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After an even 100 games, A’s still have enough questions to make fans nervous

Yoenis Cespedes had a big breakout with two home runs, but a thumb injury put a damper on his great night.

No one should be complaining about the A’s after a 62-38 record after 100 games, right? This is more than anybody had any right to expect at season’s outset, when the A’s were two starters down and they were still playing Daric Barton at first base with a straight face. While the division title still figures to be a fight with the Angels, Oakland is better positioned to win it schedule-wise and it would require a monumental collapse to miss the playoffs altogether.

But worry? Yes, it’s OK to worry, and there are plenty of things to worry about.

It’s OK to worry about the unpredictability of Yoenis Cespedes, who hit his first home runs in 25 games (102 at-bats), but promptly got injured in the same game. The A’s absolutely need Cespedes to be a driving force in any deep playoff run, and things were looking great until he left the game Wednesday night with a thumb injury of uncertain seriousness. Cespedes is just now getting his stroke where he wants it, and another health setback could derail him from being the difference-maker he needs to be when it matters most, down the stretch and in the postseason.

It’s OK to worry about the A’s starting staff being to maintain its brilliance to this point (Jim Johnson excepted). Can Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez handle a heavy innings load down the stretch, or will Oakland have to scale them back. And really, Scott Kazmir probably should be added to that list since he hasn’t pitched more than 200 innings since 2007.

As for the bullpen, you have to worry about the most dependable arms being overtaxed. Johnson’s epic meltdowns have forced Bob Melvin to use dependable guys like Dan Otero and Luke Gregerson more than he’s probably wanted to, such as Wednesday night when they had to put out Johnson’s mind-boggling eighth-inning fire after he was entrusted to protect with a seven-run lead. Johnson gave up four straight hits on just 11 pitches and was gone. His ERA is now 6.92. As Melvin said afterward, it is what it is. The guy can’t buy an out, even with a #10 million one-year contract.

What to do with Johnson? They A’s don’t want to eat the remainder of his contract, but who would want him at this point? Best bet at this point is that he is designated for assignment with the hope that he clears waivers, where he can work out his issues in the minors. But quite likely he would be claimed, and the A’s would be on the hook for roughly $4 million. That’s a lot of dough for this franchise to eat, which is the reason something hasn’t happened before now.

You can worry about the fifth spot in the rotation and whether Jason Hammel is the answer or whether the A’s will need to lean on Drew Pomeranz or Tommy Milone, both at the ready in the minors. Milone, of course, is chafing about being in the minors at all and has requested a trade. That won’t happen with the A’s innings questions facing Gray and Chavez, and Hammel’s uncertain ability to hold on to the No. 5 spot. So far, not so good, but it’s only been two starts. However, the pressure is on Billy Beane to make this trade look as good as possible after giving up the shortstop of the future in Addison Russell. Even if Jeff Samardzija is all that people expect him to be or more, Hammel may get more rope just to justify the trade.

You can worry about Josh Reddick and whether he can play at a high level wearing a right knee brace the rest of the year. The A’s seem prepared to give him right field back because of his defensive capability, at least against right-handed pitching, but can he be an impact hitter down the stretch and in the playoffs?

On that count, you can worry about Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry, too, two speedy, superior outfielders who play the game so hard, an injury could sideline them at any moment.

Of course, you can worry about second base and the trio of guys the A’s are rotating there, and whether a trade should be made to solidify the position with just one guy for the postseason. Tough to say if that will happen, but a lot could depend on Alberto Callaspo’s ability to get back in the lineup and produce the last week of July.

You can worry about whether John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt will all get enough playing time. All, in their own way, are crucial to the A’s ongoing success.

So yes, it’s been terrific to this point, but August and September have a way of providing the true measure of a team’s capabilities. Look, the A’s could play .500 ball and cruise in with 94 wins. But here’s the deal — they can’t play .500 ball if they expect to be a real player in the postseason. They have to maintain the edge they’ve displayed over the first four months, beat teams with their versatility and depth, but also set themselves up for the postseason by making sure the most pivotal players are healthy and playing at their best come October.

All that is still left to play out over the final 62 games of the regular season. The A’s aren’t there yet.

Carl Steward

  • BananaSpartan

    The A’s have to get rid of Johnson immediately. Last night, he comes in and immediately changes a blowout into a nail biter. Opposing hitters just salivate when he comes in and feel they can get on base. The Astros were able to score 5 runs in the 8th inning and turn over the lineup for the 9th inning (that just shouldn’t happen). The fans are completely unforgiving to him right now and it seems to affect the rest of the team. It’s a fair amount of money to eat, but the A’s have better relievers in the minors.

    I hope the A’s can get another bat before the deadline. I just get the feeling that no matter how many games they win in the regular season, they will need to hit a little better in the playoffs (they probably won’t be able to grind out a ton of walks). I wish Vogt could play 2nd base (would love to have his bat at that position).