It’s been a while since I posted an article on this blog. Before I get kicked out of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I thought I’d give you an article about this-and-that about the A’s during the last couple of months, in no particular order.
Where I’ve Been: First, let me explain my absence from these pages. I needed to get my 120,000 word novel into final form with the help of my free-lance editor, Rick Hurd. Once that was done (Is it ever done?), I began last week the unenviable task of trying to find an agent to represent my novel Contract Year: A Story about Love and Baseball. I had to do a lot of research trying to find agents who like baseball, which is not easy to do. That’s not something they usually share in their agent profiles. So far, I have queried 3 agents and I have identified another who likes sports. So that’s why I have not posted an article in almost 2 months.
So on to News of the A’s:
A’s New Radio Station: During the off season, the A’s attempted to buy their flagship radio station KTRB, which had filed bankruptcy. A deal couldn’t be accomplished, so March 31st the A’s announced that they have a new flagship station, KBWF FM 95.7 “The Wolf,” a country and western station with perhaps the strongest FM signal in the Bay Area. Given the problems with reception in various places in the East Bay and elsewhere that we fans experienced in the last few years, this is very good news.
Apparently AM radio popularity is waning and FM is gaining in popularity rapidly, and is expected to take over the sports broadcasting market in the near future. The A’s are currently the only MLB team whose sole flagship station is in FM format, and the broadcast quality is vastly superior to AM. Several other teams have both AM and FM stations carrying the same braodcast.
On April 15th, only 2 weeks later, KBWF rebranded itself as Sports Radio 95.7, changing it’s format to full-time sports talk radio. This allows the A’s pregame show to expand to a full hour and Chris Townsend’s post-game call-in show to last at least an hour and sometimes longer. In short, this is a really good situation for the A’s and their fans and will continue through the 2014 season under the current contract. FYI, KBWF is also the flagship radio station for the San Jose Sharks.
A’s Organizational Changes:
Sacramento River Cats:The A’s extended their contract with the Sacramento River Cats, the A’s Triple-A affiliate since 2000, through the 2014 season.
In 2010, the Rivercats won their 9th Pacific Coast League Division title in 11 years, and the team has won 4 PCL Championships since they joined the A’s organization. They also led Minor League Baseball in attendance during 9 of the last 11 years.
A’s Shuffle Minor League Affiliates: The Burlington Bees of the Midwest League is now the Single-A affiliate of the A’s in the Midwest League, replacing the Kane County Cougars.
The Bees were the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City A’s from 1963-1967 and continued as the A’s Single-A affiliate for 6 more years after the A’s moved to Oakland. FYI, this season so far, the Bees are 8-2, leading the Western Division with the league’s best W-L record. Kane county is in last place.
The Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League has replaced Vancouver Canadiens of the Short Season Northwest League, as the A’s short season Single-A affiliate. Of the new teams, A’s GM Billy Beane said, “Both areas are steeped in rich baseball history and offer very supportive communities. It should be an exciting and mutually beneficial partnership for all parties involved.”
A’s Coaching Changes: Curt Young, who was the A’s pitching coach for the last 7 years, is now the pitching coach for the Red Sox. We are all sad to see him go but wish him the best of luck.
Ron Romanick, at left, the A’s bullpen coach for the last 3 seasons, was promoted to fill Curt Young’s shoes with the A’s. Before becoming the bullpen coach, Romanick spent 9 years as the A’s minor league roving pitching instructor, and was instrumental in developing pitchers Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden and others. The bullpen duties are now handled by Rick Rodriguez, who has been the pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats for most of the last 10 years.
Also, Gerald Perry is back as A’s hitting coach, replacing Jim Skaalen, who held the position during the last two seasons. This is Perry’s second stint as A’s hitting coach (2006). In addition, Joel Skinner, who came over from the Cleveland Indians, has replaced Tye Waller as A’s bench coach, with Waller sliding over to first base coaching duties.
