By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com
As Josh Donaldson trotted demonstratively around the Coliseum bases on Thursday afternoon, you could almost feel the last bit of air seeping out of the 2015 Oakland Athletics’ worn tires. His moonshot in the fifth inning easily cleared the extended wall in right-center, and Donaldson seemed to enjoy every second of his journey around the bases. Head bobbing, arms up to the sky, visible grin, etc. He wasn’t shy about it.
This week was Donaldson’s first trip to Oakland after being traded to Canada by Billy Beane, following what most believe was a contentious relationship between the star third baseman and the decorated GM. By the time Donaldson arrived at his post-homer dugout and went into his series of secret handshakes and forearm “bashes” with Jose Reyes, Billy Beane most assuredly shut off the TV from his in-game workout room and turned up the speed on his exercise bike.
A’s fans know the deal all too well. Real estate magnet and team owner Lew Wolff has billions of dollars in his bank account (literally), but is not a fan of spending it on baseball players. His GM Billy Beane does his best with a limited cash flow and is not afraid to pull the trigger on any decision, no matter how unpopular. Every year, by the time July rolls around and the trade deadline looms, Billy takes stock and decides if the A’s are buyers or sellers. Last year the A’s were buyers, and unfortunately, they flamed out in the playoffs. This year, they are sellers and as always, it’s tough to watch.
Scott Kazmir was scheduled to be on the mound on Thursday against Donaldson and the Blue Jays, but Beane had other ideas, sending Kazmir to the contending Houston Astros for two minor league prospects. With Kazmir’s departure, that leaves only Sean Doolittle on the roster from last year’s list of A’s All-Stars. Norris, Moss, Samardzija, Cespedes, Donaldson, they’re all gone too.
After Beane put down his white flag, he emerged for a brief press conference on Thursday and reminded A’s fans what we already knew but still didn’t like. Billy did his annual A’s accounting calculation and decided that at 44-53 the A’s were behind the 8-ball and needed to sell. The market is only hot for so long he explained. Now was the time.
Fortunately, among the many things A’s fans are good at; looking at the glass half full is one of them. The Athletics are still in Oakland, the weather is still Sonny, the tickets are still cheap, the parking lot still has plenty of tailgating real estate, and the Dubs won the whole goddamn thing.
Oakland also has a pretty good squad still in tact with more than a few players worth rooting for. They do find themselves 11 back of the first place Angels, but stranger things have happened. If nothing else, it is time for the A’s to play spoiler across the bay.
The San Francisco Giants, with three World Series titles in the last five years, have lots to feel good about coming into the 2015 version of the Battle of the Bay. SF is winners of eight of their last nine games including two of three in San Diego this week.
The Giants will feature a healthy and rested Hunter Pence in right field, along with a middle infield who played together in the All-Star Game. Seeing the Giants double-play combo in the Midsummer Classic was more than just Bruce Bochy looking out for the Orange and Black, it appears. Brandon Crawford already has 14 homers to compliment his steady defense, while fresh-faced Joe Panik’s .316 average is good for 10th place in all of the Majors. All of this is a nice compliment to Buster Posey’s typical stellar offensive output and Matt Duffy’s out-of-nowhere performance at third base to make the masses rid themselves of Panda Hats.
Even with Timmy Lincecum on the DL, the pitching matchups in this series surely favor the Giants, especially when you consider that Sonny Gray will be watching from the dugout all three games. Meanwhile, the A’s lineup will be tasked with World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner on Saturday.
Pitching matchups aside, it is probably best to just “throw out the record books” when these crosstown clubs come together for a three game set. But do me a favor, pick a side, and don’t get caught dead wearing one of these hats. My bold prediction: A’s win 2 out of 3…