Former Oakland Athletics Taking One For the Team

Ray YockeContributor IJuly 9, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 27: Milton Bradlery #21 of the Chicago Cubs warms-up before a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 27, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

If you're reading this and you've played for the Oakland Athletics at any point in your life, you may want to begin some emergency preparations.

Board up the windows, grab the non-perishables, and head to the nearest underground bunker, because A's alumni are dropping like flies at the moment. The current Athletics have been sinking since Opening Day, but even players more than a decade removed from Oakland are running into hard times.

Jose Canseco got beat up. Troy Neel is in jail. And A.J. Hinch is stuck managing the Diamondbacks, which might be worst of all.

Former A's still playing in the big leagues have also been hit, yet they've somehow managed to find a positive in all this. Despite having poor luck as individuals, most of them are playing for winning teams this summer.

Lucking into undeserved summer success is typically reserved for Jerry Bruckheimer, but several Oakland castaways have followed his lead.

In the tight AL West race, the only thing clear at the moment is that Oakland has no chance. Picking one of the remaining horses in this race is no fun for A's fans, but two factors make Texas a logical choice: they're managed by Ron Washington, and they’re not the Angels.

The people’s choice for the A's manager spot back in 2007, Washington has never seemed to be on solid footing with Rangers management. But if he can keep Mike Scioscia’s whining Angels in his rear-view mirror this season, he’ll finally get to taste the postseason.

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Over in the AL East, former Athletic Mark Kotsay is all but assured of reaching the playoffs with Boston, despite having enough surgeries to qualify as Eric Chavez’s medical sensei.

Kotsay is one of 46 part-time specialists on the Red Sox, who at this very moment have a team of statisticians working to identify Boston’s most effective bullpen catcher. Once they’re finished, the Red Sox will take any leftover money from the study and burn it in front of the Coliseum to taunt Billy Beane.

Meanwhile on the senior circuit, the Wild Card lead and a former A's ace both belong to Oakland's neighbors to the west.

When Barry Zito joined the Giants' cast three years ago, he apparently did so with the understanding that he’d be playing the part of Russ Ortiz. Once a rising star in Oakland, Zito has been reduced to an afterthought with the Giants, overshadowed by teammates with names Vince McMahon couldn’t have dreamt up (The Freak, The Big Unit, Kung-Fu Panda).

To the east, Zito's old partner-in-crime is at the center of a medical phenomenon. Tim Hudson underwent Tommy John surgery back in July 2008, and there’s been an outbreak of the injury among Oakland pitchers ever since.

Assuming Hudson isn't contagious and he's allowed to return soon, he'll join Atlanta in trying to catch the Phillies, who are pulling away from their rivals thanks to Joe Blanton and his 4.69 ERA.

In the NL Central, Milwaukee is only two games behind the St. Louis Pujols, despite dragging an anchor shaped like Jason Kendall. Kendall lost his bat somewhere in 2004, yet he’s threatening to play for his fourth playoff team in four years. Explain that one, Bill James.

Nipping at Milwaukee’s heels are the Chicago Cubs, who employ several former A’s:

- Ted “Theodore” Lilly, the tragic star of Oakland's game three playoff loss to Boston in 2003.

- Rich Harden, who lost that game in 2003, and has somehow been worse than both Zito and Blanton this season.

- Milton Bradley, who's always good for a controversy or 12.

In just half a season, Uncle Milton has already found the time to throw a live ball into the stands, get booed at home, and engage in the least-surprising player-manager fight in baseball history.

Bradley was born under a black cloud, while the A's fortunes took a turn for the worse once they traded him in early 2007. Ordinarily, the Cubs might worry about Bradley having a similar effect on their team, but they've been dealing with bad luck since the Dark Ages.

But just to be sure, they might want to make sure Lilly and Harden don't start any must-win games in this year’s playoffs.

The Oakland Sports Examiner, new columns every Tuesday and Thursday.

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