Tagged: Billy Beane

News Flash: The A’s made a move!

Brandon Hicks was sent to the New York Mets yesterday for an undisclosed amount of cash.

Hicks was designated for assignment by the A’s on Nov. 20th, the day teams had to finalize their 40-man rosters before next week’s Rule V draft.  He played 22 games with the A’s this season, and batted .172 with three home runs and seven RBIs during two different stints with the A’s, who briefly used him as a platoon player at shortstop.

Hicks was claimed off waivers by Oakland from Atlanta March 13 and spent most of the season at Triple-A Sacramento, where he hit .244 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 90 games.

Sounds like a good deal for the A’s as he probably wasn’t going to be part of their plans going forward.

Relief! Geren is Out – Melvin In

A quick post to let you all know that Bob Geren was “relieved of his duties” today.  That doesn’t sound like “fired” to me so he may not in fact be gone from the organization.  He is Billy Beane’s BFF after all.  Anyway I wanted to share the good news with all of you.  Yahoo!!!!!

Almost any warm body would have been an improvement over Geren, but Melvin’s record is not the stuff of legends.  His overall record as a manager is just under .500 (493 wins to 508 losses), but he has had 3 winning seasons since 2002:  Seattle in 2003 and the Diamond Backs in 2007 and 2008.  Let’s hope that he can turn the morale in the clubhouse around and the players can start playing up to their potential.

Compared to Geren, however, Melvin looks good.  Geren managed 711 games with the A’s from the 2003 season through yesterday.  He compiled 334 wins and 376 losses for a winning percentage of .469.  But Tony LaRussa who managed the A’s from 1986-1995 and had a .572 winning percentage, so there is lots of room for improvement for Melvin.

Let’s not forget that Melvin is the interim manager.  The team will engage in a manager search later this year, which may produce someone other than Bob Melvin.  In the meantime, he’s what we’ve got and let’s keep our fingers crossed and  this long-overdue event with a familiar song that hasn’t been heard much of late:

Here is part of the press release:

Athletics’ Manager Bob Geren Relieved of His Duties

Former Major League Manager Bob Melvin to Serve as Interim Replacement

 

OAKLAND, Calif.—Oakland Athletics’ Vice President & General Manager Billy Beane announced today that Bob Geren has been relieved of his duties as manager and former Major League manager Bob Melvin has been named interim manager for the remainder of the 2011 season.

Geren, 49, was named the A’s manager on Nov. 17, 2006.  He registered a 334-376 (.470) record in four-plus seasons with Oakland, including a 27-36 mark and last-place standing in the American League West this year.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ all-time winningest manager, Melvin arrives in Chicago today and will assume his managerial duties tonight when the A’s open a four-game series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.  The 49-year-old Palo Alto, Calif. native has compiled an overall record of
493-508 in seven previous seasons as a Major League manager from 2003-09 with the Seattle Mariners (156-168, 2003-04) and Diamondbacks (337-340, 2005-09).

In his rookie managerial season, he directed the Mariners to a 93-69 record in 2003.  Four years later, he won National League Manager of the Year honors after piloting Arizona to a league-best 90-72 mark and the NL West Division title in 2007.  Melvin also served as the Diamondbacks’ bench coach on Bob Brenly’s coaching staff from 2001-02, when Arizona won the World Series in 2001 and the NL West Division championship in 2002.

In addition, he held positions as Phil Garner’s bench coach for Milwaukee in 1999 and Detroit in 2000.  Prior to those bench coach roles, he spent three seasons with Milwaukee in various capacities, serving as a scout in 1996, roving instructor in 1997 and as assistant to General Manager Sal Bando in 1998.  Most recently, Melvin had rejoined the Diamondbacks as a special baseball advisor to President & CEO Derrick Hall last month, assisting the baseball operations department and other business divisions of the organization.

Melvin graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School in Menlo Park, Calif. in 1979 and later attended and played baseball at the University of California in Berkeley.  Detroit selected him as its first choice in the secondary phase of the 1981 January draft and the former catcher posted a .233 batting average with 35 home runs and 212 RBI while playing in 692 games during his 10-year Major League career with the Tigers (1985), San Francisco Giants (1986-88), Baltimore Orioles (1989-91), Kansas City Royals (1992), Boston Red Sox (1993), New York Yankees (1994) and Chicago White Sox (1994).

Geren first joined the A’s organization as a minor league manager in 1999, serving one season at Single-A Modesto before being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in 2000.  After three years with the River Cats, he was named to the major league coaching staff, where he was bullpen coach from 2003-05 and bench coach in 2006.  His best season as Oakland’s manager came last year, when he guided the A’s to an 81-81 record and second-place finish in the AL West.  He led the team to finishes of 76-86 in 2007, 75-86 in 2008 and 75-87 in 2009.

Melvin becomes the 29th manager in franchise history and 18th in Oakland annals.

