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Black Smoke Days
2005-04-21 10:32
by Ken Arneson

I watched last night's A's-Mariners game with an odd feeling of detachment. I think I only yelled at the TV twice last night, which is probably a record low for me in a loss.

Once, of course, was when Eric Byrnes dove for a ball with the bases loaded and let three runs score instead of one. The other was when Eric Chavez struck out looking against Ron Villone on a borderline pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth.

I shouted out in frustration, but it's really more a matter of cursing our luck than calling it a dumb decision. Each Eric had a difficult choice to make between being aggressive and passive. Byrnes was trying to preserve a tie. Chavez was trying to drive in a run with a walk. You can't really call it a bonehead decision. In each case, though, the decision didn't work out, and it cost the A's the game.

On the other hand, I didn't yell at all when Barry Zito gave up a grand slam to Bret Boone. Zito came out in the first inning and pitched with as much precision as I do, which is to say, none at all. He wasn't even getting close to the strike zone, missing by about a foot with any type of pitch he threw. It was inevitable that he would eventually miss in the middle of the plate. You could see it coming several batters in advance.

Zito corrected his mechanics in the second inning, and pitched a good game the rest of the way. But a sense of resignation came over me as a result of that first inning.

This sense of resignation was not just about the game, but about this team. Emotionally, I finally grasped that we're in a sort of interregnum, where one team hasn't quite fully abdicated, and the new team hasn't quite taken over.

The king is dead. Long live somebody, we don't know who.

Zito and Byrnes were the subjects of all kinds of trade rumors this winter, and survived them all. But I don't get the sense that they're here for the long haul. Every time Zito coughs up a homer, or Byrnes misplays a fly ball, or Scott Hatteberg grounds out to second base, I think to myself, "That's the old team failing. I want to see what the new team can do."

Black smoke pours out the pipe. We know that at some point, who knows when, a cloud of white will take its place, signaling the true start of a new era. In the meantime, the process runs its course. Filled with anxiety, trying our best to be patient, we watch and wait.

2005-04-22 16:50:11
1.   Vishal
i don't know if i like eric chavez "wanting" to drive in a run with a walk. he certainly can be quite effective if he makes use of that bat on his shoulder when he's up there. even if that pitch was borderline, that means it was pretty close either way, and with two strikes chavez has to at least foul it off and get one he likes better. if he was fooled, that's one thing, but chavez didn't swing at one pitch the entire at-bat! he's supposed to be our slugger; in that situation i think he ought to be up there looking to drive in some runs, and if he has to take a walk because they're pitching him too delicately, then he'll settle for it. but he shouldn't be up there looking for the walk. the lack of confidence/aggressiveness he's been showing lately is really disheartening. it's like he doesn't want the responsibility of anchoring the lineup, even though he's got the ability. i'm probably reading too much into it, though.

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