We began our voting on the 2014 SB Nation MLB Awards with a look at the funniest A's moment of the year. The poll will remain open all week, so it's not too late to pick your favorite! Or, you might just want to go read that whole post again, because this next one is going to be way less fun. Our task for today is to pick the most regrettable A's moment of 2014. It's gonna get ugly. Seriously, you should turn back now.
We have nine contenders once again. Don't read about them. But if you do, then when you're finished you should vote in the poll at the bottom for the one that makes you the most sad. Or you can just spare yourself the anguish and skip straight down to the poll.
Seriously, don't read this. Especially not first thing in the morning.
6:50 a.m., July 31, 2014
That is roughly the time the news broke that Billy Beane had traded Yoenis Cespedes (and a draft pick!) to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. Not really any need to go deeper into this one. If you don't already know the story and have an opinion on this deal, then you probably didn't watch the A's this season. And regardless of your thoughts on the trade, you were probably sad to watch Yo leave and hated seeing him in another uniform. Oh, and two days later the stadium giveaway at the Coliseum was a Cespedes shirt. D'oh!
Jon Lester gives up 6 runs in Wild Card game
The next three entries all deal with different aspects of the Wild Card game. Lester was acquired, at great cost, in order to be the ace starter who could win all the big games in the face of massive pressure. Some of those big games were supposed to be playoff games, and hopefully the most important ones. Things started well in the regular season, as he tossed a quality start all 11 times he took the mound for Oakland. And then they started well in the Wild Card game, the first real must-win outing for Lester.
After seven innings, the A's had a 7-3 lead and Lester was rolling. He entered the eighth having retired 13 of the last 14 batters, and he was still under 100 pitches. And then everything fell apart. Alcides Escobar bounced a single up the middle, stole second, and went to third on a groundout. Lorenzo Cain bounced another single up the middle to drive in the run. That's three batters and three ground balls, but only one out to show for it. Cain stole second. When Eric Hosmer worked a seven-pitch walk, it was clear that Lester was done. He was at 111 pitches, the Royals were making too much contact, and now his control was wavering. Enter bullpen, end season. Luke Gregerson allowed both inherited runners to score, and the rest is history. The six runs matched the total from Lester's three regular season starts against the Royals.
Did Melvin leave Lester in too long? Should he have let Gregerson start the inning? Or, on the other side of the spectrum, should Melvin have let Lester work out of his own mess? Or was this one of those things, a signal that no matter what the A's did, victory just wasn't in the cards? I don't know, and I don't want to talk about it anymore. Lester was awesome right up until the moment when it mattered most, which was exactly the opposite of how it was supposed to go.
Soto injures thumb
There are so many ways to describe the end of the A's 2014 season, and this one is as good as any other. Oakland employed three catchers, partly so that none of them would get burned out and all of them could stay fresh all year. Instead, all three got hurt in some way, because of course they did. By the end of September, Stephen Vogt couldn't catch anymore, John Jaso couldn't play at all due to a concussion, and Derek Norris looked like a shell of himself. So, Beane went out and signed Geovany Soto to fill the void. Soto's calling cards were solid defense and a good bat against lefties.
Soto's presence became a big deal in the Wild Card game. Everyone expected the Royals to run wild on the bases, since that was their thing. Norris doesn't have a great arm and Soto has a solid one, so Soto drew the start on the strength of his defense. In the first inning, though, this happened.
That's Billy Butler making a massive mental error and costing his team a chance to extend a rally. This should have been a bad thing for the Royals. Instead, as Hosmer tried way too hard to score on a play with virtually no chance of success, Soto randomly injured his thumb and had to leave the game after two innings. Norris replaced him, and the Royals stole six bases off of him to raise their total for the game to seven. Five of those seven base runners ended up scoring, sometimes in situations in which they wouldn't have scored without the preceding steal.
Something was finally about to go right for the A's. Their random late-season pickup was set to play an unexpectedly key role in the playoffs. And then, it all got ruined because the other team did something dumb and got indirectly rewarded for it. Life just isn't fair.
It's 8-7 A's in the bottom of the 12th, and there's one out. Oakland is two outs away from an ALDS date with the Angels. And then ...
I just ...
Photo credit: Ed Zurga
Oh, come on. Note that Gomes is only out there running into people because Coco left due to injury, because of course he did.
Hosmer scored on a 50-foot infield single by Christian Colon. After Colon stole second, Sal Perez hit a grounder mere inches beyond Josh Donaldson's reach, and the season was over. But that triple was the back-breaker.
