A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Greg Myers hit an inside-the-park home run today. Greg Myers, the 37-year-old Blue Jays catcher (and former A, known for being quite clutch while still an A), hit an inside the park home run.

This is what happens when a CF at SkyDome lets a ball bounce over his head and then fails to hustle.

All the same, please consider this mental image: Greg Myers hit an inside-the-park home run.

This is why I am a baseball fan. (Oh, sure, football fans get 80-yard fumble returns by nose tackles, but those have become a cliche.)

Success Breeds Complacency?
Greetings from Chicago (actually from a suburb an hour west of Chicago), where the WGN broadcast of the Cubs-Reds game just ended.

There is massive excitement here about both the Cubs and White Sox. What's interesting is that I think the Giants and A's are each clearly better than their respective league counterpart in Chicago. However, since Chicagoans haven't gotten something like this in so long (not one but two championship droughts, both of which put pretentious Red Sox fans to shame), it's something people here cherish.

I do not yet have playoff fever, though I do expect it to hit reasonably soon. This is sort of like being in early December and not yet feeling the "Christmas spirit."

A wedding trip (to the Boston area) precludes nearly all Division Series attendance for me, except that I could make a Tuesday game. Any idea how soon people will know whether the A's Game 1 would be Tuesday vs. Wednesday? If I understand the projected schedule, there should be two NL and one AL on Tuesday (then both NL and the other AL on Wednesday; both AL on Thursday; both NL on Friday; and "as necessary" from Saturday onward with the NL at Game 4 and the AL at Game 3).

Anyhow, think back to Billy Beane's statement that the 2000 A's would be the "worst" Oakland team of a several-year period. Should this incarnation reach the playoffs, he'd actually be right for 2000-thru-2003. Need an ALDS win, however, for this team to break out of the pack rather than having four be tied for "best/worst".

Postseason Tickets

I don't remember exactly what the pricing scheme was last year, but it was generally agreed that the A's were trying to rip off their fans. I think they ended up having the highest postseason ticket prices of any playoff team in MLB in 2002, which is ridiculous. The overpricing, combined with FOX's desire to show the Yankees in prime time, combined to create spectacularly low attendance for the A's first two home playoff games against the Twins (midweek day games both). As I recall, I was one of the many who did not attend.

This season, something strikes me as less objectionable about the pricing plan, but I can't for the life of me remember was the 2002 scheme was. So I'm not sure I'm making a reasonable comparison; maybe it's just that I've gotten soft. For the record, here is the 2003 plan for the ALDS:

$50 Field level
$45 Plaza level
$25 Bleachers
$20 Upper reserved

It's frustrating that I can't remember anything precise about last year (anyone?), but I have to say that this plan reminds me quite a bit more of the 2001 playoff prices... which means that I would get off my ass and actually buy some tickets, except for that nasty feeling of jinxing your team by buying their playoff tickets when they're still quite far from clinching a berth. Maybe I'll wait a bit.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Manager highlight reel

I thought Ken Macha did an excellent job with today's game.

Pinch-hitting Guillen for Long in that key situation ... sure, it seems obvious, but with management's blind faith towards Terrence Long I was pleasantly surprised when it happened. I also think he did a great job with Zito; he let him go to 122 pitches, which I admit I was apprehensive about, but Zito was just as good in the 7th as he was earlier. Bringing in Mecir to get him some work with a 3-run lead was a good decision, I think, as was summoning Foulke at the first sign of trouble (in The Ballpark, "tying run on deck" really is pretty threatening.)

The lineup, as it has been for the past few days, was excellent. I have absolutely no problems with it; Byrnes maybe should be hitting higher, but I understand that seniority-wise, it makes sense to have him hit lower not to piss people off, and also it's not clear how good a hitter he is against RHP. Byrnes suffers here from his personality; he's not going to get pissed at this apparent slight, whereas Long or Dye might go apeshit. The order of the guys down at the bottom of the order doesn't really matter anyway.

All in all, a very well-managed game, I thought.

