By: Ethan May, KCOU Sports
On May 1st, the Milwaukee Brewers (20-9) and Oakland Athletics (18-10) led their leagues by 3+ games. The standings looked much like this throughout the next 4 months of the season. Things have changed.
Since that date, the Brewers are actually a sub .500 team, going 58-63 in that time. Oakland extended their division lead throughout the summer. This success slowed as the A’s found themselves trailing the Angels by 4.5 games on September 1st. September 15th they were 10.5 out.
The Brewers even found themselves out of the wildcard picture on September 15th, a game a half behind NL Central foe Pittsburgh.
Let’s start with Oakland. The Athletics were caught by the Anaheim Angels who caught fire the second half of the season.
Many say the beginning of Oakland’s demise was at the trade deadline. Oakland’s hot start was fueled by the performance of many hitters who had not previously performed at such levels before.
The trade deadline arrived and Oakland was confident in their abilities and ready to win it all this year. Well-known general manager Billy Beane was looking to bolster his pitching rotation for postseason success. He began by taking the Cubs’ best two pitchers in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The former Cubs had little success at first and Beane wanted to do more.
The non-waiver trade deadline arrived and Billy Beane was ready to make a move. Aware that slugger Yoenis Cespedes was nearing the end of his contract, Beane sent his number 3 hitter across the country to Boston in exchange for Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
Shockwaves went through the baseball world but Beane got his man and was ready for October. A division leading team trading their 3 hitter was nearly unheard of, but Oakland thought they would be more than okay.
Since the trade deadline the Athletics are 17-25. Yes, they are 8 games below .500. It would be immature of me to say the trade is the only reason for their fall, but it has definitely had something to do with it.
The Brew Crew went for a much different strategy at the trade deadline.
Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin was conservative at the end of July. Gerardo Parra came over from the Arizona Diamondbacks as Milwaukee only sent away two players. Parra provided crucial outfield depth for Milwaukee.
Milwaukee’s decline was much slower. Coming into September the Brewers only had 2 winning months. This signifies their slow decline.
The slow fall came to a head with a September losing streak coinciding with a St. Louis Cardinals hot streak. This resulted in the flipping of positions of the NL Central foes; the Pirates would eventually pass the Brewers as well.
The losing streak seemed to be a result of consecutive poor starts from their starters as well as nagging injuries to key players including Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun.
All in all, the season is not over by any means for either of these teams as they both have legitimate shots at their league’s wild card game; however, I can assure you that both fans and players alike didn’t expect the standings to be the way they are.
Both of these stories are great examples of Commissioner Selig’s goal of a league of parity—with competitive balance—where all teams are competitive regardless of market size and budget. It will be interesting to see how these teams end their rollercoaster seasons.