New York saw more miserable pitching when it moved on to Oakland to play the Pathetics, who had lost 10 straight games. The A's sustained two more ugly losses to the Yankees last Friday and Saturday. The first was a 10-6 rout in which Bob Welch suffered his quickest knockout in 295 starts over 10 years—he lasted 1⅓ innings—and six relievers combined to walk seven batters. The next day somebody named Miguel Jimenez walked seven batters in less than four innings as Oakland lost its 12th straight, 7-5. Even after the A's won on Sunday to end the streak, their record was 8-17, the club's worst start since the franchise move to Oakland, in 1968.
"It's been ugly," says A's stopper Dennis Eckersley, whose work has been unbecoming too. By week's end he had blown his three save chances, had been raked by hitters for a .316 average and had been booed in his home park. "I've got to come inside more," says Eckersley. "Guys are getting way too comfortable against me."
Last Friday the Athletics brought in second baseman Steve Sax from his Sacramento home for a tryout. Said Sax, who had been released on April 21 by the White Sox, "I thought I wasn't ever going to play again. I hadn't picked up a bat." The next day he was in the starting lineup and making his own contribution, albeit a comical one, to Oakland's woes. After getting caught in a rundown, Sax found himself sharing second base with teammate Stan Javier. Gallego tagged both runners. Only Javier was out, because the base belonged to the lead runner, Sax. But then Gallego told Sax, "You're out, Saxy." Sax took the bait. He walked off the bag, whereupon Gallego tagged him again to complete a double play.
This has to be tough to bear for the Athletics, who only 19 months ago were wrapping up their fourth Western Division title in five years, with 96 wins. But that's life in the American League West, where the tenants are learning to cope. "It doesn't bother me," says Ranger manager Kevin Kennedy. "I'm not embarrassed. All I want to do is win the division. All anybody will remember is who won."
He is wrong about that, of course. The owners, with the approval of the players, have rolled out this realignment model as a state-of-the-art production, a whiz-bang invention to jazz up the game. It won't look good if the first kick of the tires sends all the air rushing out. The fear is that the have-nots of the American League West are establishing a new standard in the game. These teams are doing for .500 what Mario Mendoza did for .200.