Everything Jim Johnson
The A's traded Jemile Weeks for the privilege of spending $10 million on closer Jim Johnson. He was supposed to be good, and if not good then he was at least supposed to be decent. Instead, he was terrible, and by the time he was released he had a 7.14 ERA and was getting booed by the normally jovial home fans. He was never an effective closer in Oakland, although he technically blew only one save, and even when he looked like he was getting back on track he'd come out with another stinker of an outing. It was a lost season for Johnson, and the A's paid a premium for it. Little did we know that this would set the tone for the season in a way, as the first of many failed gambles by Beane. It looked like a solid move at the time, or at least a defensible one, but it backfired spectacularly.
Pomeranz chair punch
In June, Drew Pomeranz was finally settling into Oakland's rotation. He'd thrown a few scoreless five-inning starts, followed those up with a couple stinkers, and then bounced back with two straight seven-inning gems against the Yankees and Angels. On June 16, he got absolutely lit up by the Rangers, and when he got back to the clubhouse he punched a chair out of frustration. Naturally, in doing so he fractured his non-pitching hand and went on the DL. Someone please alert Crash Davis that new research now suggests a pitcher shouldn't punch things with either hand.
That chair-punch may have had a ripple effect on the rest of the season. The A's responded by spending a literal dollar on Brad Mills to fill the hole in the rotation, and a couple weeks later Beane swung his huge trade with the Cubs to land Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Does he make that trade at that time if Pomeranz is still in the rotation? Or does he hold off and wait for better value? There's no way to know how things would have played out in this alternate reality, and it's possible that nothing would have changed because Beane wanted a more seasoned veteran. But man, talk about a bad time for bad luck. I guess there isn't really a good time for bad luck.
It's June 30, and the A's are in Detroit playing the Tigers in a potential ALCS preview. They scored three in the eighth off of Anibal Sanchez to take a 4-1 lead, and the game went to the bottom of the ninth. Sean Doolittle came in for the save. Two days prior, he had snapped his own personal 26-inning scoreless streak en route to blowing a save in Miami, but clearly he'd been on fire for a while.
With two on and one out, Doolittle issued his second walk of the entire season to load the bases. Up stepped Rajai Davis, who is known more for his speed than his power. In perhaps the biggest instance of this year's Curse of the Former A's, Rajai blasted a walk-off grand slam. Rajai Davis blasted a walk-off grand slam.
You can't make this stuff up. We should get a freaking medal for remaining A's fans after all of this.
September Flowers bring AN Glowers
It's Sept. 8, and the A's are in Chicago playing the White Sox. Oakland took a 4-3 lead in the eighth and held it until the ninth. Doolittle was on the DL, so Eric O'Flaherty came in for the save. He got two easy outs, and then up stepped Tyler Flowers.
Flower is a 28-year-old catcher who has 37 career homers and a .287 OBP. He popped a career-high 15 dingers this year, but they still came with a sub-.300 OBP and an overall below-average line. He is the No. 8 hitter in a mediocre Chicago lineup. Also, his last name is Flowers. So obviously, he swatted a solo homer to tie the score and send the game to extras.
The next time through the lineup, the White Sox all went down in order. Eight up, eight down, until Flowers came up again in the 12th. This time, he belted a solo homer off Jesse Chavez for the walk-off win.
Tyler freaking Flowers hit the game-tying and game-winning homers. And he isn't even a former Athletic.
(h/t to Nico for the headline on that, from the staff's brainstorming session for punny headlines to the game)
A's keep Barton on Opening Day roster over Vogt
This one's simple. The A's had 25 spots for 26 players on March 31. Vogt had minor league options, and Barton didn't. The A's kept Barton and sent Vogt down. Vogt ended up getting hurt and didn't make it back to the Majors until June, at which time he caught fire and stole our hearts anew. Barton hit .158/.234/.175 and was gone by mid-May. In the meantime, the team had also cut Sam Fuld due to roster space and later had to pay a premium to reacquire him.
There's, like, a 90 percent chance that you already didn't like Barton. You probably looked at the situation and knew he wasn't going to help the team this year, and wanted to keep anyone instead of him. And then, you sighed as you turned out to be right. The decision cost us two more months of Vogt. Or, if you're optimistic, the experience motivated Vogt even further and led to his career year, and he wouldn't have been as good without the humbling experience. Butterfly effect, baby. It's all a matter of perspective.
If you made it through this horrible post, then good for you. As a reward, here is a picture of Josh Reddick flashing sack while celebrating a Wild Card berth. Click here for the unedited version.
Alright, now vote. Which of these nine moments made you the saddest?