For the past 2 days, the Oakland Athletics have lived and died in L.A. They’ve been knocked flat on their A’s, seen their Bash Brothers bashed and watched the mighty timbers in their lineup reduced to 1 grand slam and 17 innings of sawdust during the first 2 games of the World Series.
After Sunday night’s 6-0 loss at Dodger Stadium, the team with Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and 104 regular-season victories was 0-2 in the World Series, and trying to explain it was as hard as trying to hit an Orel Hershiser curveball.
Was it the layoff?
Was it the lack of the designated hitter for games at Dodger Stadium? Was it Don Baylor’s opinion of Jay Howell’s performance?
Could the A’s have underestimated those Dodger intangibles-- magic and momentum were getting big play in the postgame questioning--if not their tangibles?
If the state of the A’s was truly a state of shock, most of those wearing the once-proud green-and-gold were hiding behind a wall of brave talk.
“This is not adversity; we’re just down 2 games,” Don Baylor, the Oakland designated hitter, maintained. “In ’86, I was with the Red Sox and we went into Shea Stadium and came out, 2-0. The rest is history after that. If you’re down, 0-2, but coming back to your home ballpark, there are worse situations than that.”
And from Dave Parker, the A’s left fielder: “I haven’t seen anything real exceptional in this Series so far. Hershiser got the ground balls he needed tonight, but nobody has been devastating out there. Nobody is punching out 8 guys in a row or anything.
“For us, it’s just a matter of getting our game in gear.”
Across the clubhouse, Canseco was putting up the same unflinching front. What, me worry?
No way, Jose said.
“I’ll be worried if we lose four in a row?” Canseco said. “I don’t get too frustrated and I don’t think this team is frustrated. We’re going back home for three games in Oakland, and we feel we can sweep those games.”
Only Dave Stewart, the A’s starting pitcher in Game 1, showed any degree of distress about Oakland’s present predicament.
“It’s gotten to the point now where we’ve got to do something,” Stewart said.
Or at least something more than the A’s have shown these last 2 days, the weekend the World Series turned. A total of 17 shutout innings and 8 straight innings without moving a baserunner beyond first base isn’t the recommended way to get it done.
Among the theories being tossed about in the Oakland locker room was the 5-day layoff the A’s had between their playoff sweep of the Boston Red Sox and the opener against the Dodgers. Had spirits flagged and hitting skills sagged?
“The layoff did not hurt us,” said Oakland Manager Tony La Russa, reciting the line as if by rote. “Any other answer sounds like an excuse, and I’m not going to use it. The Dodgers had 2 days off, too.”
A’s center fielder Dave Henderson, however, hedged a bit on the concept.
“It could’ve had an effect,” he said. “I know it did on me. Taking 5 days off like that, it messed me up a little bit.”
Then again, maybe it was more what the A’s said during the layoff. Baylor stirred up a good many Dodger emotions with his pre-Series critique of Jay Howell, basically saying that the reliever was unable to pitch under pressure, and Baylor’s claim that he’d rather face the New York Mets.
“If the Dodgers need that to get themselves ready, then they’ve got a problem,” La Russa said.
Baylor, whose ninth-inning appearance as a pinch-hitter was loudly and predictably booed, agreed, adding: “My comments weren’t that bad, anyway. I didn’t say anything like they’re a horse . . . team. Now that would’ve fired them up.”
The interrogation continued, and as it did, Athletic patience wore thin. Parker, for one, finally decided enough was enough.
“I’m done,” he snapped at a cluster of reporters. “Get out of here. I’m going to see my wife. Goodbye. Ciao. “
Two more losses to the Dodgers and those words could serve as the A’s 1988 epitaph.