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A’s fans were asked last week if they have confidence in the direction of the team, and the resulting 86% approval rating was the lowest of the season so far.
After opening the year at 100% confidence for the first two weeks, the tally has dropped to 96%, then 95%, then 90%, and now 86% in the subsequent polls. Two weeks ago, only five fanbases gave their teams a higher mark than the green-and-gold faithful, but this time a dozen other clubs exceeded 86%, leaving Oakland in the middle of the pack.
That’s all fair enough, though. The 2019 campaign hasn’t started out the way A’s fans hoped it would, coming off a 97-win season and a postseason berth. The rotation was always expected to be a weak point and it’s been just that, but it was supposed to be accounted for by a tight bullpen and explosive offense. But the leaky pen has already helped the team lose more games when leading after seven innings than they did all of last season, and the hitters over the last 14 games have averaged 3.4 runs and totaled only seven homers. Nothing is working the way it’s supposed to, leaving the A’s in last place in the AL West with a disappointing 14-19 record.
It’s been particularly bad lately, with Oakland dropping six straight games to open their current road trip. They were swept by the rebuilding Blue Jays and the slumping Red Sox, and along the way they saw a meltdown from All-Star closer Blake Treinen as well as another game-changing error by second baseman Jurickson Profar. Meanwhile the lineup disappeared even further, down to just 2.5 runs per game and two total dingers in the six losses.
Add it all up, and it’s no wonder that fan confidence dipped this week. If anything, it’s impressive that Athletics Nation is keeping the fAith as well as we are, knowing that brighter times are yet on the horizon with everything from the imminent return of Matt Olson, to the emergence of Chris Bassitt in the rotation, to the upcoming debut of red-hot outfield prospect Skye Bolt, not to mention several other impact youngsters waiting behind him in Triple-A. There’s still a lot to be optimistic about for the next five months of the season.
Even better, fans at least aren’t blaming the manager. It’s not his fault that his super-closer blew a big lead, nor that his setup man jammed a thumb playing catch in practice and missed a bunch of time, nor that his second baseman inexplicably forgot how to play second base.
Bob Melvin isn’t perfect because nobody is, but the problems plaguing the team right now have to do with players failing to execute, not the manager pushing the wrong buttons. His approval rating held steady at 93%, down just two points from last week, and still above his season-low of 92% from Week 3 — though 11 other skippers fared even better this week (including six with unanimous scores).
There was also a national question, regarding Blue Jays rookie sensation Vlad Jr. I’m not sure it was necessary to include an option for 10+ WAR, a thing that has been done by exactly one rookie hitter ever — especially since Vlad is not considered a defensive star, and thus won’t likely be racking up big totals on that side of the ball to pump up his value.
Mike Trout reached 10 WAR as a rookie because he hit like an MVP and put up enormous defensive metrics in center field that year, and that’s simply not something Vladito has the opportunity to match at third base. The WAR results, with almost nobody picking the top half of options, and the winner being all the way on one end of the range, prove that the bar was set at the wrong level in this poll. In fact, I think a better poll would have simply asked about his OPS this year, since that’s the department where he truly might shine in some historic way.