Aug. 13, 2011
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Bob Melvin needed to vent. He had just watched the Oakland Athletics play a particularly poor game of jai alai against the Texas Rangers and get the proper reward for it a 7-1 loss and he unloaded as much as he ever will.
Trevor Cahill pitched very well, he said of his losing pitcher, and we gave him NO help. As players, coaches, everyone, there was no excuse for that.
That was, of course, the four errors that moved the As into a solid two-boot lead in the coveted Most Bungled Plays competition. Two by second baseman Jemile Weeks on the same play, a bad-hands play by shortstop Eric Sogard, and a throwing error of consequence by third baseman Scott Sizemore were the recordable failures, but there were makeable plays that went unmade as well that caused Melvins first true annoyed outburst in the job.
You make the error, and then you have head down thinking about it and they take an extra base, he groused as he tried to figure out what liquid would best un-knot his brow before Sundays 1 p.m. start. Its just not excusable.
RECAP: A's spoil Cahill's solid outing, fall to Rangers 7-1
But its also not easily fixable. The As skipped outdoor batting practice Saturday morning to work on defense, and committed more errors than they have in any game since Opening Day. They will work again Sunday morning, and there will be meetings and reminders and, for all we know, Post-it notes on locker frames.
Melvin, though, knows that the only way to break the cycle of a team that is in a hideous catching-and-throwing slump is time.
Thats really the only thing that gets you out of this, he said. Three or four or five games where you just do everything right and get back to playing instinctively. Where youre not thinking about every single thing you do. Thats part of the problem we have now. Nothing is natural.
Now it may also be that the As just have bad fielders. They started the year with better gloves at first (Daric Barton), third (Kevin Kouzmanoff) and second (Mark Ellis), but they needed runs that none of the above were providing. Now they get more runs, and return them at a faster rate.
Weeks has committed 11 errors in 56 games, the most by an Oakland second baseman since Ellis in 2003 in 147 starts. Sizemore is simply out of his element at third, and as such is being given some air by Melvin. Cliff Pennington, the usual shortstop, had two botched double plays Friday night and has 17 for the year, behind only Chicagos Starlin Castro (19) and Texas Elvis Andrus (22).
REWIND: Wilson responds; A's cede six-run second in loss
And, truth be told, the As dont have a lot of solutions they can implement in the short term. They can continue to work (And were going to, Melvin said), but this is a mindset that is created in spring and driven home time and again. Defense is prone to slumps, true, but defensive slumps are more infuriating by their very nature.
I think its probably because we look at defense and say its easier to catch a ball than pitch one, and definitely easier to catch one than hit one, Phil Garner, Melvins designated good angel, said from atop Melvins left shoulder. Thats probably why Bo is more frustrated. I know thats how I was.
Its how the fan base is. As much as it wanted to hate Texas pitcher C.J. Wilson Friday night, it booed Pennington more for the double plays he couldnt convert. In addition, bad defense creates a more immediate reaction, whereas bad hitting is a just a slower-acting corrosive. You can always hope for a big hit or converted opportunity later in the game, whereas a kicked ball is an immediate buzzkill.
Hence, a perfectly delightful Saturday afternoon was ruined. Bobbleheads had been given out, always a big treat. A couple had exchanged wedding vows in front of the Barbecue Terrace, which is Oaklands version of St. Peters Basilica. The field, which had been rushed into service after Thursdays Raider game, had another day to better resemble an actual ballpark. The day was in the 70s, and moods were buoyant.
And then . . . it was kick-save-and-a-beauty baseball again. The As, who have pitched but not hit, and hit but not pitched, are now pitching and hitting (sort of) but not fielding. They are 53-66, 14 games behind the Rangers and (just for laughs) 19 behind the Yankees for the wild card, and every hit ball is an adventure with horror-movie undercurrents.
And that, let us tell you, is no way to start a marriage.