Sep 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the seventh inning at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
It’s safe to say that you’ve heard of the trade that brought Jon Lester to Oakland and sent former A’s cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, to Boston. Many will point at this trade as the reason that the A’s offense has been struggling and also why the A’s have utterly collapsed over the past month and a half, collecting a record of just 13-26 since August 10th. Yet, what if Billy Beane is still the genius many believe him to be?
Through the first four months of the season, the Oakland Athletics dominated the baseball world, compiling a 66-41 record through July 31st. Yet, even with the A’s playing so well, they held a slim two-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels. With the Angels acquiring bullpen help in Huston Street and Jason Grilli, their major hole had been filled.
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What if the rationale behind Billy Beane’s trade for Lester was that the A’s may not be able to hold on to the AL West, and he was acquiring a contingency plan in a legitimate ace?
Without the trade, the A’s would been sending out a rotation led by Sonny Gray (4.38 ERA in August, 5.04 in September) and Scott Kazmir (7.80, 5.25). By comparison, Lester has ERAs of 2.66 and 1.55, and a wealth of postseason success. Add in Jeff Samardzija (3.92, 1.64) and Jason Hammel (2.86, 2.38) who were acquired earlier in July, and Billy Beane has put together a formidable rotation for the postseason.
Could everything have turned out different with Cespedes still in the green and gold? It’s a possibility. Yet, the 10.5 game deficit the A’s are staring at in the division would just be a smaller number, and Oakland would more than likely still be looking at the possibility of a wild card game.
The Oakland Athletics have had Yoenis Cespedes the past couple of seasons, and have failed to get out of the divisional round. The definition of insanity is to keep trying the same methods while expecting different results. Well, Billy Beane is, at the very least, not insane.
Now, the A’s have the ace they’ve been lacking for the play-in game. If they are able to muster a couple of runs against their opponent, they’ll be set up nicely to face the division champion Angels, but this time there will be more on the line.