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Can’t stand the standings

by Matt Smith

As you may have noticed, my opportunities for writing regularly about MLB have been more limited this season than usual for various reasons.

What hasn’t helped through it all has been the poor performances by my chosen team, the Oakland A’s. The MLB regular season is a long journey and when the team you support is on a road to nowhere in a given year, breaking down every few miles and dropping cherished bits (i.e. trading away players) along the way, sometimes you just want to fall asleep and hope that it’s all over when you wake up.

There have been some fantastic stories in MLB in 2016, with more to come as the play-off races head to a conclusion and the post-season begins, but if your morale is low then there’s always a chance to turn each good story into a reason to add to the gloom.

Take the Chicago Cubs. Their magic number for play-off qualification sits at seven heading into Sunday’s games and, after their unexpected post-season run last year, are favourites to make it to the World Series.

Seeing the ‘lovable losers’ in such great shape is brilliant for baseball, but as an A’s fan I watch Addison Russell demonstrating why Oakland selected him in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft, see Jon Lester spinning seven score-less innings against the Astros on Friday, and even Chris Coghlan getting a couple of key hits on Monday against the Brewers, and can’t help but think of ‘what might have beens’.

To most people, the big story from Saturday – Rich Hill being taken out of the game after seven perfect innings – was a classic chance to second guess a manager, the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts in this case. To me, it was another case of seeing someone who was wearing the green and gold earlier this season performing outstandingly well for a team looking towards the play-offs. To save you looking it up, the A’s have just been mathematically eliminated from the AL West race with over three weeks of the regular season to go.

However, in a lost season when hope is in short supply, even a hardened pessimist can end up with a smile on their face. Whilst Hill looks like being a good rental for the Dodgers for the rest of this season before he becomes a free agent, Jharel Cotton – one of the players the A’s got back from LA in the Hill-Josh Reddick trade – made his Major League debut for Oakland in a day-game on Wednesday and was terrific.

Cotton earned a win against the Angels with 6.1 innings of work and the standing ovation he received as he walked from the mound – loud despite there being less than 12,000 in attendance – was enough to warm even the most cynical heart. The prospect reports show that he doesn’t project to be a front-line starter, but it’s always fun to watch a player achieve his dream of becoming a Big Leaguer and hopefully Cotton can develop into a steady back-of-the-rotation guy.

Watching the A’s take a 14-3 pounding from Seattle last night wasn’t quite so much fun and I can’t help but grimace every time I look at the AL West standings (although a 60-81 record with our roster is probably easier to take than the Angels’ marginally better 62-79 whilst wasting Mike Trout’s unmatched excellence yet again).

Yet baseball is for life, not just one season. You can’t enjoy the good days without going through the bad ones.

Just ask Cubs fans (although if you’re an A’s fan you’ll want to walk away if they start talking about Addison Russell).

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