Athletics third base coach Mike Gallego, right, was fired under some curious circumstances Monday. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

In Gallego, A’s find their scapegoat

Oh, so he was the problem all this time.

You know, Athletics third base coach Mike Gallego, who was fired under some curious circumstances Monday.

Gallego was among the last links to the 1980s, the last of the great A’s teams, but he knew his days were numbered months ago. That’s when Ron Washington was brought back to instruct the infielders, which had been one of his responsibilities. The last-place A’s have one of the worst defenses in the big leagues, and for that, Gallego deserves some of the blame. But let’s not forget that general manager Billy Beane assembled the group. And that nobody should be expected to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers, let alone turn career reserve Marcus Semien into a consistent, everyday shortstop.

The A’s also made their share of bone-headed decisions on the basepaths, and that falls on Gallego as well. Many of the mistakes were aggressive ones, the kind that a coach tends to make when his team is offensively challenged. He didn’t act alone here. Take last weekend, when Brett Lawrie ran through a stop sign at third base as though Gallego was the Invisible Man.

(Come to think of it, do the A’s even need a third base coach? Since the All-Star break, they rank dead last in runs scored and OPS in the majors.)

So it probably is time for Gallego to head off to the sunset, but why fire one of more respected and longest-tenured members of the organization this late in the season? Couldn’t Beane have waited a few weeks? It’s not like his team has anything to play for except a higher draft pick right now.

In retrospect, the move should have been made as soon as Washington walked in the door. Problem was, Aug. 2 already had been designated Mike Gallego Windup Toy day at O.co Coliseum, and management had invested a few too many bucks to call the promotion off even for the good of the team. Because nobody in baseball pinches pennies quite like the Oakland A’s.

WHAT ABOUT BOB?: Washington is one step closer to the manager position, but Bob Melvin shouldn’t feel threatened yet. Melvin is far down the list of reasons for the collapse this season, and by all accounts, Beane remains in his corner.

Then again, Beane once dumped Bob Geren, the best man at his wedding, so Melvin probably should update his resume just in case.

THE DAILY HAYNE: The challenge for 49ers coach Jim Tomusla is to turn down the hype that surrounds Jarryd Hayne, the rookie running back-kick returner. But it may be too late for that already.

When an Australian reporter asked about Hayne mania, Tomsula said with a smile, “Yes, ma’am, I am trying go calm it, yes, ma’am.”

Tomsula conceded that Hayne had done little to quiet the talk
with his improvement from week to week.

“That’s what I’m saying — what he’s getting better at, you saw today,” Tomsula said. “Last week, there were a couple times where I watched the tape. He’s going through practice, and you saw it show up. He still has a long way to go. I want to make sure we say that.”

FIVE MORE YEARS?: A lot can happen between now and then, and his agent probably may have a different take on the subject, but Stephen Curry wants to remain a Warrior when his contract expires in two years.

“As I am thinking right now, free agency isn’t really appealing to me because I love where I’m at, love the organization I’m playing for and the Bay Area is home for me and my family,” Curry told the Sporting News at a golf event.

At $11.37 million, Curry is the fifth highest-paid player on the team. Barring a significant injury, that will change in the next two years. If the reigning Most Valuable Player becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2016-17 season, he’ll be eligible for a maximum five-year contract worth in excess of $30 million per season.

“I think the best approach for me is to try and stay as in the moment as possible,” said Curry, who added, “It helps being world champs, and you want to continue to build the momentum that we’ve established and I hope to have a huge part of that in the long term.”

TWO FOR THE SHOW: The Warriors aren’t the only reason for Bay Area fans to look forward to the hoops season ahead.

Cal opened the preseason with a 3-1 trip to Australia, and if the get-away game was any indication, coach Cuonzo Martin’s team could have a wild ride ahead of them.

Cal was whistled for 40 fouls, allowed 55 free throw attempts and had four starters foul out, yet they found a way to take the bigger, more experienced Illawarra Hawks into overtime. The Aussie pro team prevailed in overtime, 110-99.

The Bears may be a work in progress, but freshman forwards Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb haven’t looked out of place so far.

DEATH THREAT: So which major professional sports league will have the next fatality on the field? The NFL may be the most popular answer, but MLB is the pick here.

The New York Yankees’ Bryan Mitchell is the latest pitcher to be struck in the face by a batted ball, which happens more often every season, it seems. Balls will spare you the bloody details except kept to say that Mitchell is damn fortunate to be upright.

“Wow, I’m lucky for sure,” Mitchell said the other day, stitches across the bridge of his nose and dark circles under his eyes. “I’m fortunate to be where I am right now.”

“It was really, really scary,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It seems like your heart just drops into your stomach, and you are scared for the kid. You see blood coming out. … I was really worried.”

In 1920, Ben Chapman passed away shortly after he was beaned by a pitch, the only player to die in an MLB game. The spitball was banned after the season, but five decades passed before batting helmets became mandatory. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 50 years before pitchers are required to wear protective caps on the mound.

REST OF THE STORY: As the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander points out, the customers are even more in jeopardy at ballparks these days.

“It seems like something happens once a game where a ball just misses a fan, and inevitably, it’s always small kids or women, you know,” Verlander said after another close call recently. “It’s just something that needs to be looked at, and hopefully, it doesn’t get to the point where something really serious happens before there’s an adjustment made.”

Balls rocket off bats at upward of 120-plus miles per hour. That doesn’t leave much reaction time for a fan in the stands, especially when he has a cellphone in one hand, a hot dog in the other and a baby strapped to his chest.

Clearly, it’s time for MLB to install protective nets in foul ground, similar to what the NHL did after a puck struck and killed a young fan 13 years ago.

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