- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
It was almost 2 a.m. this morning in Oakland when Brandon Moss wearily pulled on the headphones to do the hero postgame interview with Athletics announcers Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse. Moss had just ended one of the longest, craziest games you will see with a walk-off two-run homer, and while his teammates had rushed out of the dugout to congratulate him, exhaustion was embedded with anyone in the park.
So at the time that a teammate would have normally rushed up and enthusiastically mashed a celebratory whipped cream pie in Moss' face, a teammate instead just handed Moss a pie -- and he mashed it in his own face, just to get it over with, one of the funniest moments you will see, considering the circumstances.
The Oakland-Angels marathon, by the numbers compiled by ESPN Stats & Info:
3: The number of career walk-off homers for Moss, a total he added to with his 19th-inning homer against the Angels on Monday.
25: Combined runners left on base by each team (14 by the Angels, 11 by the A's).
392: Total time elapsed, in minutes, of their 19-inning game Monday.
78: Pitches thrown by Brett Anderson over 5 1/3 innings; Anderson (ankle) was originally scratched from Monday's start but entered the game in the 13th.
Today, the two sides will have to nurse their many, many wounds. As extra innings dragged on, Coco Crisp left the game with a leg injury, and so did Chris Young, and before Anderson left, he had started to labor as he nursed the ankle injury that had prompted Oakland to scratch him from the start in the first place. The effects of this game may carry over for weeks for the Athletics.
But for the Angels, this seemed like another heavy body blow in a month full of them. Last year, Anaheim started 6-14 before Mike Trout was promoted and helped to stabilize and energize them -- and perhaps some event will serve to do that again. Right now, however, the Angels look like a complete mess, with acute problems with their pitching staff. Only the Houston Astros have a higher staff ERA than the Angels, who are at 4.69, including a rotation ERA of 5.09. The Angels desperately need Jered Weaver to come back and be an impact pitcher again.
Josh Hamilton went 0-for-8 in the 19-inning game, including several at-bats in which he looked nothing short of helpless; he's already got 32 strikeouts in 25 games, which is more strikeouts than Cliff Lee or Chris Sale, who each have 30. Hamilton is on a pace for 207 strikeouts this season, which continues an alarming trend: He had averaged 92 K's per season before whiffing 162 times in 2012.
The bottom line is that Hamilton is simply not giving himself a chance at the plate, whatever the reason.
According to FanGraphs, his O-swing rate -- swings at pitches outside the strike zone -- is 44.8 percent, the fifth-highest in the majors. Only Pablo Sandoval has a higher swing percentage than Hamilton. Only Wilin Rosario sees a lower percentage of fastballs than Hamilton, because pitchers know he'll swing at everything. They throw slop, he swings at it; Hamilton has only five walks so far this year.
It is impossible to overstate the enormity of this problem for the Angels, because they're paying him $25 million annually for this and the next four seasons to be one of the best players in the majors. Right now, he is among the least effective players in the big leagues, while making more than the entire Astros team.
Trout is off to a slow start, hitting .252, and Albert Pujols is not moving well, and hitting just .265; his drop of a throw to first base opened the window through which the Athletics tied the scored in the bottom of the 15th inning this morning. The Angels are 9-16 and already they are seven games out of first place.
From ESPN Stats & Info: It's the latest walk-off home run since Mike Cameron's 19th-inning homer for the Mariners on Aug. 1, 2000. The 19-inning game (6 hours, 32 minutes) is the longest in Angels history since April 13, 1982, when they played 20 against the Mariners. It's the most innings in an A's game since Aug. 10-11, 1972, a 19-inning game that was suspended on the 10th and completed on the 11th.
• Oakland general manager Billy Beane spoke Monday afternoon about the impact that Yoenis Cespedes has on the Athletics lineup, and on the team, because of his confidence, his presence. "It's not really something you can quantify," Beane said. "Well, actually you can."
And he cited the incredible disparity in the Oakland win-loss record between those days when Cespedes plays -- 93-49 -- and when he doesn't -- 16-31.
