I prefer looking at the optimistic side of sports, since their entire purpose from a fan's perspective is for them to be fun and make you happy. I'd rather focus on the encouraging parts of a loss, the signals that a player might get better, and the reasons to root for someone rather than boo them.
But man, I think I'm at my wit's end here. What am I supposed to make of these 2015 playoffs, specifically the final four teams left in the two League Championship Series? These matchups were designed to make A's fans cringe, to make us look back at all of the most questionable moves of the last 18 months and lament every bad hop and unfortunate decision and good plan gone awry. This final four is just the universe being cruel to A's fans, who have already been through enough lately. The playoffs are set to Maximum Regret. The entrants:
- Josh Donaldson
- Yoenis Cespedes
- Addison Russell (with a side of Jon Lester)
- The Royals, featuring a Ben Zobrist originally rented by Oakland
I mean, are you kidding me? Those are the three most hotly debated trades Billy Beane has made in recent years, plus Oakland's biggest prize from the last winter acting as a mercenary for the team that knocked them out last fall. How am I supposed to enjoy this? No matter who wins, it comes with a side of "what if" and a glass of "if only."
I didn't want Lester last year and I didn't like the Yoenis Cespedes trade, but I still maintain that it didn't cost the A's anything in the playoffs (and that Lester still helped them make it at all). They were going to be a Wild Card team, and their catchers and bullpen were going to blow that game against the Royals no matter what else happened (and they DID still score eight runs). I wouldn't have traded Donaldson last winter if I was in charge, but I'm not going to write off the deal until I see how Oakland's new players pan out in the long-term (and a great season by Donaldson isn't going to make me rush to conclusions any faster). I was shocked that Beane traded Russell last year and I still can't fully explain it, though Shark Trade 2 did ease the pain and now Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder are giving us renewed hope for the future of shortstop.
Cespedes, Donaldson, and Russell are all great players, but not every great player makes the LCS. The Dodgers could have won the series they were supposed to win, with four starts from Kershaw and Greinke. The Rangers could have finished off their series after taking the first two games, with Toronto falling unexpectedly short just like so many heavily favored A's teams have done in the October crapshoot. The Cubs could have done what every Cubs teams has done for a century -- lose and disappoint. But nope, each of these teams made it through this year, with the help of their former A's but also with dozens of other talented players and good stories and unrelated factors.
And there's the Royals. The team that knocked the A's out of last year's playoffs, then got mighty full of themselves in 2015 and turned into big ol' meanies. They throw pitches at your head if you look at them wrong and then complain that it was all your fault. And now they have Ben Zobrist, the guy who was supposed to save the A's this year. So even when Billy gets the right guy, it ends up happening in the wrong year and he succeeds for the wrong team (just like Matt Holliday, who has been to the NLCS four times and the World Series twice since being flipped to St. Louis).
The good news is that the Mets, Cubs and Jays are not teams we are used to seeing in the playoffs, so at least the jerseys are fresh. Even the Royals are only here for the second time in 30 years or so. It's not the Cardinals, or the Giants, or the Angels, or the Red Sox, or the Yankees. It could be worse in that way.
But man. Seriously, universe? Rub it in, why don't you.
Could you just imagine Cespedes & Donaldson in the same lineup?— Dallas Braden (@DALLASBRADEN209) October 13, 2015
I don't know if Braden was being cheeky or serious, but I'll assume the former. Because yes, I can imagine it; in fact, I saw it, twice, in 2012 and 2013. The first time, they combined for two extra-base hits (both doubles) and two RBI, and the A's lost in five. The second time, Cespedes homered once and Donaldson did nothing, and the A's lost in five. Together they couldn't win a series, but apart they've already won a pair of them. Blame Billy Beane all you want, and maybe you're correct in doing so. But, other than Russell, it's not like these guys didn't get a chance in Oakland. They failed here, just like every other star player has in the last 25 years, and for whatever reason they're doing much better elsewhere.
Screw it. I'm rooting for rain. Or the Cubs, I guess, so that at least Back to the Future can be historically accurate.
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||KANSAS CITY ROYALS|
|Ben Revere - LF||Alcides Escobar - SS|
|Josh Donaldson - 3B||Ben Zobrist - 2B|
|Jose Bautista - RF||Lorenzo Cain - CF|
|Edwin Encarnacion - DH||Eric Hosmer - 1B|
|Chris Colabello - 1B||Kendrys Morales - DH|
|Troy Tulowitzki - SS||Mike Moustakas - 3B|
|Dioner Navarro - C||Salvador Perez - C|
|Kevin Pillar - CF||Alex Gordon - LF|
|Ryan Goins - 2B||Alex Rios - RF|
|Marco Estrada - RHP||Edinson Volquez - RHP|
P.S. Remember that Giants fans still get to celebrate because their rival Dodgers were knocked out quickly. And also we get Joe Buck and Harold Reynolds, hands down the two worst baseball announcers in the business right now. Good gravy.