Profile: Adam “Rosie” Rosales

As one of the Comcast SportsNet California TV broadcasters said recently, “If it weren’t for Adam Rosales, the A’s wouldn’t be where they are right now,” which, as of today (May 29th), is 3 games above .500, a half a game behind the division-leading Texas Rangers.  After the last couple of years’ dismal seasons, the A’s are definitely in the hunt for a post-season birth.  But let’s back up a minute and take a look at how Rosie wound up in the role of utility man extraordinaire for the A’s.

Adam M. Rosales was born on May 20th, 1983 in Chicago, Illinois.  He graduated from Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Ill., a Chicago suburb, and still lives there.  He went on to Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo,where he was named to the All-Mid-American Conference 1st Team. 

He was selected by the Cincinati Reds in the 12th round (362nd overall) of the June 2005 Amateur Draft. He was immediately sent to Billings in the Pioneer League (rookie) for 34 games, where he batted .321, and was elevated to Low Single-A Dayton in the Midwest League, batting .328.

In 2006 and 2007, he worked his way up the Red’s organization, ending up at Chattanooga in the Double-A Southern League.  In the fall of 2007, he participated in the Arizona Fall League, a showcase league for the top 6 or 7 best players in each MLB team’s minor league system, where he batted .281.  (See my previous blog article on the AFL.)

In 2008, he started the year with the Louisville Bats in the International League (Triple-A), and was called up to the Reds on August 9th for a brief stint, and again on August 20th when Jerry Hairston Jr. went on the DL.  He started the 2009 season back at Louisville, but was called up on April 28th when Edwin Incarnacion fractured his wrist.  He played in 87 games with the Reds that year, batting .213.

But batting is not all that Rosie was known for.  He was signed as a shortstop and played that position until 2007, when he was moved to first base. In 2008, he played both short and 3rd at Louisville, and 3rd and 2nd with the Reds. 

Adam Rosales fielding in Red's Uni.jpg

In 2009, he put in time at all 4 infield positions for the Reds.  His hustle was rewarded by the Reds’ naming him as their representative for the Heart and Hustle Award.  He was selected “for his passion for baseball and his embodiement of the values, tradition and spirit of the game.”  Others nominated that year included:  Chase Uttley, David Eckstein, Pablo Sandoval and Albert Pujols in the National League, and Nick Markakis, Joe Mauer, Nick Swisher and Evan Longoria in the AL.  Jack Cust was nominated by the A’s.  Really?

Rosie played in the Mexican Winter League this past winter, where he got considerable experience playing in left field. This was icing on the cake for Bob Geren and Billy Beane, who were looking for a utility infielder for this season.

On February 1st of this year, he was traded by the Reds, along with Willy Taveras, to the A’s for Aaron Miles and a PTBNL.   Billy Beane has been quoted as saying that the player in that deal he really wanted was Rosales. This became clear when the A’s released Taveras a few weeks later.  Of note, the Reds designated Aaron Miles for assignment on April 5th.  Who got the better of the deal?  A no-brainer.


Adam Rosales in the dugout.jpgSo who is Adam Rosales
?  What we’ve seen so far this season is a guy who sprints around the bases whether he hits a homer or works a walk, a good fielder with a great arm at any position he plays, and a guy with some pop in his bat who seems to get hits when the team needs them. This type of situational hitting has been a real problem for the A’s over the past few years, especially with Jack Cust batting in the number 4 hole. 

 
Adam Rosales being congratulated for scoring against the Giants.jpgIt is nice to see Rosie, Jake Fox, Ryan Sweeney and Kurt Suzuki take up the slack this season.

Also, Rosie is very disruptive on the base paths, as are Rajai Davis, and Coco Crisp (when he isn’t on the DL).  And it’s the running game, I feel, that has made a big difference this year.  Rosie rattles the pitchers, forces the opposing fielders to rush their throws, often resulting in errors.  Rosie is also lightening fast, beating out infield hits almost routinely. As Manager Bob Geren put it, “Those kind of at-bats, that kind of speed, generates some action.”  

Recently, I attended an Oakland A’s Booster Club luncheon where Rosie was the player on the dais.


 
Adam Rosales at Boosters - small.jpgHe admitted that he was “scared to death” to be standing in front of 100+ Boosters, but not at all scared on the field.  He was asked what he thinks about the A’s as a team, and responded without hesitation that they are “the best team in the Majors. There’s great chemistry.  We’re like brothers.”

When asked why he runs so fast around the bases, he responded, “I always said if I ever get to the Major Leagues, I’m gonna play like I was 12 years old.” 

Adam Rosales running the bases.jpgHe says he likes playing all the infield positions, but is most comfortable at shortstop and 2nd base.  “I’ll play anywhere the team needs me to play.”

On the personal side, he she has a girlfriend, but is not married.  In an interview with Kate Longworth of Comcast SportsNet California, he said that If he weren’t a baseball player, he’d be a rock star.  His favorite bands are Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam.  His favorite sports movies are “The Natural,” and when he was a kid, “Sandlot,” not surprisingly, both baseball movies.  His pet peeve is “Waiting in Traffic!”

