The 2011 Oakland A’s are at a very pivotal crossroads halfway through the season. The deficiencies are obvious, and the problems are many.
At the half-way point of the 2011 season, the A’s own a disappointing 39-53 record, 12.5 games behind AL West leader Texas. And to add insult to injury, they are currently riding a four-game losing streak and are quickly sinking—not only in the rankings, but also farther and farther from the playoff picture.
The first and most basic question is: Why?
The simple and most obvious answer would be the lack of star power and offensive weapons. Prior to the All-Star break, the A’s were swept by the Texas Rangers and were shut out 11 times through 81 games. This is not how you challenge for a pennant and try to pack the seats of a deserted O.Co Coliseum.
The first half of the season has been frustrating for fans and players alike. Many sports “talking heads” picked Oakland not only to win the AL West, but also to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006, when they were swept in the ALCS.
But due to defensive lapses at critical times, the glaring lack of production up and down the batting order and the inability to put teams away, this seems to be the “same old A’s.”
Yes, the “same old A’s” are seemingly regressing and their season streaks of winning four, losing 10 and winning six are easily proof that this team is merely put on the field to “show up,” not to contend.
Let’s be honest, the powers that be and A's ownership would rather be playing in packed stadiums in Fremont or San Jose. But the rub is that unless owner Lew Wolff loosens the financial restraints and allows GM Billy Beane to pay for players that can produce and help this team win, the glass and the stadium will always be “half full.”
Make no mistake, a large portion of the blame can be placed on Wolff and Beane, but at the end of the day it is the player that must go out and make contact with the ball and make those routine catches and throws.
This Oakland lineup is anemic at best, and that is being kind. The current Oakland squad ranks 28th overall in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage—only the Padres and Mariners trail them.
Offseason acquisitions like Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui and David DeJesus have offered very little bang for their buck, with Willingham ranking 63rd overall in RBI with 44. The scariest part is that he is far and away the team leader with 11 home runs to go along with those RBI.
Both Matsui and DeJesus have offered up their best Houdini impersonations, collecting crucial hits at times and then disappearing for the majority of others.
As the second half of the season begins, so do the speculations of exactly when and how this Oakland team will turn it around. There are no players from this squad that stand out offensively that could be used in a trade to acquire a big-name player and bat that could help energize this team.
The only thing left would be to dip into the bullpen and start dismantling the only bright spot on this team, ruining any chance to save an already disappointing season. It is the pitching staff that has kept Oakland in games night in and night out.
With several starters hurt and unable to audition for other teams, the A’s are left dangling with names like Balfour, Fuentes and Bailey. Of the three, only Bailey would stir any interest. Balfour has been solid, but Fuentes has done little to win over the Oakland fans—or any games for that matter.
The bright side is that the A’s cannot fall any farther than they already have. Being in last place of your division and 12.5 games behind can only motivate the players and executives to dig down—really deep down—and surge forward in an attempt to resurrect a season on the brink of disaster.
The clock is ticking on this Oakland A’s squad and something desperately needs to be done before time and the season run out.