Brett Lawrie, third from right, looks on from the dugout with Josh Reddick, second from right, and Stephen Vogt, right, when he was on the Oakland Athletics last year. Lawrie said the team’s firesale was deflating and that he’s happy to be with the White Sox now. (Nick Wass/AP)

Brett Lawrie, third from right, looks on from the dugout with Josh Reddick, second from right, and Stephen Vogt, right, when he was on the Oakland Athletics last year. Lawrie said the team’s firesale was deflating and that he’s happy to be with the White Sox now. (Nick Wass/AP)

For hopeless A’s, it’s that time of year again

Do you know what time it is, Athletics fans?

Of course you do. It’s time for your  team to call it a season.

It’s time for bossman Billy Beane to tell the media that his team sucks in so many words. (Can Balls say “suck” in print? Ed. note: You’ve said worse.) It’s time for him to unload his most experienced and expensive players in return for prospects and suspects.

You know, like Beane did at this time last year, when he traded Scott Kazmir for two unknowns on the day that the veteran was scheduled to pitch. An “ambush,” batterymate Stephen Vogt called it at the time.

“Yeah, it was a tough day, man,” ex-A’s infielder Brett Lawrie recalled to Balls. “[Kazmir] is one of my guys. No doubt guys were upset, and I was, too. If you don’t tell us anything and tell us to just play, that’s one thing. But when you put quotes in the paper that we need to be realistic about where we’re at, that just says to the group, ‘Well, we’re not competing for anything in the next two months. We’re competing for ourselves.’ And nobody does well when he competes for himself. Everybody does well when it’s a group setting and you’re playing the game.”

Added Lawrie, now with the White Sox, “It was the whole overall aura. We weren’t playing well as a group. The Coliseum is not the greatest facility to go through it. Baseball is not that much fun when you’re playing for yourself. When our general manager came out and said we had to be realistic where we were at and what not, basically it told the guys in the clubhouse that we’re not really competing [for a playoff berth] any more.

“We got rid of Kaz, we got rid of Clip [Tyler Clippard], we got rid of [Ben] Zobrist and we didn’t gain anything back [in return] for those guys in the big leagues. It was tough because those were the glue that definitely held the pieces of the puzzle together. Having older guys in the clubhouse just to keep everything where it needs to be and everybody in check … I just feel like you have to have those guys. We have a lot of those guys here. We all hold each other accountable. Last year was just one of those years when baseball was baseball. Unfortunately, it was a tough time for the group.”

REST OF THE STORY: Lawrie was traded after the season and never looked back. The White Sox may not be the 1989 A’s, but at least their management is intent to put a competitive team on the field.

The other Chicago team also allows high-strung guys like Lawrie to be themselves, which is why he likes to be at the ballpark again.

“I put [the A’s experience] all behind me once I got that phone call,” Lawrie said. “It’s nice to be on a new team that does things differently. What we’re doing here is special. It’s a privilege to be here with all the guys and I’m excited to come to the field with that mentality. It’s definitely a new leaf for me and I enjoy it. It has been awesome.”

Awesome isn’t a word you hear much around the Oakland Mausoleum these days.

GIANT QUESTION MARK: Have the Giants had a week or what?

First, the Chicago Cubs acquired super saver Aroldis Chapman, a move that made them the clear-cut National League favorites. Then the homeboys dropped the rubber match against the last-place Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, when Madison Bumgarner couldn’t have pitched much better.

(Memo to general manager Bobby Evans: Giant killer Jay Bruce is available.)

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers almost never lose, which makes no sense when you consider Clayton Kershaw and his bum back are on the disabled list. They have the best chance (61 percent) to win the West Division, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Barring catastrophic health problems, the Giants will be in the playoffs, but they should want to get there as the division champs, not as a wild card. That means someone will have to share the load with Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto in the rotation. And, no, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain are not options.

So here’s lookin’ at you, Jeff Samardzija.

In the first year of a fat five-year, $90-million contract, Samardzija hasn’t been a bust exactly. He certainly hasn’t been anything special, either. His 4.22 ERA and 1.23 WHIP are close to the league averages. In a pitcher-friendly ballpark, mind you. His 9-6 record is largely the result of ample run support, where he ranks 16th in the league.

The Giants overpaid for Samardzija partly because the open market appeared to have so few options after the season. Fair enough. But at some point, the guy will have to be a lot better than average and that time is now.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM: The Giants surpassed the Cleveland Indians for the second-longest home sellout streak in MLB history — 457 games and counting — and that includes the hundreds of unoccupied seats in the upper deck almost every game.

BULL MARKET: The Levi’s Stadium field can never have enough fertilizer. Starting Sunday, the first day of 49ers preseason camp, there will be plenty to go around.

The so-called competition between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback will be front and center. After procedures on his left shoulder, left knee and right thumb, Kaepernick is fit to play, his physical tells us. But no amount of surgery can give him the vision, accuracy and leadership skills necessary to excel at this level.

As for Gabbert, Balls doesn’t call him Plain Blaine for nothin’.

Besides, how can any QB succeed when one-trick pony Torrey Smith is the only established wide receiver on the roster?

Coach Chip Kelly likes to shovel manure, and he’ll have plenty of chances while he tries to sell his quarterbacks to the public. Don’t believe the bull. Clemson stud Deshaun Watson is the guy he really wants to run the up-tempo offense, and it will take lots of losses to draft the kid next spring.

In the meantime, Faithful, be careful where you step.

JUST SAYIN’: Stephen Curry didn’t just watch new Warriors teammate Kevin Durant steal the show at the Team USA victory at Oracle Arena the other night. He watched a guy who could take over his team eventually.

— Late Warriors great Nate Thurmond played in the pre-metrics era, so facts like this one went under the radar: In the 1973 Western Conference semifinals, the big guy limited the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to 22.8 points per game, nearly eight below his average in the regular season.

— When White Sox wacko Chris Sale shredded throwback unis that didn’t meet his specifications the other day, it confirmed what we knew all along — MLB has the most pompous, entitled, me-first athletes in all of sports.

— Congrats to Taylor Spink Award-winner Dan Shaughnessy, the Boston Globe columnist who proves that you don’t have to suck up to Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and David Ortiz to be a respected voice of reason.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

Aroldis ChapmanBen ZobristChicago White SoxColin Kaepernickjay brucemadison bumgarner brett lawrieOakland A'sOakland AthleticsPaul LadewskiSan Francisco Giants

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