Life was going so well for the Oakland A’s on the baseball side. Billy Beane had found a whole new market inefficiency to exploit, he’d found young pitchers to satisfy his needs for years, manager Bob Melvin had revivified the clubhouse and gave the team a better chance to win their game each day.
The A’s had two more divisional titles, they were the putative favorite for a third, and were essentially loaded for bear.
But then baseball got snippy with the A’s again, first by working at the fringes of the team’s vaunted rotation with arm issues for A.J. Griffin and Scott Kazmir, and Monday it yanked staff ace Jarrod parker from the plan for the entirety of 2014 with his second Tommy John surgery.
Parker, who had been T.J.’d 4½ years ago, had found his bliss in Oakland as the anchor of a reconstructed starting staff, and with all the good things happening around him was one of the franchise’s enduring linchpins – and we use that term advisedly given Beane’s willingness to move young for younger in his endless search for the perfect arbitration-less team.
Parker’s injury, which may be a recurrence of the arm issues that troubled him late last year and likely would have shelved him had the A’s gone beyond the American League Division Series against Detroit, blows a hole at the top of the Oakland rotation, which now looks as though it will feature Sonny Gray, Kazmir (who was scratched with what was described as a minor case of tendinitis), Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone. Griffin would have been part of that group, but he has flexor tendinitis and isn’t likely to throw again for at least a month.
For Parker, though, the news could not be much worse given that the success rate for starters undergoing a second ulnar collateral ligament replacement is less than 50 percent. Unless Dr. James Andrews, who did the first surgery and will do the second next week, has magic in his hands, one can legitimately wonder whether Parker will be a starter in the majors ever again.
And for those with a slightly more karmic bent, this news puts the A’s in a bit of a luck bind, as they have enjoyed relatively good health the last two years. If you believe that injuries are somehow connected via the cosmos, the Griffin and Parker injuries could suggest a hard year on the health front.
We’ll now wait a moment while you re-tinfoil your hats.
The baseline? The A’s now need Gray to be a dominant pitcher for an entire year, Milone to return to his form of 2012, Kazmir to consolidate his gains from 2013 in Cleveland, where he resuscitated a career that seemingly had hit the wall four years earlier, and Griffin’s injury to heal without incident.
A third division title probably doesn’t happen any other way, because there are only so many market inefficiencies a person can dig up at any given time. At some point, the persistent flap of ligaments in the wind takes too much of a toll on teams even triply payroll endowed.