It’s time to start thinking about year-end baseball awards, and first up is the BBA’s Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year). I am not the only BBA blogger following the A’s this year. Jason Leary of Junkball/Swinging A’s joined last year but filed his own 2010 ballot, and we welcome David Wishinsky to the fold this year.
We decided to file a composite ballot this year, and Jason, David and I submitted ballots for all the awards this year. 1st place votes received 5 points each, 2nd place received 3 points, and 3rd place got 1 point each. Having combined their scores with mine, our ballot is as follows:
1st Place: Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays, a unanimous decision (15 points). He lost a ton of talent during the off-season, but he made the best of what he had, like unsung heroes Matt Joyce, Sam Fuld, and the perennial energizer bunny Johnny Damon on offense, and James Shields, David Price and rookie Jeremy Hellickson excelling on the hill. And who can forget the last day of the season when the Red Sox led 3-2 and the Orioles were down to their last strike? Unfortunately for the Bosox , their vaunted closer Jonathon Papelbon blew the save, and the Red Sox lost the game. 3 minutes later, the Rays came from behind and beat the Yankees, pounding the nail on the coffin of the Red Sox massive collapse by knocking them out of the postseason. Especially amazing since Maddon sent Dan Johnson (former A’s 1st baseman) to the plate (batting an unimpressive .109) when they were down to their last stike in the bottom of the ninth. DJ hit a homer to tie the game! Evan Longoria homered in the bottom of the 12th to win it. Now that is inspired managing.
2nd Place: Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers (6 Points). Jim didn’t have much of a turnover from last season and added Victor Martinez to the mix. He bettered last year’s 81-81 record by finishing at 95-67, earning the team the Central Division title and a trip to the postseason. He gets kudos for accomplishing all this despite having to keep a lid on the fallout from Miguel Cabrera’s DUI arrest during spring training. He has won the MLB’s MOY award 3 times already, 2 in the NL in the 1990’s, and in 2006 in the AL with the Tigers.
3rd Place: Manny Acta of the Cleveland Indians (4 Points). This one surprised me as not many other writers have even mentioned him in the conversation around MOY. But my two cohorts both voted for him and he gets the nod. In his second season as the Tribe’s manager, he lead the team to a second-place finish in the AL Central with an 80-83 record. He lead the team to an 11-game improvement over their 69-93 record in 2010, and accomplished this with the 3rd youngest roster in MLB, including 11 players who made their Major League debuts. I guess he is pretty impressive. BTW, I picked Joe Girardi for this spot.
That’s it for the Connie Mack Award for 2011. The Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year) is up next.
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.
Today’s ballot is for the equivalent of the MLB Cy Young Award. Here are my picks, all of whom were All Stars in 2010:
1st Place: CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees.
Not only did he have 21 wins and only 7 losses, he pitched 237.2 innings, had an ERA of 3.18, 197 strikeouts and a low WHIP of 1.191. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the WHIP stat, it means walks and hits per inning pitched. It is one of the best ways to evaluate a pitcher. He’s the only one of the 5 listed here who won over 20 games. So, much as I hate the Yankees, he gets my nod for #1.
2nd Place: Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers. Although he had a bit if a rough go after he was traded by Seattle to Texas, he deserves to be #2. I know, the Cy young doesn’t usually go to a pitcher unless he has at least 16 wins, but when Cliff (12-9) is on, he is completely dominant, and he’s on most of the time, and almost always lights out when it really counts. His ERA was 3.18, not the lowest by any means, but he gave up only .8 walks per 9 innings, his strikeout/walk ratio was 10.28, and his WHIP was a very low 1.003. On paper he may not look like he deserves second place, but I’d take him as the ace on my team anyday.
3rd Place: David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. David (19-6) had a 2.72 ERA, Pitched 208.2 innings and had 188 strikeouts. So far, so good. But his WHIP was 1.193, he gave up 3.4 walks/9 innings, his SO/BB ratio was 8.1, all worse than Lee.
4th Place: Trevor Cahill of the Oakland Athletics.
You would be wrong if you thought this was strickly a sentimental pick, because if it were, Trevor (18-8) would be much higher up the list. He deserves considerable recognition for what he accomplished in 2010, especially since he started the year at AAA, and in the majors he pitched for a team with some of the lowest hitting stats in the league. He finished with an ERA of just 2.97, had 118 strikeouts, and his WHIP was 1.108, second lowest of the 5 listed here behind only Cliff Lee. His hits/9 innings was the lowest at 7.1.
5th Place: Jon Lester of the New York Yankees. Another Yankee, I know, but his stats alone warrant his consideration: W/L of 19-9, ERA 3.25, 208 innings pitched, 225 strikeouts, 1.202 WHIP, and 7.2 hits/9 innings.
There you have it.
The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is a group of about 235 bloggers who cover all 30 MLB teams, as well as some who write blogs of more general baseball interest and history of the game. If you are interested in reading blogs about teams other than the A’s, let me know which teams and I’ll hook you up with my fellow bloggers who cover that team.
Nest: The Stan Musial Award (akin to MLB’s Most Valuable Player award)
The baseball Bloggers Alliance’s second award for 2010 is the Willie Mays Award for the Rookie of the Year. Since I write about the A’s (actually I’m the only blogger in the BBA writing about the A’s), I get to vote for the American League ROY. Here are my picks:
1st Place: Naftali Feliz, P, of the Texas Rangers.
During the regular season, Feliz dazzled as the Rangers closer at the ripe old age of 21! His 2.73 ERA, 71 strike outs in 69.1 innings, and his 40 saves are enough for the top spot IMHO. Let’s not forget he made the American League All Star Team.
2nd Place: Austin Jackson, CF,of the Detroit Tigers. Jackson is the complete player. His .293 batting average, .345 on-base percentage and .400 slugging percentage, coupled with a .985 fielding percentage, puts him way up the list as a legitimate 5-tool player.
3rd Place: Danny Valencia, 3B, of the Minnesota Twins. This may be a bit of a long shot, but this kid batted .311, with a .448 slugging percentage and had an on-base percentage of .799! Okay, so he only appeared 85 games, but he hit 7 Home runs and drove in 40 runners. Not bad for half a season. His defense at the hot corner is stellar with a .973 fielding perentage with only 6 errors. If he’d been able to play the whole season at this level, he might have taken the top. spot.
Next up: The Goose Gossage Award for the best relief pitcher.