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.
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.
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.
Every team that played in the postseason this year, had former A’s players or coaches on their rosters. Most of them will get some kind of share of the postseason bonuses.
World Series:The Yankees have 3 active players on their postseason roster who used to play for the A’s: Johnny Damon (2001), Nick Swisher (2004-07) and Chad Gaudin (2006-08). The Phillies have two active former A’s, Joe Blanton (2004-08) and Matt Stairs (1996-99). The Phils’ Bench Coach, Davey Lopes played for the A’s in 1982-84. Therefore, there are 6 possible World Series Shares that will go to former A’s. The will also receive winning shares of the League Championship Series (LCS) and their Division Series (LDS). I will explain all this later.
League Championship Series (“The Pennant”): On the 2 teams who lost their LCS, the Angel’s first base coach, Alfredo Griffin, played for the A’s in 1985-87. Andre Ethier of the Dodgers spent 2003-05 in the A’s farm system and was a top A’s prospect before he was part of the trade to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley. Bob Schaefer, the Dodger’s Bench Coach, held the same position with the 2007 A’s and their Pitching Coach, Rick Honeycutt, pitched for the Green and Gold in 1987-93 and 1995. So 4 former A’s should get LCS losing and LDS winning shares this year.
On the other 4 teams who lost in the LDS, there were quite a few guys who were formerly affiliated with the A’s:
In the National League, Matt Holiday of the St. Louis Cardinals played for the A’s during the first half of 2009. The Cards’ Coaching staff is also full of ex-A’s. Tony LaRussa, the Cards manager, managed the A’s from 1986-95, and his pitching coach, Dave Duncan was the A’s Pitching Coach from 1985-95 and played for the KC/Oakland A’s from 1964-72. Dave McKay, The Cards’ First Base Coach, was the A’s Bullpen and Bench Coach from 1984-89, and the A’s1st Base Coach from 1989-95. And Jason Giambi (1995-2001, 2009), Carlos Gonzalez (2008), Huston Street (2005-08), and Matt Murton (pt. of 2008) are all on the active roster of the Rockies. They should all get losing LDS shares.
In the American League, Manager Terry Francona (2003 A’s Bench Coach) and Dave Magadan (1997-98 player) of the Boston Red Sox, and Orlando Cabrera (2009) and Ron Mahay (1999-2000) of the Minnesota Twins should all get losing LDS shares.
Postseason Bonuses: There are three factors that determine what a player who plays in the post season will receive as bonuses: 1) The size of the bonus pool for each level of post season play, 2) how far the player’s team gets in the postseason, and the share of the team’s bonus pool that the player will receive
The Bonus Pool: There is a separate pool for each level of the postseason. Each bonus pool receives 60% of the gate receipts for that series. There is a complicated formula to determine the value of the gate that takes into account the size of the venues, the amount of high-priced premium seating in the venues, the number of games played in the series and whether or not the games sell out. The actual ticket prices are set by MLB, not the home teams as they are during the season.
Winners vs. Losers: The winning team’s share of the World Series gate receipts is 36% and the loser’s share is 24%. The LCS losing teams each get 12% and the LDS losers get 3% each, and the 4 2nd-place teams that do not win the wild-card receive 1%.
A Player’s Share of the Team’s Pool: Here’s where things can get sticky. the 25 roster players vote right after the trade deadline (July 31st) at a meeting chaired by their union representative. At this meeting the 25 players decide whether players who have not been with the club for the whole season get a full share,a partial share or no share at all. Non-players, such as trainers, may be granted full or partial shares. The pool of money is divided by the number of shares granted at the meeting. There is no llimit on the number of shares, but a player will receive less money if there are more shares granted.
In 2006, members of the St. Louis Cardinals received over $362,000 each for winning the World Series. For players who have not become elligle for arbitration (less than 3 years experience in the Majors), their share may be more than their regular season salary. For the players with valuable contracts, their share may be less than 5%.
So that’s how postseason bonuses are calculated. And in all 18 former A’s may be ellible to receive postseason money, depending upon what their respective teams voted in their August meeting.
It all may be decided tonight if the Yanikees win, or maybe the Phillies will grit their way to another win to say alive. It should be a good game.
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.
When Rickey Henderson was introduced to the crowd at the 2009 Hall of Fame Indiuction Ceremony, a roar went up from the 21,000+ fans in attendance. Rickey played for nine teams in his career, so he had a lot of fans present sporting different logos, but by far the largest percentage were wearing the green and gold of the Oakland A’s. It also didn’t hurt that Sports Travel and Tours had seven bus loads of mostly A’s fans in the audience.
Unfortunately, we were sitting so far away that Rickey appeared to be a cream-colored dot amid the sea of dark suits on the unlighted stage. That’s Rickey seated at the left end of the front row next to the red, white and blue bunting. (By the way, this picture was taken with the maximum zoom on my camera which makes Rickey look much closer than he really was.) Consequently, we were forced to watch most of the festivities on the large TV screen to the left of the stage. The thought flashed through my mind that I could been dry and comfy watching this at home, but I dismissed it immediately. There was something electric about being among the fans present sending love to Rickey in his moment of glory. I felt humbled by being able to witness history in person.
Rickey’s speech had been eagerly anticipated by the media and the blogosphere, who looked forward to “Rickeyisms.” 3rd person references to himself, and another “I am the greatest of all time” speech. Those who wanted to hear these Rickey trademarks were sorely disappointed. The majority of us were hoping that Ricky would give a great speech and do us proud, and in that regard he hit it out of the park.
