As A's dynasty collapses, blame covers entire field

MIKE LITTWIN

October 20, 1990|By MIKE LITTWIN

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Whoever blows the Oakland A's horn now should be blowing taps.

Sic transit gloria. Not to mention, Jose and Eck and Rickey and the rest of the boys.

The A's expected bid for greatness seems to have fallen just a little short. In fact, as dynasties go, the A's has lasted about -- what? -- 642 years less than the Ming Dynasty.

If there's a place for this team in history, it could be only for worst performance ever. Yeah, ever. Even the 1919 Black Sox won a couple of games, and they weren't trying.

I'll tell you how bad it has gotten: Tony La Russa doesn't know whom to blame first. (Hey, Tony, did you notice those two Sabo fly balls that Rickey Henderson couldn't get to?)

Oh, the list is long. Mark Moore was less, for starters. And then there's the Oakland offense. Maybe that's what Gertrude Stein meant about being no there there. The Bash Brothers became the Crash Brothers. No forearms got bruised -- only a lot of egos.

What happened? Dissension? That's what they were talking about before the game. You see, for the A's, these are not good times. These are times of noisy desperation, and so La Russa, the man at work, figured he could inspire his troops by taking off on Jose Canseco. Probably, a computer made him do it, but it hasn't worked so far.

Dissension does not lose games. Bad pitching, little hitting, erratic fielding -- the stuff that has made these A's suddenly infamous. That's what loses games. There was also that spotty piece of managing by La Russa, the genius, in Game 2.

Most people picked this Series to be a mismatch, but no one could have foreseen how the first three games would go. This Series is a game shy of the 1966 Orioles sweeping the Dodgers of Koufax and Drysdale, who had won the World Series two of the previous three years.

The great A's had won, gee, one of the last two years. In Oakland, this year, it's a very unnatural disaster.

And it was over so quickly last night. Chris Sabo hit a couple of homers. Billy Hatcher, who had two more hits, started a seven-run third. Tom Browning -- two days after his wife gave birth with Browning, in uniform, on the hospital scene -- pretty much mowed the A's down. Go figure, it was the A's who suffered from post-partum depression.

Now the A's, down three games to none, are on the verge of losing to a team whose owner plans to buy a World Series ring for her dog.

What happened to the A's we've heard so much about? The only thing I can figure is that they're off partying somewhere with John Williams. Who are these guys?

Baseball people are still in shock. The A's were supposed to be the perfect team -- great starting pitching, great relief pitching, good speed, great power, enormous payroll. The whole package. And it was a package, too. The A's, remember, loaded up on the league, paying big bucks to add Harold Baines and Willie McGee toward the end of the season as insurance. As insurance goes, those guys were a multimillion dollar policy.

We all know money can't buy love, and it's not buying this World Series either. Boy, must the Orioles be happy about this trend. Maybe low payrolls do work.

So, is it time to do some major rethinking? Let's start with the American League. The A's have won 306 games in the last three years, and a lot of those games were not against the East Division. When they did get a chance at the East -- in the playoffs for the last three seasons -- they were a nifty 12-1. And then they met up with the Nationals.

In '88, against a not-so-good Dodgers team, they were dumped in five games. This was thought to be an aberration, a gift from some gods high up in the Hollywood Hills. You remember, Kirk Gibson hit that miracle homer, limping around the bases, and everything turned upside down. Last year, the A's met a Giants team with a decimated pitching staff and smacked them down in four straight. That's when the greatness talk began. Now, it's at least the end of the beginning.

The Reds are a legitimate team. They have a reasonably good starting staff and a great bullpen, which, as it turns out, has had to get really nasty only in one game. And as for offense, they find it where they can. In the World Series, they found Billy Hatcher and Joe Oliver and whoever else was needed in a pinch. Even little Billy Bates.

Sure, there's one win yet to go. This World Series is not over yet. And neither is world communism. But you sort of get the idea of a trend developing. No team in all the many years of the great pastoral game has ever come back from three games to none to win the World Series. I guess there is still hope. Maybe the greatest team from all time could do it. Anyone got a number for the '27 Yankees?

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