As the baseball season begins its fall from summer into winter, and as I embark on a major rewrite of my novel “Contract Year,” I will be posting a bit less frequently on this blog. This is also a natural occurance as the season comes to an end and many people’s focus shifts to football (not mine, however.) There just simply will be less and less news on baseball during the offseason to write about. I will still try to post once a week, but don’t desert me if I miss one or two.
Cliff Pennington and Landon Powell Contribute Big: Cliff had a great game on Saturday, making 2 amazing plays at shortstop, and hitting his first homer from the right side, going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI’s and a walk.
He has a cannon for an arm and Sunday threw out Ichiro when everyone including Ichiro thought he had a hit.
Landon Powell has caught 3 games in the last 8 days and muscled his 1st career grandslam home run to right-center in the 2nd inning on Wednesday against the Royals, and a solo shot high up in the right field bleachers on Sunday. Here’s his trot to homeplate on Wednesday.
Apparently, Landon left the locker room before the press could get to him to ask him about his grand salame, and a conference call had to be set up so that the press could get their statement. Rookie mistake!
Scott Hairston and Gio Gonzalez: Scott Hairston was both goat and hero on Sunday. In the 5th inning with Seattle ahead 2-1, Scott came up with the bases loaded and 1 out, the best opportunity for the A’s so far against Seattle’s Doug Fister from Merced, CA, and popped up to Jose Lopez in foul territory, stranding the 3 runners. Unfortunately, Landon Powell couldn’t get the runners home either.
However, in the bottom of the 7th, Hairston came up with exactly the same situation as in the 5th,
but this time he delivered, blasting a grandslam into the left bleachers, putting the A’s ahead for good, 5-2. He was grinning as he met the huddle around home plate. I bet he called big brother Jerry who plays for the Yankees as soon as possible to tell him the good news.
Gio Gonzalez had undoubtedly his best outing of the season, pitching 7 innings, allowing 2 runs and only 2 walks and throwing 3 strikeouts. The best part of the outing was his effective use of the new 4-seam changeup that he has been working on for the last few months, giving him a credible third pitch to go with his breaking fastball and nasty curve. After giving up a run in the 1st, he settled down and allowed only one more run in the next 6 innings. In the bottom of the 7th when Gio’s day was done, Hairston’s slam got him the win, the second time the A’s gave him a victory in that fashion this year. In July, the A’s scored 6 runs to give Gio a win after pitching his final inning in Yankee Stadium.
Brad Zieger came in and pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning and Andrew (“Boom Boom”) Bailey closed it out for his 23rd save, tying Huston Street’s Oakland record for most rookie saves. Bailey was named American League Rookie of the Month for August. He also is considered one of the front runners for AL Rookie of the Year. Go get’em Boom Boom!
All for now. Upcoming topics include: Being a Fan Can Be Dangerous, Interesting Statistics, and anthing else that I get curious about.
A Record-Breaking Comeback of Epic Proportions: Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins was one for the record books. Gio Gonzales got the first 2 outs of the game and then everything fell apart for him. I won’t go into the nasty details because they turned out to be a non-issue, except for the substantial hit Gio’s ERA took. Suffice it to say that after 2.5 innings the score was 12-2 Twins, which included Jason Kubel’s 3-run blast in the 1st, Justin Morneau’s grand slam in the 2nd, Michael Cuddyer’s solo shot right after Morneau’s grand salame, and Morneau’s 3-run encore in the top of the 3rd. After the last home run, Gio was lifted for Santiago Casilla. It looked pretty bleak at that point.
But the stars were aligned in the A’s corner for the rest of the game.
They scored 3 runs in the bottom of the third (Daric Barton’s homer plated 2 of them), 2 runs in the 4th (on Matt Holliday’s first dinger) and
7 runs in the 7th inning which included a 2 run double by Orlando Cabrera and Matt Holliday’s grand slam to tie the game at 13-13, followed by a solo
shot from Jack Cust to put the A’s ahead for good. A questionable play at the plate that was called the A’s way ended the game in
the bottom of the ninth.
To put it in perspective, there were 27 runs scored, 39 hits, 8 homers, 9 doubles, and 2 errors in the game. The A’s stroked 22 hits and had NO strikeouts! The game lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes, and the paid attendance was 10,283, a large portion of whom had left before the A’s slugfest in the 7th ining. More than one record was set in this amazing game but the best was that the ten-run deficit in the 3rd was the largest one (by 2 runs) the Oakland A’s had ever recovered from to win a ballgame.
Matt Holliday summed it up best. “We were down by 10 runs. Hey, we had nothing to lose. The guys just relaxed and had fun and didn’t quit. They kept pecking away at it and hit what was thrown to them, mostly to the opposite field.” Maybe this was a good lesson for the hitters: when they don’t press too hard and don’t try to do too much, good things happen.
When Matt Holliday hit the grand slam to tie it, Bob Geren was positively animated: he smiled weakly and faked a small fist pump. After the game when interviewed in his office, the smile was gone and he was very matter of fact and droll. Come on, guy, show some emotion. It helps pump up the team. Jeez, you’d think someone died! My husband may be on to somthing: he thinks Geren’s a robot!
Road Trip: This will probably be my last post for over a week. The A’s and I are going on the road–together! Sports Travel and Tours has put together a wonderful Hall Of Fame Induction trip. We fly to New York and go to the A’s-Yankees game Friday night in the new Yankee Stadium. The next day we motor up to Cooperstown for two days, culminating in the Induction of Rickey Henderson into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On Monday, our bus takes us on to Boston where we watch the A’s play the Red Sox in Fenway Park that night. The next day we drive back to New York where we go to the new Citi Field to see the Mets play the Colorado Rockies. The following day we come home. Sounds pretty fabulous to me. I am really jazzed about going.
