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.
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.
That 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.
The 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.
He 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)
Hot 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.
Miscellanea. OC 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.
He 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.
The 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.