So anyway, Monday night A's closer Brian Fuentes faced two batters in the bottom of the eighth inning, walked one of them, and wound up getting hung with his seventh loss in this young season. Afterward, he didn't seem super-duper thrilled with A's manager Bob Geren. A few snippets of his postgame comments (via MLB.com's Jane Lee):
What did you think of the situation you were placed in tonight?
Fuentes: It's surprising yet not surprising all at the same time.
How do you feel with the way the manager has handled you as a reliever?
Fuentes: Pretty poorly.
How much communication do you have with him?
Why is it pretty poorly?
Fuentes: There's just no communication. Two games, on the road, bring the closer in a tied game, with no previous discussions of doing so. And then, tonight, in the seventh inning, I get up. I haven't stretched, I haven't prepared myself. If there was some communication beforehand I would be ready to come into the game - which I was, when I came into the game, I was ready. Just lack of communication. I don't think anybody really knows which direction he's headed.
We outsiders like to argue that managers should deploy their best relievers at the key moments in the games, whether those moments come in the seventh inning or the ninth or somewhere in between. But insiders will tell you that one of the reasons relievers are so tough -- the ones with set roles, anyway -- is that they know when to start stretching, when to start throwing, when to gulp down three cups of strong coffee, etc.
I don't know who's right, but if a pitcher comes into the game and doesn't think he's ready, he probably isn't.
Oakland's strength this season was supposed to be their pitching, and it has been. But they've now lost two starting pitchers to the Disabled List and their closer has seven losses. Worse, their closer is openly questioning his manager, with no uncertain words.
Just looking at the numbers, there's no reason to panic. The A's are in last place, but they're only three games out of first place and their run differential is better than their record. But the A's were supposed to contend this season, they haven't played well, and now there's open dissension in the ranks. I don't think Bob Geren's going to be fired, but it seems a lot more possible today than yesterday.