OAKLAND — The A’s can’t hit.
Maybe they’ll hit better some time, some place. But they have only 23 games left and they’re in second place and they’d better hit soon or it’s the dreaded one-game playoff for them.
What a comedown for a team that owned the American League West most of this season.
On Wednesday, they lost 2-1 to the Seattle Mariners. Got three hits. Sure, Felix Hernandez pitched for Seattle and he’s hard to crack, but the A’s pitched the great Jon Lester. And they still lost. And they barely could score. Exactly what you’d expect from this team methodically spiraling down the drain.
Question of the day: Which A’s hitter has life?
Further question: Which A’s hitter should any team fear?
Answer: Only one A’s hitter has life and only one A’s hitter induces fear.
Adam Dunn. The A’s picked him up from the scrap heap just the other day. Well, they traded for him. Thank the Lord for Adam Dunn. Dunn may be the presence the A’s need. Partially. He hits home runs — he hit a solo shot on Wednesday. He gets on base. And he is big.
Power-hitting Brandon Moss, on the other hand, has not hit a home run in 33 games, his longest homerless streak as an Athletic. And counting.
The A’s can’t hit.
Which raises a question: Did Oakland make a mistake trading Yoenis Cespedes for Lester and Jonny Gomes? This is the big question. This is the theme of the season. You know that’s true.
Bear with me here. I cheered when A’s general manager Billy Beane made the trade. I went all in for it. I admit that for full disclosure. And so you will grant me due process as you read further.
In retrospect, Beane may have been wrong to trade Cespedes for Lester. I may have been hasty endorsing the deal — not the first time.
Cespedes, we realize now, gave the A’s a presence in the batting order. You know what presence is. A guy the opponent fears. A guy the opposing pitcher is aware of as he sits on the bench and moves to the on-deck circle and grabs the pine tar and walks toward the batter’s box and digs in. A guy like Buster Posey. Mike Trout. Cespedes.
When he was on the A’s, Cespedes was the sole presence. He made opposing pitchers change the pitches they threw the other A’s hitters.
The A’s hitters are a bunch of complementary hitters. They need someone to complement. Cespedes was that guy. Unlike the other A’s — think Moss, Josh Donaldon, Josh Reddick — Cespedes consistently hits with power, and he does it against every level of pitcher, against the mediocre pitchers but also against the best pitchers.
The thought suggests itself that the current A’s, minus Cespedes, hit well against average pitchers, eat them alive, are predators. But against elite pitchers, A’s hitters go full vegan. It certainly seems to be the case. An elite pitcher like Hernandez can crush them.
None of this is criticism of Beane. He took a brave risk, a noble risk — I mean that. But the risk may have failed — we still don’t know for sure. Beane had enough pitching — he already had acquired Jeff Samardzija. He needed to keep his elite hitter, his scary hitter, his difference-making hitter. Cespedes.