First Impressions Through Series #1

Thearon W. Henderson

The season is 1.85% over, and there's no better time than now to make observations about results from sample sizes so insignificant they'd make Philip Humber's perfect game laugh. Here are a few.

Jim Johnson is not off to a hot start:

On the one hand, Jim Johnson's ERA through two appearances is a bulbous 45.00. He's 0-for-1 in save attempts and has gotten booed off the field in both appearances. On the other hand, Johnson is now 0-7 lifetime against Cleveland. So while his performances Monday and Wednesday were certainly an inauspicious start to what could still easily be a great year in Oakland, small sample size and barely relevant anecdotes allow us to attribute his struggles to a weird trend rather than some overarching on-field issue. It's also worth bearing in mind that two blown saves in June, while certainly frustrating, are hardly apocalyptic. Context is everything, and Johnson has certainly picked a bad time to pitch poorly. All in all, though, these two appearances are just as meaningless as a pair of stinkers at any other point in the season, but garner ten times as much attention, frustration, and concern.

About those boos:

This isn't good — these are Bay Area fans, not Philadelphia ones. I've been to far too many A's games to count, and I can't ever remember any substantial portion of a Coliseum crowd booing one of its own players. Nonetheless, the boo-birds have been very present during both of Johnson's appearances. Chalk Monday night up to a few thousand fairweather fans unaccustomed to the Coliseum vibe, but Wednesday night's crowd of 12,198 — die-hards only — should have known better.

There's no denying that Johnson has been terrible in his first two outings as an A, and it doesn't help that he's replacing a fan favorite who saw phenomenal success in his last two years with Oakland. Still, that's no way for a fanbase to introduce itself to a new acquisition, and it reflects poorly on a fanbase that has been getting some love over the last few years from major media outlets around the country.

Sam Fuld is going to make some other team very happy this year:

After coming up with a bases-clearing triple in a preseason exhibition at AT&T Park, Billy Beane's latest diamond in the rough continues to impress whenever given the opportunity. In his first start with the A's last night, Fuld hit a booming triple to center field, singled, stole a base, and walked. Barring an injury to another outfielder, there's little he can do to earn himself a roster spot long-term once Craig Gentry is ready to return from the DL. It's a pity, though, because he's obviously a fantastic pickup and there's no chance that he makes it through waivers once removed from the 25-man roster.

Baseball games are already long. For better or worse, replays make them longer:

Bob Melvin's challenge in Wednesday's first game took a whopping four minutes and 45 seconds to sort out. That's unacceptable — if there's one thing baseball doesn't need, it's more five-minute breaks interspersed throughout games, slowing down action that some casual fans already find tedious. The second replay of the day, a Terry Francona challenge in the nightcap, only took 79 seconds. What makes it weirder is that the longer replay saw the original call upheld, while the lightning-fast one saw the original call quickly overturned. The system is new and it'll take a while for all the kinks to get worked out, but five minutes for a replay is about four too many.

Tiny weeknight crowds are still very real:

There's always a lull in attendance following the A's home opener — most fans won't drag themselves to more than one night game per week, and it makes sense that this week, most would choose Monday night's sellout. That said, attendance at the Coliseum this year should see another increase, thanks mainly to back-to-back division championships and the fact that the team across the Bay missed the playoffs entirely last season. Wednesday afternoon's crowd of 15,134 was pretty run-of-the mill for an early-April weekday game, and Wednesday night's game, for which tickets to Tuesday night's rainout were valid, drew a paltry 12,198 (that's paid attendance — actual butts in seats numbered far fewer). When the weather warms up and school lets out for the summer, those numbers should increase, but for now, the status quo for weeknight attendance in Oakland remains unchanged.

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