Collins and Bean
When I heard the news about Jason Collins Monday, the first person I thought of was Billy Bean, the former San Diego Padres outfielder who waited until after his playing career to reveal that he is gay. I covered the Padres in 1993-94 when Bean was on that team, and he was without a doubt one of the best-liked players, because he was a great and respected teammate, always prepared, always played hard.
Billy and I talked Monday afternoon, as we have in the past, about whether he would have been accepted by his teammates if he had come out back then. The Padres had a very young group of players back then, and Bean was good friends with Brad Ausmus and Trevor Hoffman, and he was so well regarded that I think the response might've been more favorable than expected. But as Bean says -- and he'll be on the Baseball Tonight podcast later today -- he was still struggling with his own feelings then, let alone the feelings of others.
Bean was a role player and coming out, of course, would've been a much greater risk than it would've been for a star, because the team could simply choose another player and bypass the whole issue. For a gay player, this has to be part of the equation of fear.
But the scales of fear are now beginning to tip in the favor of gays, because the intolerance that was once solely directed at them is now aimed, through social media, at those who react negatively to gays. Some National Football League players felt some of that Monday after news of Collins' first-person story in Sports Illustrated came out. From our story about Monday's events:
The reaction of other active players has always been a question when it comes to an athlete in a major sport coming out. Other players don't get any bigger than Kobe Bryant, who tweeted his support Monday.
"Proud of @jasoncollins34," the tweet read. "Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU"
While Bryant was accepting of Collins, NFL players Mike Wallace and Alphonso Smith, along with former Knick Larry Johnson, were among athletes to take a dissenting tone on Twitter.
Wallace deleted two tweets about the subject, then later wrote, "never said anything was right or wrong I just said I don't understand!! Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended."
Smith, meanwhile, wrote in a series of tweets that, "it's a shame I have to apologize for my TRUE feelings."
In 2013, players who publicly state their discomfort with gays face enormous backlash on Twitter and other forms of social media. They will be compelled to retreat in those public pronouncements, as Wallace did in deleting his tweets, much in the same way that a white or black player would be if he stated discomfort with the idea of playing with someone of another race.
Any owner who came out publicly against fielding gays would face discipline within their leagues -- let alone charges for discriminatory business practices. In the past, many club executives might have preferred to steer around the issue entirely and avoided having a openly gay man on their roster, and now, in 2013, executives will be more concerned with players keeping their intolerance under wraps, for the sake of harmony in their locker rooms and clubhouses and for the sake of their company image.
Dixie Walker had played 15 seasons in the majors, many of them with the Brooklyn Dodgers, when Branch Rickey positioned Jackie Robinson to be the first black player in major league history. Walker informed the Dodgers of his discomfort of having blacks in the sport and after the 1947 season, he was traded; the pendulum within the Dodgers organization had shifted, and gradually would shift throughout baseball and all of sport, as attitudes and perspectives changed.
The same is happening with regards to gay athletes, rapidly, and anyone who has a problem playing with gays might think about what Dixie Walker said years after he had left the Dodgers, in explaining to author Roger Kahn why he had opposed Robinson: "It was the dumbest thing I ever did in my life. Would you tell everybody that I'm deeply sorry?"
Concern about Strasburg?
Stephen Strasburg's first fastball went to the backstop, a sign of things to come Monday night, and he kept shaking his arm between pitches Monday, and afterward, it was revealed that he's been dealing with some forearm tightness.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Strasburg had to settle for a no decision Monday. He's winless in his past five starts since winning the season opener (0-4, 3.86 ERA in that span).
And he continues to struggle out of the gate.
In the first inning, opponents are hitting .379 off Strasburg, and he's having a difficult time locating, throwing strikes at a much lower rate.
In all innings after the first, opponents are hitting below .200, and he has allowed fewer runs from the second on than he has allowed in only the first.
I have other morning assignments today, so I couldn't get to all of the links. I'll be back at it Thursday.
And today will be better than yesterday.
The Angels took another brutal loss last night in 19 innings against the A's, writes Buster Olney. Most alarming were the continued struggles of Josh Hamilton, who was 0-for-8 and is now hitting .202.