I’ve always seen a lot of similarities between the Oakland A’s and the Indians. Two small market teams that managed to put together great streaks of success – the Indians in the 1990s and the A’s in the late 90s and early 2000s. While the A’s did win the World Series in 1989, they have yet to win it all under the leadership of General Manager Billy Beane; the Indians obviously didn’t win it all during their streak of success either. At the beginning of this season many people (myself included) thought the Indians had a legitimate chance to contend this year. There were a number of people (myself included) that also thought the A’s really didn’t have a chance this year after they traded many of the people on their 2011 roster. If you would have asked me this past winter, I would say that the A’s were still a few years away, while the Indians’ best chance is now…what a difference eight months can make. As of August 2012 it definitely looks like these are two organizations heading in completely different directions, although Oakland is on the rise while the Indians appear to be determining just how low they can go.
After today’s game, the A’s are 65-55, five games behind first place Texas, and a half game behind Tampa Bay and Baltimore in the Wild Card race. As a comparison, the Indians are 54-67, 11.5 games behind Chicago in the AL Central and 12 back in the Wild Card; they’ve also fallen to fourth place behind Kansas City. This offseason, I even heard Oakland spoken of in the same breath as the Houston Astros, who are 39-83 and 35 games out of first in the NL Central. When you trade pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman, Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey, along with trading outfielder Ryan Sweeney and letting outfielder Josh Willingham walk, you almost expect to have a down year or two while you wait for the prospects you received to make their mark. They signed Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and resigned Coco Crisp and Bartolo Colon, but it didn’t seem like it would be enough prior to this season. With the uncertainty surrounding their stadium situation, and their poor attendance issues, they seemed almost like a team lost at sea, waiting for a time in the near future where they could pull it all together.
Despite all of that, they just keep winning, particularly late in games. While their offense actually ranks below the Indians in many categories, their pitching (particularly the bullpen) has been superb. Their attendance, while still 28th in Major League Baseball with an average of 20,693 is still ahead of the Indians (29th with an average of 20,677) and Tampa Bay at 30. Two of the bottom three are considered to have sub par stadium situations, while the Indians are just sub par in general. When you compare team financials, the A’s rank 30th of all 30 teams in payroll at $49,137,500, while the Indians are 24th at $66,430,300. Oakland had no problem manhandling the Indians this weekend, and today the Tribe looked like a team just sleepwalking through the motions. They were beat last night by a 39-year-old Bartolo Colon, who is hovering around 600 pounds at this point (rough estimate). Today, another former Indian in the form of Coco Crisp made sure that the folks in Cleveland remembered who he was when he went 3 for 5 with 5 RBI. I never like to discount the opposing team’s performance, but I find it increasingly hard to believe that every team is always at the top of their game when they face the Tribe. No pitcher has any problem making the offense look like lost amateurs, and every opponent’s offense seems to tee off on Indians pitching, particularly the starters.
After watching this series with the A’s this weekend, I think it’s the most depressed the Indians have made me yet this season. Even though this losing streak is “only” up to five games at this point, the sweep in Oakland came against a team that wasn’t even supposed to be a contender this year. The A’s are representative of a team that makes all of the right moves, and that plays with heart and passion. Watching this scrappy bunch of underdogs against an Indians team that has become one of the most bland and boring teams I can remember in the past 10 years, is disheartening. Flipping on the Indians during this west coast trip is better than Ambien if you’re having trouble sleeping. Watch them for two or three innings and just dare yourself to try and stay awake. The A’s are a team that doesn’t really have a home, that didn’t have much payroll or even an identity heading into the 2012 season. If I had to pick a team that I’d prefer to watch, I’m betting I’d pick the A’s 9 times out of 10. That one random time would be because of the fact that I’m a stubborn fan that just can’t give up.
Now it’s off to Seattle, to probably be shamed by former manager Eric Wedge and the Mariners. Felix Hernandez is coming off a perfect game, and against this offense I’m a little afraid he may be the first pitcher to pull off back-to-back perfection when he faces the Indians on Tuesday. They get to come home after that, but only to face the first place New York Yankees. I can accept losses, but I cannot accept the lifeless, sleepwalking performances we’ve become accustomed to. I’m never happy to see a baseball season end, but after this weekend I’m almost looking forward to it.