Correction to pitching matchups

Drese is handcuffing us today against Zito. Dickey will be starting tomorrow against Hudson. Mounce, as far as I know, is still going on Sunday against Duchscherer.

Bobby Crosby

Crosby was recently named as a finalist for Minor League Player of the Year according to Baseball America. He didn't win (that would be Joe Mauer), but it's still some quality recognition for Crosby, who was the only one of the 10 finalists to toil in AAA in 2003.

Crosby's been up in the bigs for almost two weeks now. How do people feel about him as their 2003 shortstop? Personally, I'm optimistic. Crosby is the kind of player who does everything well; he batted 308/395/544 at Sacramento, was 24/28 on stolen base attempts, and plays a pretty clean shortstop. When Mike, Matt and I went up to Sacramento in May (hoping to catch a glimpse of Harden, but that's another story), Crosby looked pretty good even though his season numbers were way down at the time (he hit .353 over the last month or so to pull his stats way up).

If he can give us something like 275/350/450, playing SS and batting leadoff next year, I'd gladly take it. Crosby is a middle-aged 23 right now (Jan 1980) and hopefully can consolidate some of the gains he's made this season. The part I'm actually most excited about is having a real leadoff hitter. Other than two months of Ray Durham last year (and the wretched 2001 version of Johnny Damon), that's something the A's haven't had at all during their current success cycle. I'm not saying I want the 2004 A's to be stealing bases all the time, but it would be nice to have an on-base guy with some speed and a little pop hitting first. And if a "little" pop turns into more than a little (he did hit 22 homers at Sacramento), he can start to slide down in the order in future years.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Pitching matchups, Texas

Friday (5:05): Barry Zito against R.A. Dickey. At least, that's what ESPN says; the A's website claims it'll be Ryan Drese making the start. Either way, an important game, a game we should win, but Zito has had a lot of those starts recently that have turned out badly. Important to win this to get off on the right foot; the A's haven't exactly burned it up on the road, that 5-2 trip to Boston and Toronto notwithstanding.

Saturday (5:05): Tim Hudson against Colby Lewis. Lewis is having an epically bad season. 7.71 ?ERA, 75 K, 64 BB, and 22 HR in 109 innings. Yuck. Of course, this means he'll come up with a good start against the A's. I have a bad feeling about this.

Sunday (5:05): Justin Duchscherer against Tony Mounce. Not exactly the marquee matchup national TV wants, but it's what they're getting. Duchscherer is a good pitcher to go against the Rangers' high-powered offense, where the walks you give up are pretty likely to score. I think. Mounce is a lefty, always a danger sign. Still, gotta like our odds.

It's a testament to how great the Rangers' offense is that they've won 65 games despite trotting out pitchers like this basically every night. I mean, this is crap, crap, and more crap. The pen is not exactly impenetrable either.


Whoa, where did all this power come from?

What is Billy going to do in the offseason? I'm curious. Is he goign to try to trade Ruby? I think an ideal transaction would be to trade Ruby for a low-OBP, high-power outfielder, something we don't really have, plug in Graham Koonce at 1B, Crosby of course is going to play SS. This isn't going to happen because no one appreciates Ruby. I really wonder what the 2004 starting outfield will look like. If they sit on their ass, it's Long/Byrnes/Dye, which I'm OK with.

I wonder what will happen with Chavez. CW has long been that Chavez, not Tejada or Giambi, is going to be the guy to get re-signed long-term. It makes conventional sense with Dye's 11M coming off the books after 2004 (I've never seen, though, why people think payroll has to be roughly constant from year to year; shouldn't all transactions be evaluated independently in terms of cost-versus-return?) also. We really don't have anything resembling a good 3B in our system, so it would certainly be nice to ink Chavez.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Why the A's are in First Place

AL Defensive Win Shares, by position:

Pos Name             WS    Rank

C Ramon Hernandez 8.30 1
1B Scott Hatteberg 1.52 7
2B Mark Ellis 7.31 2
SS Miguel Tejada 6.67 2
3B Eric Chavez 5.07 1
OF Terrence Long 3.63 7
OF Eric Byrnes 3.03 13
OF Chris Singleton 2.93 15

Every single player is above average; only Hatteberg isn't well above. It's a pleasure to watch these guys play the field.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Terrence Long's suspension

For those of you who are curious, Long's suspension was unfortunately reduced from four games of three. He's serving it now, so the decision to not play him does not reflect any sort of change of heart by management. He'll be back with his usual hacktastic stylings on Friday.