He talked about growing up in Oakland, how he really wanted to play football, but his mother told him to play baseball because she was worried him getting hurt, how when Rickey was a boy his coach brought him hot chocolate and doughnuts when he came to pick him up to make sure he came to Babe Ruth baseball practice, and how Mrs. Tommie Wilkerson, his high school guidance counselor encouraged his success on the diamond with quarters for hits, stolen bases and home runs.
He thanked his former managers, especially Billy Martin, whom he said he would never forget and wished he could be there that day. And he thanked Charlie Finley (and his donkey) and the Haas family for giving him the chance to play baseball in Oakland. And he thanked the fans who supported him no matter where he played. (Go here to read a transcript of the speech: http://nationalsportsreview.com/sports/us/digitalsportsdaily/2009/07/26/rickey-henderson-hall-of-fame-induction-speech/)
In closing, he suckered us all into expecting a flash of Rickey ego when he said: “I am now in the class of the greatest players of all time. And, at this moment, I am…” He paused and looked up. Here it comes we all thought. “I am…very…very…(long pause)… humble.” Just the right note to end the perfect speech. The crowd got to its feet and the applause could be heard in the next county. If you want to see some of his speech again (or for the first time), here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tcd0fdt4JyU.
Rickey was later interviewed about the speech. He said he had attended classes at Laney College in Oakland to learn how to deliver the speech.
Can you imagine being a student in that speech class when Rickey Henderson walked in and sat down? They probably thought they’d died and gone to heaven! He also said that he practiced his speech for three solid days before traveling to Cooperstown. When asked about the cream-colored suit he wore, he said it was 10 years old.
God love you, Rickey!
Rickey was truly unique, a very special one of a kind. A great baseball player, the best leadoff hitter of all time, some say the best left fielder ever, certainly the best Oakland Athletic in history, and among the very greatest of players who ever played the game of baseball. But he was more than that. In his four stints with the Athletics, he became the face of the A’s and a delight to the fans who often chanted, “Run, Rickey, run,” whenever he got on base, and run he usually did.
I remember going to the first game he played in Oakland after being traded from the Yankees midseason in 1989. When he was announced, the applause was thunderous, all of us on our feet, yelling as loud as we could and beating on anything that would make noise to welcome him back. He turbocharged an already good team into the World Series that year–the infamous Earthquake Series–and was the AL MVP the following year. And now he is in the Hall of Fame wearing an A’s cap. It can’t get any better than that!
Tomorrow: Rickey’s Number Retired in Oakland.
A Record-Breaking Comeback of Epic Proportions: Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins was one for the record books. Gio Gonzales got the first 2 outs of the game and then everything fell apart for him. I won’t go into the nasty details because they turned out to be a non-issue, except for the substantial hit Gio’s ERA took. Suffice it to say that after 2.5 innings the score was 12-2 Twins, which included Jason Kubel’s 3-run blast in the 1st, Justin Morneau’s grand slam in the 2nd, Michael Cuddyer’s solo shot right after Morneau’s grand salame, and Morneau’s 3-run encore in the top of the 3rd. After the last home run, Gio was lifted for Santiago Casilla. It looked pretty bleak at that point.
But the stars were aligned in the A’s corner for the rest of the game.
They scored 3 runs in the bottom of the third (Daric Barton’s homer plated 2 of them), 2 runs in the 4th (on Matt Holliday’s first dinger) and
7 runs in the 7th inning which included a 2 run double by Orlando Cabrera and Matt Holliday’s grand slam to tie the game at 13-13, followed by a solo
shot from Jack Cust to put the A’s ahead for good. A questionable play at the plate that was called the A’s way ended the game in
the bottom of the ninth.
To put it in perspective, there were 27 runs scored, 39 hits, 8 homers, 9 doubles, and 2 errors in the game. The A’s stroked 22 hits and had NO strikeouts! The game lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes, and the paid attendance was 10,283, a large portion of whom had left before the A’s slugfest in the 7th ining. More than one record was set in this amazing game but the best was that the ten-run deficit in the 3rd was the largest one (by 2 runs) the Oakland A’s had ever recovered from to win a ballgame.
Matt Holliday summed it up best. “We were down by 10 runs. Hey, we had nothing to lose. The guys just relaxed and had fun and didn’t quit. They kept pecking away at it and hit what was thrown to them, mostly to the opposite field.” Maybe this was a good lesson for the hitters: when they don’t press too hard and don’t try to do too much, good things happen.
When Matt Holliday hit the grand slam to tie it, Bob Geren was positively animated: he smiled weakly and faked a small fist pump. After the game when interviewed in his office, the smile was gone and he was very matter of fact and droll. Come on, guy, show some emotion. It helps pump up the team. Jeez, you’d think someone died! My husband may be on to somthing: he thinks Geren’s a robot!
Road Trip: This will probably be my last post for over a week. The A’s and I are going on the road–together! Sports Travel and Tours has put together a wonderful Hall Of Fame Induction trip. We fly to New York and go to the A’s-Yankees game Friday night in the new Yankee Stadium. The next day we motor up to Cooperstown for two days, culminating in the Induction of Rickey Henderson into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On Monday, our bus takes us on to Boston where we watch the A’s play the Red Sox in Fenway Park that night. The next day we drive back to New York where we go to the new Citi Field to see the Mets play the Colorado Rockies. The following day we come home. Sounds pretty fabulous to me. I am really jazzed about going.
So this is all you’ll hear from me most likely until late next week, when I will report on the trip and the A’s once again. Go A’s!!!