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)
As one of the Comcast SportsNet California TV broadcasters said recently, “If it weren’t for Adam Rosales, the A’s wouldn’t be where they are right now,” which, as of today (May 29th), is 3 games above .500, a half a game behind the division-leading Texas Rangers. After the last couple of years’ dismal seasons, the A’s are definitely in the hunt for a post-season birth. But let’s back up a minute and take a look at how Rosie wound up in the role of utility man extraordinaire for the A’s.
Adam M. Rosales was born on May 20th, 1983 in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Ill., a Chicago suburb, and still lives there. He went on to Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo,where he was named to the All-Mid-American Conference 1st Team.
He was selected by the Cincinati Reds in the 12th round (362nd overall) of the June 2005 Amateur Draft. He was immediately sent to Billings in the Pioneer League (rookie) for 34 games, where he batted .321, and was elevated to Low Single-A Dayton in the Midwest League, batting .328.
In 2006 and 2007, he worked his way up the Red’s organization, ending up at Chattanooga in the Double-A Southern League. In the fall of 2007, he participated in the Arizona Fall League, a showcase league for the top 6 or 7 best players in each MLB team’s minor league system, where he batted .281. (See my previous blog article on the AFL.)
In 2008, he started the year with the Louisville Bats in the International League (Triple-A), and was called up to the Reds on August 9th for a brief stint, and again on August 20th when Jerry Hairston Jr. went on the DL. He started the 2009 season back at Louisville, but was called up on April 28th when Edwin Incarnacion fractured his wrist. He played in 87 games with the Reds that year, batting .213.
But batting is not all that Rosie was known for. He was signed as a shortstop and played that position until 2007, when he was moved to first base. In 2008, he played both short and 3rd at Louisville, and 3rd and 2nd with the Reds.
In 2009, he put in time at all 4 infield positions for the Reds. His hustle was rewarded by the Reds’ naming him as their representative for the Heart and Hustle Award. He was selected “for his passion for baseball and his embodiement of the values, tradition and spirit of the game.” Others nominated that year included: Chase Uttley, David Eckstein, Pablo Sandoval and Albert Pujols in the National League, and Nick Markakis, Joe Mauer, Nick Swisher and Evan Longoria in the AL. Jack Cust was nominated by the A’s. Really?
Rosie played in the Mexican Winter League this past winter, where he got considerable experience playing in left field. This was icing on the cake for Bob Geren and Billy Beane, who were looking for a utility infielder for this season.
On February 1st of this year, he was traded by the Reds, along with Willy Taveras, to the A’s for Aaron Miles and a PTBNL. Billy Beane has been quoted as saying that the player in that deal he really wanted was Rosales. This became clear when the A’s released Taveras a few weeks later. Of note, the Reds designated Aaron Miles for assignment on April 5th. Who got the better of the deal? A no-brainer.
So who is Adam Rosales? What we’ve seen so far this season is a guy who sprints around the bases whether he hits a homer or works a walk, a good fielder with a great arm at any position he plays, and a guy with some pop in his bat who seems to get hits when the team needs them. This type of situational hitting has been a real problem for the A’s over the past few years, especially with Jack Cust batting in the number 4 hole.
It is nice to see Rosie, Jake Fox, Ryan Sweeney and Kurt Suzuki take up the slack this season.
Also, Rosie is very disruptive on the base paths, as are Rajai Davis, and Coco Crisp (when he isn’t on the DL). And it’s the running game, I feel, that has made a big difference this year. Rosie rattles the pitchers, forces the opposing fielders to rush their throws, often resulting in errors. Rosie is also lightening fast, beating out infield hits almost routinely. As Manager Bob Geren put it, “Those kind of at-bats, that kind of speed, generates some action.”
Recently, I attended an Oakland A’s Booster Club luncheon where Rosie was the player on the dais.
He admitted that he was “scared to death” to be standing in front of 100+ Boosters, but not at all scared on the field. He was asked what he thinks about the A’s as a team, and responded without hesitation that they are “the best team in the Majors. There’s great chemistry. We’re like brothers.”
When asked why he runs so fast around the bases, he responded, “I always said if I ever get to the Major Leagues, I’m gonna play like I was 12 years old.”
He says he likes playing all the infield positions, but is most comfortable at shortstop and 2nd base. “I’ll play anywhere the team needs me to play.”
On the personal side, he she has a girlfriend, but is not married. In an interview with Kate Longworth of Comcast SportsNet California, he said that If he weren’t a baseball player, he’d be a rock star. His favorite bands are Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam. His favorite sports movies are “The Natural,” and when he was a kid, “Sandlot,” not surprisingly, both baseball movies. His pet peeve is “Waiting in Traffic!”
When asked what 3 things he takes on the road, he said: his toiletry bag, his cell phone, and his guitar. He hasn’t played for the his teammates yet. “If they’re lucky enough, maybe I’ll play for them.”
His best baseball memory was facing his first pitch at Wrigley Field. Since he grew up in Chicago, “I was really amped up.”
The A’s are extremely happy to have Adam Rosales on their roster.
When he’s in the lineup, good things happen. He’s had two 4-RBI nights in recent weeks, he’s hit homers, stolen bases, and made great plays in the field.
He always seems to have a smile on his face.
And everyone cheers when he sprints around the basepaths. What more could we A’s fans want?!
