Here is a link to my Friday column about the Oakland A’s. The full text runs below:
That awful smell coming from the Oakland Coliseum is not the stench of sewage. It’s the Oakland A’s. They stink of death.
Call it near-death. The A’s are enduring a near-death experience that could turn into final and ultimate death, as in kaput. Real soon.
On Thursday, they lost their third game in a row to the Texas Rangers — this time 7-2. The Rangers are the worst team in baseball. They started guys named Jake Smolinksi, Tomas Telis, Ryan Rua and Luis Sardinas. No disrespect intended. But who ARE those guys?
The Rangers’ starting pitcher — the winning pitcher — was Nick Martinez. He entered with game with a record of 3-11, and this guy beat the A’s. Right now, anyone can beat the A’s. Your old Uncle Morty, the one with bunions and reflux, can beat the A’s.
And get this. The Rangers had nothing to play for. The A’s did. But the A’s didn’t play, anyway. Their starting pitcher, Sonny Gray, gave up four runs in the first inning and, because the A’s no longer can hit, that was the ballgame. You just want to die.
Get ready to say a prayer for the dead over the A’s. In the Jewish religion, the prayer for the dead is the Mourner’s Kaddish. Prepare to say Kaddish over the A’s.
At one time, the A’s owned the American League West. But they surrendered that to the Los Angeles Angels. Then they owned the first wild-card spot. On Thursday, they surrendered that to the Kansas City Royals. If they surrender the second wild-card spot to the Seattle Mariners — easy to do — they will be out of the playoffs.
The smell of death.
The A’s looked defeated before the first pitch. It’s like they expected to lose. Moving slowly, heads down. They now have lost 25 of their past 36 games. They don’t know how to win. They don’t remember how to win. Reason to mourn.
Afterward, manager Bob Melvin came to the chill, antiseptic interview room that looks like the interview room on a cop show. He bounced his fingers nervously on the table. He searched for words to describe the indescribable — the fall of the A’s is indescribable.
“You’ve got to fight being beat down,” he said in a beat-down voice. “You get down in the first inning, sometimes it’s just tough to find your fight. We’ve always been able to do that here, but over the last six weeks it’s been tough.”
The A’s can’t find their fight.
Someone said the A’s have three series left — 10 games. What must they do?
“Win. Win games,” Melvin said. “We’ll be in no position if we continue to lose.”
“Why do you think you can turn it around?” I asked.
“Because we have played very well this year. We have not played very well these last six weeks. But we have for four months — basically, two years and four months. And all of a sudden, this has taken a dramatic turn. Why, I really don’t know. I wish I had the answers for that.”
Say a prayer for Bob Melvin.
Sonny Gray spoke at his locker. His voice quavered. He looked apologetic. Not just for losing the game. He looked apologetic for existing.
What must the A’s do?
“It’s easier said than done,” Gray said, “but we have to put this behind us.” And then he said, “Today was just ugly.” He meant his performance. But it was more than that.
What is the confidence level of the A’s?
“It’s 100 percent in our hands,” Gray said. “It’s up to us. We don’t have to have someone lose. It’s hanging right out there for us to take. It’s just a matter of us finding a way to win. And that’s it.”
Say a prayer for Sonny Gray.
Jed Lowrie spoke. Tried to sound upbeat.
Why does he still feel confident? I asked.
He stared ahead, someone trying to locate the right answer.
“You look at the pitching staff, that’s what this team’s built on. It’s a formidable group. There’s confidence in that aspect. I think we have the position players to win, too.”
The theory seems busted.
Say a prayer for Jed Lowrie.
Now, I’m going to write something contradictory. I’m going to write the A’s are not dead. Not dead yet. They can win a wild-card spot. Two exist. They currently own one.
Bear with me here, bear with all the “ifs” I’m about to lay out. What if they earn a wild-card spot? What if they win the crazy, do-or-die, wild-card play-in game? I mean, it’s possible.
If they win the play-in game, they are in the postseason like any other team — like the Angels and all the division winners. You can’t prove it won’t happen. Not yet. What if the A’s pitchers go on fire in the postseason — Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Scott Kazmir, Gray?
What if just one hitter gets hot. Like Brandon Moss?
You can’t say for sure this stuff won’t happen. I don’t know and you don’t know. And that uncertainty means something serious, something deep and important.
This season is almost over for the A’s and no one — I’m saying no one — knows the meaning of the season. It’s still too early to define the season.
The A’s turned out to be an epic flop. And shame on them.
The A’s almost were an epic flop, but they bravely found themselves as they were dangling from the cliff by one hand — the sand and gravel falling to the ground 200 feet below.
The A’s found themselves and played well or poorly (choose one) in the playoffs.
The A’s played well in the playoffs. And everyone forgot the Yoenis Cespedes trade. And Billy Beane was absolved.
Or the A’s played crummy and Billy never got absolved.
The A’s went all the way in the postseason.
You see what I’m saying, right? I’m saying the book doesn’t have an ending.
Before the game, I had this exchange with Melvin.
“How’s life these days?” I asked.
“It would be better with a win today.” (Which he didn’t get.)
“Yeah, you’ve got to keep it simple. We win today, everybody’s going to be in a better mood.”
“I’ll talk to you after,” I said.
I didn’t have the heart to talk to him after, to ask how’s life. But if we spoke privately, I would have said the A’s still have hope, as insane as that sounds. I would have said everything is out there for Melvin and his team. I would have said the A’s draw breath. I would have said — hold the Mourner’s Kaddish.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.