Trainers and Other Medical Changes: Steve Sayles is no longer the A’s head trainer. Nick Paparesta, who was the assistant trainer for the Tampa Bay Rays for the past three seasons, has assumed the reins. Walt Horn remains an assistant trainer along with Brian Schulman, who was a trainer at Cal Berkeley for the last 7 years.
In October of 2010, the A’s parted company with the Webster Orthopedic Group, shortly after Dallas Braden filed a medical malpractice suit against the group,
for the permanent nerve damage when they nicked a nerve during a cyst removal from his foot. He has no feeling in part of his foot, which affects his pitching delivery, his perfect game notwithstanding.
Ticket Sales up: A’s season ticket sales are up 50% this year. It validates the moves that Billy Beane made this offseason. (See previous post on this blog here.) The presence of Hideki Matsui probably accounts for much of the rise. Also, inspite of playing in a bad ballpark, threats of moving the team elsewhere, and some anti-fan moves (like the tarps and cancelling the annual FanFest), people still like the A’s a lot and remain loyal.
Facebook Study: The social media giant conducted a study of members who “like” their teams.
Phillies fans were found to be “most loyal”, St. Louis Cardinals are most beloved by women, but the Oakland A’s fans are the “most social,” meaning they have the most friends on Facebook. A’s fans are the only team-based community that averages over 500 “friends” per member. A’s fans are also the “most scattered around the country”, are “among the youngest”, “most likely to be single”, and “most male-centric in the major leagues.” You can read the report here.
Now to Leave Lou With Something Musical. One of my favorite baseball songs is entitled, “Somewhere between Old and New York” by Dave Grusin, Randy Goodrum and Dave Loggins, and sung by Phoebe Snow. Enjoy it here. Listen carefully to the lyrics. They are pure poetry.
As promised in my last blog article, Justine Siegal took the mound today and pitched BP at the Cleveland Indians Spring Training site. You can read about it and watch a video of her pitching here. On Wednesday she will pitch to A’s players in Phoenix. I’ll keep you posted from time to time on her progress.
It’s been a few months since I wrote a blog article, but as I did last year, I’d like to bring you up to date on the roster moves that Billy Beane and Co. made during the offseason.
Comings – New Faces Abound for 2011:
OF David DeJesus came over in a trade with the Kansas City Royals on Nov 10th for RHP Vin Mazzaro and LHP Justin Marks. DeJesus, 30, batted .318 with 5 HRs and 37 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals in 2010, but missed the last two months of the season after surgery on his right thumb. He played primarily in right field and has a 241-game errorless streak dating baci to Sept 15th, 2008.
RHP Brandon McCarthy signed as a free
agent on Dec 14th, (Texas Rangers),
recurring shoulder problems, $1Million 1-yr deal laden with performance incentives.
DH Hideki Matsui signed as a free agent on Dec 14th (LA Angels), $1.25M 1-yr deal, a pure hitter with 20-25 HRs/season potential and a career batting average of .290, should hit 3rd or 4th in lineup (a HUGE upgrade from Jack Cust!).
OF Josh Willingham came to the A’s in a trade with the Washington Nationals on Dec 16th for RHP Henry Rodriguez (100+mph) and OF prospect Corey Brown. Willingham, 32 in Feb, has 7 years in the majors, averaging 20 home runs and 66 RBIs over the past 5 seasons, and is another middle-of-the-order hitter.
He had surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee last August, but says he’s fully recovered. He made $4.5M last year and is going to arbitration unless a deal is made today (Jan 17th), and will probably earn more than $4.5M in 2011.
RHP Rich Harden signed as a free agent on Dec 21st (Texas Rangers), a 1-yr deal worth $1.5M+incentives. No stranger to the A’s (2003-08), he has been plagued by injuries most of his career, but has lights out stuff when he’s healthy. He’ll be vying for the 5th starter slot with Brandon McCarthy.