When asked what 3 things he takes on the road, he said:  his toiletry bag, his cell phone, and his guitar.  He hasn’t played for the his teammates yet.  “If they’re lucky enough, maybe I’ll play for them.”

His best baseball memory was facing his first pitch at Wrigley Field.  Since he grew up in Chicago, “I was really amped up.”

The A’s are extremely happy to have Adam Rosales on their roster.

 
Adam Rosales being congratulated for scoring against the Giants.jpgWhen he’s in the lineup, good things happen.  He’s had two 4-RBI nights in recent weeks, he’s hit homers, stolen bases, and made great plays in the field. 

 
Adam Rosales Throwing.jpgHe always seems to have a smile on his face.

  
Adam rosales' smile.jpgAnd everyone cheers when he sprints around the basepaths.  What more could we A’s fans want?!

 

 

Billy Beane Has Been A Busy Boy This Month

Billy Beane has continued to make roster moves since I last posted here.  Some seem to be improvements for the team.  Others are downright puzzling.

Sheets Signs One-Year Deal:  Undoubtedly, the biggest move is the signng of free agent Ben Sheets to a one-year $10-million deal plus incentives, to anchor the starting rotation for 2010. 
Ben Sheets Head Shot.jpgThat makes it the largest 1-year contract the A’s have given to a free agent from outside the organization.

The 31-year old hurler didn’t  pitch at all in 2009 because he underwent flexor tendon surgery in his right elbow a year ago.  In his 8 years in the majors, he achieved an 86-83 record with a 3.72 ERA, and had double digit wins in 7 of the last 8 seasons.  In 2008 he went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts.

On January 19th he threw a pitching session at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and impressed scouts from several organizations, including Oakland, reportedly hitting the low-90’s with his fastball.  If he is healthy he’ll most likely be the #1 starter and will be an invaluable veteran presence for the younger guys in the rotation.

2010 Pitching Rotation:  The rotation will most probably line up as follows:  Sheets, Duchscherer, Anderson, Braden and Cahill, not necessarily in that order.  Spring training will shake this out when we see how Sheets, Duke and Braden do, coming of long stints on the DL and surgeries last year.  We can’t forget about Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazarro, and Josh Outman who could pitch their way into the rotation, especially if one or two of the guys above don’t fare so well in Arizona.  The presence of Sheets will go a long way toward reducing the pressure on the young arms that was so evident in 2009.

Wuertz Returns to the A’s Bullpen.  The A’s rewarded Michael Wuertz for his outstanding work in the bullpen last year with a 2-year, $5.25 million contract. 
Michael Wuertz Doing His Thing.jpgThe team also has a $3.5M option for 2012, with a $250K buyout if the option is not exercised.  He is expected to earn $2.2M in 2010 and $2.8M in 2011. Wuertz was the A’s last arbitration-elligible player to sign.  His record in 2009 (6-1, 2.63 ERA, 74 appearances, and league-leading 102 strikeouts) was so good that the A’s violated their rule to tender only 1-year deals for arbitration-elligible players.

Monday, Feb 1st, Was a Busy Day.  The A’s signed free-agent outfielder Gabe Gross to a 1-year contract.  Gross hit .227 with 6 homers and 36 RBI’s in 282 at-bats last season for the Tampa Bay Rays. 

  
Gabe Gross in Rays Uni - cropped.jpgHe can play all 3 outfield positions, bats left, and has always been a solid defender.  “We just felt like he was a good fit for th team, whether it’s spotting some of our guys agains tough righties or filling at time since he can play both corner outfield positions.  We’ve always liked the way he plays,” said Assistant GM David Forst. His signing spelled the end of the speculation that Johnny Damon might resign with the A’s.

Also, last Monday, the A’s completed a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, obtaining infielder Adam Rosales and outfielder Willy Taveras for infielder Aaron Miles.  It was made evident that the key player in the deal for the A’s was Rosales, as they immediately designated Taveras for assignment. 

Rosales completes the infield picture for the 2010 A’s, as he can play all 4 infield positions, and will be used as a utility infielder and to spell Cliff Pennington at shortstop.  If any of the other infielders go down with injuries, he could get significant playing time.  “Our scouts have seen a lot of him over the past few years, and every single one of them just loves the way he plays the game and really likes his versatility,” said Asst. GM David Forst, who compared his energy to that of Eric Byrnes.

The A’s have until Feb. 11th to trade or release Taveras or they will be on the hook for $1.7M of his $2.3M salary for 2010.  The A’s are not in need of another outfielder, especially after the signing of Gross, so they will be looking to move him in the next week.  If they can’t and he clears waivers, he could go to the minors, most likely the Sacramento River Cats.

Finally, the A’s also designated for assignment infielder Gregorio Petit, and pitcher Dana Eveland (long overdue IMHO)

  
Dana Eveland.jpgHot off the wire, Eveland was traded today (Saturday 2/6) to Toronto for cash and a player to be named later, just 5 days after he was designated for assignment. 

