The United States has lived and breathed baseball since the Civil War era. It is a game that is deep in history, and has had significant impacts on the culture of the country as it grew and evolved throughout the 20th century. National icons from a hundred years ago are still revered by baseball today. The incredible accomplishments of players of yore are still placed up alongside the incredible accomplishments of players today, and just about any mention of the Hall of Fame will pave way to excited debating and fruitless arguing about how all-time greats compare against each other. But since baseball first enraptured the nation in the 1850's and 60's, it has gone through a significant number of changes or evolutions that have had numerous impacts on in game strategy and results, and it can sometimes be difficult to really compare one era of baseball to another.
Baseball's most recent evolution has been less appetizing than previous ones. Runs are down, strikeouts are up, and games are getting longer- the sorts of things that cause many to voice their opinions about baseball's boringness and unpopularity with the youths. To make matters worse, the Giants, Royals, and Cardinals have been hogging all of the World Series rings and most recent changes have been met with complaints claiming that the game is "going soft." To many, baseball is like the sloth- a super-strong elephant-sized monster in its heyday, reduced to the cute, cuddly creature that lazily sleeps around in trees at all hours today. This all has led to the news this morning that the MLB may decide to implement two new rules- one that will decrease the size of the strikezone and one that would eliminate the pageantry of throwing four pitchouts for an intentional walk, and if put in place will pave the way for yet another evolution and another era of baseball.
The A's are no strangers to changes and evolutions. The franchise has called three separate cities its home, and has recently been flirting with a fourth. Since Billy Beane has taken over the front office, ugly terms like "roster churn" have become synonymous with the A's. Hampered by a small budget, the A's have been forced to consistently change the team and try and stay one step ahead of the rest of the league. In some cases, aggressively moving players has been highly effective, as proven by the successes of the 2012-2014 Oakland A's teams. Othertimes, as proven by the 2015 team, it can be less so. And while these A's are currently "streets behind" most of the rest of their competition, with the inconsistent play and the lack of situational awareness, the team has also been unjustly held back by injuries to key players on both sides of the field and struggling to pick up the slack.
Sean Manaea is going to be really good someday, but it is also perfectly clear that he was not supposed to be the "it" factor this season. By the time Manaea was pulled from the game, he had given up five runs and was in danger of allowing more, alongside six hits and two walks. He allowed all the runs that scored over the course of the game for the Yankees, and his electric stuff that sounded almost Randy Johnson-esque in the minor leagues was completely absent yet again. However, Manaea didn't pitch all too poorly in his start today overall, or at least had primarily good results. He didn't allow a hit until the four-run fourth inning that ultimately did the A's in, but even then, he only allowed hard contact on Refsynder's two run double and the subsequent flyout- all other Yankee hits were bloopers and seeing-eye grounders. Manaea's two walks both came in that inning as well, with one walk being the result of a good long at bat on behalf of Teixeira, who checked his swing on multiple tough two strike pitches to work the count and eventually the walk. Apart from the dreadful fourth, and then the seventh when he was tiring, Manaea was efficient on the mound and his pitches, while not up to the caliber the reports were claiming from his minor league starts, were generally leading to good results. The bullpen did not cause further damage and held the Yankees to five runs total.
Once again, the A's couldn't do much on offense. It was clear today that the A's lineup was the result of more than one third of the A's starting lineup on the bench or disabled list because of various injuries, and that run scoring was likely to be at a premium, especially considering the fact that the A's were going up against Masahiro Tanaka, who has been a very strong starter and the anchor for the Yankees' pitching staff during his big league tenure. However, despite the limitations the lineup had to navigate, twice the team loaded the bases and managed just one run total, and all six of the team's hits on the day were singles. With Tanaka pounding the lower part of the strikezone, for all seven innings that he pitched the A's hit routine groundballs all over the infield and he eliminated the power potential of the lineup, something the offense has been living and dying on. To make matters worse, it appears that the main source of power in the A's lineup, Khris Davis, injured his forearm on a swing and will potentially also miss a few games due to injury, though time will tell how severe that injury will ultimately be. After falling behind 4-0 in the fourth inning, the A's never threatened a comeback and, especially for a Yankees' game, lost quickly and quietly.
On the evolutionary scale, the A's are currently frantic and slimy tadpoles, swimming aimlessly around the primordial pond that is major league baseball, trying to avoid getting eaten by bigger fish, say trout, and trying with all their might to push out some legs and lungs and become the beautiful frogs they were meant to be during the offseason. This team has a lot of growing to do, and a lot of obstacles to overcome, but this team also has potential, and if they can survive as tadpoles for just a little bit longer, they may evolve into a juggernaut that will lead the team to glory. Perhaps this next era of baseball can be defined primarily by the A's dominance.