RHP Grant Balfour signed as a free agent on Jan 14th (Tampa Bay Rays), a 2-yr $8.1M deal with a club option for 2013, to bolster the bullpen.
LHP Brian Fuentes (Minnesota Twins) signed as a free agent on Jan 16th, a 2-yr deal expected to yield him $5M+/year (details not yet announced). Fuentes is a 4-time All-Star, who has averaged 31 saves over the past 6 seasons with the Rockies, Angels and the Twins. Last year he recorded 24 saves, a 2.81 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP*.
He will also have to pass a physical, most likely today or tomorrow. If Andrew Bailey is healthy, Bailey will probably still be the closer, but Fuentes gives Manager Bob Geren the option of going with a left-hander to close out a game.
Stayings: Some Familiar Faces Re-signed:
2B Mark Ellis: The club exercised it’s option for 2011 and will pay Mark $6M for the year. Ellie led the A’s in batting in 2010, hitting .291 in 124 games. He also has the 2nd-best fielding percentage (.990) among 2nd basemen with over 750 or more games. Always a fan favorite, he’ll be back in the lineup for one more year.
OF Coco Crisp: The A’s also excercised their club option for 2011, and will pay Coco $6M. When Coco was healthy in 2010, he hit .279 with 8 HR and 38 RBIs in 75 games, and stole a career-high 32 bases. To put it in perspective, he finished 2nd on the A’s in steals (to Rajai Davis), 3rd in triples (4), and 5th in homeruns, despite missing over half the season!
Goings: Chavez’ Option not Picked Up:
3B Eric Chavez, who spent his whole career in the Athletics organization, including 13 seasons with the A’s. He is a .267 career hitter with 230 HRs and 787 RBIs in 1,320 games, and holds numerous A’s records, ranking in the top 10 in nearly every category. He also won 6 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2001-06. He is reported to be working out with teams (Dodgers, for one) in hopes he can find a place to play in the majors in 2011.Contracts Not Tendered or Players Released: DH Jack Cust (now with the Mariners), OF Gabe Gross (still unsigned), OF Travis Buck (Indians), P Justin Duchscherrer (still unsigned, but Yankees showing interest), OF Jeremy Hermida (Reds), P Russ Wolf (Pirates), OF Jeff Larish (Phillies), P Boof Bonser (Mets), P Justin James (Brewers), P Brett Tomko (still unsigned), IF Dallas McPherson (White Sox), IF Corey Wimberly (Pirates), and 3B Akinori Iwamura (Rakuten, Japan).
Traded: OF Rajai Davis (Blue Jays for 2 pitching prospects), P Vin Mazzaro (Royals, in the DeJesus trade), P Henry Rodriguez (Nationals, in the Willingham trade). We will miss his hustle and that great smile. I hope he has the opportunity to play everyday in Toronto. He deserves it.
I haven’t mentioned that the A’s won the right to negotiate with Hisashi Iwakuma, for which they had to pay $19.1M. They had 30 days to negotiate with his current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles (the same team that Akinori Iwamura will play for in 2011). Negotiations broke down over the salary that the A’s would pay him (in addition to the $19.1M!) and Iwakuma will return to Rakuten to finish out his contract year there. The $19.1M was returned to the A’s, under the Japanese negotiating rules.
Also, I didn’t mention that the A’s claimed Edwin Encarnacion on waivers from the Blue Jays in November, but released him back to the Jays in December.
That’s it for now. It looks like this will be an exiting year for the A’s and their fans. The new aquisitions, re-signings, and the players no longer on the team, have put the A’s in position to compete creditably for the AL West Division Title in 2011, if the injury bug doesn’t take a huge toll. Nevertheless, there is so much depth on this roster that very capable guys can step up and fill any holes if players go down. I can’t wait!
Upcoming Blog Post Topics:
A’s Coaching Staff Changes
A’s New Minor League Affiliates
Come back and visit often!
