The A’s 69-win season was pretty nice, but really, it wasn’t that nice. On the flip side of Alex’s list of five things that went right in 2016, here are five things that went as;lkf;qe,merdfswoief.
1. Sonny Gray falls off cliff
The strength of the A’s was never going to be the offense and chances at a surprise playoff run hinged on the rotation. That rotation, led by Sonny Gray, flailed, got injured, flailed some more and set records for most consecutive games with double digit runs allowed in franchise history. Neat!
Gray was the main culprit in a disappointing rotation (the rest of which we'll get to in approx. one bullet point), and a guy who should be an asset turned into a question mark seemingly overnight. He was absolutely terrible, at least results wise, and couldn’t stay on the field due to a few injuries. The impact of Gray on the A’s final record is huge.
I do hate to bring up trades, but Gray’s demise is a little extra painful as for once in recent history, the A’s made a fan-favorite seemingly untouchable. We obviously don’t know what went on behind closed doors last offseason, but nary a Gray rumor went by, and we were content that our ace was indeed our ace.
In that same offseason in which the A’s Front Office held their top asset, local fantasy baseball manager Dave Stewart gave up an arm, a leg, and one of the top prospects in the game for Shelby Miller. Miller went on to be like Sonny Gray, only somehow more depressing, while the return package for Miller went on to kill it. It's easy to imagine the A's jumping into that Diamondback fleecing and while we'd all rather win with Gray at the helm than any other option, well.
Salt, meet wound.
2. Rotation struggles with health, getting outs
Sonny deserved his own bullet point, but the A’s pitching struggles didn’t end there. Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront succumbed to an elbow injuries early in the year, Jesse Hahn was miserable coming back from injury, and while some back-end pitchers held their own, the rotation was a mess overall. There's tons of reason to be excited about 2017, but the youngsters called up in replacement had natural struggles for the majority of the year.
Pitcher injuries are a reality but when three of your top four starters are down or ineffective and you're forced to dip into the farm system sooner than you hoped, your season is probably not in good shape.
3. Billy Burns, flash in pan
If we weren’t too damn depressed by the 2015 season to write about that year’s positives, Billy Burns would have been at the top of the list. A lottery ticket pickup for the services of Jerry Blevins, Burns exceeded all expectations in his rookie campaign, hitting his way to an above-average year.
This year? Woof. His batting average plummeted, with it sucking his already limited OBP through a straw. His surprise slugging, mainly a result of first-pitch ambushing, disappeared too. We were left with a speedster taken off his track, and while his defense took a step forward, Burns was below replacement level.
He eventually was traded for Brett Eibner and never recovered even with the change of scenery. His absence has been filled by non-answers and BWH ramblings, and the A’s have a glaring hole at an important position.
A tried and true centerfielder, even an average one, would do wonders for a team possessing somewhere between .5 and 1.5 outfielders.
4. Off field ugliness
It was a bad year on the field, and not a great one off it.
In August, Danny Valencia showed his newfound ability to hit righties is no fluke, this time striking Billy Butler in a locker room scuffle. That fight led to a concussion and DFA for Butler, some minor discipline for Valencia, and an ugly look for a team specializing in ugly looks.
For an organization clearly concerned with team chemistry coming into the year, a locker room scuffle, spurred by shoe sponsorships is an ugly result. Of course, chemistry is tough when losing is frequent but it doesn't seem like the A's efforts solved the issue.
Around the same time as the Valencia scuffle was the Coco Crisp dispute. Crisp found himself at odds with the A’s thanks to his vesting option, one he felt the A’s were purposefully trying to avoid by manipulating his playing time. That fight went public and was the only source of A’s national news during the second half, save Valencia’s right hook.
Fortunately, the Crisp situation saw happy endings for both parties. The A's are off the hook for his services in 2017 and Coco has a shot at another World Series trophy before his retirement. But even if the A's weren't necessarily in the wrong, it was an unpleasant time for the franchise.
Then, things got downright strange. The A's strength and conditioning coach, Michael Henriques, was found to have installed secret cameras to spy on players. His reasoning was rather innocuous (just to observe rehabbing players) and the A's handled the matter swiftly and responsibly but it was still an ugly and embarrassing incident.
C'mon, 2016. Throw us a bone.
5. Lost years for Mark Canha, Josh Phegley
In Spring, contention seemed like a real possibility, largely thanks to the youth of the A’s roster. Mark Canha was a bright spot for the 2015 A’s, showing flashes of brilliance at the plate with his lightening fast hands.
Canha’s missing season is especially painful since he isn’t a sure thing. The beauty of a lost season is trying unsure things without meaningful games on the line. Now, the A’s will head into 2017 with a glut of 1B/DH types, and no sure answer as to Mark Canha’s true value.
Also lost was Josh Phegley. As a short side platoon player at a premium defensive spot, his future is a little more certain than Canha’s but his development was staggered too, and injuries can beget injuries. Bad news all around.
A few lesser things that warrant discussion:
- You probably didn’t have high hopes for Yonder Alonso at the bat, and he probably still fell fell short of said hopes. He sure can pick it at first base though!
- Jed Lowrie, ugh. Power is sapped (some of which is intentional), defense is missing (can something that never really existed be missing?), and he was unable to stay healthy all year long.
- What are you doing Chris Coghlan
- The farm is, in a sense, outside of the 69-win A’s and there certainly were some great stories regarding A’s prospects. But it wasn’t all roses and while there are reasons to be excited, the A’s minor leaguers aren’t going to pull this team out of last place all by itself.