by Ken Arneson
2020-09-26 23:30

It’s Saturday, and there are three things impending in the upcoming week that I’m dreading:

  • The heat/fire/smoke situation
  • The presidential debates
  • The playoffs

The heat/fire/smoke situation is first on the agenda. It started to warm up a bit on Saturday, but it’s supposed to really get hot on Sunday and Monday, perhaps into the 90s in Alameda, and then stay warm the rest of the week. And when it gets hot in the Bay Area, it’s because the wind is blowing from the east instead of from the ocean to the west, which means smoke from the fires will be drifting our way and reducing the air quality.

I’m not looking forward to that because I already have experience with being locked up at home with all the curtains closed to block the hot sun from warming up the house, and with all the windows closed all night to keep out the smoke, and the inability to go anywhere else because of the pandemic, and just how stale the air in your house becomes after a week of being completely sealed, and how claustrophobic that whole combination makes you feel. It’s… bleh… gack… mlglf… auhhohghlllrrauughuhufhaughlfugh.

And yet that’s not even the strongest of my dreads because the air will eventually get better, and that problem will pass, but the other two problems may linger forever.

I know Biden is leading in the polls, and there’s a good half of the population who are solidly sick of Trump, but with that in mind, the debates which start on Tuesday, have very little upside, and a lot of downside. I don’t think Biden will win a lot of new voters in these debates, but there’s a really good chance he could screw it up.

I know what the last four years have been like, and I really cannot bear another four years of this. This country cannot afford Biden screwing this up.

But Biden isn’t exactly immune from gaffes. It’s almost part of his character to turn a simple clear statement into three incoherent paragraphs. I’m kind of grateful that the MLB playoffs start the same day, because that gives me a really good excuse not to watch the debates.

So I don’t think I can watch it live. I’ll be way too nervous. I’ll look at the highlights afterwards. I’ll watch a baseball game between two teams I don’t care about instead.

And that brings us to the playoffs, which I am also now dreading, because, like Biden, the A’s are excessively prone to gaffes, especially in the playoffs. Since the A’s last won a World Series in 1989, the A’s have played 16 games in which, if they had won, they would have advanced to the next round of the playoffs. They lost 15 of those 16 games. The one time they won, in 2006, they then got swept in the next round.

The playoffs have been nothing but painful for A’s fans. I know what that losing feels like. And after watching this doubleheader against the Mariners, where the A’s got swept by the scores of 5-1 and 12-3, I really don’t think this version of the A’s are going to do anything different. This team is built the same as so many of those other A’s teams that failed in the playoffs: full of guys who mash a bunch of home runs off mediocre pitchers in the regular season, but who also simply don’t have another gear, where they can take good pitches from the kind of good pitchers you face in the playoffs, and do something with good pitches. They’re mistake hitters, plain and simple, and in the playoffs, the pitchers don’t give you mistakes, especially in clutch, high-leverage situations.

This 2020 offense has repeatedly done nothing against good but not great starting pitchers, and then only scored runs when they get into the thin bullpens of their opponents. But in the playoffs, (a) the starters will be better and pitch longer, and (b) they won’t see the thin parts of the opponents’ bullpens, even if they have thin parts.

So I’m expecting this A’s team to completely fizz out in the playoffs. They may get some runners on base, but time after time they will fail to move those runners around to score, because they will strike out in the clutch situations where they need a hit. That’s what’s happened to them in the playoffs all throughout Billy Beane’s tenure in charge of the A’s roster, and this team looks no different at all.

Unlike the debates, however, I do plan to watch. I know the pain of the downside, and I am bracing myself for that pain. But unlike the debates, with the playoffs, there is an upside. If, by some miracle, the A’s actually do come up with that clutch hit in that clutch situation, I want to experience that joy. Because that joy is the carrot we’re reaching for when we watch this sport. There’d be no point in any of this if I let myself miss it.

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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