They also claimed Twins’ minor-league infielder off waivers.  Tolleson, according to Forst, “…is another guy our scouts have liked since seeing him play in the  Arizona Fall League in 2008.  He can play a number of positions and helps add to the depth.”  Both he and Rosales have options left, giving the A’s lots of flexibility, esepcially of one or two of the regular infielders go down with injury (Chavez?). 

After the A’s acquired Aaron Miles, I became very curious about his role on the team as we didn’t hear his name mentioned at all in plans for the upcoming season.  Apparently, Miles know he might be used as trade bait when he was acquired by the A’s.  An Antioch native, he admitted, “It would have been nice to stay local and play for the hometown team.  But in the end, you gotta go with what’s best for your career, and I think that’s definitely in Cincinnati.”

Spring Training.  The A’s will have a lot of depth when they arrive at spring training later this month.  Is Billy Beane happy with who they have now?  Not so fast.  Forst said that the swarm of roster moves last Monday doesn’t necessarily mean the club is done wheeling and dealing.

MiscellaneaOC Signs:  Former A’s Shortstop, Orlando Cabrera signed a $3M deal with the Cincinnati Reds, which includes a $3M option for 2011 with a $1M buyout of the club doesn’t want to sign him for the additonal year.

A Higher Calling A’s Minor-League outfielder Grant Desme, the MVP of the 2009 Arizona Fall League, got a call, but it wasn’t from the A’s brass.

 
Grant Desme hits Homer at AFL 2009 - cropped.jpgHe resigned from professional baseball in late January to embark on the 10-year path to becoming a priest, starting with studies at St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County beginning next August.  “It’s like I’m re-entering the Minor Leagues,” he said.

Sacramento River Cats Owner Dies:  Arthur Lynn Savage, the man who changed evenings in Sacramento and gave the River-City  baseball fans a home team to brag about, passed away at his East Sacramento home on Nov. 22, 2009.  He was 58.


Art Savage, Late River Cats Owner.jpgThe River Cats organization is one of the nation’s most successful minor league franchises. 
During the last 10 years, the River Cats broke attendance records every year, outdistancing 200 other minor league teams in the country. 

Mr. Savage was named the Sporting News Minor League Executive of the Year in 2000 and the franchise was honored with the Bob Freitas Award for Excellence in Minor League Baseball for the 2004 season.  He will be sorely missed by all who knew or played for him.

That’s all for now.  I’ll be at spring training with the A’s from March 17th to the 25th.  It should be lots of fun watching all that talent contend for the right to break camp with the A’s. 

Here’s My letter to Lew Wolff:

Date: October 23, 2009

 

Lewis N Wolff, CEO

Wolff-Di Napoli Development Co.

11828 La Grange Avenue

Los Angeles, CA  90025-5212 

 

          RE:  Some Solutions to the Woes of the Oakland Athletics

 

Dear Mr. Wolff,

 

          I have been a fan of the Athletics since they moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City in 1955 when I was a child.  I have a deep love for the game of baseball and the Athletics in particular.  I am writing to you to urge you to use your influence to make some changes in the team and the Coliseum for the 2010 season and beyond. 

 

          As a season ticket holder, I am concerned that the attendance at the Oakland Coliseum has been declining over the last three years (along with the teams record), but it dropped precipitously during the last half of the 2009 season, when the team was playing over .500 ball.  I attended several mid-week night games when there were not more than 4-5000 people in the stands.  The paid attendance was always 3-4000 more than that, which says to me that the other season ticket holders stayed away in droves.  This is not good for A’s or your considerable investment in the team.

 

          I realize that low gate revenue hampers management’s efforts to make any significant moves that result in increasing the cost of running the team, but there are some things that can be done to improve the fan’s experiences which will result in increased attendance, better press coverage, increased TV advertizing revenues, and improved player morale.  These things can be accomplished without large outlays of capital.  Some may take some time, but others can be implemented in the 2010 season.

 

          By far the most important change that needs to be made is to fire (or transfer) Bob Geren  from the job of Field Manager.  It is obvious to any of us who study the game and the A’s that he does not have a clue how to manage a team or inspire the players to play at their top potential.  Contrast Bob Geren, with his reserved demeanor and flat affect, to Tony La Russa, who kept his cool but could inspire mediocre players to achieve greatness.  We need a manager who can do that.  Bob Geren is definitely a liability to you and the team.

 

          You have the power to see that Bob Geren is no longer the manager of the A’s.  I know that Bob and Billy Beane are best of friends, but you need to do what is best for the organization and the team, not what’s best for Beane and/or Geren.  In any other franchise, three sub-.500 seasons in a row would have resulted in a management change.  Please consider exerting your power as Managing Partner to make this happen.  Hopefully you can get this done in 2010.  If not, then please don’t exercise the club’s option for 2011.

 

          Other things that could be done to make the fan experience more enjoyable, and which would get more people in the seats, are:

 

1)   In these bad economic times, have some more midweek nights with reduced prices on tickets and/or food items to encourage more people to come to a game.  People look for bargains when times are tough.

