So on Wednesday, the A's score the game's only run when Milton Bradley steals second (don't look at the replay; nothing to see here, folks), whence he scores on a ground rule double. Tuesday, Jay Payton, in one of my personal favorite sequences of the season, finds himself completely overmatched by a sidearmerer he's never seen before, so he beats out a bunt on an 0-2 pitch, tags up to second on a fly ball, whence he scores a key insurance run. (Key, that is, until AFLAC informs Ken Macha that his policy has lapsed, turning Macha into a "duck-brain" for one night and spawning a myriad of death threats on this blog...But I undress...) In Tampa Bay, Mark Ellis beats out a bunt to spark a rally, and so on.
Not "small ball," mind you, "smart ball"--aggressive, opportunistic, "take what's there" baseball that ponders the question "What's the best way I can try to get on base and then move around the other ones?" and answers it. The A's play this way every year and score enough runs to win lots of games doing it...But they never do it before the All-Star Break. Why?
This phenomenon has me baffled, truly baffled. You play one way for half a season and struggle to score runs, beating up on bad pitchers and then flailing against anyone who throws quality strikes. Then you play another way and starting scoring runs, winning games...And then the next year start off conservatively, one-dimensionally, and unsuccessfully? How is it that every single season, it takes the A's 2-3 months to remember that dynamic, creative, proactive, opportunistic offenses score, as Cindi would say, "like, a lot more points"?
And why do I suspect I'll be writing this again next June?