The Oakland Athletics are stuck in a stumble, losing 13 of their last 18 games. In that stretch, the pitching staff has allowed 6.6 runs per game ballooning its season ERA to 4.83 — third-worst in the American League.
With the front office needing to make changes in hopes of righting the ship, it was pitching coach Curt Young who was made the scapegoat. In two separate stints as the team, Young was working in his thirteenth season as Oakland’s pitching coach. That run is over as Young was fired Thursday.
Prior to the game A’s general manager David Forst told Susan Slusser, of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“This was not a good day for us. First of all, Curt is a great guy, a good man, and he’s been part of some very important teams here in Oakland. So it was not an easy decision, but we felt like we needed a change.”
Manager Bob Melvin told Slusser:
“A lot of people today are saddened by this.”
Removing Young from him six-year perch atop the Oakland pitching staff wasn’t the end of the A’s moving and shaking on this day. Less than one hour after that move was made, the club announced that third baseman Trevor Plouffe had been designated for assignment.
It was a strange day indeed for the team with the AL’s worst record.
After 23 years in the green and gold, Young was not in the clubhouse when players began showing up Thursday morning. And after just less than five months in the same uni, Plouffe met the same fate.
“We’re going to miss both of them. You never want to see this happen on any team you play on, but when your team isn’t winning games, changes are going to be made.”
Whether it is correlation or coincidence, wins came immediately.
The A’s (28-38) showed fight it hadn’t in seemingly months. After losing a 3-0 lead to the New York Yankees (38-26) in the sixth inning of Thursday night’s game, Oakland scored single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth to stay in contention before a Khris Davis bloop-single knocked in the tying and winning runs in the tenth.
An emotionally drained Melvin couldn’t recall the number of innings it took his team to claim a 8-7 win when answering a question from MLB.com Jane Lee during the NBC Sports California post-game press conference:
“You’re basically spent at this point — was it 10 or 11 innings? It felt like 15.”
Young’s position will be filled by former bullpen coach Scott Emerson, who will be replaced by minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson for the weekend. Emerson has been the Oakland bullpen coach since 2014, and has coached in the organization — in Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A — since 2003.
Chapman, an MLB Pipeline’s All-Defensive Team selection prior to the season, shores up an issue which is as much, if not more, of a problem as the pitching.
The A’s defense has committed an MLB-most 63 errors this season, of which Plouffe is responsible for six — tied for second-most on the team (Ryon Healy, 10).
Defensive shortcoming is another of the issues addressed by Forst, who told Slusser:
“(The pitching staff) needs to take a step forward if we’re going to get where we want to go as an organization, and we didn’t see that happening, honestly, the first part of the season. Which is not to place the blame on Curt. The defense, their struggles are well documented. We’ve struggled to score runs at times. But as it relates to the pitching specifically, we felt like we needed to make a change.”