Minor Inconveniences
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-20 23:30

Hey, so remember six days ago when we had a brownout so I went out to my car and cranked up the radio and listened to the A’s game? Well, maybe that wasn’t my greatest idea, because I didn’t drive my car at all after that for five days because, you know, you’re supposed to stay home because of all the pandemics and bad air quality and stuff, and so when my wife went to start the car yesterday to go run an errand, the car battery was almost completely out of juice, and it wouldn’t start.

I have a car battery recharger thingy that I’ve had in my garage since, well, I don’t know, I can’t remember where I even got it from. I’d guess I inherited it from my dad, who passed away 23 years ago. This was the first time I’d ever used it. I took it out of its faded and warped cardboard box, and the dang thing was pristine, not a scratch or a dent or a smudge on it. For all I know, it may be the first time it had ever been taken out of that box.

I read the instructions and connected it up to the car battery, and let it start recharging the car battery. I thought it would take an hour or three to finish, but it was more like six or seven hours, and by the time the indicator light went on saying that it was done, it was almost midnight. I disconnected the charger, started the car to make sure it worked, then closed up shop and went to bed.

So this morning, I had some errands to run, but I didn’t really trust my car battery to work, and I didn’t want to get stuck in some parking lot somewhere needing help to jump my car, when the air quality was unhealthy and a pandemic is going on, so I started up my car and drove it to my in-laws’ house, parked my car there, borrowed their car to run my errands, and then went back and swapped cars again, and drove our car back home.

None of which is of any particular consequence in the big scheme of things, except for noting that all the little minor inconveniences that we have to deal with on a normal day in a normal year in a normal life, feel so much more bizarre and surreal in a bizarre and surreal year.

A’s first base coach Mike Aldrete missed today’s A’s game because his home is apparently near one of the ten gazillion wildfires burning in the state of California at this time, and he needed to be home to handle that problem.

The rest of the A’s weren’t immune from that problem either, as when the game started, the air quality around the Coliseum was registering in the 100-150 AQI range, which is designated as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”. By the end of the game, it had climbed over 150 into the “Unhealthy” range. If you ask me, I think they should have postponed the game at that point, like you would in a rainout. But I kind of don’t think the idea even crossed their minds, as even though they keep saying bullshit like “the health of our employees is our top priority”, it clearly isn’t because this being the last game in the season between these two teams, nobody wanted to have to deal with the logistics of how to finish this game on another date. So maybe they should be honest and say, “Logistics is our top priority, but the health of our employees is probably somewhere in our top ten list of priorities, and almost certainly in our top twenty.”

Putting aside whether they should be playing at all, (a major theme running through the season) this was a very enjoyable episode of A’s baseball. In this 5-1 victory over Arizona, Matt Chapman hit two monster homers to the second deck in left field, and Matt Olson hit a home run, as well. And perhaps most importantly, Khris Davis hit the ball hard three times, once to left, once to center, and once to right. All season up until now it has seemed that Davis has been trying to pull every pitch for a home run, but in the last two games he has played, he has shown signs of coming out of that, of hitting the ball hard in the direction the pitch lets him hit it. If he can keep doing that, and he can get back to the great hitter he was from 2015 to 2018, the A’s offense might become a juggernaut.

And then there’s Sean Manaea. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, but honestly, I don’t know how he did it. He only had good velocity in the first inning. After that, his fastball was mostly 88-89mph, and so far this year, as soon as his fastball has dropped below 90mph, usually around the 4th inning, he’s started getting hit hard. But this time, it dropped below 90mph in the second inning, and he kept getting outs. I suppose it helped a lot that he was able to locate his offspeed pitches well.

Manaea is starting to remind me a lot of Barry Zito. When Zito first came up, his fastball was in the 90s, and his curveball and changeup were so good as well that whether or not he was locating his pitches, he could get batters out. But then the fastball began to lose velocity, falling into the upper 80s, and Zito became more inconsistent. On the days when is command wasn’t right, or one of his pitches wasn’t working, he became much more hittable. Instead of a dominant pitcher who could win a Cy Young, he turned into more of a .500 pitcher, who could dominate on his good days, but also struggle mightily on his bad days, and it all added up to something mediocre.

This was a good day for Manaea, but I am still not confident that today’s Manaea is the new, real Manaea. I think that unless that Manaea can somehow get that velocity back for good, the real Manaea is this mediocre Manaea who has his good days and his bad days, depending on his command, and you’re never sure which one you’re going to get from start to start.

It’s a short season. Do the A’s have the time and patience to figure out what they have in Manaea? The trade deadline is in 10 days. Manaea should get two more starts before then. Two more pieces of data left from which to make a decision about him.

Still, the A’s are 18-8 now, and have the best record in baseball. If your biggest worry is that your fifth starter is kind of mediocre, you don’t really have the kind of major problems everyone else is having, you just have some minor inconveniences.

This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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