The one lingering takeaway from A's 21-3 beat down of Angels


The one lingering takeaway from A's 21-3 beat down of Angels

OAKLAND -- I have half a mind to simply print out the play-by-play sheet from A’s-Angels today and call it a full shift.

After all, when asked if he could recreate Oakland’s 51 plate appearances Thursday, manager Bob Melvin, who ought to be able to given his memory, said swiftly, “No, I can’t.”

He shouldn’t need to. In a 21-3 game that was so 21-3 that Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided either out of pique or whimsy to skip over 10 available relievers to pitch a catcher, the details are necessarily going to blur a bit.

Every Oakland starter scored at least twice except shortstop Marcus Semien. Every starter but first baseman Matt Olson had multiple hits. Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson struggled for two entire batters before settling himself and breezing through the inert Los Angeles lineup. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty looked terrible on a slider in the dirt from Angels starter Matt Shoemaker for the express purpose (or so it seemed) of getting another, which he drove well into the left field chairs.

That was the springboard for one of the A’s highest and longest dives in Oakland franchise history. Piscotty made a 2-1 lead go to 5-1, singled and scored in the seven-run bat-around fourth that made it 12-1, walked and scored in the bat-around six-run sixth.

The A’s may well have changed a bit of the perception of their dank pitchers’ park with their September, given that they have scored 97 runs in their last 13 games, a cool average of 7.46 per, but this was especially cartoonish.

And there was more, so much more than we have mentioned so far. The bullpen got another day of rest, and five of the eight position players came out by the end of the sixth, with only exceptions made for left fielder Nick Martini, backup catcher Josh Phegley and the indefatigable Semien.

“He’s the only one who plays every inning of every game,” Melvin said afterward. “He wants no part of coming out of games.”

In fact, if there is one lingering takeaway from this three-hour Rick And Morty episode, it is that Melvin, who has been reluctant to disturb his regular lineup, got to pull Piscotty, third baseman Matt Chapman, second baseman Jed Lowrie and designated hitter Khris Davis on successive days. This matters because at a time when the A’s cannot rest because the Tampa Bay Rays never seem to, the position players have been operating at full throttle without respite.

Chapman has started every game since coming off the disabled list July 3. Lowrie has missed only two games since July 13. Semien’s last day off was June 27. Piscotty has missed one game since June 7. Olson has played every game. You don’t hear this much grinding if you put your ear to floor of a machine shop.

But that’s how the A’s got from sub-optimal to where they are today – with a steady core of players who don’t miss work (a function of luck as well as endurance, to be fair) and a bullpen of such depth that catchers don’t have to pitch.

Not that Scioscia committed a crime against the game in using Francisco Arcia to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. It’s just that in September, the hot new stratagem of position players pitching isn’t terribly useful when rosters expand to “every reliever in the whole damned system.” 

Indeed, Arcia, who also pitched in a game in August, is the only Angel who can fly back home with any jump in his step. Not only did he become the first player in major league history to pitch, catch and homer in the same game, he also gave the all-encompassing summary of the day when asked what pitches he was throwing when he gave up back-to-back homers to Martini and Chad Pinder the seventh.

“Nothing but BP fastballs,” he said with a shrug. Which is pretty much how the whole day looked – BP fastballs all around, with the predictably hilarious result.

It was just another day in Oakland’s beguiling sprint to October, which still remains tantalizingly out of reach with nine games left. Only today it came with two extra touchdowns for added amusement.

Hey, they’re trying to give you a show here. Now, where's that play-by-play?

One reason Raiders or Patriots should sign Colin Kaepernick -- chaos


One reason Raiders or Patriots should sign Colin Kaepernick -- chaos

We have reached an exciting new level of sports-as-media-culture hell when Colin Kaepernick’s attorney is encroaching on Peter King’s turf.
Mark Geragos, who is representing Kaepeernick in his fascinating collusion case against the NFL office and owners, told . . . well, teased, actually . . . TMZ Sports that two NFL team COULD be INTERESTED in signing Kaepernick as a backup quarterback.
And if that’s not vague enough for you, the teams he hinted at are coached/general managed by two people who would almost surely find the idea horrifying.
The first, amazingly, is the Oakland For The Time Being Raiders, and the only suggestion Geragos actually made is “If Al Davis were still alive . . .” It's as though he is suggesting that the only reason Kaepernick isn't playing now is because Mark Davis hasn't thought of it.
This isn’t just taking the business of NFL nuggets to a new level, it is involving the realm of the dead. I mean, would Art Rooney sign Kaepernick? George Halas? Paul Brown? Curly Lambeau?
Okay, Rooney maybe. He was a gambler, and he understood odds, but definitely none of the other three.
But wait, now they’ve got me thinking about Kaepernick backing up Derek Carr on a team coached by Jon Gruden, who found Khalil Mack too much of a maverick. My depression at being sucked in so easily is already profound.
The other team, though, is even more bizarre, in that it is the New England Patriots. That’s the team that has Bill Belichick, who was apparently pushed into trading Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco at owner Bob Kraft’s behest, and now one (or maybe both) of them has interest in Kaepernick?
Now we’ve reached skull-melt territory. But it's an NFL nugget, damn it, and it must be taken . . . seriously?
And that’s the real story here, because there is so little to go on: Kaepernick might be interesting as a potential employee by one of the two least likely teams based solely on the say-so of Kaepernick’s lawyer.

Of course it should happen. It would break the country. Hell, Kaepernick should end up signing with BOTH teams and back up Derek Carr and Tom Brady in alternate weeks for full bi-coastal culturageddon.

