So as Billy Beane might say, this "crapshoot" called a baseball playoff series once again goes to a deciding Game 5 in the ALDS.
And deciding Games 5 have not been good for the A’s during the Beane Era. But after the A’s failed at several pivotal points Tuesday in an 8-6 loss in Detroit to the Tigers, we are about to find out if they can finally get ’er done on Thursday back in Oakland.
The Oakland A’s GM may think the playoffs are a "crapshoot," but the club’s history suggests otherwise. Because if it were just a matter of luck, the A’s in the Beane Era would be more than 1-6 in playoff series. And in Divisional Series Games 5, they are 0-5.
That’s a far cry from earlier A’s World Series Champions whose collective attitude toward playoff baseball would be: "The cream rises to the top."
What happened Tuesday night might be hailed, at least in Detroit, as the cream rising to the top.
After the A’s took a 3-0 lead, good pitching did not get out good hitting, because Dan Straily suddenly turned into a mediocre pitcher in the bottom of the fifth that was capped by Jhonny Peralta’s game-tying, three-run homer. Former A’s crème de la crème Dennis Eckersley said in the TBS booth something along the lines: "He got a cookie and showed he knew what to do with it."
Then after the A’s retook a 4-3 lead in the seventh, the Tigers came right back to grab a 5-4 lead off Sean Doolittle.
The Cream Also Rises, Part II.
If cream rises, what sinks? Sour cream? Whatever it was, it was the A’s.
Then the A’s loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth off Max Scherzer, who then staged The Cream Also Rises Part III for the Tigers. First, he got Josh Reddick to chase a 3-2 changeup, striking him out on a pitch that dropped low and inside and would have been ball four and brought in the tying run. A strikeout of Game 2 hero Stephen Vogt followed, and pinch hitter Alberto Callapso lined out to center.
The Tigers, on the other hand, scored three more runs in the bottom half after two were out and nobody was on.. The Cream Also Rises, Part IV.
The A’s rallied in the ninth for two runs and got the tying run to the plate before laboring closer Joaquin Benoit finally nailed down the 8-6 win.
Earlier today, this 69-year-old, semi-retired sportswriter read a column on the A’s by long-time friend Art Spander. Titled "Demons Hover for the A’s," it was written after Game 3 but long before today’s Game 4. It can be viewed at artspander.com.
He recounts some of the old playoff … uh … haunts of the Beane A’s. In a letter to Art, I told him it was interesting that in the current issue of Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci built his lead for his baseball playoffs preview piece around Beane's "The playoffs are a crapshoot" hypothesis from a decade ago.
I then cited several reasons I thought this year’s club might be different. The first three were pitching, pitching and more pitching. But peripheral reasons are the several ways the A’s have used to acquire what have been key players.
Call it "Moneyball 2013." In my view, even in 2003 "Moneyball" wasn’t just sabermetrics, but more generally a quest to find, by whatever method, players who are undervalued AND have enough true value to help you win. In 2013 it’s an amalgam, I suspect, of scouting, sabermetrics and a shotgun approach that has produced a roster that is flexible and feisty and maybe, just maybe, good for the Long Run.
Of course, after Tuesday’s events and with Verlander (against whom the A’s haven’t scored in how many innings?) looming on Thursday, the odds of a long playoff run have narrowed considerably.
Oh, when will the Cream Also Rise for the A’s?