Can the Oakland A’s Win the AL West?

Although the game is under protest by the Oakland A’s and manager Bob Melvin, as it stands now, the LA Angels own a 4-3, 10th inning walk-off win against their division rivals. This translates to an 80-53 record for the Angels and a two-game lead over the A’s at 78-55.

The game is under protest due to a ninth inning obstruction call that went against Oakland and was upheld by umpire Greg Gibson and crew chief Gerry Davis. Howie Kendrick collected the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the 10th off A’s reliever Ryan Cook (1-2).

The A’s did put up quite a fight in the game, typical of their outstanding season. After struggling through the first three innings, staff ace Sonny Gray retired the next 12 batters to finish with seven innings, allowing three runs off six hits and three walks. Gray’s season record is an impressive 13-7 with 3.03 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 178 innings pitched.

But the A’s are struggling as a team since the All Star break. They are 19-19 since the break and have lost 11 of their last 17. The A’s still maintain a 5-1/2 game lead on the top Wild Card spot over Detroit and Seattle. LA has won seven of ten and appear to be the hot team right now, although the loss of staff ace Garrett Richards could diminish their chances of staying on top.

Although the acquisition of starter John Lester from Boston has certainly improved the A’s pitching staff and their team overall, the loss of Yoenis Cespedes has hurt the offense. In 24 games with the Red Sox, Cespedes is batting .280 with four doubles, four home runs and 20 RBI’s. Although not staggering numbers by any stretch, the A’s could use his bat right now.

Derek Norris is leading the team offensively with a .270 BA. Josh Donaldson is leading in power numbers with 26 homers and 88 RBI’s, but is only batting .255. The offense will have to pick it up in September to support the pitching staff if they want to challenge the Angels for the AL West crown.

Grading the Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes Blockbuster Trade for Both Teams

The MLB trade deadline is only hours away, and the first blockbuster deal of this season has been agreed upon.

As first reported by Alex Speier of WEEI 93.7 FM in Boston, the Oakland Athletics have traded Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedesand a competitive balance pick to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for starting pitcher Jon Lester, outfielder Jonny Gomes and cash considerations. Who do you think got the better deal? What grades would you give to each team?

Watch as B/R’s Lead MLB Columnist Scott Miller grades the trade for both teams involved.

Red Sox Trade Jon Lester for A’s Yoenis Cespedes

After weeks of speculation, debate, and anticipation, the Red Sox finally moved Jon Lester in a trade that will reshape the current major league roster. On the morning of the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline, the Sox shipped Lester (along with Jonny Gomes and cash) to Oakland in exchange for two-time reigningHome Run Derby Champion (and outfield cannon holder) Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 Competitive Balance Round B draft pick. While it is sad to see a player such as Jon Lester go, the return for him is substantial, as is the chance that the Red Sox could make a run at bringing Lester back in free agency following the season.

This trade represents a slight surprise to most fans due to the fact that all trade talk involving Lester up to this point suggested that the Red Sox were seeking several high-level prospects for Lester, as opposed to established major leaguers. In hindsight, a return such as this should have been expected, since it would be hard for any opposing general manager to justify trading multiple high-impact prospects for two months of Lester’s services. But in getting Cespedes, Ben Cherington filled one of the Red Sox’ most glaring needs: an outfield bat that can hit in the middle of the lineup. The Red Sox’ offensive struggles have been well documented in 2014, and the outfield has been a key contributor (or non-contributor). To this point in 2014, Cespedes brings a .256/.303/.464 triple-slash, good for a .332 wOBA and 113 wRC+. While these numbers on their surface may make Cespedes seem like a relatively unimpressive player, other stats such as his .208 ISO and .278 BABIP suggest that there is room for improvement in his game. This is all to say nothing of the effect playing all of your home games at the Coliseum can have on one’s offensive numbers. When taking into context Cespedes’s career numbers (in addition to the fact that he will not turn 29 until October), it is not unreasonable to think that he could put up a line closer to his rookie season in 2012 (.292/.356/.505) with a full season’s worth of home games at Fenway Park.