*Walks + Hits divided by Innings Pitched (anything close to 1.0 is very good)
By now you have undoubtedly read many articles about Dallas Braden pitching a perfect game on Mother’s Day.
He is to be congratulated for his outstanding effort Sunday, to become only the 19th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish that feat, and the 2nd A’s pitcher to do so. Catfish Hunter pitched the other on May 8, 1968, 44 years and 1 day before Dallas’ perfecto.
Dallas Braden is such an unlikely hero. He was never a “prospect” (the top echelon of players in a team’s minor league system). In fact, he was drafted by the A’s out of Texas Tech in the 24th round of the 2004 June Draft, and was the 1383rd player taken overall. Definitely not on most people’s radar.
Even in 2005 when he was the A’s Organizational Player of the Year, having won 15 games that year, he was ranked only the 19th best player in the A’s minor league system by Baseball America. In 2006, he didn’t crack the top 30. In 2007, he was called up when Rich Harden went on the DL, and won his first decision but lost the next 8. Hitters had a .303 batting against him, and his ERA was 6.72. Nothing to write home about.
“Braden did have something else,” writes Joe Posnanski, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated. “He had a bold certainty that he belonged. … There was this boldness about him, this conviction that overpowered the way other people viewed his talent. These are the players that fascinate me most–the ones who deeply believe that they’re going to make it even when all available evidence suggests that they probably will not.”
Billy Owens, the A’s Director of Player Personel, summed up Braden well. “Just to see him out there being able to get by with the guts, the guile, the confidence, the no-fear attitude, the athleticism, it’s refreshing to see all that combined with an ordinary fastball to make him an outstanding Major League pitcher.”
The drama on Mother’s Day played out with the much-talked-about feud with A-Rod in the background. You’ll remember that A-Rod dissed Braden by walking across the pitcher’s mound on his way back to the dugout, while Dallas stood nearby. Dallas told him to “Get the F**K off my mound,” or something similar. The verbal jabs flew back and forth across the country for the next few weeks, culminating with A-Rod’s statement a few days ago that he wasn’t “going to prolong his (Braden’s) 15 minutes of fame.”
A-Rod has never been one of my favorite players, though his stats speak volumes about his abilities on the field. His ego is regularly on display and he can be downright rude. He appears all too often in the media, and much of it is not flattering. So when he belittled Dallas after the latter complained about his walking across the mound, I was and still am firmly on Dallas’ side in this.
Well, Dallas made a big statement to A-Rod with his pitching arm on Sunday. Word has it that the Yankees were in the clubhouse that day and had the game on TV, probably because the A’s were playing the Rays who were at the top of the Eastern Division with the Yankees nipping at their heels. Anyway, A-Rod disappeared to some other part of the clubhouse, refusing to watch Dallas pitch. When the no-no got into the 5th inning, someone found A-rod and told him he’d better get in to watch the game, but he still refused. After the 8th inning, some members of the Yankees found A-Rod and dragged him in and made him watch the top of the 9th. What a jerk!
Yes, Dallas’ 17 career wins in three years in the Majors may not impress A-Rod, but you might be surprised to know that one of the 18 other pitchers to accomplish the feat had even fewer wins. Charley Robertson of the 1922 Chicago White Sox only had 1 win before pitching his perfecto, in his 4th career start.
Thanks to David Feldman, the A’s Historian and an MLB Official Scorer, I can share some other interesting facts about Dallas’ accomplishment. Did you know that given that only 19 perfect games have been pitched, that’s approximately 1 perfecto for every 11,000 games played? And Dallas’ is the 2nd perfect game in a row pitched against the Tampa Bay Rays? Mark Buehrle did it on my birthday (July 23rd) last year.
Sunday’s game was also the first perfect game ever pitched on Mother’s Day, and the 2nd A’s perfecto using one pitcher (the aforementioned Catfish Hunter) and one catcher. Both Ray Fosse and David Feldman mentioned one other perfect game pitched by the A’s but it involved 4 pitchers and 2 catchers, so it isn’t considered one of the 19.