2)   Do away with the All-You-Can-Eat seats which are rarely occupied (especially for mid-week games), take the tarp off 2 more sections (5 sections total) in the third deck behind home plate, and charge the same price or a few dollars more than bleacher seats.  That would get more people in the stands.  Again it’s the economy.

3)   If you don’t like No. 2) (or in addition), put outfield plaza-level and field-level seats on sale for half price starting 30 minutes before game time or at game time.  You’d need a little more crowd control around the box office, but it could be done without costing much.  People who want to see the whole game will still buy tickets at full price, and the additional people in the stands would buy lots more food, drink and souvenirs.

4)   Put some color in the bathrooms to jazz them up.  They are so bland and dingy now.  For example, the River Cats’ restrooms have inspiring quotes from famous players or managers stenciled above the sinks.  That doesn’t sound very important but it does improve the ambience in the stadium.  Some quotes from baseball and football would make sense.

 

          The primary goal of anything you do must be to get more people to come to A’s games.  Having a team on the field that is exciting to watch is the key.  We have great young players and they will be much better in 2010 than they were in 2009 when they were getting their feet wet in the Majors.  But to get the most out of them, we desperately need a new manager.  How about Carney Lansford?  He’s available, I hear.  Or make Ty Waller Manager and Carney the bench coach.

 

          Thanks for considering the points I raised.  As a long-time A’s fan, I only want what is best for the team, as I am sure you do too.

 

                                                          Sincerely,

 

 

                                                          Belinda Laird Hylinski

 

Feel free to pirate any language from the above and write your own letter to Lew.  Maybe we can get this done.  Go A’s!!!

 

Ugh! No change in the Coaching Staff For 2010

I have written about this subject before:  Bob Geren hasn’t a clue how to manager a team.  Were you as deflated as I was when the A’s announced last week that the coaching staff for 2010 will be the same as in 2009?  As I wrote in my last blog, the attendance for games other than the “Premium Games” (Giants, Red Sox, Yankees, etc.) has been dropping dramatically since July.  Midweek night games drew somewhere around 7-8000 fans on average.  That’s terrible.

Billy Beane won’t get rid of Geren because they are BFF’s.  So we have Bob at least until the end of the 2010 season.  The team has an option for 2011, which I hope they don’t exercize.  Here they are, 2 smiles and what almost looks like a sneer, at the presser when  they announced Jason Giambi’s signing in January. 


Beane, Giambi and Geren - 1-7-09.jpg

Billy, how’d that work out for you, as Dr. Phil would ask? 

I don’t fault Giambi.  Geren asked him to do something he wasn’t capable of doing:  playing in the field almost everyday.  Jason, being a good sport, did it, but he played in pain a lot and his hitting suffered.  Look what he did at Colorado after BB+G let him go (and did it badly!) where he was used largely as a pinch hitter! 

So what can we do about Geren?  As I have suggested before,  we fans need to start a letter-writing campaign asking Lew Wolff to force Billy Beane to fire Bob Geren as manager, or at least not rehire him in 2011 .  Maybe BB can give him a job in the front office, but let’s get him out of the dugout.

I tried to find an email address for Lew Wolff, and was unsuccessful.  But here’s Lew Wolff’s snail mail address:

Lewis N. Wolff, CEO

Wolff-Di Napoli Development Co.

11828 La Grange Ave.

Los Angeles, CA  90025-5212

Let’s flood his inbox with letters.  Be respectful and don’t use profanity, threats or ad hominem attacks.  Just tell him why you think Bob Geren has to go.  Who knows?  He might just listen to us if enough of us write.  My letter will be in the mail tomorrow.  

Idea!  Carney Lansford is available.  Maybe we could get him!  Make Ty Waller the manager and Carney the bench coach for 2010!  Wouldn’t that be neat?  Certainly a lot better than what we had this year.  Oh well, it’s wishful thinking, I’m afraid.  But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Upcoming Topics:  “Some Last Thoughts on the 2009 Season”, “Is it Dangerous to be a Fan?” and more.  Check back periodically.  I won’t be blogging as often as I do during the season.  I have to concentrate on the final rewrite of my novel.  I plan to start looking for an agent and/or publisher after the first of the year.  Wish me luck.

The Crosby Family Shoots Itself in the Foot

Bobby Crosby Holding a Bat in Batting Practice Jersey.jpgI feel sorry for Bobby Crosby, not because the A’s took away his shortstop position this year, but because he can’t hit.  Even in his Rookie of the Year season, he hit only .239.  In 2005, his best year, he hit .276, but he’s hovered between .223 (2009) and .237 since then.  

 

The A’s, as any team, have to do what is best for the team, and when they had the chance to get Orlando Cabrera, a proven hitter and very good shortstop, they took it, and rightly so.  Bobby’s response was to pout unprofessionally to the media. 