Not an embarrassment

Viva Justin Duchscherer! Viva!

Monday, September 08, 2003


This is an embarrassment.

The IBB in the top of the 6th, putting the go-ahead run on base? What the hell? Is DaVanon that much worse a hitter than Spiezio? (Answer: no.) The sac bunt in the bottom of the 7th, okay, that's at least by the book. The IBB in the top of the eighth? Jeez, don't do that. Hudson being in? Pop quiz: who do you trust with the bases loaded, a 122-pitches Hudson or a 0-pitches Bradford? Which one is a better pitcher? Hello? Anyone?

I thought Macha was supposed to be, you know, hand-picked and all.

This team does not deserve to go to the playoffs.

Correction to pitching matchups

Chris Bootcheck, a good prospect who has spent most of the year in AAA, will be starting for Anaheim tomorrow, not Ortiz.

Pitching matchups, Anaheim series

Coming off a painful 2-4 road trip, including a 1-2 at Tampa Bay which cost us a big chance to gain ground on the battling Sox and Yankees, our Green and Gold finds themselves two up on Seattle, 1/2 up on the Red Sox, and two behind the Yanks as they come home for four with the Angels.

In principle, Anaheim is a good matchup for us, since they put the ball in play a lot, and our defense is quite good.

Monday (7:05): Tim Hudson vs. Aaron Sele. I have no reason to believe that Hudson's last start was anything more than a random blip. Obviously you feel pretty confident about this matchup.

Tuesday: Justin Duchscherer vs. Ramon Ortiz. My recollection is that Ortiz has pitched pretty well against the A's. According to Macha, Duchscherer is getting the start instead of Halama partly because the Angels have a bunch of AAA callups and he's faced those guys in the PCL. In any case, I don't expect particularly different results from Duke instead of Halama. I'm glad Steve Sparks is not starting; sure, the knuckler is cool, but he's really not looked good so far.

Wednesday: Ted Lilly vs. Jarrod Washburn. Washburn has some ridiculous record against Tejada, something like 1-for-31, and as a lefty of course this is bad news for Chavez. Lilly has pitched extremely well recently, let's hope he can keep it up, but I'm not too sanguine.

Thursday: Rich Harden vs. Scot Shields. I want to emphatically state something. Rich Harden is not a disappointment. The list of players who have started the year in AA and contributed significantly at the major-league level that year is small. The kid is 21, he's striking out a batter per inning, 55 K, 27 BB, 5 HR in 54.1 innings. This is a good performance, 4.80 ERA notwithstanding. This offseason will be the real test, whether he can consolidate the overwhelm of information from his rise this year and put it together. If he's got the maturity and drive, he could go Mulder-2001 on the league next year; you will recall that Mark's 2000 was hardly stellar. In the meantime, the Angels aren't the most patient of teams, which in principle should help. Meanwhile, Shields has good stats, but I don't believe in him, I just don't, and he's done poorly in his recent starts after being excellent his first few.

Apathy vs. Inferiority Complexes
This seemed pretty cold. On the other hand it led to savage mockery over here, warming the cockles of my heart.

Continuing the theme, Oakland apparently has the 26th best stadium in baseball. That's about where the Coliseum should be. I'm shocked that Shea got a higher grade but also shocked that the old Jack Murphy in San Diego got a lower grade. This is, I suppose, one reason why non-hardcore fans don't go to A's games (versus a day or evening at the crown jewel in the middle of downtown SF), just as Chicagoans won't go to a ballpark across the highway from the projects if they can instead go to an ivy-covered place in an idyllic neighborhood.

