Oakland Athletics: Where is the Silver Lining?


The Oakland Athletics are down but not out.

This season has been a peculiar one for the team who dominates one game and falters the next. Of course every team has their ups and downs, but the Athletics seems to take a day off after a stellar performance in the prior game. The biggest reason why they are last place in their division is a lack of consistency.

For an array of reasons, they simply cannot string together wins on an efficient basis. Take this statistic for example: The Athletics have scored 49 more runs than they have allowed, yet they remain well under .500.

With that, the team has a numbers of players with batting averages that are close to or above .300. They also have one of the best American League pitchers in Sonny Gray.

Therefore, why are the Athletics struggling so much in this first half of the season compared to the past two years? This time last year, Oakland had one of the best records in the MLB, but they are nowhere close to that mark today.

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A precursor to this may have been the infamous trade of Josh Donaldson. As many frustrated Athletics fan probably know by now, Donaldson is the starting third baseman in the All-Star Game. He really killed it in the vote rankings among all players, and that makes his absence sting even more than when the trade was announced last year.

If I was Billy Beane, having a slightly more expensive Donaldson compared to the array of underachievers we got for him would be fantastic. At third base, Brett Lawrie has been decently productive, but he doesn’t compare to the excitement that Donaldson brought to the clubhouse.

Donaldson brought an energy level that is really lacking on this Athletics team. Let’s take a moment to observe some events in their Independence Day win over the Seattle Mariners.

Kendall Graveman pitched a stellar seven-inning shutout in the 2-0 victory, but it was an odd game offensively. Oakland registered 10 hits, but they only came up with two runs to show for it. This is simply one example of the team’s highly inefficient play recently.

The Athletics had multiple opportunities to increase their lead with a runner on third and no outs, but they failed to produce. It’s frustrating when a runner on third, such as Ike Davis, doesn’t have the speed to score on a sac fly. Yes, a shallow fly ball makes that play difficult, but there comes a time when a team needs more athleticism. You’re the Oakland ATHLETICS, so it might be nice to live up to that name.

There is a silver lining despite these issues, and their new center fielder, Billy Burns, is the reason to hope for more productivity. Burns has a batting average that’s well over .300, and he’s provided a great spark for the team. With Coco Crisp‘s absence, things looked bleak for an offense in desperate need of energy. Fortunately, Burns has stepped up greatly, and he has been playing like one of the best center fielders in the league.

In that same game against Seattle, Burns was able to score from third on a sac fly that was no deeper than the one another player failed to advance on. The point is that Burns provides energy and athleticism for one of the most inconsistent teams in the league.

Like Crisp, Burns is a great hitter with the speed to fly on the base path. Dynamic fielders and consistent hitters quickly establish themselves as mainstays for any ball club, and Burns is no exception. As long as the Athletics don’t get rid of him in some awful trade, Burns will soon become a fan-favorite in Oakland.

Next: Billy Burns Inserting Himself into Rookie of the Year Talks