Oakland Athletics and Ron Washington: A Word on Errors

Apr 2, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland A
Apr 2, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland A /

I am basking in the glow of an Oakland Athletics’ victory over the San Francisco Giants.

It’s funny.  When the A’s lose at AT&T, you just shrug and say, “Awww…it’s just an exhibition game.”  But when the A’s win at the O.Co, it’s “YESSSSSS!!!! Great win!”

It was terrific to see Khris Davis crush a ball out of the park, and Matt Chapman also smashed a home run.  It was a little alarming to see Felix Doubront get pulled after 17 pitches, but Eric Surkamp had a heckuva day.  One might say, “The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades!”

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One thing that was not so bright was when Marcus Semien kicked a ball at shortstop to add to the A’s dubious distinction of Major League Baseball’s shabbiest fielding during Spring Training 2016.

First, let me say that not all errors are created equal.  Semien made up for his mistake by immediately turning an inning ending double-play.  Denard Span’s errors accounted for half the runs the A’s scored.  The A’s have “go for it” outfielders who will make spectacular plays.  And yes, they will charge – trying to make a scooping pick-up in order to nail a runner at the plate.  Sometimes it will work, and sometimes they will overrun the ball for an error.  I can live with that kind of aggressive error.

The error Semien made was on a pretty routine ground ball.  I think most fans might groan and say, “That’s a play a major league shortstop should make every time.”  But Ron Washington explained fielding to Ray Fosse on the pre-game show, and I have to say that it was incredibly enlightening for me.

In case you were wondering, I do have a Ph.D. in history from U.C. Berkeley.  I like to think of myself as mildly intelligent, and even I had a very difficult time even following Washington’s comments.  This man has made a science out of fielding the ball.

Even something as seemingly simple as the toss from the shortstop to the second baseman on a double play has an endless number of variables depending on how far from the bag you might be, or who is running to first, or how close to second your double play partner is.

Fosse tried to simplify it by talking about something general like “good footwork”. Washington jumped on that talking about striding and pointing your foot and getting the right hop and something he was calling “finding your middle balance” which makes sense, but…it was a little hard to follow.  Washington is a fount of information and he is eager to share it.  During his first stint with the A’s, he even worked with the ball boys to improve their fielding.

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This is my point.  Washington knows everything there is to know about fielding.  Not only that, he has given the topic a great deal of thought.  The learning curve with Washington is going to be very steep because he is aware of every little detail, and every little detail is crucial to success.  Plus just “knowing” something is not the same as putting it into practice.  It might take a while for Washington’s “science” to become second nature to the Athletics’ infielders.

Washington has proven himself to be a tremendous teacher.  Just ask Eric Chavez or Scottie Hatteberg.  It might take a while for everything to “click,” but when it does, the A’s defense is going to be awesome. Which means…

“The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades!”