Part of the fun of writing this blog is the challenge of taking thoughts and inklings, grab them and throw them to print before they can escape. Not just cursing the wind and talking out of our collective asses. One of the drawbacks, at times, we are dumbfounded as to what the hell is going on out there (we really, wish we could find the Vince Lombardi clip, "What the hell is going on out there?!").
We mentioned Art Howe has holes in his managerial repertoire. A good manager knows this and can utilize his coaching staff to plug those holes. Lately, though, Art has been getting a little too big for his britches. He's expressed some resentment at being overlooked as a Manager of the Year candidate and the line of Billy Beane worshippers that block his path to the clubhouse.
The question remains, whose insistence is it that Terrence Long play everyday in center? Art Howe or Billy Beane?
Terrence Long needs to hit a homerun every three games to make up for the runs he gives. In short, Long is not earning his keep.
Last night in the 4th all hell broke loose. Brad Fullmer doubled, to left center. Spiezio singled, to center, Fullmer a former catcher, scored from third. Shawn Wooten doubled, to left center. Bengie Molina hit a sacrifice fly, to center. Spiezio scored and Wooten, a first baseman/catcher went to third. Garret Anderson hit a bloop single to shallow left center. Miguel Tejada could not catch it over his shoulder. AFTER the ball hit the ground, Terrence Long decides to dive. Possibly one of the most ridiculous plays ever. Here, watch it (ED NOTE: MLB video archives are lacking). From his knees he picks up the ball and flips it to second. David Justice was upright, watching the play several feet away. Wooten scored from third, but more importantly, Kennedy got to second on the play. Kennedy went to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a sacrifice squeeze.
Think back to the play that Terrence Long made against Boston on August 7th.
There are a few things that people forget. Koch walked Johnny Damon and gave up a Trot Nixon single before Ramirez' blast. Further, Long just made a catch in right center, that's it. Sure it ended the game, but it still wasn't jaw dropping.
But, that catch kind of set the tone that the A's pitchers could finally rely on the defense behind them. They didn't have to try and do everything themselves. It took a few games, including the 16 inning marathon in New York on August 9th.
We are now in the shadow of discontent. The 20 game win streak made us all drunker than we thought we could drink.
Blown saves and stats didn't matter during the streak. Now they do. Now is when they begin to take their toll.
Art Howe used virtually the same lineup through the streak and Ramon Hernandez did not get a day off in three weeks.
Last night he got hit on the left forearm with a pitch as a batter and took a foul ball behind the plate on his right wrist.
The A's starters were very good during the streak and it wasn't until the end of the streak that the bullpen showed it's rust and they began blowing leads and looking like a herd of elk in a life boat.
We don't know how they got there either.
The A's bullpen is suffering form a lack of identity. The roles are not clearly defined. Art Howe's reluctance to solidify the relief corps will be his undoing.
At this point, it's only certain that Ricardo Rincon is his favorite and Billy Koch is the designated game ender, either by closer or blown save.
David Justice continues to start in left despite the fact he hasn't been able to hit a ball or field a ball in the past two weeks.
There is some great, young talent being wasted on the bench. Adam Piatt, Eric Byrnes, John Mabry. Mabry may not be young, but he's younger than Justice and able to drive the ball. Justice has been relying on the opposite field flip.
Late summer swoon or last gasp of the dying?
Either way, the A's look like they are backing into the playoffs. With Seattle losing and the Red Sox explaining that the dog ate their OPS the A's have been given a gift and are promptly spitting on it.