By any measure outside of playoff performance the Oakland A’s have been very successful. They keep their payroll low, they win in the regular season and they routinely churn out gems from their farm system. The problem is, since 2000, the A’s have failed on baseball’s biggest stage. At one point Oakland lost nine elimination games in a row. That was NINE games when the A’s could have eliminated their opponents.
Who can forget such calamities as Jeremy Giambi failing to slide into home plate; Eric Byrnes failing to touch the plate when he thought he didn’t have to; Gil Heredia surrendering six runs in the top of the first of a series deciding game; Miguel Tejada not running out an obstruction play; and Tim Hudson becoming injured and unavailable at Fenway Park?
The one time they won a series (they beat the Twins in the 2006 Division Series) the A’s lost to the Tigers in the American League Championship series four games to none. More recently the A’s ran into a buzz saw named Justin Verlander as they lost twice to Detroit. That almost seems mild by comparison.
Off the Bench has a theory. It seems like the A’s take their cue from their Moneyball leader and lack that little extra spark during the playoffs. Billy Beane says he can relax with his dog at his feet once the playoffs begin. He can sit back and enjoy the games because he knows he is the master of his domain. Can you imagine Tony LaRussa thinking that way? Never mind Vince Lombardi!
Every way that Beane measures himself involves the regular season. It’s how he gets paid and how he gets his satisfaction. As long as he is a part owner that won’t change. Until the A’s convince Beane the playoffs are vital the results are likely to be the same. It is likely that the A’s will continue to succeed in the regular season and then utterly fail in the playoffs.
So what does this mean to the fans? Will they be willing to show up year after year and just fall short? What about the players? Sure they get paid handsomely, but will they be willing to put everything on the line when their leader clearly doesn’t get himself up for the biggest games?
It says here that it won’t work. The fans will stay away until the very end of the season as they’ve done the past two years. The players will win as best they can during the regular season and then tank in the playoffs. One only needs to see how Larry Baer roots on the Giants during the playoffs and World Series to see how it could be done.
The East Bay’s major league baseball team is flawed by every measure, save what is important to Billy Beane. That is both a flaw and an advantage. When it comes to October baseball it is clearly a flaw.