The Oakland A’s are going to be without their best player for the rest of the 2020 season.
Third baseman Matt Chapman was placed on the injured list Saturday with a strained right hip, the team announced, and he’ll have season-ending surgery on the hip, reports insider Martin Gallegos as well as Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.
To take the open spot on the roster, outfielder Seth Brown was called up.
This is devastating news for the A’s. Chapman has been by far their most productive player over the last three seasons, as the single best defender in the majors at any position and also an excellent hitter at the plate. Oakland’s roster is far from a one-man show and there are still several other stars in the group, but this is one of the individuals they can least afford to lose.
“He’s been a leader since the moment he arrived here,” said manager Bob Melvin, via Gallegos. “It’s one thing to look at the numbers, but there are also intangibles that we miss. This is quite a blow for us.”
The All-Star and two-time Platinum Glover last played last weekend, and then missed the entire five-game series against the Houston Astros plus Friday’s opener against the Texas Rangers. The A’s have 17 games left in the season (28% of the full campaign) and then as many as four rounds of play in the expanded postseason tournament.
Who plays 3B?
Grasping for a bright side, there at least are a couple of intriguing options to fill in for Chapman.
Chad Pinder hasn’t found much playing time this year, but he’s hitting the ball harder (per exit velocity) than anyone else on the team besides Chapman, and he can hold his own on defense at the hot corner. Top prospect Sheldon Neuse has a chance to be a plus on both sides of the ball, and it’s possible the only reason he’s not already in the majors is that he’s blocked by Chapman at his primary position of third base. Alternately, Tommy La Stella could shift to 3B with role-player dynamo Tony Kemp covering 2B, or rookie infielder Vimael Machin could keep playing and exploring his recent improvement.
Of course, any possible replacement will represent a downgrade from Chapman, but the point is it doesn’t have to turn the position into a weakness. This is precisely why the A’s have depth.
What can I say in a Hot Takes section that you don’t already know? This stinks. The A’s have their best title shot in decades and they just lost their best player in the home stretch, and from Chapman’s perspective he worked hard to get here and now doesn’t get to see the season through and compete for his first ring. In baseball terms, this is the worst news we could have woken up to this morning (in baseball terms, not overall life).
All I can offer is a reminder that baseball is a team sport. Superstars don’t singularly dictate club fortunes like a star quarterback in football, or a max-contract basketball player on a 12-man roster in which only eight of them will realistically see time in the playoffs. It’s possible to win without your best player. It’s just more difficult and less fun.
The season is over for Chapman, but not the A’s.
The good news is that hip surgeries are largely effective at returning players to full strength and Dr. Philippon is the gold standard for the procedure.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 12, 2020