Should people like us worry that Oakland doesn't have more of a fan base, or that every now and then people will mock the franchise for that very reason? Meh. Clearly the criticism is being directed at ordinary Oaklanders and Alamedans and Berkeleyites and Walnut Tributaries, rather than at the people who actually do spend time and effort supporting the team.

(Had a really stupid PE coach once, who told us to count off by 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, etc., and then line up based on our number. There ended up being either too few 2's or too few 3's (let's say it was "2" just to keep the story going), so when the coach started yelling, he went and yelled at the "2" wall, even though obviously all or most of the people who'd screwed up were actually standing along the other walls.)

Anyhow, what to say? As sports "towns" go, the Bay Area is a fickle place. (There's the theory that it's "a football town" but I'd rather not get into that if there are other theories to write about.) Some of it is that the weather is nice here and there are always so many other things to do that by and large, people don't live and die with the teams here the way Bostonians or Philadelphians live and die with their teams.

There are some nice side effects from this: First, being a fan is a lot less stressful. The people around here don't turn on a team when it loses, they just find other outlets. Second, since people are fickle with their money (East Coast fans will bitch and moan so much but they'll still go spending whatever they spend on seats and merch and so on), teams have that much more financial incentive to be winners.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, people here are refreshingly confident in their civic identity, to the point of refusing to be blackmailed the way the rest of the country gets blackmailed. (Yeah yeah, mumble mumble Raiders mumble, but as a defense mechanism I'm choosing to ignore all that.) I never cease to be amazed that when the Giants wanted a new stadium, not only did San Franciscans tell them to spend their own damn money, but they actually did it.

(That right there almost singlehandedly requires me to support the Giants, spend money on them and so on, even while feeling much closer to the green and gold.)

I wish Blogger had an "Extended Entry" feature. Most of this really belongs behind a "MORE" click.

Justin Duchscherer
Apparently he will start Tuesday, in Halama's spot. Discuss.

(I'd post the other matchups but I'm too lazy to, plus I like it better when Mike does that.)

Speaking of my being lazy, you can still join me Monday night (that is, less than 24 hours from when I post this) if you'd like. Write me for details.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Round Table/A's question: As of your most recent knowledge, what ballpark circumstances lead to free pizza and which franchise(s) honor it?

We think we might have won free pizza at the A's game last Saturday night, good for up to seven days, but when we went to redeem the tickets, the lady at the couner of the Alameda (South Shore Plaza) franchise said, "Are those A's tickets? The last day for that was yesterday."

Would you have thought that the seven days include that Saturday itself? I suppose it's plausible. I'm just mad to have missed out on free pizza.

...Kevin Brown?
Having grown up in Tulsa, I had the rare privilege of seeing both Bobby Witt and Kevin Brown as minor leaguers in the Rangers system of the late 1980s.

Despite Harden's recent bout with wildness, he reminds me much more of Brown than of Witt. Like Brown he can strike people out and also has some good sinking action. At least, that's what I'd witnessed and what I'd previously remembered the numbers to be, though his more recent record doesn't bear this out so much. What is up with his Groundball/Flyball ratio? Game by game, starting with his debut (the last column is ESPN "Game Score" as shorthand for how effective he was that day):
Jul 21@KC15167
Jul 26@ANA12661
Jul 31CLE4976
Aug 5@DET6458
Aug 10@CWS4351
Aug 15TOR5426
Aug 21@BOS2613
Aug 26BAL4556
Aug 31TB6764
Sep 5@TB5426

He's had two notably extreme ground-ball games, coincidentally(?) his first two. (He also threw a lot of ground balls at Portland in May; I lucked into seeing him as I visited a friend.) Yes, the second one is "only" 12:6 but it featured some key double plays.

He's also had two notably extreme fly-ball games. One was his home debut (where fly balls are good), the other his debacle at Fenway (where fly balls are bad).

I think he needs to keep the ball down; if he does so, and if he has more games like at Kansas City, then he can be more like Brown. Not the in-his-prime Kevin Brown (Rich Harden will never have enough control to match Brown's 33:159 BB:SO ratio of 1996), but at least better than the Kevin Brown who walked 90 batters in 210 2/3 innings in 1991.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?