Okay, hear me out.
Since the A's signed Yoenis Cespedes in 2012, the team was 228-131 with him in the starting lineup and 43-69 without him in the lineup, including their 15-25 record since the trade.
That's a .635 winning percentage with him vs. .384 without him. Those are, quite simply, staggering numbers. The kind of numbers that suggest that Cespedes had much more of an impact on this team than a player with a career on-base percentage of just .317.
Yes, his arm was a thing of legend. But it's not like he was sterling in the outfield. His fielding percentage and range factor are both below the league average and he actually had a -0.7 defensive WAR. Basically, he made just as many mistakes as he did mind-bending throws.
So what on earth made him so valuable to this team? And why have the A's plummeted in such spectacular fashion since they traded him?
Sure, it could be a combination of bad luck and really, really poorly timed slumps. But watching the A's game after game over this stretch of a month and a half, it's obviously more than that. This has gone from a team that would enter the ninth inning and, if they were down three runs or less, it felt like anything could happen, to a team that not only felt like any deficit was too large of a deficit, but that no lead felt safe either.
It has been the complete demoralization of the team, the fanbase, and probably Stomper too. He seems happy, but I bet he's dying inside.
This seems like more than baseball. It's been a complete tonal shift from the first half of the season when the A's sent six guys to the All-Star game and were dominating the league in such a way that their league-best record actually might have been a bit of an underachievement. How could a team that was this good suddenly, and without warning, become this bad?
It's not like they gave up Cespedes for nothing, either. Jon Lester has been every bit the ace the A's were hoping he'd be when they picked him up. In eight games with Oakland, he sports a 2.54 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 10 walks.
So it's more than just missing Cespedes' production. It's more than just a slumping offense. It's not Lester.
Maybe, just maybe, Yoenis Cespedes is magic.
Maybe just being around this team, by sheer force of will and possibly magical ability, he made everyone better.
Maybe Brandon Moss, who had just one previous season (15 games worth of a season) with an OPS above .800 before joining forces with Cespedes and having seasons of .954, .859 and .854 (before the trade) to having an OPS of .548 in August and .223 in September when Cespedes took whatever special power he had away to Boston.
The only thing (and believe me, it's the only thing) that sheds any sort of doubt on my "Cespedes is magic" theory, is that the Red Sox are just 17-23 since acquiring the slugger. Could it be that the power works both ways? Does Cespedes only magically make the A's better? Does he realize this? Could this have been used as a bargaining chip to keep him in Oakland after 2015 when it was already a foregone conclusion that the A's were never going to be able to afford him?
There are so many important questions and, it seems like, no way to get any real answers. Is Cespedes magic? Is he the special kind of magic that only works with the A's? Are the A's cursed now that Cespedes is gone? Did Cespedes curse the A's on purpose or was it merely a byproduct of his trade? How long will the curse last? Do they need to ritualistically sacrifice Eric Sogard? What would the legal ramifications of that be?
If the A's somehow pull it all together at the last minute, however unlikely that is, this will all be made moot. But until then, we all have to consider the possibility that there was nothing the A's could do once they traded away Cespedes. Because he really might be magic.
Matt is 95 percent kidding, but crazy enough to almost kind of believe this. Follow him for more insane A's takes.