Say this for the Oakland A’s. The commissioner of baseball hasn’t felt the need to commandeer them, as he did the Los Angeles Dodgers.
At least the people who run the A’s still are controlling their direction. Or misdirection.
We know the negatives about the A’s: their football stadium that isn’t a ballpark and the constant attempts of owner Lew Wolff to shift them to San Jose, where there’s neither a football stadium or a ballpark. But deep down, they are an entertaining ball club. They played one to the wire Wednesday, losing to the Boston Red Sox 5-3 to end a series so ridiculously short, two games in a space of 21 hours, it barely existed. That’s major league ball in this era of cross-country flights and interleague games.
For a club whose management feels compelled to put tarpaulins on the upper deck of the three-tiered Coliseum, the A’s had two good crowds against the Red Sox. Not that this is a surprise.
On Tuesday, the announced gate was 25,320. Then Wednesday, it was 29,045, which for comparison was nearly 2,000 larger than the Dodgers-Cardinals game Sunday at Dodger Stadium. All is not hopeless in Oakland, if you don’t count the bottom of the batting order.
When the Red Sox show up, if even for less than two full days, their fans show up. It’s unnerving to a point when more people in Oakland are chanting for the Sox than for the A’s, yet Oakland manager Bob Geren contends all that matters is there are people in the seats.
“Quite frankly,” said Geren, “we just like a lot of people here. The more people the better.” Still, a home team wants to feel like a home team. And now that the Red Sox are gone for the season, not until the Yankees arrive the end of May will there be anything comparable.
What the A’s need is what the Giants finally developed, fans who come out no matter the opponent. That may take a while.
The A’s, as predicted, have excellent starting pitching. Tuesday, Brett Anderson shut out the Red Sox for his eight innings. Wednesday, Gio Gonzalez gave up two home runs, which doomed him, but struck out nine. “Keep it close, I’ll think of something,” was the Tommy Lasorda mantra. The A’s keep it close.
What they should be thinking of is what can be done with the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the lineup, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, who is batting .200, and shortstop Cliff Pennington, batting .204.
That’s the left side of the infield, which is fine on defense. That’s the bottom of the lineup, which is unfortunate on offense. The A’s on Wednesday left 15 men on base, two in the bottom of the ninth.
“We just couldn’t take advantage of the situations, even when we had our better hitters up,” Geren said.
There aren’t a lot of “better” hitters for the moment. The lineup the A’s started Wednesday included five players batting .250 or lower.
Pitching and defense may win pennants, but every now and then the people who come to the plate have to do something more than pop up or ground out.
Art Spander also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.