First of all, I apologize profusely for the amount of time since my last post. My only excuse is that my editor is making me rewrite the last 1/3 of my novel, “Contract Year,” to change the ending. So I have had to concentrate on that. But here are a few things that I’ve noticed since my Eri Yoshida update on July 22:
Bob Feller Diagnosed With LeukemiaLegendary pitcher Bob Feller recently revealed that he is being treated for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a type of the disease that is very common in elderly men. Feller is 91 years old. “It is curable, but not guaranteed,” he told the Cleveland Fox News Affiliate. Bob is the third oldest living Hall of Famer after Lee McPhail and Bobby Doerr, who are both 92. The day he announced his condition, he was in his regular seat in the Indians’ Press Box, after missing 5 games while undergoing outpatient treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. He makes regular appearances on behalf the the team and is much loved by Cleveland fans. You can read about my experience meeting him in April at Spring Training in my post entitled, “Meeting Bob Feller.” Check it out.
Dallas Braden Gets Some Bling
On Sunday, Joe Stiglich’s A’s Blog
(Contra Costa Times website) had a note about a brief ceremony in the A’s clubhouse, at which Co-Owner Lew Wolff presented Dallas with a diamond ring honoring him for his perfect game.
Lew also gave him a diamond pendant for his beloved grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who raised him after his mother died of breast cancer. Wolff asked Braden, “Can you do two in one year?” Dallas replied in characteristically droll fashion, “I don’t have that club in my bag!”
From Indie Ball to the Majors in 2 1/2 Months
On June 18th, 28 year-old Justin James was a pitcher for the Kansas City T-Bones in the independent Northern League. He had pitched in the Toronto and Cincinnati organizations before being released in 2009, following an injury-riddled 2008 season. He signed on with the T-Bones because they were the closest indie team to his home in Yukon, OK.
On June 19th, the A’s signed him to a minor league contract and he spent the last two months between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, posting a 1.83 ERA and 49 strikeouts with only 16 walks in 39 1/3 innings. “I can’t stand walking people,” he said. “I’ve always been against it.” (We need more pitchers with that attitude and the ability to put it into practice.) He throws a 95 MPH fastball.
Last Wednesday, Justin got “the call” and reported for his major league debut, which turned out to be at Yankee Stadium, where the A’s were playing a 4-game series. We won’t talk about how that series went. Let’s just say that it went better for Justin than the team. He came into the game and pitched an inning, giving up 3 hits and an earned run with 2 strikeouts and a walk. Not bad against the mighty Yankees. In yesterday’s game against the Angels, he fared better, pitching an inning and and allowing just 1 hit.
“It’s really unbelievable,” he said before his Yankee Stadium appearance. “I didn’t expect that this would happen this year, coming from independent ball. I am as happy as I have ever been.”
That’s it for now. Hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend.
Date: October 23, 2009
Lewis N Wolff, CEO
Wolff-Di Napoli Development Co.
11828 La Grange Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025-5212
RE: Some Solutions to the Woes of the Oakland Athletics
Dear Mr. Wolff,
I have been a fan of the Athletics since they moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City in 1955 when I was a child. I have a deep love for the game of baseball and the Athletics in particular. I am writing to you to urge you to use your influence to make some changes in the team and the Coliseum for the 2010 season and beyond.
As a season ticket holder, I am concerned that the attendance at the Oakland Coliseum has been declining over the last three years (along with the teams record), but it dropped precipitously during the last half of the 2009 season, when the team was playing over .500 ball. I attended several mid-week night games when there were not more than 4-5000 people in the stands. The paid attendance was always 3-4000 more than that, which says to me that the other season ticket holders stayed away in droves. This is not good for A’s or your considerable investment in the team.
I realize that low gate revenue hampers management’s efforts to make any significant moves that result in increasing the cost of running the team, but there are some things that can be done to improve the fan’s experiences which will result in increased attendance, better press coverage, increased TV advertizing revenues, and improved player morale. These things can be accomplished without large outlays of capital. Some may take some time, but others can be implemented in the 2010 season.
By far the most important change that needs to be made is to fire (or transfer) Bob Geren from the job of Field Manager. It is obvious to any of us who study the game and the A’s that he does not have a clue how to manage a team or inspire the players to play at their top potential. Contrast Bob Geren, with his reserved demeanor and flat affect, to Tony La Russa, who kept his cool but could inspire mediocre players to achieve greatness. We need a manager who can do that. Bob Geren is definitely a liability to you and the team.
You have the power to see that Bob Geren is no longer the manager of the A’s. I know that Bob and Billy Beane are best of friends, but you need to do what is best for the organization and the team, not what’s best for Beane and/or Geren. In any other franchise, three sub-.500 seasons in a row would have resulted in a management change. Please consider exerting your power as Managing Partner to make this happen. Hopefully you can get this done in 2010. If not, then please don’t exercise the club’s option for 2011.
Other things that could be done to make the fan experience more enjoyable, and which would get more people in the seats, are:
1) In these bad economic times, have some more midweek nights with reduced prices on tickets and/or food items to encourage more people to come to a game. People look for bargains when times are tough.
2) Do away with the All-You-Can-Eat seats which are rarely occupied (especially for mid-week games), take the tarp off 2 more sections (5 sections total) in the third deck behind home plate, and charge the same price or a few dollars more than bleacher seats. That would get more people in the stands. Again it’s the economy.
3) If you don’t like No. 2) (or in addition), put outfield plaza-level and field-level seats on sale for half price starting 30 minutes before game time or at game time. You’d need a little more crowd control around the box office, but it could be done without costing much. People who want to see the whole game will still buy tickets at full price, and the additional people in the stands would buy lots more food, drink and souvenirs.
4) Put some color in the bathrooms to jazz them up. They are so bland and dingy now. For example, the River Cats’ restrooms have inspiring quotes from famous players or managers stenciled above the sinks. That doesn’t sound very important but it does improve the ambience in the stadium. Some quotes from baseball and football would make sense.
The primary goal of anything you do must be to get more people to come to A’s games. Having a team on the field that is exciting to watch is the key. We have great young players and they will be much better in 2010 than they were in 2009 when they were getting their feet wet in the Majors. But to get the most out of them, we desperately need a new manager. How about Carney Lansford? He’s available, I hear. Or make Ty Waller Manager and Carney the bench coach.
Thanks for considering the points I raised. As a long-time A’s fan, I only want what is best for the team, as I am sure you do too.
Belinda Laird Hylinski
Feel free to pirate any language from the above and write your own letter to Lew. Maybe we can get this done. Go A’s!!!
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: email@example.com.
- 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.
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.
Is 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.
He 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.