The A's five-game skid is causing many to second-guess the blockbuster trade that landed ace Jon Lester. The A's struggles to score since then have prompted criticism for giving up All-Star Yoenis Cespedes.

But early-August struggles don't prove it was a bad trade. Just as winning the next 10 wouldn't justify the shocking move.

No doubt, it seems that since general manager Billy Beane went all in, the A's offense has been all outs. But the July 31 trade that sent Cespedes to Boston and Lester and Jonny Gomes to Oakland will be judged by the postseason.

If Lester proves to be the difference in getting the A's a World Series title, Cespedes was a worthy sacrifice.

Oakland Athletics pitcher Jon Lester (31) pitches against the Minnesota Twins in the third inning of their game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on
Oakland Athletics pitcher Jon Lester (31) pitches against the Minnesota Twins in the third inning of their game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

If they suffer another early playoff exit, if they don't at least make the World Series, heap the criticism on Beane. For he will have paid a heavy price -- giving away his most talented player for a pitcher the A's likely won't be able to re-sign -- for yet another postseason letdown.

Yes, they will have A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker presumably returning from injury next season, so losing Lester to some big spender in the offseason won't sting as much. And Beane should have some money to spend after shedding Cespedes' salary, so it's possible he could find another power presence. But it's all only really worth it if they get over the hump.


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There is something to be said for taking the risk. The logic is there even if the results aren't. But the final say will be determined by whether the A's can exorcise their playoff demons. That verdict is still several weeks away.

Of course, the A's have to make the playoffs first. That's looking less certain than it did a month ago, but the A's still have a sizable lead over other teams that are wild-card contenders.

Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris (36) congratulates Oakland Athletics pitcher Jon Lester (31) at the end of the ninth inning of their game at O.co
Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris (36) congratulates Oakland Athletics pitcher Jon Lester (31) at the end of the ninth inning of their game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, August 7, 2014. Oakland defeats Minnesota 3-0. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

If Beane didn't go for the trade deadline gamble, the A's would still be in a dogfight for the American League West with the Los Angeles Angels. Cespedes wasn't changing that. The A.L. West is the best division in baseball for a reason.

If this current slide turns into a collapse that eliminates the A's from even earning a wild-card berth, then it would be tough not to pinpoint the trade as the turning point. But it's way too early to forecast that.

The A's have lost a season-high five straight games and seven of their last eight. They previously had four losing streaks of at least three games and responded to each with a winning surge. Taking four of their next five games would go a long way toward alleviating the panic, especially since three are at home against the Angels.

For most of the season, the A's have been feast or famine at the plate. In 53 games, they've scored three runs or fewer. In 33 games, they put up at least seven runs.

That means nearly 70 percent of the time, the A's were lighting up the scoreboard or struggling to produce runs. Most of those were with Cespedes in the middle of the lineup.

Another hot streak is hardly out of the question. Of the A's remaining 38 games, 22 are against losing teams. They have 16 games left against Texas, Houston and Philadelphia -- three of the five worst teams in baseball.

But even if they survive the Angels and win the A.L. West, that still won't validate the trade. If they get in through the wild card and win the one-game playoff, that still doesn't mean Beane pulled it off.

This trade must show fruit deep into the postseason. Beane chose to have a big arm over a big bat come October. We will have to wait and see if he was right.

Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.

Tuesday's game » N.Y. Mets (Dillon Gee 4-5) at A's (Scott Kazmir 13-5), 7:05 p.m. CSNCA

INSIDE

Deadline trade caught Cespedes by surprise. PAGE 3


7-10

Record since trade

5.0/
.253

Runs scored and team batting average before trade

3.6/
.224

Runs scored and team batting average after trade

8-8

Record since trade

3.8/
.246

Runs scored and team batting average before trade

4.2/
.232

Runs scored and team batting average after trade