Slap Hitter: Independence A's

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The 4th of July traditionally has been the day the measuring stick of knowing where your ball club is in the pennant chase. The A's could have used any kind of stick this spring. The locals have the lowest slugging percentage in the baseball universe, the weakest batting average in the American League and score less often than a Strat-o-matic commissioner. Today, we grant you the freedom to care.

This doesn't mean A's fans, that you won't read the day's wrap up, or follow the fire sale trades that will at least warm up July a bit, it just means that you no longer have to focus on the fate of the 2009 Oakland A's.

We're too far back to matter, with no individual performance worthy of post-season mention. The season will be one glove clapping from here on out. Unless we're playing a wild card contender, the Athletics are teamona non grata. Sounds dreadful, but in the same way that separating from Mother England was a pain, there are some benefits as well.

We are now free from the tyranny of following minor league transactions, of knowing who's pitching when in the weekend series, of remembering if we're home or on a road trip, of having to plan for getting tickets (if we remember that they're home) and just wander up to the ballpark any old time we can ("Is there a game today? Sounds pretty quiet. Oh, yeah, here is a scalper, like that guy's going to make any money this summer..."). And then there are the benefits of independence: We can follow the rest of the major league. Did you notice Albert Pujols has 30 homeruns? Wait, there goes another, 31. We can enjoy the agony of the Giants, who will fall just short this season, and then spend the off-season pounding themselves on the back, convinced they're one big bat away from Nirvana, knowing that that ain't going to happen. And it gives you freedom to be an A's bystander rather than a fanatic. So be happy when we win two in a row, thrill to an unexpected day when you can have a row of the Coliseum seats to yourself, gently heckling both our guys and their guys.

Doesn't sound like much to celebrate? Better take advantage anyway. By the time the next holiday rolls around on Labor Day, our magic number will be 2010.— Kibby Kleiman

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