Plot Twists
by Ken Arneson
2020-10-01 23:30

We got about five hours of happiness.

A good plot throws some unexpected curveballs at you, surprises that move the narrative in a direction you were not expecting. That’s difficult to do in a simple, straightforward story. That’s why a lot of plots actually have several subplots that get woven together. Those subplots can interact with each other, add complications and tensions with each other, to help make the story less predictable.

That’s part of the reason I decided to write a blog during this baseball season. There would be ample opportunity to talk not just about baseball, but how baseball interacts with the world at large. As it turns out, I’ve been naturally weaving five different plots together this season:

  • The A’s baseball season
  • The pandemic
  • The protests
  • The election
  • The fires/smoke

Hardly a day has gone by since I started this 2020 blog when at least two of those five elements were in play. I thought maybe, when the A’s actually finally win a playoff winner-take-all game, I could just focus on that one thing for one day.

Nope. This is 2020, dude. There’s always something, and then there’s always something else.

I became an A’s fan at the age of 8, in 1974. At the time, the A’s had just won two World Series in a row, both in seven games over their National League opponents, first the Cincinnati Reds in 1972, and then the New York Mets in 1973.

That Game 7 in 1973, just before I started paying attention to baseball, was the last time the A’s had won a winner-take-all game. I have been an A’s fan for 46 years, and not once in all those years had I seen the A’s win a winner-take-all game. They were 0-for-9.

But if the A’s were ever going to win one of these games, it was going to be this one, Game 3 of the 2020 Wild Card Series vs the Chicago White Sox. Most of the time, the A’s have ended up facing their opponent’s ace in the deciding game, and getting out-aced. Not so with the White Sox here. This is what I wrote after Game 1:

Their weakness is that they only have two really good starting pitchers, so if the A’s can somehow manage to win Game 2, they do have a chance in Game 3, because they won’t be facing the kind of mistake-free pitching that gives them such trouble.

The A’s did manage to win Game 2 holding on after a shaky bullpen performance following an excellent Chris Bassitt start. So in Game 3, with the White Sox having burned their two good starting pitchers, the A’s were going to face almost the entirety of the White Sox bullpen for most of the game. And as I’ve written before, the A’s offense gets shut down easily against good pitching, but against mediocre and bad pitching, they feast. And the White Sox bullpen isn’t deep enough to throw nine innings at a high level. At some point, the A’s were going to score.

But the White Sox plans, such as they were, got thwarted early in the game. The White Sox started RHP Dane Dunning to get the A’s to set up a lineup with a lot of left-handed bats in it, and then at the first sign of trouble in the first inning, replaced Dunning with their LH rookie sensation Garrett Crochet, who was fresh out of college, but can throw over 100mph. They planned to ride Crochet as long as possible, but Crochet came out in the second inning “only” throwing 95mph, and then departed with forearm pain. The rest of the day, the White Sox pitching usage was a pure scramble.

The A’s didn’t exactly have their ace going either, as the White Sox chew up left-handed pitching, and their best available starter was Sean Manaea, who is left handed. Their right handed options were Mike Fiers and Frankie Montas. Fiers is aging, his fastball velocity has dropped below 90mph, and he’d be a fly ball pitcher against a home run hitting team on a warm afternoon, so he would not an ideal matchup either. But the third choice is Frankie Montas, who threw over 110 pitches on Sunday, and would be on short rest. Plus, he was injured in the middle of the season, and wasn’t quite the same after returning, performing inconsistently at best, although his best start was his last one. So every option had flaws.

Fiers was completely ineffective. He managed to wiggle out of the first inning without giving up a run, but only because a couple of balls were hit hard right at fielders. In the second, he gave up the longest home run ever recorded at the Oakland Coliseum to Luis Robert. He was then replaced by Yusmeiro Petit, who has similar stuff to Fiers, and was similarly ineffective against this White Sox lineup, and yielded two runs. The White Sox led 3-0 after two innings.

