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.
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)