I did not get to watch this weekend’s Oakland Athletics series versus the Kansas City Royals and I have not given much attention to the whole beanball debacle. What I did notice, however, was that a team with playoff aspirations — and all the motivation in the world — seemed to lay down and accept defeat from those who didn’t deserve to win.
Call me a homer. Flood my inbox with hate mail. Really say anything you want about my opinions, Royals fans. Kelvin Herrera went out of his way to perpetuate the feud these two teams share, even at the risk of severe bodily injury.
What Brett Lawrie did on Friday was a mistake. I don’t buy for one second that he slid into second base with the sole intention of injuring Alcides Escobar. Was it a dumb decision to do a take-out slide in that situation? Absolutely. Was it a sinister move intended only to injure another player? Not at all.
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Lawrie and the Athletics missed a huge opportunity, though. Throughout the weekend Lawrie acted as he should have. He took his hit-by-pitch like a man and walked to first base. He didn’t do anything more to further the conflict. On Sunday, however, when he dodged two missiles from Herrera, then popped out on a 3-0 pitch in the same at-bat he gave all the momentum to the opponent.
Instead of trying to play the hero and drill a 3-0 fastball for extra bases, Lawrie should have worked a base-on-balls and taken his base. He should have let his teammates pick him up and bring him around to score, not try to knock the cover off the ball.
With a 2-1 lead at that point in the game the Athletics didn’t have the win locked up, but it was looking like they’d easily be able to take the game and the series.
I love a lot of things about the 2015 Athletics, but one big difference between this team and the teams of the past two years that became apparent this weekend: the 2015 Oakland Athletics lack fight.
In August of 2013 when Texas starter Matt Garza showed great disgust for Eric Sogard’s bunt the team rallied behind Sogard and kicked Garza’s tail. In June of 2014 when Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado became Oakland’s most wanted with his immature antics the team stepped up, took two games of the three game series, and Josh Donaldson did something I’ll never forget.
After the initial altercation between Donaldson and Machado (I won’t recount the events, we all know what happened) Donaldson was hit by a Wei-Yin Chen pitch. In an effort to get his teammates fired up Donaldson pointed to where he was struck, gestured to his dugout, and flipped his bat to the ground, as if to say, “Let’s go boys. Make him pay.”
Do you know what happened? The A’s came from behind to win the game in the 11th inning, then won the series finale two days later.
This past weekend that didn’t happen. Is it because the team didn’t stand behind Lawrie when he was plunked, twice? I would highly doubt it.
Something is missing, however, from the makeup of this team. And that needs to change quickly.