Oakland Athletics – A Season of Inconsistency?

Brenna Thompson

The Oakland Athletics have undoubtedly declined in performance lately.

The team sat comfortably in first place in the AL West for months before the dark-horse Texas Rangers suddenly dethroned them. With standouts like Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler, the Rangers are seeking postseason contention after making it to the World Series in 2010.

The team as a whole is not simply going through a rough patch. It is the inability of individual players to keep their stamina up this year that has caused them to quietly slide to second.

Many Athletics have not been up to snuff since the All-Star break, a stark opposition to their stellar performance in the first half of the season.

The first struggling player who comes to mind is Yoenis Cespedes. Earlier in the season, he made headlines as the winner of the 2013 Home Run Derby, which marked the first time the victor had not also been voted into that year’s All Star Game. Cespedes seemed to epitomize the team’s aesthetic – an underdog who beat the odds. However, the left fielder let the victory relax him a bit too much. He got cocky. He stopped working hard, and it shows.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin made the decision to pull him from the starting lineup on August 25 and 29 after his poor at-bats earlier in the month. “He’s just having a little tough time right now,” Melvin said of Cespedes’s slump. “I just felt he needed a day off the way he’s been swinging the bat recently… He’s been overaggressive at times.”

The true mystery of Cespedes’ sudden decline is how sudden it came about. Before his slump, he was hitting well above league average and had knocked in an astounding 20 home runs. Now, his batting average is a modest .227, making it appear as though he is having a below-average season. It is surprising how much a few bad games can impact a player’s season record.

Take, for example, Tommy Milone. Milone, a lefty starting pitcher, had been fairly consistent for the Athletics since coming up from Sacramento.

Brought up to cover for the injured Brett Anderson, he had been in Oakland since late April, but only recently started to perform poorly. He had kept his ERA well under 5.00 until August, when it skyrocketed to 6.08, unacceptable for any respectable starter. The reason for his poor starts is unknown, as it cannot be attributed to an injury or anything of the sort. However, the justification for his performance is now a moot point, as Milone was optioned back to Triple-A Sacramento on August 28.

Now, Anderson is back and hopefully reinvigorated. If so, Milone’s potential of staying in Oakland is lowered significantly. He might have been considered to permanently take Anderson’s spot in the rotation, but his August failure was the final nail in the coffin.

Cespedes and Milone are not alone in their struggles. I would argue that the majority of the team has dropped in performance following the mid-season mark. However, all hope is not lost.

Standout players like Josh Donaldson, Kurt Suzuki and Jed Lowrie can help the Athletics get back on their feet before the playoffs. In the month of August, none of these three powerhouses are hitting below .283, and all are excelling defensively.

With the Rangers and A’s deadlocked in first place in the AL West, the Athletics will need to spur another rally reminiscent of the season’s beginning. These players must be willing to facilitate this eleventh-hour comeback. The question is, can they?