Welcome to the A’s last stand

In case anyone is curious why I haven’t posted anything about the A’s here in so long it’s because I recently joined the staff of the Fansided blog Swingin’ A’s.  It’s been a fun opportunity and I’ve already had a chance to post a few items.  

But on this particular evening I’m writing about A’s here at Junkball because by the time I finished drafting this post fellow Swingin’ A’s blogger Joseph Lopez beat me to the punch and published his own take on the pivotal series the A’s will play starting on Thursday.

But why let all my keystrokes go to waste when I can publish in the comfy confines of my own blog?

The Oakland A’s head into Texas to open a do-or-die 4-game series against the first place Rangers and the season, teetering on the brink of abject failure, hangs in the balance.

The next 4 games will answer a lot of critical questions for the green and gold.  Hope or despair? Go on a longshot playoff run or put up an “Everything Must Go” tarp on the upper deck of the Coliseum and start a fire sale?

By the end of the weekend the team will have the answers we’re looking for and they may not be pretty.

Oakland enters the series 8 games out of first place and 10 games under .500.  The bright side is that they’ll probably get slugger Josh Willingham and setup man Grant Balfour off the disabled list in time for their last-gasp attempt to get into the thick of the AL West race.

Will it be enough?  I’d love to say yes but the odds are stacked against manager Bob Melvin’s club.  Hate to break it to you BoMel but you’re stuck playing the same rotten hand that was dealt to the banished Bob Geren.

The tale of the tape heading into the series doesn’t exactly favor the A’s.

In this corner you have Oakland with an offense ranked 28th in the league in runs scored, tied for 29th in home runs and 28th in OPS.  They’re also sporting a .364 winning percentage on the road.

In the other corner you have Texas with an offense that ranks 4th in the league in runs scored, 2nd in home runs and 3rd in OPS.  On top of all that, Ron Washington’s boys are playing .600 ball at home.

I don’t know about you, but that has all the makings of an early knockout to me.   The one thing the A’s have going for them is the same thing they always have going for them: Pitching.

The A’s staff is tied for 5th in the league in runs allowed and 5th in the league in home runs allowed.  The Rangers are tied for 16th and 29th, respectively, in the same categories.  I’d have to say that probable starters Rich HardenGio GonzalezBrandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill have a distinct edge on Derek HollandC.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis andMatt Harrison.

Then again, the A’s have had the upper hand in the arms race in the American League all season and all it’s gotten them is a comfy seat in the basement of the AL West because the offense packs about as much punch as my 2-year-old son when he flails around during a temper tantrum.  There’s a lot of fruitless swinging at thin air with very little muscle behind any of it.

If Oakland rolls into the All-Star Break on a 4-game winning streak I’d say that they’re alive and kicking and it’s time for general manager Billy Beane to work the phones and bring in some reinforcements.  Taking 3 out of 4 takes the club off life support and just prolongs the misery of hovering on the outer fringe of contention.

For my money, splitting the series or faring any worse in Texas means it’s as good as over and the fire sale can begin.  Beane can feel free to ship players such as Willingham, David DeJesusCoco CrispBrian FuentesGrant Balfour,Mike WuertzCraig BreslowRich Harden and Brandon McCarthy out of town if the right opportunity presents itself.  Save some money, bring in some prospects and open up playing time for Chris CarterMichael TaylorAdrian CardenasTyson RossJosh Outman and Fautino De Los Santos, just to name a few.

The A’s desperately need to catch fire in Texas over the next 4 days to save their season because wilting in the heat finally closes the chapter on 2011 and turns the page to 2012.