Then when it was obvious that the A’s would finish in last place in the AL West and Cabrera was traded, the A’s decided to look to the future and called up Cliff Pennington to play shortstop for the rest of the season.  Bobby again opened his mouth and spouted off, calling the move “a joke.”  Not a very good way to ingratiate yourself to potential teams who might need a shortstop.  It screams loud and clear:  “NOT A TEAM PLAYER!,” which certainly won’t help him in the free agent market. 

 

This week in an article by Doug Krikorian in the Long Beach Press Telegram, Bobby’s father, former MLB player Ed Crosby, took Billy Beane to task for not treating his son fairly.  “My feelings are that…Billy Beane has done a number on him,” complaining that Bobby is on the disabled list when “he’s not even hurt.” (More on this use of the DL in my next post.)  He even went off on the Moneyball philosophy and criticized the A’s for not letting their players swing at the first pitch in an at bat, complaining that the A’s have “taken the bat out of the hands of their players.” 

 

Statistically the chance of making an out by swinging at the first pitch is overwhelming, so Billy Beane presumably told the organization not to swing at first pitches.  So opposing pitchers poured strikes in on the first pitch, getting ahead in the count most of the time.  That didn’t work so the A’s have adjusted and we see many more first pitch swings this year.  But I digress.

 

Ed Crosby has a right to vent his feelings, but his rant didn’t help his son’s future prospects.   Ed is a former MLB infielder and he should know that teams will look at this and think twice about going after Bobby this offseason. 

 

A .223 hitter needs to be a team player, keep his mouth shut and play his best when he’s put in the lineup if he wants to get a good contract when he becomes a free agent at the end of the year.  Bobby will certainly not command a salary anywhere close to the $5.3 million that the A’s are paying him this year and a utility role is most likely all he will be able to get.  Too bad really.  He could have positioned himself so much better by sucking it up and keeping his mouth shut.

 

A good comparison might be to Jack Hannahan, who bounced around the Detroit Organization before being traded to the A’s where he’s played third base during Eric Chavez’ various stints on the DL over the last few years.   Bobby is very much like Jack:  great fielder but can’t hit.  The difference is that Jack Hannahan is a gentleman and a true team player, and will always be able to find a job.  I saw him play Monday night in Seattle as a Mariner and he made some great plays.  It was a pleasure to watch, even though the gems were at the A’s expense.

 

So all this hoopla about how badly Billy Beane has treated Bobby is way overblown, in my opinion.  The A’s organization hung with him through multiple serious injuries, and years when he averaged less than one hit per game, and kept him as the everyday shortstop.  They could afford to do that when other guys were hitting the long ball and the team was having a winning season.  But the team has been on a slide since 2006, and without power hitters the entire lineup has to be able to get on base and drive in runs to make small ball work.  And Bobby can’t get it done.  He should go at the end of the season, but he should have gone more quietly for his own good.

Ellie, Duke and Mr. Deadpan

Ellie:  Mark Ellis is on fire!  What a great walk-off homer which skimmed the left field fence yesterday!  He’s batting something like .460 since the All Star Break.  Welcome back Ellie.

Ellis hits Walk Off Homer on 1929 Day.jpgIs it just me?  Or is it fun to watch the young kids play ball?  Yes, it’s painful when one of the young pitchers gives up “the big inning.” but by and large the kids are playing their hearts out and it’s just plain fun to watch.  The A’s will probably finish in last place, but if they can get to .500 that will be a huge victory.

Duke:  Something strange is going on with Justin Duchscherer.  He missed a recent rehab start in Sacramento and he was penciled in to start for the A’s on Tuesday against the Yankees.  That too has been scratched.   Brett Tomko, who was released by the Yankees on July 21st and has been conspicuously mediocre at Triple A Sacramento, has been called up to pitch tonight against his former team, pushing Gio Gonzales to Tuesday’s game giving him an extra day between starts.

The reason for the Duke scratchings were said to be for “non-baseball reasons.”  The last time we heard that explanation, Dallas Braden’s beloved grandmother was seriously ill.  If is it a reason like that, why can’t they just come out and say it was a family emergency or just say what it is?.  This cloak and dagger secrecy doesn’t make the organization or Duke look particularly good. 

This secrecy is not unlike when the A’s placed Jason Giambo on the DL only to find out later he went to Las Vegas to work on his hitting.  Two weeks later the A’s released him.  All very strange.

Geren:  Has anyone else but me noticed that when Geren gets tossed from a game, the A’s come back and win the game with Ty Waller managing?  That’s happened 2 out of the 3 times Geren’s been thrown out this year. Will anyone ever forget that game in Boston when he was tossed in the 3rd inning and Waller guided the A’s to a 9-8 victory in 11 innings?   

Now there could be all sorts of reasons the guys get psyched up after their manager gets tossed, but one of them could be that Bob Geren is a lousy manager. 
Bob Geren Arguing with an umpire.jpgHe certainly has made some bonehead decisions this year.  And when asked about Giambi going on the DL or Duke being scratched, he just hems and haws, and haws and hems, as Mychael Urban so succinctly put it.

