I’ve seen a lot of people noting that the Athletics getting Jon Lester is specifically designed to — or definitely will — help the A’s win the World Series. To overcome the shortfalls they’ve had in the past couple of postseasons when the Tigers’ rotation outclassed the A’s. To give the A’s the kind of ace that wins tight playoff games.
This is true. Lester will definitely help in this regard. But as we all know — and as Billy Beane himself once famously said — the playoffs can be a crapshoot. The Phillies didn’t win a World Series with Roy Halladay, the Braves only won one with two Hall of Fame pitchers and one who will likely make it. Stuff happens and even if Lester goes all Doyle Alexander in 1987, it doesn’t guarantee the A’s anything. If you doubt that, just go as Doyle Alexander and the 1987 Tigers to show you the World Series trophy they won. I’ll wait.
But even if the A’s fall short of the champagne, this deal can still be a success for them. Because, looking at the standings today, I see a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim team a mere 2.5 games behind Oakland with a lot of baseball yet to be played. The World Series is no guarantee. Heck, the division isn’t either.
The A’s clearly don’t want to be a wild card team. No one does, given that it puts you in a one-game playoff. That’s especially important given that the one-game playoff could be against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. Or a team that, somehow, picks up a David Price. The playoffs as a whole may be a crapshoot, but the wild card game itself is even a crappier shoot.
So Lester is not just for October. He’s for August and September too. And the trade can be considered a success for them, even if crap happens in the playoffs.
Kolten Wong is no longer the only second baseman being considered for a starting role on the Cardinals’ roster, and he’s not happy about it. On Saturday, GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny hinted that Wong could lose playing time to Jedd Gyorko or Greg Garcia in 2017 — in other words, an infielder who brings a little more pop at the plate. Prior to the Cardinals’ game against the Marlins on Sunday, Wong gave his heated response to the media. Via Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I don’t think you give somebody a contract for no reason,” Wong said. “When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.
When pressed, Wong said that he would rather be traded away from St. Louis than step into a limited role with the team. “I don’t want to be here wasting my time,” he told the press. “I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.” The 26-year-old was inked to a five-year, $25.5 million extension prior to the 2016 season, complete with a $12.5 million option and $1 million buyout.
Part of Wong’s frustration stems from the Cardinals’ backtracking on their stated commitment to him as their starting second baseman last winter. Mozeliak admitted that while Wong had the defensive tools necessary to hold down the position, he failed to impress at the plate. It’s an argument that Wong hasn’t been able to rebut this spring, going 8-for-44 with two extra bases and 10 strikeouts in camp. He hasn’t looked much better in the regular season, sustaining a career .248/.309/.370 batting line with a .678 OPS and 5.1 fWAR over four years with the organization.
Still, the second baseman feels that he should have been given some heads up that he was playing to keep his starting role this spring, admitting that he entered camp with the mentality of someone who had a guaranteed spot on the Cardinals’ roster and not someone whose job security was dependent on his day-to-day results. “I need the time to consistently figure out how to be me and succeed at this level,” said Wong. “Everybody goes through it. Not everybody is Mike Trout.”
Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.
While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.
Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:
Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.