Only the 2015 Oakland A's can outscore their opponent 24-17 over 3 games, be 1-2 and have their fans bemoaning terrible defense and worse relief pitching. It's the same refrain as were heard throughout April, throughout May, and in June, with only occasional breaks because you need to have faint hope in order to have it dashed.
The A's are in the process of making history. Teams just don't parlay 312 runs scored against 281 runs allowed into a 29-41 record. It doesn't happen or at least it hasn't until now. And yet it keeps on keeping on, with the A's actually improving their run differential and further cementing their place as the division's, and often the league's, worst team.
70 games in, the sample is no longer tiny. This team has a unique gift for turning wins into blowouts and wins into losses. Every single one-handed reliever the A's have tried has scuffled, even the team's better defenders have fallen prey to dropped fly balls and dropped throws. Oakland's starting pitchers lead the league in innings pitched and yet the bullpen finds ample opportunities to implode just enough.
It's bizarre. It makes no sense. And at this point, it's kind of just who the 2015 Oakland A's appear to be.
The A's front office is patient for good reason. When a 40-game sample runs against the more advanced predictive metrics, the smart money is on a turn-around. Just as in 2008, the A's record was good but the outlook not as rosy, when Beane pulled the trigger on the trades of Joe Blanton and Rich Harden.
Knowing that the team, on paper and on predictive metrics, was far better than its record, the front office has been as patient as fans have been impatient, as believing in this team and fans find it hard to keep the faith. At some point, though, the hill to climb becomes simply too steep and right now the A's could play .667 ball the rest of the way and it would still yield them only 90 wins. .600 ball will get them to all of 84 wins. Perhaps more importantly, the strange issuse dragging the team down have been, ultimately, just relentless.
This team is, for whatever reason...this team. This team's ineptitude is, as Jackie Chiles might say, "Inexplicable, historical, illogical...undeniable." Sometimes it's just not your year.
I don't suppose there are exact moments when these decisions are made, but I kind of had the feeling that when Ben Zobrist dropped a fly ball (when does Ben Zobrist drop fly balls???) he wrote his ticket out of town. Just two hours before he had launched a 3-run HR that had the potential to get the A's off to a series sweep, a run of wins against the teams the A's are chasing....and then suddenly the meltdown was in full force, another epic loss borne out of defensive miscues and bullpen gascannery, and only moments later Albert Pujols made it official.
I think Zobrist will be, and should be, gone by the trade deadline and the A's figure to get a good return from one of the 20 teams still in contention who would benefit from adding him. Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard too. The good news is that the A's don't necessarily need a complete overhaul of their roster in order to contend in 2016. What they need is a mulligan and those are only on the market in early April.
I continue to be dumbfounded by the 2015 season. I also know that in Zobrist, Kazmir, and Clippard the A's have enough ammunition to make significant improvements to the 2016-17 landscape and that the remaining talent is, objectively, quite good.
If you're going to be cellars, then be sellers, because the best trade of all is going to come no matter what you do: It's when you trade the 2015 calendar for a 2016 calendar and get to start over. This year? I think we know what this year's team is. We just don't exactly know why.