Wow. A lights-out, put-you-to-sleep performance from the staff ace.
The team to chase is not the Red Sox. That ship has sailed. What made '78 possible was Gator throwing a two-hit shut-out every fifth day; ain't gonna happen, not with this bunch.
Eyes on Detroit--and, yeah, yipes.
The Tigers are a team resembling the A's of twenty years ago, a team so overstocked with good young pitching they're actually dealing pitching prospects. LaRussa's A's (this is 1986-87, not the World Series flops, and more in a minute) were so overstocked with young arms they basically gave away one who bit their ass in the World Series, Jose Rijo; and kept converting who was left to narrower and narrower specialties. It was LaRussa, remember, who basically invented the modern bullpen as we know it. Before La Russa, closers like Fingers, Sutter, and Goose would be expected to come in whenever trouble occurred--be it the seventh, eighth, or ninth--and finish the game. (This was actually a relaxation from previous decades; in the seventies, Sparky Lyle might be asked to get the last out of the sixth; in the forties, especially in September, Casey Stengel might bring in Joe Page in the fourth inning. Not for nothing, Page finished second to Ted Williams for MVP in 1949; had there been a Cy Young Award, Page would have won, and unanimously.)
So LaRussa had Rick Honeycutt, and invented the eighth-inning specialist, and he had Eck, who would pitch the ninth--and only the ninth, but in seventy appearances a season instead of the traditional forty.
Funny thing is, LaRussa was too clever by half. In converting Honey and Eck, in trading Rijo, in giving the likes of Todd Jones a sliver of an assignment, he left his lineup bereft of dominating starters. Baseball scholars will look back on the A's of the late eighties, at Carney Lansford, McGwire, Canseco, Weiss, Dave Henderson, Ron Hassey, Dave Stewart, Welch, Honeycutt, and Eck (and eventually, mind you, Rickey Henderson, at the peak of his powers), and think--wha? One World Series championship from that bunch?
Yes. Because LaRussa put so much stock in two starting pitchers, Stewart and Welch, and let the back end of the rotation languish, LaRussa killed his team's chances. It is significant that the only World Series his A's won was the Earthquake Series, in which the two-week lay-off allowed Stewart or Welch to start all four games.
Ahh, just thinking out loud.