And Then There Was One..

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It all comes down to this. The final day of the regular season is here and still the Oakland Athletics have not clinched a postseason berth.

2 months ago if I had told you that on the last day of the season that Oakland would still not have clinched a spot, you would think I was crazy. But in what could be on of the most catastrophic collapses in baseball history, I sit here and wonder, what went wrong?

Oakland jumped out of the gates this season, coming off back to back American League West titles. Largely under the radar during both those campaigns, the A’s came in this season with a little bit more star power. Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes were now stars, and the American League was starting to take notice. But when both Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin went down in spring training with Tommy John surgery, there was speculation about this team whether or not they could compete in an improved AL West division. With Mike Trout a bona-fide superstar and the Mariners landing a whale in free agency in the form of Robinson Cano, the A’s would have their work cut out.

But the A’s jumped out the gate. Posting the best record in all of baseball at the break at 59-36. All was well in Oakland. The pitching was clicking despite the losses of Parker and Griffin. Once again Billy Beane was looked at as a genius for piecing together a lineup of low priced players and Bob Melvin was up to his usual, mixing and matching players in platoon roles.

Then, in what. Any would consider a controversial move, Beane started to mess with his winning formula. He decided to move his top prospect Addison Russell (No. 3 in all of MLB) and a couple others to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to solidify the rotation. At the time of the trade both pitchers had been having solid seasons. Samardzija was 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA and Hammel was 7-5 with a 2.98 ERA. So you can’t fault Beane for this move, only that he may have given up too much for a pitcher having his best season yet and another who has been a journeyman. But one thing was for certain, Beane was all in. His next move really shocked Oakland and all of MLB.

The morning of the trade deadline, Oakland traded Yoenis Cespedes away to Boston for Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes. Many casual fans looked at this trade as stupid. Why trade away your cleanup hitter for a pitcher when you already have one of the best rotations in baseball. Cespedes may not have had as glamourous numbers as he did his first year, but he was a presence in the lineup and since the trade Oakland’s offense has declined. But Billy Beane was at his wits end. He was tired of watching his team lose playoff series because they lacked the big game pitcher. With Parker out for the season, they lacked a serious number 1. Lester is that guy. Justin Verlander is that guy, the same guy who pitched the A’s out consecutive playoff series. Since the trade, Lester has been as good as advertised. Posting a quality start almost everytime he takes the mind in green and gold, he has been what Oakland needed.

But the offense has sputtered. The A’s have been on this tailspin and now, on the last day of the season, are on the verge of potentially missing the playoffs. Which would not only be one of the worst collapses in baseball history (would be first team in history with best record at All-Star break to miss the playoffs in Division era). Although they have played terrible baseball, they have sat in the playoff hunt through it all, never relinquishing a position at the top of the division or wild card. As it stands, they can clinch a wild card game to play either the Royals or Tigers. Most likely they will be on the road. But they need to get there. It’s not complex, Oakland just needs a win or a Seattle loss. The magic number sits at just 1. But as we have seen, nothing has been easy for the swinging A’s this second half of the season. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy, especially those who bleed green and gold.

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