But that’s where the game turned, for the rest of the game, the A’s were throwing the strength of their pitching roster out there, and the White Sox were throwing their weakness. The A’s scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to a two-run homer by Sean Murphy and a couple of bases loaded walks to give the A’s a lead 4-3. Frankie Montas came in for a couple of innings, and yielded a tying run, but was otherwise effective. Nothing was hit hard. The run was scored on a seeing-eye grounder through the infield.

In the bottom of the fifth, the A’s got something they had not gotten since the 2014 Wild Card game, five games previous: a hit with runners in scoring position! Chad Pinder singled in two runs with two outs, to give the A’s a two-run lead. The A’s bullpen then lived up to its billing as the team strength, shutting out the White Sox the rest of the game, and the A’s held on to win the game 6-4, and the series 2-1.

I immediately posted the following on Twitter:

WHAT IS THIS FEELING

In all 46 years of my baseball fandom, my favorite team had never won a winner-take-all game. Not once. Time after time, they’ve been outpitched, have failed to get the clutch hit they needed, had failed to hold onto a lead if they got one. Every possible thing that could go wrong, has gone wrong.

For once, finally, nothing went wrong. For once, finally, the breaks went the A’s way. For once, finally, the A’s won a winner-take-all game, and advanced to the next round.

For the next five hours, I was very happy. I rewatched the highlights. I listened to the radio version of the highlights. I listened to the online post game show. I felt like I was floating, like all my burdens had been lifted,

And then 2020 twisted the plot again. This was fated to be a day where the baseball plot met the politics plot met the pandemic plot.

Just before 10pm, I was hanging out on Twitter, still basking in the glow of the A’s victory, when people started quote tweeting the President. Now I have President Trump muted and blocked in every way possible, so I didn’t know exactly what was going on, so I clicked through one of the blocked tweets, and found that the President and the First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19.

Oh, crap. Holy crap.

And then it shortly thereafter became clear that an event on Saturday at the White House to welcome Supreme Court nominee Amy Comey Barrett had become a superspreader event. Lots of people gathered closely together, outdoors mind you but with very few people wearing masks, while also gathering in smaller groups indoors inside the White House.

I mean… it… sigh.

This is the single stupidest thing that’s ever happened in American politics. It’s just flat out stupid. Dumb. Idiotic. Pull out the thesaurus: unintelligent, ignorant, dense, dull-witted, mindless, foolish…

I mean: professional sports have been carrying out an experiment for you right in plain sight. What works. What doesn’t work. You have to deliberately be trying to be stupid to not know how to keep people safe in your work environment in a pandemic. But they completely failed to learn a single thing from the mistakes that pro sports have been making for them. And then they went out and made not only those mistakes, but more stupid ones as well.

Judging by the timeline, President Trump was probably infected and contagious in the debate with Joe Biden on Tuesday. He would quite easily have infected his opponent. It’s astoundingly reckless and negligent and stupid and incompetent. If Biden didn’t get infected, even if he took every precaution save wearing a mask during the debate itself, he’s quite lucky.

How the hell are these dumbshits in charge of our country?

They have had, all along, all the information they’ve needed to keep people safe, and healthy. Not just the people working in the White House, but everywhere, all across the country. They’ve had the information. And they chose, deliberately, to ignore that information. They chose, deliberately, stupidity over wisdom.

And now, the President of the United States, our Commander in Chief, is sick, and from what I understand of the symptoms that are leaking through their American Pravda, he has possibly about a 25% chance of dying from this.

I’m furious. Absolutely furious. You cannot make any country great by being deliberately stupid. A country that dumb is going to lose in the long run, because it’s going to compete with 200 other countries that aren’t being stupid on purpose.

I don’t wish ill health on anyone, so I hope these idiots recover from their moronic COVID-19 outbreak, and then get the steamrolling they deserve in the upcoming election, so that these stupid, dumbass losers can go crawl under a rock to live amongst the slimy salamanders, until the slimy salamanders get tired of their idiocy and send them whereever creatures too stupid to live under a rock get sent by furious, fed up, angry, slimy salamanders.

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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