but he got hurt, got healthy, then got traded. Eric Sogard played most of the year there until Danny Valencia came along, moving Lawrie to second. Sogard is a utility guy and should never, ever be a starting major league infielder. Sogie just got his first home run of the season last night … Billy Burns has more home runs than he does. And fortunately the A’s have the productive Valencia under contract. First base was fine defensively when Ike Davis was in there, but he really couldn’t hit and then got hurt. Canha will end the year as the everyday first baseman.
Catcher was a rare spot on the field where Oakland did rather well. Steven Vogt was an All-Star and Josh Phegley turned into a very capable backup, and was also the better defensive catcher of the two. They’re both under team control beyond next season, which is good news since the A’s solitary catching prospect worth noting is in A-Ball (Jacob Nottingham).
Designated hitter Billy Butler is still owed $23.33 million over the next two seasons (his deal was a bit back-loaded). All that money for a guy who perfected the art of hitting into a double play and driving in about as many runs as a Rule-5 guy did.
The bullpen? It brought new meaning to the word feckless.
Looking at the some of the younger guys and call-ups, there really isn’t anybody outside of reliever Ryan Dull worth writing home about. Jason Pridie is an old man, Max Muncy has no position and can’t hit, and Carson Blair has no big league future. The really exciting players who are in the system are not close to the bigs yet, outside of maybe Matt Olson and Joey Wendle. We will still have to wait on Chad Pinder, Richie Martin, Franklin Barreto, and Matt Chapman a bit longer. That is, unless they’re all traded by Billy Beane first.
So yes, this Saturday’s match-up in Oakland between Barry Zito and Tim Hudson is something to look forward to in a season which wasn’t very fun. And when Zito is lifted after giving up six earned runs, he’ll tip his cap and we’ll stand and applaud him. It’s all a gimmick for two teams with nothing to lose, but I’d rather see that than one more Aaron Brooks start any day.