The deal also makes a great deal of sense from the Red Sox’ standpoint. Since the Red Sox were not going to be able to work out a new contract with Lester before the offseason anyway, it is prudent for them to get a valuable piece back before they make another attempt to sign him long-term. They helped their own cause in trading him to Oakland because the A’s operate on one of the lowest payroll budgets in the game and there is no chance they would enter the free agent bidding for Lester. This way, the team can go into free agency with Lester in essentially the same exact position they would have been in had they kept him, where they will most likely have to pay close to full market value. Needless to say it would be a major haul if Lester ended up coming back to Boston. But even if Lester were to sign elsewhere, the Red Sox would still come out with a power-hitting outfielder who could potentially be signed long-term despite being eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. By that time, the Red Sox will have most of their largest contracts off of the books (Stephen Drew, John Lackey, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Edward Mujica, and possibly Koji Uehara will each have their contracts expire by the end of the 2015 seaosn) and will likely have many young players assuming prominent roles while making close to league minimum. This will free up a great deal of money to be spent on top of their game players such as Cespedes. In addition, the draft pick the Red Sox receive from the A’s will give them similar value to the one they would have gotten had Lester stayed and rejected a qualifying offer after the season.

Lester was a fan favorite in Boston and it is tough to see him wear another uniform after all he has accomplished with the Red Sox. We wish him luck in Oakland, but by no means is the door closed on a potential return to Boston. This could very well not be the last time we see Jon Lester wearing white in Fenway, just the last time for now.

What’s Next For A-Rod?


MLB Commissioner Bud Selig finally announced the news Monday afternoon that everyone was waiting for. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be suspended through the end of the 2014 season. However, in a slightly different twist that what was expected, A-Rod’s suspension does not officially start until Thursday, thus making the length of the suspension 211 games. It looks like Selig moved the start date to Thursday to force A-Rod’s hand on an appeal, as a player has three days to file an appeal once the suspension is announced.

So, what’s next for A-Rod? Well, it is plainly obvious he is going to file an appeal on the ruling. MLBPA head Michael Weiner has already stated that Rodriguez has the full support of the union behind him. “We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement,” said Weiner in a statement. “Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously. We must revisit the JDA’s confidentiality provisions and consider implementing stricter rules for any breach.” Once Rodriguez files his appeal, a hearing with an arbitrator must take place within 20 days. Then, the arbitrator has 25 days from the hearing to give his decision.

It is possible that A-Rod can be eligible to play for the Yankees for as long as 45 days from today. It is more likely that they will have him for a month, give or take a few days. Once the arbitrator, Frederic Horowitz, makes his decision, A-Rod will then have to start serving his suspension immediately (unless, by miracle of miracles, Horowitz throws the suspension out completely. ) If Horowitz upholds the entire suspension length, then A-Rod will see that suspension last into the 2015 season.

Today, Rodriguez is officially in the lineup for the Yankees for the first time this season. He is batting 4th tonight and playing third base against the Chicago White Sox. He is playing his first game of the season on the same day he was given the longest suspension ever handed down in MLB for performance enhancing drugs. On the day he was acknowledged as the biggest cheat in major league baseball history, he is going to go out and try to play his first MLB game since last year’s playoffs. Needless to say, it is going to be an absolute freakshow tonight!

I have a hard time believing that A-Rod will be able to deal with the extremely negative crowd reactions he is going to get over the coming weeks (both home and away) as well as the intense media spotlight that will be following him. While he, unlike any other athlete perhaps in history, seems to adore and embrace drama, it just seems like what is sure to come will be too much, even for him. On top of that, all of this negative attention is going to be grating from the outset on his teammates, coaches and manager. Is he really going to go through with this?

