Tagged: Billy Beane

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. 

 

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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.