What's bad is when your grounds crew trusts an independent weather consultant's prediction of a rain-free evening and leaves the tarps rolled up overnight, resulting in a pit of muddy, quicksand-like dirt replacing what normally is a pristine major-league infield. What's worse is when that error prevents you from being able to make critical personnel adjustments leading into a three-game series at a venue that recently has seen more than its fair share of wacky, unpredictable, and disappointing moments for the A's.
28 games into the season, Oakland's starting rotation has separated into two distinct groups: the elite and the average. The first group is comprised of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jesse Chavez. Incredibly, Kazmir brings up the rear of the pack with a 2.11 ERA — how dare he allow nine runs in 38⅓ innings — with Gray continuing to live up to every bit of his potential and Chavez continuing to take the baseball world by storm.
The duo in the back end of the rotation is a different story. Dan Straily is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA, while Tommy Milone is sporting an 0-2 record and an ERA of 4.56. Considering there's no starter waiting in the wings in Sacramento who could reasonably be expected to perform any better, there isn't much Bob Melvin and the A's front office can do about it.
Had Oakland's sixth game of the season not been cancelled due to the lack of tarps at the Coliseum (yes, you read that right), that group would have had an opportunity to do something this weekend when the A's take on Boston in a three-game set at Fenway Park. Oakland's starters are currently listed as Straily, Milone, and Gray, Friday through Sunday, but they didn't have to be — this week's Thursday off-day would have created a prime opportunity to skip Straily or Milone and jump straight to Gray starting Saturday with Kazmir taking the hill in the final game of the road trip.
But thanks to tarp-gate, the A's have a doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday against the Mariners, for which they'll need two starters anyway.
Despite their 13-14 record as of post time, the Red Sox are a better team than Seattle, and a game against Boston is far more likely to have playoff implications come September than one against the Mariners. The situation would have been perfect for Melvin to give a break either to Straily or Milone, both of whom struggled in the season's first month, and allow two of Oakland's red-hot front three to pitch at Fenway instead of only one.
Melvin could have gone with Milone, Gray and Kazmir this weekend, leaving Chavez, Straily, and Milone to pitch against Seattle. It's worth noting that in the above scenario, the home run-prone Straily would've been pitching in a night game at the Coliseum, where the Tuesday forecast calls in the mid-50s.
Sacramento's Josh Lindblom, who started the second game of Oakland's April doubleheader, has had his start moved to today, lining him up perfectly for a start on four days' rest Wednesday afternoon. So there's that, too — not only can Melvin not skip starters as needed to put a more favorable trio on the hill in Boston, but he also needs to rely on a starter from AAA to get him through the series against the Mariners.
Such is life in Oakland — the error was unfortunate and the grounds crew is normally fantastic. Thankfully, this should be end of the tarp-related fallout, and for those of us with nothing better to do Wednesday afternoon, the hottest team in the American League has two games. Things could be worse.