Since trading Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester, the Oakland Athletics (74-52) have gone 8-11. They’ve also gone from averaging just over 5.5 runs per game to just under 4.0 runs per game. And, most importantly, they’ve gone from having a lead in the AL West to trailing the Angels (75-50) by one-and-a-half games entering play Aug. 21.
“I think (trading Cespedes) was a major mistake,” MLB Network analyst Greg Amsinger said on The MoJo Show. “When you play (a sport) and you walk onto the court, the diamond, the football field – whatever it is – and you size up the other team, you immediately write off the guys that you don’t think are intimidating factors. They might beat you. I mean, anything can happen. But your eyes gravitate toward the studs. Yoenis Cespedes was that guy. He was that guy. (He) won back-to-back home run derbies, (he has a) crazy throwing arm (and) he could throw anybody out flat-footed from the warning track. This is a raw unbelievable talent. He was Yasiel Puig before Puig arrived. We had a man crush on him before Mike Trout stole our hearts.”
And now he’s gone.
Yes, Billy Beane may have just Moneyball-ed himself out of a world championship. Oakland’s winning percentage with Cespedes was over .600. Without him, it’s barely over .400.
“It matters,” Amsinger said. “It’s a human element. He gave them a swagger. They lost it. The swagger’s in Boston now. And I really am worried about the Oakland A’s making the playoffs. Because think about it: The Royals won’t stop winning. I think they’re going to win the Central. Then you got the Tigers sitting behind the A’s in that Wild Card spot with the Seattle Mariners, who are playing spirited baseball. I’m worried about the A’s. I think the Angels win the West.”
If they do, it might be time to rethink some old baseball truths. The old adage says you win with pitching and defense. Well, everyone has a lot of pitching these days, so if you can’t score, guess what? You’re not winning.
And Theo Epstein knows it.
“They are not drafting pitchers,” Amsinger said of the Cubs. “They are not signing pitchers internationally. What they are doing is stockpiling (as many) raw, (multiple-tool) power hitters in their minor leagues as they can – and they can’t get enough of them. Why are they doing this? Why is it they don’t care about starting pitching? Because it’s such a fickle thing. How many pitchers are on the DL with Tommy John? It’s an epidemic in this sport. Why invest in it? Why not just sign it? Rent it? Look what the Oakland A’s are doing. They rented Jon Lester. That’s essentially what they did. They’re not going to sign him and bring him back.”
“You’re going to have the big markets down the road giving big money to these starters,” Amsinger said. “Everyone else is going to play it this way. You can’t find raw power anymore. You can’t find raw power anymore, and you can’t find bats. So the Chicago Cubs think in two years they are going to be an offensive juggernaut. When everyone else is scoring three runs a game, they’re going to score seven. They might give up five, but they think that’s good enough to win them a pennant – and they might be right.”