Long term, once the appeal is over and the arbitrator decides, A-Rod is going to have to sit-out a long time. Considering that MLB was ready to hand down a lifetime ban to A-Rod, as well as go through the courts by circumventing the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA), it seems highly unlikely that an arbitrator is going to reduce any of Rodriguez’s suspension. Apparently, Selig feels very confident that A-Rod is a repeat offender and tampered with the investigation, and that he could justify a lifetime ban under the ‘best interests of baseball’ clause. Therefore, by sticking to the JDA’s provisions and sending it before an arbitrator, Selig keeps A-Rod away from the court system.

A-Rod will be out until sometime in 2015, once the appeal process is over. He’ll see how much he is hated by the MLB fanbase over the next few days. He is going to see vitriol unlike any we’ve ever seen directed at a player. I think, once he’s done playing in these games before the suspension is handed out, he is going to not want to deal with it again. The only reason he wants to play now and in the future is because he is owed a LOT of money by the Yankees.

Basically, I foresee A-Rod looking to come to an agreement with the Yankees on the remaining years on his contract. Knowing he is already going to lose roughly $35 million over his suspension, he is still going to want to get some of that remaining $60 million that the Yankees will have to pay him through 2017. I just think he is going to approach New York, perhaps within the next few days, and request a portion of that remaining contract to walk away for good. Reports are out that he’d already tried to do this with the Yankees prior to the suspension being announced, so why wouldn’t he do this now that it is official?

The Yankees and A-Rod are going to go through their divorce, one way or another. Reaching a settlement seems to be the best case scenario for all involved. New York was praying that Selig would go through with his lifetime ban and give them a $100 million windfall. That didn’t happen, but it looks like they will get out of paying A-Rod $35 million. If they can get out of paying him maybe another $30 million more, I think they’ll jump at that opportunity. Now they just have to wait for A-Rod to tire of the drama and do the right thing for both of them.


Matt Garza Gets Into Twitter Fight With Another Player’s Wife


Matt Garza had been in the news all through July due to him being one of the biggest prizes on the trade market. He continued to see media coverage when he was shipped to Texas and had an excellent first pitching performance for them. Today, he is in the news for getting into a Twitter fight with an Oakland A’s player and his wife. Yes, that last sentence is serious.

Why did Garza get into it on Twitter with Eric Sogard and his wife, Kaycee? Apparently, Garza was angry that Sogard bunted home a run in a close game on Saturday. For some reason, Garza felt it wasn’t appropriate, that Sogard shouldn’t have done it. I guess it violated one of baseball’s ‘unwritten’ rules, or something. Garza had some words for Sogard while they crossed paths on the field after the bunt. Obviously, he was still steaming about it Saturday night when he took to Twitter to vent his feelings.

If you want to see a screenshot of his tweets, you can go here. Basically, he let out his inner misogynist and railed a bunch on Kaycee Sogard. As you can see in just the handful of tweets in the screenshot, he comes across as a first-rate d-bag and he-man woman hater. He directed a lot of vitriol via the tweets at both of the Sogards, questioning Eric Sogard’s manhood and telling Kaycee to stay out of it because she’s a woman. All of this because the man laid down a squeeze bunt in a close game.

I still don’t even understand what Garza is mad about. The game wasn’t a blowout when Sogard bunted. The A’s were up by one run at the time and it was anyone’s ballgame. Sogard was just doing what he thought was necessary to help ensure the team won that day. Did Garza think he was being ‘shown up?’ If he did, I’m not sure why he’d think that. Was Garza not aware of the score and thought he was down by 6 runs? It really is a headscratcher why he took such great offense to it and spent the better part of a Saturday night ranting on Twitter.

This is another perfect example of why athletes should probably stay away from Twitter and other social media outlets. It is true; Twitter and Facebook are ways to interact with fans and to knock down some barriers when it comes to access. However, we see time and time again players posting things that they instantly regret and have to explain. It also makes public things that are usually better said privately. Garza won’t be the last one to make an idiot of himself on Twitter