Sadly, though, we're not there yet. We're not even remotely close to the outer suburbs of there. There may not even be a there to get to. So no, this isn’t actually news, not yet, but it is data that makes you think how bizarre it would be if it ever got to be news. It is pre-news, without anything more than a very interested party saying that someone could be considering something that might happen.
And the confirmation? Geragos saying Kaepernick and his girlfriend watch the games on Sunday because they like football. And the second source? “Stay tuned.” 
As deliciously weird as the idea of Kaepernick the Raider or Kaepernick or the Patriot might be, it is nothing next to the genesis of the idea. There are a thousand reasons why this is nonsense, a thousand more why this isn’t actually a good idea for Kaepernick, let alone either team. And there's only one reason why it should happen -- because if it did,  America would fall through the earth's crust.
And neither of those is as weird as the ease with which the whole loony idea can bore its way into your head. And it isn’t because you’re gullible. It’s because anything is possible in post-apocalyptic American sports, and you dismiss the seemingly too ridiculous to consider at your own peril.
Kaepernick the Raider/Kaepernick the Patriot is a veritable smorgasbord of issues that logically shouldn't be but in Geragos' playful scheme could easily be triggered. There's a legal angle -- what happens to the lawsuit? There's a political angle -- would Donald Trump spontaneously combust in political-base-energizing glee? There's a cultural angle -- would Meek Mill have to pull his Kaepernick song now that it's been rendered outdated? There's a coaching angle -- would Gruden and Belichick actually have to sit down in their respective offices and argue with themselves about the pure insanity of Colin Kaepernick on their rosters? There's even a gerontology issue -- can 32 billionaires, most of them well north of 70, survive brain explosions?

And there's even a health and safety issue -- would Colin Kaepernick actually go back into the arena of madness to compete with players who either want to lionize him or separate him from his vertebrae? It's the mutant sporting development of the decade.

And it's all brought to you -- so far, anyway -- by Mark Geragos, the man who with a single impish conversation with a TMZ drone out-King-ed King, out-Schefter-ed Schefter and blew up every daily NFL chat show currently existent.

Best of all, it doesn't even have to be remotely close to being true. So while it must happen -- and yes, with Kaepernick playing for both Oakland and New England, because if you're going to go big on the bizarre, go galactic -- it almost surely won't.

But it is nice to know our brains can go there on a simple hint of suggestion. Nice, and a little bit humiliating.

With playoffs looming, Brett Anderson shows A's a glimmer of hope

With playoffs looming, Brett Anderson shows A's a glimmer of hope

OAKLAND -- In what is now a 10-game season for the Oakland Athletics, every game not started by Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson or Bull J. Pen is essentially a mini-referendum on how manager Bob Melvin decides to set his postseason pitching rotation.
Or, to use Melvin’s words after the A’s 10-0 dance party over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, “We’re obviously going to need more than just the two guys, so yeah, I guess you can put it that way.”
And then he knocked on the dry wall he was leaning against in the A’s clubhouse to ward off bad juju. The A’s aren’t a playoff team yet, and superstitious old goat that he is, Melvin never leaves anything available for hexing.
“That is,” he said, “if we get in.”
Enter Brett Anderson, throwing nothing but sliders and sinkers and becoming the first A’s starter in almost a month to reach, let alone get an out, in the seventh inning. In limiting the Angels to three harmless singles and forcing them to pound 12 ground-ball outs, Anderson left an impression that both he and his manager hopes can linger awhile, if only to minimize the temptation to bullpen a playoff game.
Knock dry-wall.
“It was good to be a reason we were winning instead of a reason we were losing,” Anderson said, referencing his skittish start in Baltimore against the laughable Orioles a week ago. “Tonight, it was pretty much just having early control and quick outs.”
And a six-run fourth inning doesn’t hurt, either. Two two-run doubles by Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty jumped Angels starter Felix Pena, followed up an inning later by Piscotty’s three-run homer off Parker Bridwell, gave Anderson all the cover he could have wanted, and the rest was him showing Melvin that he can be a trustworthy part of a playoff rotation.
Knock dry-wall.
“It’s been hard (to extend starters into a third swing through the opposition order) the way we’re set up,” Melvin said, “but Brett was just so efficient tonight. I think he threw two breaking balls the whole night, and I thought he had a pretty good one in the bullpen.”
Pitching coach Scott Emerson thought it might have been three, and Anderson barely remembers any. But the two pitches Anderson did favor were more than plenty to stop the trickle of blood caused by a three-game losing streak and the refusals of either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays to lose when the A’s need them to do so the most.
As it was, the A’s whittled one unit off their magic number for clinching a playoff by taking matters into their own hands, and moved back to four behind Houston, which lost to Seattle. Thus, the earliest they can clinch their place in October would be Saturday, and that presumes that the Rays will ever lose again, which in their present state may simply be too much to conceive.
So let’s just say that the A’s will have to do what must be done without the kindnesses of the strangers closest to them in the standings. Let’s also say that the most important of the 10 important games left will be the ones in which either Anderson (this coming Monday in Seattle and Sunday in Los Angeles) or Trevor Cahill (Friday against Minnesota and Wednesday in Seattle) start. I mean, bullpenning is a kicky little way to get through a day here or there, but the playoffs are a difficult time to go experimental. Besides, the wild card game is essentially a bullpenning game anyway if the starter struggles early.
And with that last reference to the postseason, we take our nightly leave of Oakland, where Bob Melvin is frantically knocking on his desk, which is made of actual wood rather than mere dry-wall. He is nothing is not devoted to his superstitions.