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.
The A’s Win a Weird One:: After an ugly loss the night before to start the 2nd half of the season, the A’s bounced back to win Friday night by a score of 7-3. But this wasn’t a typical win as there were a total of 14 walks (7 for each team), 7 stolen bases (4 by the A’s!), and 17 hits (9 by the A’s) in the game.
The A’s faced Joe Saunders who usually has the A’s number, but he has been struggling of late and that continued last night. He just didn’t look confident and gave the A’s opportunities in every inning he pitched.
Unfortunately until the 4th inning, the A’s couldn’t capitalize on those gifts. Bobby Crosby changed all that with a 3 run homer in the 4th.
The A’s never fell behind after that.
Morales’ Home Run: Three events stand out from the rest of the oddities. In the top of the 2nd inning, Kendry Morales hit a line drive to left that looked like it hit something near the fence and bounced back onto the field right to Matt Holliday. The third base umpire called it a home run. Bob Geren came out and asked for another opinion. The Umps decided to do a video review and 3 of them left the field to look at various replays of the hit. 1 umpire had to stay on the field to make sure that none of the players moved from their positions. The slo-mo replay footage that we saw in HD showed, at least to me (but not the TV broadcasters), that ithe ball hit the lens of the TV camera (over the wall) and bounced back onto the field. This was confirmed when the umpires emerged from the tunnel under the stands and the crew chief indicated a home run by twirling his upraised index finger and clearly mouthed the words: “It hit the camera.” I guess my eyesight is okay. The amazing part of the whole thing is that the camera man didn’t even flinch when the ball hit his camera!
Rajai Dekes the Angel’s Catcher: In the bottom of the 4th, Raj Davis stroked a ball into the gap off Joe Saunders and motored into 2nd base. He took his usual big lead and as Saunders began his move to the plate, Raj looked like he was going to take off for 3rd, but after a few steps he stopped. The Angels catcher, Jeff Mathis glanced at Raj and obviously thought Raj would retreat to 2nd. Instead, when Mathis softly tossed the ball back to the pitcher, Raj took off and stole 3rd cleanly. He scored on Crosby’s homer 2 batters later. What a great acting job, Raj!
Run, Raj, Run! In the bottom of the 6th, Raj Davis walked to lead off the inning. With Mark Ellis at the plate, Raj got caught a little too ffar off 1st base. But Saunders’ throw to 1st was way off target and went into right field rattling around among the chairs on the field near the Angel’s bullpen.
Raj took off and flew around the bases and beat the throw to home, putting the A’s ahead for good.
Hairston Gets Drilled a la Bobby Crosby: In the bottom of the 8th, one of Justin Speier’s sliders failed to break and hit Scott Hairston on the hand.
Oh, no, I thought. Isn’t that the same guy who broke Bobby Crosby’s hand with a similar pitch last year? Yup. I hope Scott is okay. We need him in the lineup.
In short, it was a strange game, but the result was great. As Glen Kuiper said, “This game was not a thing of beauty.”
Yesterday’s Game Against the Twins: Trevor Cahill pitched well initially, but in the top of the 4th inning got into some trouble and gave up a 3-run homer to Joe Crede. Oh, no, not again, must have been going through the fans minds. Not another long losing streak, please? Thankfully, after that Cahill pitched 3 more scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Twins’ starter, Nick Blackburn, completely befuddled the A’s for the first 7 innings, allowing no one past 2nd base.
Jack Hannahan and Adam Kennedy Man Up: In the bottom of the 8th inning, Jack Hannahan, batting in the 9 hole, led off with a triple (has he finally solved the riddle of hitting?) He scored when Orlando Cabrera stroked a single to center field, making the score 3-1 Twins. Then Nick Blackburn left a pitch up in the middle of the strike zone and Adam Kennedy sent the gift over the right field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Brad Ziegler, who had pitched the top of the 8th inning, worked a 3-up, 3-down 9th, keeping the game tied.
Things Start Going the A’s Way: In the bottom of the 9th, Jason Giambi led off with a walk, and was replaced by the speedy Chris Denorfia. Suzuki tried to bunt Denorfia to 2nd base but was unsuccessful in 2 attempts. Then Twins relief pitcher, Matt Guerrier, hit Suzuki, which accomplished the same result. Daric Barton laid down a nifty bunt in front of home plate and the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd. Now, there were 2 on and 1 out.
Rajai’s First Walk-Off Hit: Manager Bob Geren had told Rajai Davis in the dugout before he went out to the on-deck circle, “You’re gonna win the game.” After Barton was thrown out at first after his great bunt, Raj stepped into the batters box. He dumped the first pitch he saw into right field for a walk-off single, scoring Denorfia and giving the A’s a 4-3 victory and a split of the series at 2 games apiece. That shut down the losing streak at 2 games.
The Battle of the Young Guns: Tonight the A’s move across the Bay to begin a 3-city interleague road trip. The pitching matchup for the first game is stellar: Tim Lincecum (5-1. 2.96 ERA, Opp. BA .235, WHIP 1.211) is going against Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 0.00 ERA, OBA .170, WHIP .923). For those of you who are not familiar with the WHIP statistic, it stands for Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. It’s a truer measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness than ERA. In all those categories, Mazzaro has the better stats, but he’s only pitched 2 games in the Major Leagues. It should be fun to watch.