As you probably know, Geren and Billy Beane are tight, Geren having served as BB’s best man at his wedding (or was it the other way around?), so the likelhood of BB firing him is nil.  But Lew Wolff as managing partner could order it done.  Come on, Lew, put us out of our misery and let Geren go at the end of the season.

Geren’s track record stinks for a reason.  He has no leadership skills.  He can’t motivate the team.  He hasn’t created a culture of success in the clubhouse or on the field.  You can have the latter and still not win, but he needs to fire these guys up and expect them to win.  If he would do that, they will win.  His deadpan affect does not instill confidence in the players except when he argues balls and strikes and gets himself tossed, and I think it is instructive that the team wins when he is not in the dugout.

So not the A’s take on the hottest team in baseball:  the Bronx Bombers.  I think Brett Tomko will have his hands full, as will the other young starters, but we have beaten them bepore and can do it again.  It will be fun to watch, no matter the outcome. 

 

Pitching Ups and Downs

Young Pitching:  The A’s young hurlers are having some successes and failures, and some of the good things don’t show up in the win column.  We have to remember they are all under the age of 25, except the “veteran” Dallas Braden, who will be 26 on August 13th.  These young guys are learning how to be professional ballplayers in the major leagues, not in the minors where pitchers typically spend 4 or more years before being called up.

Brett Anderson had a terrific complete-game 2-hitter against the Red Sox in Fenway, which was electricfying to watch.  
scan0009.jpgEven the Sox fans acknowledged his feat with respect.  The day before, Gio Gonzalez looked great in his 5-2 victory over Cy Young winner Cliff Lee in Cleveland. But those were the only bright spots since Dallas Braden beat Justin Verlander on July 1st in  Oakland. 

Trevor Cahill struggled mightily in Cleveland, lasting 3.2 innings and giving up 8 runs (5 earned).  In Boston, he pitched well for 5 innings, but in the 6th gave up a solo home run to J.D. Drew and a 3-run shot to David Ortiz  Maybe Bob Geren needs to pull these young kids when they first get into trouble (like after Drew’s solo homer) until they get used to facing tough major league hitting.  In general, I think Geren leaves pitchers in too long.

Unfortunately, Vin Mazzaro pitched too well in his first 2 starts with the A’s.  His luck has turned since then. 
scan0010.jpgIt didn’t help that twice he had to face the Giant’s Tim Lincecum who is having another career season this year.  He has taken the loss in his last 4 starts, although he pitched well in his last outing but got no run support.

I won’t even comment on the Dana Eveland loss.  I think the A’s need to cast him adrift or trade him.  He has shown us over the last couple of years that he can pitch well at the Triple-A level, but falls apart in the majors.  He just doesn’t fool major league hitting and I think the A’s need to wake up to that fact. 

I hope that Dallas Braden does well today in Tampa.  We need our “veteran” Ace back.

Silent Bats:  Mention must be made of the A’s lack of situational hitting.  A lot of the losses might have been wins if the A’s could have driven in maybe half of the runners they had in scoring position. It often seems as if the bats don’t come alive until the 8th or 9th inning when they are in the hole, sometimes a deep one.  It’s too little, too late. 

Jason Giambi has been a real disappointment to the team, the fans and himself.  No one wants to win more than the G man.  Unfortunately, it looks as if he’s a little late when he swings at fastballs and doesn’t make contact.  But he’s not the only one who strikes out or hits into double plays. It’s been happening all too often up and down the lineup. Matt Holliday certainly isn’t helping his chances of being traded to a contender.  In short, the A’s just aren’t getting the key hits when they need them.

Scott Hairston:  To finish on a brighter note, the aquisition of Scott Hairston was a brilliant move by Billy Beane. 
Scott Hairston's Homer 7-7-09.jpgWe control him through 2011, and he is a terrific hitter and can handle the center field position very well.  Maybe he can ignite the lineup and they can score more runs to help out the young pitching staff.  Time will tell.  I haven’t given up on the A’s yet.  I just hope they don’t finish in the cellar.

Speed Guns, Testosterone and a Snafu

First of all, this is a long post for which I apologize, but I think you’ll see why when you read it.

Sunday’s game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium was truly surreal.  I discovered the snafu when I took my ticket out of my fanny pack and looked at it.  I was supposed to be sitting with my friends from Sacramento in Section F, Row 2, Seat 4, which is in the shade.  I have very fair skin and freckles and I definitely do not do sun.  But my ticket it said I was to sit in Lower Box 1, row 2, seat 4, which would not get shade until sometime this evening when the stadium would be empty.

I showed my ticket to an usher who gave me a very strange look and asked, “Are you an usherette, or do you work for a team?”  I replied, ‘No, this is the ticket that was sent to me.  I’m supposed to be in Section F.”  He smiled and pointed down to the rows right behind home plate.  “Well, when you get down there, take a look at the name badges of the guys sitting around you.  Some of them are former baseball players.”  Cool, I thought, this could be interesting.

