Can the Athletics Take Advantage of a Clean Slate?

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Dunn could see his first career playoff game with the Athletics but he needs to forget the past and make the best of the day. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics, as of late, are pretty bad. After 14 consecutive winning months, they are looking at their second straight losing month and lost any chance at a 90 win season with last night’s loss against the Rangers. They haven’t had a three game winning streak since August 9 and haven’t had a four game streak since July 8 (which was a 6 game streak). Their run production is down, their errors are up, they are plagued with injuries and they’ve gone from the team destined to win the World Series to the team that only got to the playoffs because everyone else sucked a little bit more.

To call where the Athletics are going “the playoffs” is also a bit of a stretch. They’re not going to a division series or a championship series, they’re going to a wild card game. A one-shot, wham bam thank you ma’am game where the winner moves on and the loser goes home for four months. This isn’t a playoff game, it’s extra innings.

There are some benefits to the wild card game, though. For starters, it gives the Athletics a chance to redeem themselves and be rewarded for the tremendous job they did for the first four months of the season and it also cleans the slate for the team that has been wallowing in self pity for seven weeks.

Every player on the team will tell reporters that the team just needs to put today’s loss behind them and win tomorrow but it’s impossible to imagine that they’re not depressed over their recent woes. They knew what was at stake from day one and they know what they’ve done to put their greatest season in two decades in grave jeopardy. To think that these emotions and distractions don’t affect a player is ignorant. Sure, they’re pros, but they’re also humans who want to do a good job, succeed and give the fans something to cheer for. A clean slate is exactly what they need.

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A clean slate, though, is meaningless if the Athletics don’t capitalize on it. They need to embrace the wild card game as game 1 and not game 163. They need to forget the fact that they’ve lost 15 games in the first 25 days of September. They need to forget the drama of “the trade” and not worry about the fact that they haven’t hit a home run in four games. They need to focus on the game and doing what they do best, playing fun, relaxed baseball.

If you go through the schedule since August 1st, the A’s have won 3 of 5 and 4 of 7 a couple of times so, even with their struggles, it is not out of the realm of possibility that they can succeed in the post season. Where they struggle most is rebounding from losses. Since August 1st, the Athletics have only had six single-game losing “streaks”. They have lost two in a row only once and have lost three or more consecutive games six times. You cannot win the playoffs with three game losing streaks. Well, technically you could win a best of 7 but it’s hard to imagine a team without a four game streak since the all star break busting out against one of the best teams in baseball. Oh, what a story that would be.

I don’t put a lot into momentum. If momentum were as important as some commentators would have you think, the Rangers would be 0-23 in September instead of the 13-10 (with 12 of those coming in the past 13 games) that they are now and the A’s would have come out of the all star break with a 15 game winning streak. There are just too many variables that go into each game to put any real weight on momentum. So, we scratch momentum out of the equation, since the Athletics have none, and zero out everyone’s records and it’s like day one of the season all over again. If the Athletics are going to be successful in the post, they have to think of it as the start of a new season, not the continuation of this one. Clean slate.

There are three games left in this season. If the Athletics can take all three, they’ll clinch a wild card berth (their magic number is down to 2) and be a contender for home field advantage but Kansas City will have to lose at least two games for that to happen. The Athletics need to make the best of this situation, thank the baseball gods that they performed well enough early on to sustain them through this disastrous streak and completely forget everything that has happened leading up to this game. There never was a Cespedes, there never was an all star break, there never were injuries, there never were errors on the field. This is a fresh start where none of the other stuff even matters.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life and I’m feeling good.

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