04 September 2002

It is, as they say in France, a good time to be a Bay-Area baseball fan. I'm not, having been raised on the opposite coast, but it's hard not to like what Billy Beane has done with the A's. I don't profess to be an Athletics fan in the way that I'm a Yankee fan, but if the Bronx Bombers don't win it all this year, I hope the A's beat the snot out of whomever the Senior Circuit offers up in October.

Nintendo Baseball

The Oakland A's are playing Nintendo Baseball right now. As you undoubtedly already know, they have won 19 straight games, going into tonight's, and it may be 20 by the time you read this on Thursday, as the A's currently have a 11-0 lead in the 3rd inning against the hapless Royals. Either way, it's an incredible run, unlike any seen in my lifetime (or even my mom's, who will be exactly double my age on our birthday this December). The only thing I can think to compare it to is the different video games I've played, and especially Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball for Super Nintendo. (Hey, remember when Ken Griffey was good/important enough to merit his own video game? Remember Nintendo?) Anyway, the way this game was set up, there were no givens, and you couldn't really cheat (unless you got guys on 1st and 3rd, and a catcher with a weak arm, then you could fake a double steal and pretty much steal/score at will. Also worked with bunting if a guy was on 3rd.) Anyway, the point is, if you were down by 5 runs in the ninth and things didn't go your way, you lost. However, you could just shut the game off before it had a chance to register, so you'd never record a game you didn't want to. Consequently, after having played out entire 162-game seasons with the Expos, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Braves, White Sox, Cubs, Giants, Mariners and Yankees ( I had a lot of free time during summers in college), I rarely finished a season with more than 4 or 5 losses. This allowed you to rack up really ridiculous statistical totals, such as Dennis Martinez winning 45 games for the Expos, Kevin Maas (remember Kevin Maas?) hitting 65 homers for the Yankees (back when that was uncommon), or having five starters with at least 20 wins, or eight starters with at least a .300 average. Anywho, this is what the A's are doing now. I ran a few numbers, and if you project out what the A's have done in this streak over 162 games, you get Zito and Mulder with 34-0 records, Eric Chavez with 200 RBI and slugging .660, Ray Durham with 168 runs, Billy Koch with 73 saves, etc. The point of all of this is twofold:

1) Holy cow, these guys can really play, y'know? and
2) They can't possibly keep it up. But it'll be fun to watch 'em try!

Another reason it's a pretty good time to be a Bay Area baseball fan is that the Giants are right in the thick of things in the NL West, and only 2 games out of the Wild Card standings also. They have the Best Player on the Planet, the best second baseman in the NL, a decent, if unspectacular rotation, and some serviceable, sometimes great relief pitchers. Unfortunately, they also have the likes of JT Snow, Tom Goodwin and Tsuyoshi Shinjo in their starting lineup entirely too often. So for the stretch run they picked up a little offensive help from the Cubs, on the cheap, in the form of Bill Mueller. Mueller plays third, but he's only got a .757 OPS, which is only sorta middle-of-the-pack for a National League thirdbaseman. So, the guy he would replace must be really horrendous, right? Well, the current 3B is David Bell, who has not usually hit well enough to justify keeping him as a regular 3B. You wanna guess what his OPS is right now? Yep: .757. Spooky, huh? As I understand it, they intend to use Mueller off the bench, though I'll be darned if I can figure out for whom, unless it's to spell Rich Aurilia, who's having an off year, once in a while. I guess I shouldn't expect much more from GM Brian Sabean, who once said,

"Don't talk to me about on-base percentage...that sabermetric crap gives me a headache.''

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