When I got down to my seat, my main thought was that I wasn’t going to last long in the Arizona sun.  Should I go to the box office and ask for a shade seat?  I had a long-sleeved sun shirt on and a wide-brimmed hat in my bag so I decided to stick it out in row 2 for the time being and see what happened.  I sat down and took in the situation. 

The first five rows of this section were empty except for me.  This didn’t surprise me as it was about an hour before game time.  It was getting warm and I was thirsty so I left my bag under my seat and went off in search of a Pyramid Hefeweizen.  Beer in hand I returned to my seat, my bag was still there, but still no people in the first five rows.

The first guy to join me was Craig Colbert who played and coached for the Giants.  He is now the Advance Scout for the Phillies. He and I chatted about baseball and scouting and I told him about my book.  Others straggled in over the next half hour, including Lee McPhail IV, Director of Professional Scouting for the Baltimore Orioles who was there with one of his scouts.  Next came a couple of other guys whose nametags I couldn’t see, and a scout from the Colorado Rockies, the team the A’s were playing that day.  I talked to quite a few of them and apologized for the ticket mix-up.  I guess I was feeling really self-conscious around all this maleness. But they were all very polite and welcomed me.

To my right a couple of seats, another guy sat down and looked over at me.  I stuck out my hand and introduced myself.  He said his name was Richard Schlenker, a scout for the Angels, who lives in Walnut Creek, CA, near where I live.  I was becoming more at ease around all this testosterone (the beer helped) so I told him about my book and gave him my card.  He wanted to know more about the novel and said he’d look for it.

Shortly before game time, guys began trickling into the seats in the first row.  Let me step back a second and paint a picture of this scene.  Four feet in front of me was the net that would protect us from foul balls.  Twenty feet beyond that was home plate.  I could hear everything that was said on the field.  Several of the players and media guys waved or nodded at the guys in the row in front of me. 

My curiosity finally got the better of my shyness and I tapped the shoulder of a tall guy with a broad-brimmed hat seated in the front row one seat to left, and asked him who he scouted for.  “The Oakland A’s,” he replied and introduced himself as Craig Weismann.  Two seats to his right a young man with dark hair sat down.  I tapped his shoulder and asked the same question, to which he replied, “I’m not a scout, I’m the Assistant GM of the A’s.”  “David Forst,” I managed to blurt, and he nodded.  I had to pinch myself to convince myself this was really happening.

To top that, while I was talking to one of the other scouts another guy sat down between Craig Weismann and David Forst.  I didn’t see his face because he was facing forward wearing a brimmed hat.  Only when he got up to speak to someone at the other end of the row, did I recognize him as Billy Beane, the A’s General Manager.  And I thought Craig Colbert had made my day!

During the game, the ambience in the first five rows was so different from the rest of the stands.  No beers were in the cup holders except for mine, just sodas and bottled water.  While action was happening on the field, our section was deathly quiet; these guys were working and they were all business.   And as the pitcher stepped on the rubber and came set, as if choreographed by Michael Smuin, each of the scouts in perfect unison raised a hand gripping a Stalker Sport speed gun and aimed it at the pitcher.  As the latter started his delivery, the scouts pulled their triggers.  Within a fraction of a second the velocity of the pitch showed up on the two inch screen at the back of the speed gun.  Then each scout lowered his weapon to scribble something in the open notebook sitting on his lap.  When each subsequent pitch was thrown, the dance was reprised.

Between innings everything changed.  Conversation erupted and the guys talked about everything but baseball.  I heard a discussion of the blues and where to hear it in Phoenix.  Forst and Weismann talked about playing basketball.  Apparently, David started a team at Spring Training with a couple of guys from the front office, a couple of sports writers, and others.  They play at the Giants facility in Scottsdale.  Who they play is anyone’s guess, probably front office guys from the Giants or other MLB teams.  Others behind me talked about which Hollywood star could play a certain baseball player if they ever made a movie about the latter.  Then their conversation wandered off to things about Hollywood in general. I sat there soaking it all in and taking notes.

On the field the A’s played baseball against the Colorado Rockies.  A’s pitcher Sean Gallagher struggled a bit in the first inning and gave up a run, but he got a four-run lead to work with in the bottom of the first, courtesy of  Rockies pitcher Greg Smith, one of the players the A’s had traded for Matt Holliday in the offseason.  The Rockies scored runs in the third and fourth innings to take the lead at 6-5.  Not again, I thought.  We had already lost the other two games I had seen, but no further damage was done by either team until the ninth inning.

After an uneventful top of the ninth, I figured I’d better move up to the seat I had originally signed up for and reconnoiter with my friends.  I stood up and bid the guys good bye and thanked them for a very colorful afternoon.  They wished good luck with the book and I left, still reeling from the amazing experience.

In the bottom of the ninth, A’s outfielder Chris Denorfia stroked walk-off home run with a runner on board to win the game with a final score of 7-6, breaking the A’s 11-game losing streak.  What could be better than that?  Well, maybe sitting with the A’s front office and a bunch of major league scouts for eight and a half innings. Just maybe.