This Sunday’s potpourri of thoughts begins with an affirmation of why A’s fans kept saying Oakland was, in theory, capable of a deep playoff run if they could just get there. (Spoiler alert: they didn’t.) You have to be hot at the right time, but you don’t necessarily have to be great, in order to keep advancing in the post-season.
Exhibit A is your Atlanta Braves, whose most redeeming feature is Ron Washington and whose least redeeming feature is the zombie-like, grating on the ears, and even offensive for good measure, Tomahawk Chop. The Cleveland Guardians are not amused.
This is a Braves team that was, as recently as September, in a dog fight for the division with the Phillies — a team that would go on to win all of 82 games. Atlanta pulled away in September but finished with just 88 wins, a total that would have left them 4 games back of the AL’s second wild card.
Yet somehow, surprisingly, the Braves needed just 4 games to do away with the superior Milwaukee Brewers (winners of 95 regular season games). Matched up against a Dodgers team that won 18 more games in the regular season — that’s about as mismatched as it gets in the post-season — Atlanta has the early upper hand following an exciting 3-2 walkoff win in Game 1.
No doubt the Dodgers might, and even perhaps “probably will,” come back to win the series. They have Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler lined up for games 2 and 3 and half the remaining games at home. But superior talent, depth, and credentials, along with $4.50, will sometimes get you no more than a medium latte.
If you’re wondering what the A’s, winners of 86 games with both talent and holes aplenty, could have done, you can use the Braves as a bit of a measuring stick. It would make the Braves downright worth rooting for if they would lose the zombie chant.
It doesn’t seem right to pen a story this week and not refer to the sad passing of A’s icon Ray Fosse. Where Fosse and I intersect is a bit odd, and also humorous in a way. I broadcast 3 A’s spring training games each year from 1987-91, augmenting the broadcasts with occasional guest color commentators.
I often had pitchers (e.g., Rick Honeycutt, Chris Codoroli) who were available because they were not due to pitch or throw in the bullpen, or players who were injured and thus available (e.g., Terry Steinbach, who went on to broadcast for ESPN and probably doesn’t remember that he technically got his start alongside me). Sometimes I lucked into someone, such as then Phoenix Suns star Kevin Johnson who was enjoying the game in the stands one day and whom I had known from our days in Cal sports (him playing, me broadcasting).
Those were all “one offs” but a constant was that each of the 5 years I asked Ray Fosse if he would join me for an inning, reprising his role on the flagship broadcasts to lend a familiar sound to mine. Every year Ray graciously said “sure” and joined me for at least an inning of color commentary. When I made a demo tape to apply for minor league play-by-play jobs, Ray was kind enough to narrate the introduction for me.
And every year, be it during that 5-year span or after, if I introduced myself to him or was introduced by someone, he had absolutely no idea who I was and acted like we were talking for the very first time. I wasn’t THAT hard to remember — after all, over a 5 year period pretty much the people he shared that booth with on the air were Lon Simmons, Bill King, and myself.
But in fairness, I never once offered him Dibs and he met an awful lot of people. Still, it both baffled and amused me to “meet him for the first time” 7-8 times in various contexts. I was, apparently, the best kept secret in his life and I am certain that if anyone had asked him in the 90s, 2000s, or last year, Fosse would have insisted, “Nico? No, I have never met someone by that name.”
Maybe not, but you did broadcast several innings with me and I am truly grateful. Just as A’s fans are grateful for the thousands upon thousands of innings you broadcast alongside, Lon, Bill, Ken, Vince, and Glen. I hope someone has the guts, at your memorial, to make their speech one really long run-on rhetorical question.
Tomorrow, by the way, is the 16th anniversary of Bill King’s passing. I think it’s fair to say that October and the A’s are just not a great fit — we’ll see if perhaps the Braves can do better.