Last weekend I attended a SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) event at the Borders Bookstore across from AT+T Park in San Francisco. It was Tim Lincecum Bobblehead Night at the stadium and at 4:15 the line to get the bobblehead was strung out almost back to downtown SF. But my friend Sandy and I were not there to snag a replica of “The Freak,” but to hear three authors talk about their recently-published baseball books. Let me introduce them to you.
Jeff Gillenkirk has written a baseball novel, entitled Home, Away. Jason Thibideaux is a pitcher who has a bright future in professional baseball. After a divorce which brings out the worst in both parties, he fails to secure joint custody of his two-year-old son whom he raised full time for the previous year while his wife finished law school. Jason is devastated at being separated from his son for long periods of time as he embarks on his baseball career.
Over the next few years, through many ups and downs in his career and in his relationship with his son, Jason arrives at the crossroads and must make a gut-wrenching choice between family and career.
“Home, Away has it all — realistic family drama, the action of professional sports, witty dialogue … I was captivated from beginning to end. Gillenkirk’s book is a home run.” –Holly Goldberg Sloan, screenwriter, “Angels in the Outfield.”
I am about halfway through Home, Away, and am enjoying it thoroughly.
Mark Armour is the author of Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball. Joe Cronin was a player for 20 years for the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox, and was a 7-time allstar. He became a player-manager at the age of 26, a General Manager at age 40, President of the American League in 1950, and in the Mid-60’s was kicked upstairs to the Chairman of the League, a largely ceremonial position. He had almost 45 years at the level of manager or above, and spent over a half-century in baseball.
“For so many decades, Joe Cronin has defied the ambitions of biographers…until now, as Mark Armour finally brings us a revealing portrait of this towering figure in the game’s history,” says Rob Neyer of ESPN. “His treatment is both thorough and (equally important) very readable,” according to Bill Nowlin, author of more than 20 books on the Red Sox.
Steve L. Steinberg, a baseball historian, is the co-author (with Lyle Spats) of the book “1921: The Yankees, The Giants and the Fight for Baseball Supremacy in New York.” 1921 was the year that the Yankees won their first pennant. John McGraw of the Giants had always been the personification of New York baseball. As owner, general manager, and field manager (all at the same time), he called every pitch and managed in the old style of baseball.
By and large, the Yankees were a mediocre team before 1921. But that year, the Bronx Bombers, led by Babe Ruth, emerged as the new face of baseball. The clash between these two baseball styles and franchises is the focus of this remarkable book.
“1921 is an incredibly comprehensive look at a pivotal baseball season–for the sport, for New York, for an America finally distancing itself from war. … Iluminating and entertaining” — Frank Deford, senior contributing writer for Sports Illustrated and author.
I hope you will check these books out. They are all available on Amazon.com. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
The Freak Re-Ups with the Giants. A couple of days ago, I started to write a screed on how dumb the Giants are for not giving Tim Lincecum the additional $3M he wanted for a 3-year contract and casting their fate before an arbitrator. In the middle of writing, I decided to check the Giant’s website and found out that The Freak and the Giants’ Franchise had avoided arbitration with a 2-year deal. But who won? Or was it a draw? A little analysis might shed some light on these questions.
Tim Lincecum’s agent asked for $40M for 3 years.
The Giants offered $37M for the same period. Lincecum’s demand averages out to $13.33M per year, while the Giants’ offer was for $12.33M per year.
I don’t know about you, but I would have given Lincecum the additional $1M/year just to tie him up for 3 years. But no, the 2 parties appeared headed to arbitration over a lousy $1M/year for arguably one of the best–if not the best–pitchers in baseball.
Lets put this in perspective. Across the Bay, the A’s signed free-agent Ben Sheets to a 1-year deal worth $10M plus incentives. Sheets didn’t pitch at all in 2009 because of elbow surgery a year ago, which makes him a risk, though if it was Tommy John surgery he’ll probably be just fine. Sheets has 8 years in the majors, a career ERA of 3.72, 4 All Star appearances, and won the NL Cy Young in 2004.
Lincecum has 3 years in the Show, a career 2.90 ERA, 2 All Star appearances and won the NL Cy Young award the last 2 seasons. He’s only 25 years old, and if he continues to pitch like he has the last two years, he’ll command a lot more in 2012 than he would have gotten under the $40M 3-year contract. Maybe the Giants know something they aren’t telling. If so, maybe they made a good deaI. If not, they may have shot themselves in the foot. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Marty Lurie Moves Across the Bay. In what seems a bizarre turn of events, the A’s radio home KTRB has decided that they can no longer make time in their broadcast schedule for “Right off the Bat,” Marty Lurie‘s pregame show on the various A’s radio stations for the last 12 years.
