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Happy Anniversary! (Zero Days)

MLB: Chicago White Sox-Media Day
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Just when I thought my Thanksgivings couldn’t get any weirder comes the Zoom version, circa 2020. Put it on “gallery view” and it looks like “The Dysfunctional Brady Bunch” with Cindi in the coveted Ann B. Davis center square.

First there’s Uncle Perv, reaching to grab a succulent breast and then asking “So when will the turkey be done?” And how can my Aunt Bertha not fit all the way into a square? I tried clicking “resize to fit border” and got the message “Are you sure you want to diet until you lose 50 pounds?”

And how can I adequately describe Cindi’s “F***ing Good Turducken Food”? That’s supposed to be two clever rhymes, but ‘good’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘food’ and I don’t know how someone gets an aroma to waft through Zoom but that’s one talented part-turkey part-duck part chicken. And from the smell of it, also part liniment and part wet dog.

Nonetheless, it’s still better than 6 years ago today when the regurgitation of all the stuffing and most of the cranberry sauce was necessitated by news of a trade that went something like, “Well if you include Brett Lawrie then how can we say no???” 2,192 days, I suppose, given that there have been 2 leap days.

But we are a forward thinking people, and a curious bunch — wondering and pondering things such as...

Partial Attendance? We Do It In Our Sleep!

Will COVID create a strange sort of ‘level playing field’ for the A’s in summer of 2021? At the outset it appears unlikely fans will be able to attend games, at least in states governed by concern for the health of its citizens. But by summer it’s possible we will have entered a world in which a vaccine is available even if your career is neither ‘health care’ or ‘being rather old’.

In this scenario, perhaps summer (if not spring) will see rules similar to what we observed in the NLCS and World Series: scattered fans with a 10,000-20,000 in attendance. In other words, a typical series at the Oakland Coliseum.

Is it possible that 2021 will bring all the other teams’ attendance down to the level of the A’s and Rays — whose revenues will stay the same because that’s what they always average anyway? Of course the A’s normally draw some crowds of 7,000 and some crowds of 30,000, and in a COVID-restricted world that becomes 7,000 and 15,000 (or whatever ‘capacity’ is). But the point is the A’s would be far less impacted by a 15,000 fan maximum than their fellow franchises would be. Finally being poor and unpopular pays off!

Then again, the Astros and Rangers undoubtedly will be allowed to fill their stadiums on Opening Day, and given the average age in Phoenix I suppose all the Diamondbacks fans will be vaccinated by April. Maybe the A’s can have “1st Responders Day” on their first homestand and pack the house.

Bullpen Bolsterings

Tempting as it is, I have to fall on the side of those arguing against going after Brad Hand to bolster the A’s bullpen. Certainly Oakland has needs in the bullpen with the apparent departures of Liam Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit, and Joakim Soria.

For me it’s not just the numbers which show Hand’s fastball velocity dropping from 94.1 MPH in 2018 to 92.9 MPH in 2019 to 91.8 MPH in 2020. It’s what the Eyeball Scout noticed the few times I had a chance to see him pitch, including the 2020 post-season.

This might be related to the drop in velocity, but what stood out to me when watching Hand was how much he was nibbling and trying to trick hitters, rather than being aggressive in the zone.

Hand reminded me a lot of J.P. Howell, who would come at you looking like a power pitcher but would unleash a barrage of off speed pitches designed to fool you into swinging wildly at bad balls. “Ha ha, you thought it was a strike — it was a ball and you swung, ha ha!” chortled J.P. Howell all the way to the bank.

But Hand is, in fact, a power pitcher, or should be, and his best game is not just to nibble and deceive. In 2020 he looked like a pitcher who knew his velocity wasn’t there, or who for whatever reason didn’t want to challenge you with strikes. It was not a good look and it didn’t make me want to see the A’s throw ‘closer money’ at him.

I still maintain that the best A’s target for bullpen help, the best combination of availability and affordability, is probably Pedro Baez, last seen serving up gopher balls in the playoffs. Post-season shortcomings aside, Baez has been an excellent reliever for all 6 of his big league seasons (he has never had an ERA over 3.35) and his velocity is still strong (94.4 MPH in 2020, though it’s worth noting that was down 1.6 MPH from the year before).

Baez seems like the type of reliever the A’s go after: a solid middle reliever whose value gets overshadowed by the true closers ahead of him. Think Ryan Madson, Petit and Soria, and you can see a multi-year deal. Try not to think of Santiago Casilla or John Axford.

Speaking of relievers, the A’s are short on lefties but it’s more that he belongs on the A’s. Doooooooooooolittle!!! That is all.