First off, don’t write them off until you have to. Remember that the 2021 Giants out-performed some projections by 30 wins, meaning that the 2022 A’s should be good for at least 100 wins. The only lingering question, really, is on which shelf Christian Lopes should keep his MVP trophy.
But in the off chance that Oakland continues its rebuild and/or its current personnel fail to all reach their 90th percentile outcomes in the same season, let’s look at how a fan can enjoy the season even if the adrenaline of a playoff race turns to resignation by mid-May.
Each game is a mini-season
The 162-game season, in aggregate, informs who will advance to the October tournament and who won’t. But if you zoom in, each game is its own mini-season and the A’s are most definitely contenders in each and every one. It’s one of the many things that makes baseball great: on any day any team truly has a decent chance to win.
Instead of putting each game in the context of a pennant race, just embrace each game as a ‘one game season’ and exult each time the A’s win that day’s ‘season’.
Enjoy Each Player’s Success
When Stephen Vogt lines a clutch 2-out, 2 run double to left-center to give the A’s the lead in the 8th, it doesn’t matter if it raises his season batting average to .181. We love Vogt, we love taking the lead late, and for a serene moment life is good.
Relish every one of Jed Lowrie’s terrific at bats and hope Cristian Pache is watching too. Root for Sean Murphy’s breakout from valuable player to star, knowing it could have implications on the A’s return to contention sooner, watch closely as Seth Brown tries to make 2022 his breakout season, follow Cole Irvin’s new cutter as he aims to become more than a back-end SP, drop your jaw when Eric Thames lights into one and it soars 470 feet, see who emerges as the latest unlikely closer to don green and gold.
Embrace The Youth Movement
Watching young talent can be hard, because prospects often fail before they succeed and many never succeed at all as they are exposed at the highest level of competition. But we will be seeing a glimpse of the intended ‘next core’, perhaps soonest with Cristian Pache and Kevin Smith, a bit down the road with Nick Allen and Shea Langeliers. Could Adam Oller be a sleeper who shines in 2022? Can the more familiar Dalton Jefferies and A.J. Puk establish themselves as keepers?
Young players fail a lot but they also dazzle a lot and are incredibly fun to watch when they are performing well. With the stakes being the ability to establish a core of young talent for the next several years, each success takes on more significance even if the team’s record falls short of contention.
Look For Stories
Vogt himself was a story when he emerged, as an old prospect without a single big league hit on his card, to be a key contributor to division winning teams. Brandon Moss was a similar story, coming out of obscurity into stardom. Few projections proved accurate with the 2018 A’s, who saw Edwin Jackson enjoy unexpected success, Blake Treinen have a historic season, Nick Martini bookend unremarkable seasons with a .397 OBP, and so on.
What stories might emerge in 2022? Could it be Christian Lopes, 29 years old but with impressive minor league OBPs each of the past 5 seasons? Or Dalton Kelly, still just 27 in an era where most prospects have lost 1-2 years to the pandemic and so 27 is the new 25? Both have performed well so far in camp, and before you write them off entirely remember that you also probably wrote off most of the players in the previous paragraph.
If nothing else, a couple relievers who are thrown against the wall are probably going to stick 2021-Mariners style, if only because the A’s might throw about 12 out there who have good arms and no track record of success, and besides no one ever has an idea which relievers are going to perform. Dany Jimenez has the stuff, Sam Moll is throwing harder than ever…inevitably someone’s going to emerge.
Bad baseball is, in fact, better than no baseball. This was confirmed when the pandemic stole baseball from us in April, May, June, and July of 2020 and when we were forced to stare out the window this winter waiting for a CBA.
During the season, for 3 hours each day I can forget about the ills of the world, of my life, and focus instead on riding the roller coaster of emotions that is each game.
I am grateful for baseball, and I don’t need 90 wins to enjoy it. Of course 90 wins is more fun than 70, and hope springs eternal in March, so boys: feel free to make a mockery of the results on paper and let’s do this! But I’ll be watching either way, taking my ‘victories’ — moral or actual — where I can get them, and I hope you will too.