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It May or May Not Be Time to Panic

(NOTE: The tone of this piece would have been drastically different had it gone up on Saturday night rather than Monday morning.  For that matter, its tone would likely have been drastically different had the Baltimore Orioles not all turned into Silly McJelloArms at the sight of a sacrifice bunt.  This shouldn’t affect your reading of this post overmuch, but I felt I should remind you to be grateful to read the following rather than a haphazard smattering of curse words and threats against unnamed public officials.)

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I’ve spent the last two weeks of my baseball life inching in and out of varying levels of panic.  The upside of the small sample size is that things can go very, very well in a very small amount of time.  The downside of the small sample size is that things can go very, very bad in a correspondingly small amount of time.  All of this would make a shortened baseball season very exciting, much like a thrilling roller coaster ride, were it not for the damage to one’s blood pressure and fractured psyche that would make it much more similar to sitting at a bus stop next to a large bipolar man holding a knife and muttering softly to himself.  So there’s a reason the baseball season lasts longer than a month, beyond the sheer impossibility of fitting that many bobblehead giveaways into a four-week period.

The constant flux of the small sample size nevertheless makes it imperative for the A’s fan’s physical and psychological well-being to know whether the 2013 Oakland Athletics are the 12-4 world beaters that they were halfway through April, or the 14-12 fringe contenders they became over the next two weeks.  Finding out which will be simple enough – all it will take is to sit back, relax, and watch the team play baseball games for the next five months.

Or you could just rely on my simplistic, systematic break-down that is almost guaranteed to be wrong and make you feel like an idiot for ever trusting me.  Your call.

World Beaters – Past performance and pure talent make it impossible that Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker continue to be as bad as they’ve been this season.

Fringe Contenders – The ravages of time and human physiology make it impossible that Bartolo Colon continues to be as good as he’s been this season.

World Beaters – Come what may of the pitching, the River Cats have Dan Straily and Sonny Gray ready to go at a moment’s notice.  This level of depth, far more than any individual pitching talent, is the strength of Oakland pitching.

Fringe Contenders – Sonny Gray wears glasses now.  Nerd.  

World Beaters – The Tigers, Red Sox and Orioles are all pretty good teams, and getting beat up by them this early in the season isn’t as bad a sign as one might fear.

Fringe Contenders – The Astros are not a very good team, and beating them down like the rented mules they can only aspire to be isn’t as good a sign as one might hope.

World Beaters – Jed Lowrie is turning out to be the potent offensive force at shortstop that Oakland has been missing for the last decade or so.

Fringe Contenders – Jed Lowrie’s joints and ligaments are composed entirely of Faberge eggs.

World Beaters – Don’t look now, but Josh Donaldson might actually be a really, really good baseball player.  Maybe.  Just maybe.

Fringe Contenders – The bullpen might not be the impregnable wall we all thought it was.

World Beaters – Yoenis Céspedes.

Fringe Contenders – One player can’t possibly make that kind of difference.

World Beaters – Yoenis Céspedes.

World Beaters – Yoenis Céspedes.

World Beaters – Seriously guys, Yoenis Céspedes.

I have only hazy memories of the last time the Oakland Athletics featured a legitimate superstar on their roster.  Eric Chavez was close, but his body was made of dental floss and aluminum foil.  Miguel Tejada had too many flaws to be a superstar.  Ben Grieve existed in our imaginations and would come to life only when we believed hard enough.  I think it’s fair to say that Oakland hasn’t really seen something on the level of Céspedes since the glory days of Canseco, McGwire and Rickey.

Blasphemy, you say!  Unnecessarily hyperbolic, you say in a slightly more constructive manner!  But you’re wrong, both times.  Because watch this again: 

Céspedes hit that off a golf tee, you guys.  And he did it to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, on a two-strike count, on his first day back from the DL, to end a four-game losing streak and hopefully reverse the fortunes of a team that was starting to detect a crazy gleam in the eye of the knife-wielding bipolar maniac that had been slowly scrunching closer and closer over the last two weeks of April.  A superstar changes everything.  He can take a solid team whose primary strengths are its depth and lack of glaring holes at any position and make them into world beaters.  Céspedes is our superstar, and we should be grateful every day for the flare gun and drug dealer speed boat that whisked him out of Cuba.  And at the very least, we shouldn’t be panicking in April.

Because come on, everybody.  This team went 11-13 last April and still won 94 games to win the division.  We’re ahead of the game here.

14-12, 2nd Place in the American League West

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