Athletics

Who can we blame for epidemic of teams losing three straight elimination games?

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AP

Who can we blame for epidemic of teams losing three straight elimination games?

Fox’ Matt Vasgersian, who does his job well,  declared the New York Yankees’ American League Division Series win over Cleveland to be amazing.

It is not. Not any more.

In fact, the Yankees winning three elimination games in succession is a feat that has happened seven times in the past three years. And we can only conclude from that that they’re not making teams that can avoid the bad beat the way they used to.

The 2017 Indians joined the 2016 Indians, Warriors and Thunder, the 2015 Clippers, Capitals and Texas Rangers, the 2014 Penguins and Sharks, the 2013 Red Wings, the 2012 Reds and Cardinals, the 2011 Penguins, the 2010 Bruins and Capitals as proud laryngectomy victims – teams that needed to win only one of three (or in the Sharks’ case, four) games to advance in the playoffs (or in the Warriors’ case, win).

That’s 15 times this “amazing” thing has happened, which means that by any estimate, teams that needed to win three consecutive games to escape the icy hand of Uncle Death are now pretty much the norm in this decade.

And why, you ask? I blame Twitter. I blame global warming. I blame video games. I blame smartphones. I blame phones. I blame the new president. I blame the old president. I blame Satan. I blame participation trophies and orange slices and juice boxes. I blame the players and I blame the owners and I blame the fans and definitely those smarmy bastards in the media. They’re the worst.

I blame you. Hell, I think I blame Matt Vasgersian.

But whomever is at fault, we have here an epidemic of feet strangling their owners when everything seems their cheeriest. And unless we live in such misery-enriched times that good times are only precursors to far worse ones, there is no sensible explanation. Players’ windpipes are no smaller than they were a decade ago. The Internet is older than seven years. Close-out games are not materially more difficult than they were before 2010.

And yet winning that one extra game is suddenly like finding out your SAT test has been written totally in anagrams. In other words, when things look brightest, that’s when you know you’re totally screwed.

And if you don’t believe me, ask Terry Francona. In a few weeks maybe. Not right away. Not unless you’re keen to see how it feels to have your neck used as a bathmat.

 

A's would love to see Japanese star Ohtani land in National League

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AP

A's would love to see Japanese star Ohtani land in National League

Update: Shohei Ohtani agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday morning 

The A’s only made a cameo appearance in the Shohei Ohtani chase, but they’ve got plenty of interest in where the young Japanese star lands.

Three of Oakland’s American League West rivals are among the final seven teams in the running to sign Ohtani — the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. Ohtani supposedly prefers the West Coast, and the Mariners acquired some extra international bonus pool money Thursday which could help sweeten their offer for him.

A’s general manager David Forst understandably is rooting hard for Ohtani to sign somewhere outside of the AL West.

“We’re watching with curiosity just like you guys are, hoping he ends up (in the National League) as opposed to somebody we face 19 times a year,” Forst said on a media conference call Thursday.

The A’s were among the majority of major league teams that spent time putting together a detailed presentation to pitch their team to Ohtani, as was requested by the player’s representatives. Forst summed up the A’s pursuit succinctly:

“We were involved for a couple days until we were told we weren’t.”

That was the case for all interested clubs outside of the lucky seven. So the A’s now shift their focus to the upcoming winter meetings, which get started Monday and run for four days at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Topping the A’s agenda is acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder. Forst said he’s engaged in trade dialogue regarding outfielders but wasn’t predicting whether a deal gets done in Orlando.

“There are things we’ve been working on and maybe they’ve been somewhat held up by what’s going on,” Forst said. “I can’t tell you we’ll walk out of the Swan and Dolphin with an outfielder, but it’s something we’ve looked into.”

The delays Forst referred to are the unresolved situations regarding Giancarlo Stanton and Ohtani. There’s a sentiment that once those two players land somewhere, it will pave the way for more transactions to start happening in what’s so far been a slow offseason of activity around the majors.

An informed source indicated the A’s are indeed eyeing Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who they’ve been linked to in previous reports. But St. Louis is competing with the Giants and perhaps the Dodgers to complete a trade with the Marlins for Stanton. Should the Cardinals get Stanton, it stands to reason they’d be more willing to deal Piscotty, who is under contract for the next five seasons at a very affordable $29.5 million.

The A’s plan to shift Khris Davis from left field to predominantly a DH role, and Forst said Oakland ideally would like someone who can play all three outfield spots. Piscotty happens to fit that bill, though he’s not their only option.

A lefty reliever is the other main item on the A’s wish list, though they’re also monitoring the starting pitching market.

On Thursday, they announced their two-year $10 million deal with one-time Giant reliever Yusmeiro Petit. He’s the second right-hander Oakland has added to the bullpen, joining Emilio Pagan, and Petit’s versatility was a big reason the A’s were interested in the 33-year-old.

“When you have a young starting staff and guys that have developing to do, (helping) them in the bullpen is a priority,” Forst said. “His ability to go multiple innings, go back-to-back days, spot start, all the things he’s done are incredibly valuable to us.”

To make room on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated for assignment second baseman Joey Wendle, who saw his opportunities decrease last season with the emergence of Chad Pinder and the top prospect status of Franklin Barreto.

Forst declined to address Wednesday’s news that the A’s negotiations to build a ballpark near Laney College fell through, other than to say the organization was “surprised.”

“We’re regrouping and figuring out the next step.”

Mariners make first big offseason move, acquire two-time All-Star Dee Gordon

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USATSI

Mariners make first big offseason move, acquire two-time All-Star Dee Gordon

MIAMI — Miami second baseman Dee Gordon has been traded to the Seattle Mariners for three prospects in a deal that marks the start of the Marlins' latest payroll purge, this time under new CEO Derek Jeter.

The Marlins want to cut their payroll by more than 20 percent to $90 million or less, which is why NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton is also on the trading block.

Seattle has eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano at second base and is expected to move Gordon to center field. While Gordon has never played center in the majors, the Mariners believe he can make the transition and fill perhaps the biggest remaining need among their position players.

Miami acquired right-hander Nick Neidert, the Mariners' No. 2 prospect, along with infielder Chris Torres and right-hander Robert Dugger. Seattle gets international signing bonus pool allotment, boosting the amount it can offer Japanese star pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani.