Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
I picked the Oakland A’s to win the American League West this season, a prediction that now looks about as bad as a prediction can possibly look in just two months. After averaging 95 wins per season from 1999-2004, including 100-win seasons in both 2001 and 2002 and trips to the postseason from 2000-2003, the A’s are in last place and on pace to go 56-106 for the franchise’s worst record since going 54-108 in 1979.
Oakland’s struggles are not totally unexpected, although I thought the team could overcome trading Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson during the offseason, and simultaneously win and rebuild. It is becoming increasingly clear with each passing sweep that they can’t, because while the AL West looks imminently winnable this season, this A’s team does not look at all capable of doing so. In other words, I was wrong. So very wrong.
Oakland general manager Billy Beane has had quite a run, building winning teams despite low payrolls and numerous key losses via free agency, but his golden touch seems to have worn off this year. While the A’s overall struggles are not neccessarily shocking, the degree to which they have melted down certainly is. From a complete collapse offensively to a team-wide inability to stay healthy, basically anything that could have gone wrong with the A’s this season has gone wrong. And then some.
Oh, let me count the ways …
In return, Oakland got Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton. As expected, Haren stepped right into Mulder’s spot in the rotation, but thanks in part to Oakland’s inability to score runs he is 1-7 with a 4.87 ERA in 10 starts. The truth is that Haren isn’t pitching much worse than Mulder did last season, aside from the ugly win-loss record that isn’t entirely his fault. In fact, Haren has almost duplicated Mulder’s 2004 numbers:
ERA SO/BB AVG OBP SLG OPS Mulder 4.43 1.69 .264 .337 .417 .751 Haren 4.87 1.70 .268 .347 .411 .759
In other words, swapping Mulder for Haren in the rotation looks really ugly because of their respective 2005 records, but Mulder wouldn’t be 7-1 pitching with Oakland’s lineup behind him, Haren wouldn’t be 1-7 unless the A’s couldn’t provide him with any run support, and Haren is currently replacing Mulder’s 2004 performance pretty well.
The A’s admittedly needed a number of things to break their way this season to contend in the AL West, but I never could have imagined the exact opposite happening. Nearly everything that could possibly have gone wrong in Oakland this year has actually gone wrong, and when combined with their limited window of opportunity to win this season to begin with, the result has been disastrous. It will likely get even worse before it gets better, because the next step is to unload some non-essential parts and truly gear up for what almost can’t help but be better days ahead starting in 2006. Hopefully A’s fans can survive that long.