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.
I went to the A’s game on Thursday, Sept. 17th, and although the announced attendance was 10,873, there were no more than five or six thousand people in the stands. What’s going on here?
Ticket holders are staying home: The only explanation for the disparity between the paid attendance and the butts in the seats is that people are buying tickets but staying home in droves. In this economy, I would think they wouldn’t buy the tickets in the first place. A friend suggested that the season ticket holders may have given up on the team. That also surprises me as season ticket holders are usually the most loyal fans, since they have to cough up large amounts of money before the season has even started. All I know is that it is a shame that the team is being sent a message that the fans don’t care, especially when they are playing well.
The A’s Are Playing Great: The A’s have won their last 6 games, and 11 of the last 13, most games against teams contending for their division. So it got me thinking about the A’s team and player statistics, to see if that might explain why the A’s seem to be in such disfavor with the fans.
Won-Loss Record: As of the end of play yesterday (Sept. 19th), the A’s have won 70 and lost 78 games, for a winning percentage of .473, ranked last place in the AL West, and 18 games behind the Angels. But with that won-loss record, if the A’s were in the AL East, they’d be in 3rd place ahead of both the Blue Jays and the Orioles, and if they were in the AL Central, they’d be in 4th place ahead of the Kansas City Royals. We could talk about the relative strengths of the divisions, but you get my point. It’s not good, but it’s not all that bad.
After the All Star Break: The picture is much rosier for the 2nd half of the season. The A’s have won 33 and lost 29, for a winning percentage of .532. In fact, since May, the A’s have won 51 and lost 49, for a winning percentage of .510. Folks, that’s playing over .500 ball! If the A’s keep playing like they have over the last 2 weeks, they could even finish the season over .500, which everyone has said all year would be a great achievement, given the team’s youth and the team’s dismal first two months.
But let’s look at the statistics more closely:
Runs Scored vs. Runs Allowed: During the first half of the season, the A’s won 37 and lost 49 (.430). They scored 361 runs (4.2 runs/game) but allowed 401 runs to score (5.3 r/g). That tells you all you need to know about the first half of the season.
During the second half of the season so far, the team has scored 320 runs (6.2 r/g), but have allowed 285 runs (5.5 r/g). They young pitchers have learned how to avoid the big inning for the most part, some have added new pitches to their arsenal, and the walks are way down. Brett Anderson has emerged as the Ace of the rotation, and Cahill and Gonzalez have been strong of late. But the hitting and scoring has picked up considerably as shown by the runs scored stat for the 2nd half.
Team Stats of Note: Notwithstanding the A’s fans’ apathy, the team is by no means at the bottom of the 14 teams in the AL in most categories. If you want to talk about a bad team, I suffered through the A’s first year in Kansas City as a child when they won 63 and lost 91 games (154-game season back then). One especially ugly game took place on April 23rd of that year in which the A’s lost to the White Sox by the score of 29-6. They stank, yet the fans came out to the games. But I digress.
Here are some bright spots from this season:
Hitting: The A’s typically rank 8th, 9th, or 10th in most hitting categories, meaning that 4-6 teams were worse than the A’s in most hitting categories. The do rank high in at least 1 statistic: 5th in sacrifice flies! The only hitting category they rank last in is in home runs–no big surprise there.
Fielding: In most categories the A’s rank in the middle of the pack. They have had the fewest passed balls (chalk that up to Kurt Suzuki!)
They rank 4th in put-outs, innings played on the field, and caught stealing percentage (Suzuki again).
Pitching: The A’s pitching staff are the youngest in average age (25.8 years), 4th in team shutouts and 12th in wild pitches made. They have the 5th lowest team ERA (4.28) ahead of the Yankees (6th) and the Angels (10th), and 5th in intentional walks, as well as 7th in strike outs, 8th in saves, 9th in runs allowed, and tied with Boston for the fewest home runs allowed.
Player Stats of Note: On Friday night when the League Leaders were up on the Diamond Vision Screen, I expected not to see any A’s player’s mentioned. But I was wrong. Here are some top-ten player achievements and some not so great records this year:
Walks: 5th – Jack Cust (88)
Strikeouts: 1st – Jack Cust (167)
Stolen Bases: 4th – Rajai Davis (40)
Caught Stealing: 4th – Rajai Davis (11)
At Bats/Strikeout: 7th – Kurt Suzuki (9.943)
Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (both in the top 10):
Adam Kennedy – .349
Rajai Davis – .337
So why don’t the fans come to the Coliseum? We have an exciting team right now, so we can’t lay the blame on the players. They are playing their hearts out and the games are fun to watch, especially lately. Some possible culprits that I have mentioned before and some new ones are, in no particular order:
- The media paint a gloomy picture. Remember, their unofficial motto is “If it bleeds, it leads!” Translation: bad news gets more ink than good news, which encourages the sports writer to look for the negatives.
- The Coliseum is old, low tech, and not particularly fan friendly. The A’s will be there for the foreseeable future, so fans, GET OVER IT! It’s not that bad and the food and drink are plentiful and good, if expensive. Lew Wolff, you could spend a little money on the Coliseum which would help the fan experience. I have some ideas on that. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Manager hasn’t a clue. I’ve discoursed on that subject before. See my earlier blogs.
- The team has no marquee players. Are the A’s fans so shallow that they have to have a star to get them out to a game? If so, they aren’t true fans of the game of baseball. Get excited about Kurt Suzuki, Mark Ellis, Raj Davis, Adam Kennedy, Ryan Sweeney, and the young pitchers.
Get off your butts and out to the Coliseum! I’m doing my part.
- You freeze your butt off at night games. So bundle up! It’s an easy fix.
It’s a shame that the stands are so empty at game time. I am sure there are more reasons than I have listed. Perhaps you’d like to share yours. Go A’s!!!
P.S. They won again today 11-4, sweeping the Indians! Gotta love this team.
Next Article: Being a Fan Can Be Dangerous.