So this is all you’ll hear from me most likely until late next week, when I will report on the trip and the A’s once again. Go A’s!!!
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.
Even 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.
It 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.
We 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.
I am just back from the River Cats game and what a pleasure it was. River Cats starting pitcher, Chad Reineke, pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, and the bullpen (Jerry Blevins and Ryan Webb, who got the win) were similarly flawless. The Las Vegas 51s starter, Fabio Castro, went 6 innings without giving up a run and reliever T.J. Beam was unscathed in the 1 1/3 innings he pitched. A real pitchers duel that was fun to watch.
River Cats reliever, Ryan Webb, who played the entire 2008 season at Midland, Texas (AA), came in for the top of the 8th and gave up a hit before getting the third out. In the bottom of the 8th, the 51s’ Bill Murphy replaced Beam after the first out. Murphy faced three batters and couldn’t get anyone out, giving up 2 runs. He was replaced by Bryan Bullington who allowed 2 more runs to score (1 Murphy’s, and the other his), which brought the score to 4-0 River Cats. Webb pitched a 3 up-3 down 9th inning for the win. The River Cats have now won 10 out of their last 11 games.
Before ending this post, I must comment on going to a game at Raley Field in Sacramento. Yes it get’s very hot in the summertime, but today’s temparature barely got above 80 degrees with a nice breeze. The stadium is intimate (today’s attendance a little under 6,000) and is very fan and family friendly (no rowdy drunk fans and lots of entertainment between innings). The food is varied and delicious and there are lots of different beverage choices. So different from the MLB experience, where the players are kept apart from the fans and many players won’t sign autographs. There are few big egos among the minor league players as they get paid next to nothing. The whole atmosphere in the stadium doesn’t have the commercial overtones so prevalent at the major league level.
Here’s an example of what I am talking about: before the game began, I went in search of James Simmons, one of the River Cats starting pitchers who was the A’s top draft pick in the First Year Player Draft of 2007 (26th over all). He has graciously agreed to read my novel and I always try to say hi to him when I am at a River Cats game. I finally found him charting pitches in the stands right behind home plate with another starting pitcher, Gio Gonzales. I sat and chatted with them for an inning. They very nicely dispatched the seat police with a “She’s with us” comment. I bid them adieu when the next inning started so they could concentrate on their assigned task. This kind of player contact would never be possible in a major league park.
So, if you want to see where real baseball is played and feel like you are part of the action, you need to go to a minor league game. It doesn’t matter which level you see, although the ability of the players is the highest in Triple A. Minor league and independent baseball is where baseball is played for the shear love of the game. Yes, the players are all trying to advance, ultimately to the majors. But these guys haven’t yet become jaded and they play their hearts out. Their energy is infectious. So, if you live within striking distance of a minor league park, go to a game. You won’t be disappointed, even if the home team loses. It’s just pure fun.
Yankee Series: After 3 games in Toronto, the A’s played a rain-shortened series in the new Yankee Stadium, losing both games to the Bronx Bombers. I won’t regurgitate the details of the games as they were painful enough the first time around. I will comment on Dan Giese, whom the A’s picked up on waivers a couple of weeks ago from those dreaded Yankees. He has the dubious distinction of giving up 2 walk-off homers to end extra-inning games in his first 2
appearances. He must be shell-shocked about pitching in extras by now. The sad thing about both outings was that he pitched 2 good innings before each walk-off, and the bullpen was depleted and Manager Bob Geren probably didn’t have a choice and had to leave him out there. Maybe he’s a 2-inning guy. We’ll see in the next month or so whether it was a good move to bring him over from the Yanks. The A’s will make up the rained-out game on July 23rd in New York.
10 MLB Teams Decline in Value: Forbes Magazine recently published an analysis of the value of the Major League Baseball Teams, and the results are interesting. The teams whose values declined the most are: the Nationals (down 12%), Braves (10%), and the Tigers and Mariners (9% each). You’ll be pleased to note that the A’s declined only 1%, while the Giants’ value is down 5%. In terms of dollars, the A’s are worth $319M and rank 27th in the majors. Only the Marlins, the Pirates and the Royals are worth less than the A’s.
At the top in terms of dollars is the Yankees ($1.5Billion! ), followed by the Mets ($912M), Red Sox ($833M), Dodgers ($722M) and the Cubs ($700M). The Yankees and Mets values were up significantly due to their new ballparks which opened this season. Interestingly, the average value of an MLB team rose 1% to $482M.
What’s really itelling is that the Yankees are currently in 3rd place in the AL East, and the Mets are in 4th place in the NL East, so value doesn’t necessarily translate into standing, at least not this early in the season. Also, the least-expensive Marlins ($277M) are leading the NL East.
Gallagher to Triple A: The A’s optioned Sean Gallagher to the River Cats to get him more pitching time. He has been the long man in the A’s bullpen and hasn’t pitched much this year.
I think the move was a good one for Sean, as he’ll join the rotation that includes Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro and James Simmons, all of who are doing well right now. Sean has talent and needs to use it regularly to hone his craft. Now he’ll get a chance to do that.
Coming Up: The A’s come home for a 3-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow night and then go on the road again (does anyone else hear a C+W song right now?) to Texas and Seattle. Oh, the vagaries of the MLB schedule and the short shrift that the West Coast teams seem to get. 3 days at home? Give me a break.