Bottom of the sixth inning, the Reds coming back. A Ryan Ludwick homer brings them to within three runs. Then, Jay Bruce walks, Scott Rolen singles, putting Bruce on second. Ryan Hanigan comes up to the plate — still no one out — and works the count full. Matt Cain is on the ropes!
Then Dusty Baker sends Jay Bruce on a steal of third for some damn reason, Hanigan either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t care, and fails to swing at Cain’s pitch, which is called a strike, and then Buster Posey fires it down to third and nails Bruce by a couple of steps. Stike-em-out-throw-em-out double play. Cain is off the hook and then after a pitching change Drew Stubbs grounds out to end the inning. We’re in the seventh now, with the Giants up 6-3.
Why Baker is sending Bruce in that situation, in that park against a pitcher who is fighting for his life is a mystery. But he gave the Giants a free out and, depending on what Hanigan was thinking, maybe two. Just a disastrous sequence of events.
But Dusty sure showed us who can manage, in every active sense of the verb “manage.”
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?