Friday’s series opener between the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics marks a key matchup between two potential, yet improbable, playoff teams.
It certainly was not a series anyone expected to be exciting in late July, but here we are staring a key playoff matchup between Baltimore and Oakland in the face in just three days. Sure, they may not be the two most exciting teams in the entire world. Despite the shortcomings of both, they provide and interesting boost to the baseball world looking for more parity.
Neither team is perfect by any sense of the word. The Orioles rank 20th or lower in every offensive category with the exception of slugging percentage, where they rank 17th. Miraculously those numbers are still better than the A’s, who rank 25th or worse in absolutely every offensive category.
Now maybe the Orioles are not one of the best pitching team’s in the league, as they are rank 17th or lower in all categories there too, the A’s are in the top-five in every major statistical category other than quality starts. With so many good arms in the A’s organization, it is clear the O’s are going to have to do what they do best, hit home runs, as there aren’t going to be many sustained rallies.
It has been a long road back to relevance for both fan bases. Most A’s fans would have to go back to 2006 for the last time they really challenged for anything and Baltimore fans, well they have to go a lot further back. As they stand today though, Baltimore is a half-game behind the A’s for the final Wild Card spot and while Friday will not determine who will it, there should be some fierce competition.
What the series could determine most importantly, is what each team does at the trade deadline in seven days. Both teams seem to perceive they can compete for a postseason birth. A series win or loss though could go on to determine whether or not the owners and general managers of both organizations feel as if selling or buying is a worthwhile cause at this point. Like it or not, both teams are deeply flawed and all of those flaws cannot be rectified with one trade, but fixing just one or two of them at the deadline could be enough for them to make it to the postseason.
Baltimore is leading the league in one-run wins and has a negative run differential and the A’s can’t hit their way out of a paper-bag. Yet here they are as two of the three teams atop the race for the two Wild Card spots and baseball fans should love it. Both team’s are great stories, organizations who have come up short in just about every way the last decade, but appear to be back to the cusp now. Baseball fans and the baseball world should reveal in this weekends series no matter who wins, it is good for baseball, good for competitive spirit and it should be just good plain fun.