It is also interesting to note that in the first 100 years of Major League baseball, 11 perfect games were pitched. 8 have been thrown in the last 22 years. Either pitchers are getting better, or hitters are not as good as they used to be. I’ll place my bet on the former.
Unfortunately, I was not present to watch Dallas work his magic on Sunday. I had to be content with seeing on our HD TV, and I’m not complaining. I especially enjoyed watching Dallas and his Grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, hugging after the game for a long time. Dallas was clearly emotional, holding on the the woman whom he believes saved his life after his mother died when he was just starting his senior year in high school.
We got a much better view of the moment on TV.
I was, however, seated in the first row behind the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium on July 28, 1991, when Dennis Martinez of the Montreal Expos threw a perfect game beating the Dodgers by a score of 2-0. Former A’s catcher, Ron Hassey was behind the plate that day. He was a little surprised that someone would flag him down at a Dodger game and call him over to talk. That would be me. He was very gracious with his time. By the way, he is the only catcher to catch 2 perfect games!
Los Angeleans are an interesting crowd. They straggle in around the 2nd or 3rd inning and start leaving in the 7th inning “to beat the traffic,” as I was told. No one left that day and we all stood up during the entire 9th inning, and applauded every pitch that Martinez threw, even though he was pitching for the visiting team. It was truly exciting to witness the 13th perfect game ever thrown.
I wish Dallas Braden all the success in the world after what he accomplished on Sunday. I’m not sure he’s quite prepared for what will happen to him from now on. He began doing national interviews from his Stockton, CA home early the following morning. They continued later that day, after the A’s charter flight landed in Texas, where the team begins a 3-game series with the Rangers tonight (May 11th). Apparently, he delivered the Top 10 list from the Ranger’s clubhouse on David Letterman last night. He also taped an ESPN Sports Center interview, and appeared on “All Things Considered” on NPR.
15 minutes of fame, my foot! I agree with Braden’s Grandma Peggy: “Stick it, A-Rod!”
The A’s Great Start: I have held my breath and refrained from doing a blog post, afraid I would jinx the A’s, who are off to their best start in many years. Alas, last night the Mariners, whom they had beaten 4 times this year already, found their bats and shutout the A’s 3-0.
The 0-0 tie was broken by a 3-run homer by Milton Bradley in the bottom of the 8th off Brad Ziegler, who got tagged with the loss.
But let’s put this in perspective. The A’s are now 6-3 on the season. That means they are on pace to win 108 games. Wishful thinking, I know. It probably won’t happen, but losing last night is not the end of the world.
One bright spot last night was a phenominal play by Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of 7th inning. Ziegler uncorked a wild pitch far off the 1st base side of the plate, sure to slam into the backstop. With Chone Figgins on 2nd base, Kurt lunged to his left, somehow stabbed the ball out of the air, spun around and fired a rifle shot to 3rd, right on the bag.
Kevin Kouzmanoff was waiting for it and tagged the speedy Figgins out. Bob Geren said, “I don’t think there’s another catcher who makes that play. That was flat-out amazing.” .
It was the second spectacular play Kurt has made against Seattle this year. 5 days earlier in Oakland, he tracked a foul flyball to the steps of the visiting dugout and caught it as he slid down the dugout steps. “He continues to do amazing things athletically, acrobatically,” said Geren. “He’s revolutionizing that position. He’s athletic as a catcher can get. It’s really fun to watch.” The play made ESPN’s 10-best plays of the day highlight reel last night, coming in at #2! You’ll probably get to see a replay tonight during the rubber game of the series with Seattle.
So the A’s are off to a great start. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of the campaign. It is certainly a better first week of the season than we’ve seen in a long time.
Next Article: Meeting Bob Feller
If you watched the Comcast Sports Central show you saw this, but here’s what President Obama said in the Broadcast Box at the Nationals game last night after he threw out the first pitch :
Could’ve fooled me!