Apparently, KTRB would rather have Mike Savage, a conservative talk-show host, from 3-6 pm, eliminating Lurie’s time slot. Thus Marty’s wonderful insights into baseball, both current and historic, are no longer going to entertain A’s fans before Ken Korach and Vince Contronio’s regular 45-minute pregame show.
To make matters worse, the Giants gladly picked him up to do the pre- and post-game shows on the weekends on their radio home KNBR 680. The one-hour shows will have many of the same features that the A’s fans have been treated to, plus the show will take more calls on air from the fans. “I am excited to add Marty to the line-up of talk show hosts at KNBR,” said Lee Hammer, Director of Operations for Cumulus San Francisco (IKNBR 680).
Apparently, the A’s have signed a new deal with KTRB through 2019, so it doesn’t look like we will be hearing Marty Lurie and Right Off the Bat again. I think It’s a huge loss for us A’s fans. His extensive knowledge of the history of the game, his insightful interviews with players, coaches, Hall of Famers, baseball writers, club executives and scouts, brought listeners a valuable perspective on the essence of the game of baseball. We will miss you Marty!
Tidbits: A’s Release outfielder Willy Taveras, who came over on Feb. 1st with Adam Rosales, in exchange for Aaron Miles of Antioch and a player to be named later. Taveras was immediately designated for assigment and the A’s released him 8 days later. He didn’t really figure in their plans as the player they really wanted was Rosales who is an infielder. The A’s outfield is already set and has depth, so no room for Taveras..
Another radio deal was inked recently. Ken Korach signed a 2-year deal as the lead play-by-play man for the A’s, which will keep him behind the mike in Oakland through 2011. A good thing.
Spring training is upon us. The pitchers and catchers have reported to Phoenix! I’ll be there from March 17-23. Can’t wait!
That’s all from here. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about anything that’s on your mind, whether or not it pertains to this article. Go A’s!!!
Young Pitching: The A’s young hurlers are having some successes and failures, and some of the good things don’t show up in the win column. We have to remember they are all under the age of 25, except the “veteran” Dallas Braden, who will be 26 on August 13th. These young guys are learning how to be professional ballplayers in the major leagues, not in the minors where pitchers typically spend 4 or more years before being called up.
Brett Anderson had a terrific complete-game 2-hitter against the Red Sox in Fenway, which was electricfying to watch.
Even the Sox fans acknowledged his feat with respect. The day before, Gio Gonzalez looked great in his 5-2 victory over Cy Young winner Cliff Lee in Cleveland. But those were the only bright spots since Dallas Braden beat Justin Verlander on July 1st in Oakland.
Trevor Cahill struggled mightily in Cleveland, lasting 3.2 innings and giving up 8 runs (5 earned). In Boston, he pitched well for 5 innings, but in the 6th gave up a solo home run to J.D. Drew and a 3-run shot to David Ortiz Maybe Bob Geren needs to pull these young kids when they first get into trouble (like after Drew’s solo homer) until they get used to facing tough major league hitting. In general, I think Geren leaves pitchers in too long.
Unfortunately, Vin Mazzaro pitched too well in his first 2 starts with the A’s. His luck has turned since then.
It didn’t help that twice he had to face the Giant’s Tim Lincecum who is having another career season this year. He has taken the loss in his last 4 starts, although he pitched well in his last outing but got no run support.
I won’t even comment on the Dana Eveland loss. I think the A’s need to cast him adrift or trade him. He has shown us over the last couple of years that he can pitch well at the Triple-A level, but falls apart in the majors. He just doesn’t fool major league hitting and I think the A’s need to wake up to that fact.
I hope that Dallas Braden does well today in Tampa. We need our “veteran” Ace back.
Silent Bats: Mention must be made of the A’s lack of situational hitting. A lot of the losses might have been wins if the A’s could have driven in maybe half of the runners they had in scoring position. It often seems as if the bats don’t come alive until the 8th or 9th inning when they are in the hole, sometimes a deep one. It’s too little, too late.
Jason Giambi has been a real disappointment to the team, the fans and himself. No one wants to win more than the G man. Unfortunately, it looks as if he’s a little late when he swings at fastballs and doesn’t make contact. But he’s not the only one who strikes out or hits into double plays. It’s been happening all too often up and down the lineup. Matt Holliday certainly isn’t helping his chances of being traded to a contender. In short, the A’s just aren’t getting the key hits when they need them.
Scott Hairston: To finish on a brighter note, the aquisition of Scott Hairston was a brilliant move by Billy Beane.
We control him through 2011, and he is a terrific hitter and can handle the center field position very well. Maybe he can ignite the lineup and they can score more runs to help out the young pitching staff. Time will tell. I haven’t given up on the A’s yet. I just hope they don’t finish in the cellar.
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.