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The name game

You know the drill by now. I’ll pick a name of an individual or group and give you a brief (most of the time) thought. It’s so much fun and something I look forward to every Thursday. But, then, I lead a dull life.

Oakland A’s — Pardon me, please, this one isn’t going to be brief. Even after their 9-7 loss to Texas on Thursday, the A’s are still in decent shape at 88-68 as they attempt to hang on in the American League chase for the second wild card. And the A’s are doing it withRight-hander Jarrod Parker is one of the Oakland A's top pitchers. He's also more proof that "Moneyball" works.the least amount of talent in baseball. That’s a bold statement, I know, but please hear me out. Oakland ranks 28th in the big leagues with a .237 batting average. They are 21st in OPS and 17th in total bases. But Oakland is ninth in home runs, ninth in stolen bases and sixth in walks. On the pitching side, The A’s rank only 26th of the 30 teams in strikeouts. But they have the eighth fewest walks and fifth best ERA, though there currently are only two pitchers on the staff with double-digit wins. The aces are Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker, and if you have heard of either pitcher before reading this you’re to be congratulated for being a true baseball fan. Milone, with 13 wins, is tied for 29th among victories among big leaguers. Parker, with 12, is tied for 38th. The A’s have no one who is among the league leaders in any category. None. But they do have a good bullpen with two pitchers – Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook – who have combined for 35 saves. Oakland’s best hitters are Cuban defector Jeonis Cespedes and former Boston outfielder Josh Reddick. They’re a lot like the Baltimore Orioles, another over-achieving team, but with even less name recognition. Great story in Oakland, especially when you consider they’re batting the star-studded Los Angeles Angels for that final wild-card spot.

Pete Carroll — I was talking with some friends earlier, and one of them wondered why Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t go ahead and admit that the replacement officials made a bad call at the end of Seattle’s game with Green Bay on Monday night and then proceed to say the victory should belong to the Packers? We all laughed and immediately thought it was the craziest notion we’ve ever heard. Who would give back a win? Well, the more I think about it, the more I believe Carroll would have become a national role model if he had made that choice. Not that Carroll is looking to become a role model, mind you. He did bolt USC when the Trojans were facing an NCAA probe, after all. Instead, Carroll is standing by the win and the call that allowed it to happen. Too bad. I do live in the real world, and I recognize there’s probably not a coach in the NFL who would have done anything differently than Carroll in this circumstance. Still, it would have been nice.

Roger Goodell — Not a good week for you, Rog. Not a good season so far. Really not much of a year. I love how you made player safety the No. 1 goal of the NFL and then allowed replacement officials to work the first three weeks of the season. That was masterful, Rog, and I’m sure it helps your credibility inside the league. And that was brilliant, too, to stand behind the horrible call the other night in Seattle and refuse to ever just admit your replacement guys botched the play. Now that the real refs are back on the field, you need to get as far from the football arena as possible for a while. We’re sick of you and we’ll tell you when it’s OK to come back.

Melky Cabrera – Good of the PED user to say he doesn’t deserve the National League batting title and to withdraw himself from consideration for that crown. And good of the San Francisco Giants, who Cabrera stabbed in the back after being caught and then serving a 50-game suspension, to take Cabrera off the postseason roster. I applaud Cabrera, to an extent, for being stand-up about all of this. But he’s also a cheater and it’s difficult to find much good will. It would have been a horrible PR move for the Giants to have allowed Cabrera back for the postseason. Fortunately, that’s not going to happen.

Bo Porter and Manny Acta – I’m not sure who had the better day Thursday – Porter for being hired to manage the Houston Astros or Acta for being fired as manager of the Cleveland Indians. I would probably go with Acta. Porter, currently the third-base coach for the Washington Nationals, will oversee a gargantuan rebuilding job in Houston, where the Astros have zoomed past 100 losses and are fielding a team that probably couldn’t win the Double-A Texas League. Also, Houston is heading to the American League West next season to slug it out with the A’s, Angels, Rangers and improving Seattle Mariners. As for Acta, he had to go. Cleveland has collapsed in each of the past two seasons after decent starts. I imagine he’s relieved.