Big caveat here: I know nothing about baseball having never played it and my opinion is not worth the electrons that are delivering it. But to have an opinion is human and a sports opinion, harmless, so here goes.
I guess for the nation the wild card game was one gem of a game that had everything. For an A’s fan it was torture of the first order that saw the last half of the season come back and repeat itself. What happen to our team from the first half?
The biggest lesson is that team chemistry is vitally important to the point of being everything. Bring in a bunch of high profile players at the end, and they upset a teams fragile balance. Synergy is everything and is what makes a good team great. When it is lost, it is only about the parts, not the whole engine.
I think that is what happened with both the pitching staff and the offense. Bringing in Lester, Samardzija, and Hammel upset the pitching rotation and none pitched as well as before they came. With a change in the starters, the bullpen got moved around and they also lost their edge. Lester was never going to be here next year so instead of a team that was going to build a dynasty, they were hired guns, mercenaries so to speak. Everything the A’s are not.
The same can be said for trading Céspedes and bringing in Gomes, Dunne, and Soto. Yoenis, while not hitting great, was hitting well, and was a counterbalance to Moss and Donaldson. If they were down, he was there. He was always there with the potential to hit the bomb. Moss and Donaldson didn’t have to do everything. The rest of the team, except for Reddick, are not great hitters and their failure to be able to hit with runners on was very dependable in the time after the trade.
In my mind they were hoping Gomes and Dunne would fill in the hitting gap, but neither ever really produced. When Gomes and Fuld colliding going after the triple off the wall, it was kind of a sign that they weren’t working as a well oiled team. Jonny was going to save them instead of letting Fuld do his job. It destroys the whole team dynamic.
Melvin liked to platoon and the data says that works, but you are asking who is the team today. I can’t help but think that continually changing out players keeps everyone off balance. But it worked well in the first half and was a disaster after the Céspedes trade. I think on that one you can draw the conclusion that there is a limit to screwing around with the chemistry.
Then there was the A’s inability to play reliable small ball. Kansas City beat them on it. Speed and small ball was what won it for them, and the A’s do not reliably bunt. Worse, other than Fuld and Crisp, they are slow on the bases. With Soto hurt, no one could reliably throw to second and Lester, with his non-existent move to first guaranteed a runner on second or third with one out if he got to first.
Well, everyone can be a Monday morning quarterback, or say the obvious, but the bet on bringing in pitching failed and failed miserably. A’s success has been based on a young team, bringing up good pitching and hitting, and depending upon synergy to make them better than they are. That with a few rehabilitated veterans to give the team balance.
This season they stepped out of that mold to get further in the playoffs and destroyed what made them great. Now I think the A’s need to decide who they are and get on with it. And they need to learn to play Billy Ball again, manufacturing runs and stealing everything that is not tied down. Otherwise they are just another boring club without the payroll to ever build a real machine. The excitement was to watch kids become men and veterans who everyone thought were done exceed all expectations. This year, except for Sony Gray, they all got pushed aside for hired guns. It didn’t work and it was painful to watch.