It’s Friday the 13th, the A’s have lost 4 in a row, and Johan Santana is the opposing pitcher tonight. Sounds like you need a “pick-me-up,” so let me tell you about one of the games that taught me the most about baseball back when I was still young and goat-free, I mean carefree: Tony La Russa’s debut game as A’s manager.
The 1986 A’s were in shambles, having just fired their manager and played for a week under interim manager Jeff Newman, whose legacy, besides a 2-8 record, was his quote to the press that “I have no idea what I’m doing.” The hapless A’s were in Fenway Park, where they were unlikely to find their hap. At this point in A’s history, Fenway was a true chamber of horrors that made the Metrodome seem, in comparison, like a Buddhist sanctuary. At Fenway Park in the mid-80s, the A’s were usually down 5-0 by the end of the National Anthem.
The opposing pitcher was Roger Clemens who, in 1986, was Johan Santana and then some; as La Russa’s A’s came to Boston in July, 1986, Clemens was on his way to going 24-4 with a league-leading 2.48 ERA. The A’s didn’t even have a starting pitcher ready, so they spot-started a journeyman who had gone 0-6 the year before and had compiled a 6.57 ERA in 8 relief appearances when Oakland picked him up off the scrap heap.
It was the ultimate mismatch, but a Dave Kingman HR helped the A’s pull off a win in a game I was sure the A’s couldn’t possibly win. That game was the first in a series of games Roger Clemens would lose over the years to his nemesis, Dave Stewart. And now you know…The rest of the story…
Who knew? Who knew that the A’s had accidentally picked up a 4-time 20-game winner, or that Oakland would be in the World Series in two years? Does this mean Lenny DiNardo will win 80 games by the end of 2011? Probably not. But baseball is infinitely unpredictable, and that’s just another reason to love it, and watch it, even when your team is driving you crazy. See you at 5:00pm for another attempt at that elusive 45th win.