I guess growing up an Oakland Athletics fan you tend to get used to the notion that some, or many, or all of your favorite players will move on to greener pastures. It’s been the story of our lives since before mine even began, we saw it happen in the 1970’s when Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Vida Blue all departed after helping lead the Athletics to 3 straight World Series championships. Not even a dynasty could be held together, of course Charlie Finley had a lot to do with that. We saw Rickey Henderson come and go, Mark McGwire traded away, Jason Giambi bolt for the Bronx, and the Big Three dismantled in a matter of weeks. Face it, we’re used to seeing our favorites in other uniforms. How many people invested $200 in a Gio Gonzalez jersey after his stellar 2011 season only to see him moved to Washington just a few months later? I saw a lot of #47’s at the O.co this season. It’s gotten to the point where I pretty much expect whoever is on the team to stay here only as long as they have to, or as long as they don’t become too successful and expensive. That’s not a new notion by any means though. The Athletics are the butt of many a joke about how they trade everyone away, and surely Billy does love his wheeling and dealing. At this point it doesn’t affect me that much when such and such player gets shipped out, but Brandon McCarthy‘s departure for the Arizona Diamondbacks is definitely different.
August 25, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy (32) throws a pitch in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Just 2 years ago during the offseason prior to 2011, the A’s won a “bidding war” for McCarthy’s services as something of a reclamation project. They paid a cool $1 million for him. He was a revelation to say the least. Many thought he was headed in the direction of Mark Prior, chronic shoulder problems would ultimately derail a once promising career. But a few mechanical adjustments to help alleviate those issues made a world of difference. While his tenure with the A’s wasn’t without the aforementioned shoulder problems, they definitely weren’t career threatening in the same vein as his past injuries. When he was on the mound though, he showed the world just how good he could be. He posted a very good 3.29 ERA in his two seasons with the A’s over 281.2 innings of work. His peripherals suggested he really was that good, and it was great to see.
McCarthy’s significance though doesn’t lie just in his presence on the mound, but his interaction with the fans and everyone on Twitter. He has easily been the most entertaining Athletics player to follow over the last couple years, and while his quips may emanate from the desert now, they’ll continue to be top notch. His connection with the fans, along with his wife Amanda made them truly part of the Athletics family.
That’s what made it so scary when McCarthy went down after taking that line drive off his head. No doubt we all would have been horrified no matter who was on the receiving end of that blow, but the fact that it was Brandon made it that much worse. We all feared for his safety and well being, and all but forgot about the goings on between the lines. He’s made a great recovery since then, and we are all thrilled to see that.
I had a personal interaction with Brandon and Amanda at my day job. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I work in a coffee shop in the rich little Marin County town of Mill Valley. One day, shortly after the incident I was at work just doing my normal stuff when I noticed an extremely tall man walk into the store. It was Brandon McCarthy, he was there with his wife Amanda. At that moment we were listening to the A’s play the Detroit Tigers in Detroit on that grueling road trip, and of course the moment they walked in Prince Fielder went deep to give the Tigers a 5-1 lead. That was awkward to say the least. Nevertheless, I spoke to them briefly, and asked how Brandon was feeling. “Good” he responded. That was all he said to me, but he didn’t need to say more. I knew he was filled with joy that I had expressed concern about his injury. Perhaps he was turned off by the fact that it was the one day I chose to wear a San Diego Padres hat to work (trying to superstition the A’s back into some wins), or maybe I just give off a creepy vibe. Either way, it was cool to see him out and about after the horror that had taken place before.
I wish Brandon McCarthy nothing but the best, and not just because he’ll now have ample opportunity to shut down the Giants. He’s a good man, and he deserves nothing but the best. We’ll always have a place in our baseball hearts for him and Amanda, they’ll always be a part of the A’s family no matter where baseball takes them.