The Freak Re-Ups with the Giants. A couple of days ago, I started to write a screed on how dumb the Giants are for not giving Tim Lincecum the additional $3M he wanted for a 3-year contract and casting their fate before an arbitrator. In the middle of writing, I decided to check the Giant’s website and found out that The Freak and the Giants’ Franchise had avoided arbitration with a 2-year deal. But who won? Or was it a draw? A little analysis might shed some light on these questions.
Tim Lincecum’s agent asked for $40M for 3 years.
The Giants offered $37M for the same period. Lincecum’s demand averages out to $13.33M per year, while the Giants’ offer was for $12.33M per year.
I don’t know about you, but I would have given Lincecum the additional $1M/year just to tie him up for 3 years. But no, the 2 parties appeared headed to arbitration over a lousy $1M/year for arguably one of the best–if not the best–pitchers in baseball.
Lets put this in perspective. Across the Bay, the A’s signed free-agent Ben Sheets to a 1-year deal worth $10M plus incentives. Sheets didn’t pitch at all in 2009 because of elbow surgery a year ago, which makes him a risk, though if it was Tommy John surgery he’ll probably be just fine. Sheets has 8 years in the majors, a career ERA of 3.72, 4 All Star appearances, and won the NL Cy Young in 2004.
Lincecum has 3 years in the Show, a career 2.90 ERA, 2 All Star appearances and won the NL Cy Young award the last 2 seasons. He’s only 25 years old, and if he continues to pitch like he has the last two years, he’ll command a lot more in 2012 than he would have gotten under the $40M 3-year contract. Maybe the Giants know something they aren’t telling. If so, maybe they made a good deaI. If not, they may have shot themselves in the foot. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Marty Lurie Moves Across the Bay. In what seems a bizarre turn of events, the A’s radio home KTRB has decided that they can no longer make time in their broadcast schedule for “Right off the Bat,” Marty Lurie‘s pregame show on the various A’s radio stations for the last 12 years.
Apparently, KTRB would rather have Mike Savage, a conservative talk-show host, from 3-6 pm, eliminating Lurie’s time slot. Thus Marty’s wonderful insights into baseball, both current and historic, are no longer going to entertain A’s fans before Ken Korach and Vince Contronio’s regular 45-minute pregame show.
To make matters worse, the Giants gladly picked him up to do the pre- and post-game shows on the weekends on their radio home KNBR 680. The one-hour shows will have many of the same features that the A’s fans have been treated to, plus the show will take more calls on air from the fans. “I am excited to add Marty to the line-up of talk show hosts at KNBR,” said Lee Hammer, Director of Operations for Cumulus San Francisco (IKNBR 680).
Apparently, the A’s have signed a new deal with KTRB through 2019, so it doesn’t look like we will be hearing Marty Lurie and Right Off the Bat again. I think It’s a huge loss for us A’s fans. His extensive knowledge of the history of the game, his insightful interviews with players, coaches, Hall of Famers, baseball writers, club executives and scouts, brought listeners a valuable perspective on the essence of the game of baseball. We will miss you Marty!
Tidbits: A’s Release outfielder Willy Taveras, who came over on Feb. 1st with Adam Rosales, in exchange for Aaron Miles of Antioch and a player to be named later. Taveras was immediately designated for assigment and the A’s released him 8 days later. He didn’t really figure in their plans as the player they really wanted was Rosales who is an infielder. The A’s outfield is already set and has depth, so no room for Taveras..
Another radio deal was inked recently. Ken Korach signed a 2-year deal as the lead play-by-play man for the A’s, which will keep him behind the mike in Oakland through 2011. A good thing.
Spring training is upon us. The pitchers and catchers have reported to Phoenix! I’ll be there from March 17-23. Can’t wait!
That’s all from here. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about anything that’s on your mind, whether or not it pertains to this article. Go A’s!!!