A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, November 22, 2003

If Barry Zito were an actor, what kind of tree would he be?

[Spoiler warning...] Well, I watched JAG last night for the first time in about four years. I used to watch it every once in a while, but I kinda got bored with it. If last night's episode is any indication of what I've been missing, I don't feel bad at all. Even if the characters are still likable, the plot was so thin and formulaic, it's clear that the writers are completely out of ideas for this premise. This is a show that has stayed alive too long.

But that's not why I was watching, of course. It was to see the performance of Barry Zito.

One thing I really hate when I watch baseball on film or TV is when the baseball isn't realistic. The pitcher throws like a European shotputter. The batter has a terribly uncoordinated swing that would never do anything but hit weak grounders to shortstop yet he somehow supposedly hits a screaming line drive. The batter hits a popup to second base, and the next thing we see is the ball is flying over the left field fence for a home run. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. So you'd think that if they have a real major league pitcher on the mound, you should be able to get some realistic baseball action.

No such luck. Zito plays a guy who is supposed to have a 95mph fastball. He doesn't (he tops out at 90), but he should be able to produce a reasonable facsimile of one for the camera. Or a real, honest to goodness curveball. But all we see from Zito in this episode of JAG are warmup tosses, probably about 60-70mph, and we're supposed to believe it's going 95mph. I didn't buy it.

OK, but that's probably picking nits, but it's a recurring annoyance for me. It's probably not Zito's fault. Blame whoever directed/edited the thing.

As for Zito's performance otherwise, I don't think he embarassed himself, really. But I've seen him do much better in commercials. They obviously wrote the story to give him as few things to do off the field as possible. I mean, usually when a guy wins his case, they almost always show the reaction of the guy who won. Not here; in this episode they focused entirely on the reaction of the guy who lost. I've never seen that before. Barry Zito, you've been found not guilty of assault! What are you going to do now? Barry? Barry? Hey, where'd he go?

When Zito did have to speak, I sensed a "deer in the headlights" look going on. I began to fear the quality of his acting may be declining right along with his K/9 rate. But then I realized he was playing a military guy, so he's supposed to be a little bit stiff, right? Yeah, that's it! It's ACTING, I tell you! ACTING! Sheer genius.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


...another minute has passed and Terrence Long is still an Oakland Athletic.



OK, while I'm watching that pot come to a boil, I might was well mention the waiver claim of Mario Ramos. Texas was cleaning up its 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 draft, and tried to sneak Ramos through waivers. No such luck; the A's grabbed him. Ramos was once the hottest pitching prospect in the A's organization, but was traded to Texas in the Carlos Pena deal. He struggled after the trade, and his stock has dropped. But he seems like he'll be a useful guy to have in Sacramento as rotation insurance.

Now that we have Ramos back, the trade scoreboard from the Pena deal looks like this:

A's gave up: Ryan Ludwick, Gerald Laird, Jason Hart, Franklyn German, and Jeremy Bonderman.
A's now have: Bobby Kielty, Erubiel Durazo, Jason Perry, and something to be named later from Toronto.

That looks pretty good to me, although I'll have to see what the name of that something is before I'm convinced that the A's got good value for Lilly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Lilly for Kielty goes down

Wow, that was quick. It appears to be official before the Hernandez/Long-Kotsay trade.

I'm not so sure I like this trade. I'll have to think about it. I'm guessing this saves the A's some more money, because Lilly was due for a big bump in salary in arbitration, and Kielty is still a couple years away from that, so that has to be taken into account. I guess we'll be seeing Justin Duchscherer a lot this year.

What's next? After getting Kotsay and Kielty, I think the A's should go after Adam Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, Matt Kinney, Steve Karsay, and just to be kinky, a tube of K-Y Jelly.

More on the Kotsay trade

The trade is not official, but if no money changes hands in the deal, then I calculate that the A's save nothing in 2004, $2M in 2005, and commit to an extra $6.5M in 2006.

Here's a chart of the salaries for players that the A's currently have locked up (not counting arbitration-eligible players):
Pos Name                   2004        2005        2006

P Mulder, Mark 4,400,000 7,250,000 8,500,000*
OF Kotsay, Mark 6,500,000 6,500,000 6,500,000
P Zito, Barry 2,900,000 5,000,000 7,000,000*
1B Hatteberg, Scott 2,300,000 2,350,000 ???*
P Hudson, Tim 4,550,000 6,000,000
OF Dye, Jermaine 11,000,000 1,500,000x
3B Chavez, Eric 5,200,000
P Mecir, Jim 3,300,000
Total 40,150,000 28,600,000 22,000,000

x=assumes the A's will buy out option
*=assume the A's will exercise option

Until the trade, the numbers looked like this:

OF Long, Terrence 3,700,000 4,300,000
C Hernandez, Ramon 2,900,000 4,100,000
Total 40,250,000 30,500,000 15,500,000
(UPDATE: One Primer post says Kotsay gets an extra $1M/year if he's traded; I have not seen any confirmation of that. UPDATE AGAIN: the extra $1M is confirmed, the numbers above have been changed to reflect that.)

I like the trade, if only to get rid of Terrence Long. I'll miss Ramon; he's a solid player. But I do think that his power totals this year were a bit of a fluke, or, if you prefer, a career peak at age 27. I think he's likely to go back to the low teens in the near future. I think the A's traded him when his value is as high as it's ever going to get.

As for Kotsay, I can't say. He seems to me the kind of player you never pay attention to unless he's on your team. I guess I'll have to pay attention to him now. Like Ramon, he seems like a pretty solid player.

The question now becomes, who will play catcher? Adam Melhuse had a great year with the bat, with a .957 OPS. But he's 32, and never really done anything in the majors before, so you have to wonder if he wasn't a bit of a fluke, too. I don't think Jeremy Brown is ready; he seems like he needs another year in the minors. Who else could be available?

I counted seventeen free agent catchers this year. Ramon had a .789 OPS last year, so we'd like someone who could approximate that. Of those free agents, here is the complete list of free agent catchers who had an OPS over .700 in 2003:

Javy Lopez, 1.065.
Ivan Rodriguez, .843.
John Flaherty, .754.
Benito Santiago, .753.
Eddie Perez, .724.

That's it. You can get catchers who can put up an OPS in the .600s for more or less minimum wage; I counted eight of them. You can add Flaherty to that bunch; he didn't get many ABs this year, and he's historically been one of the .600 guys, too. Figure that I-Rod and Lopez will be too expensive, and we're left with Santiago, Perez, or a trade.

[UPDATE: Here's where I originally suggested trading for Ramon Castro. But he's going to stand trial for sexual assault, so never mind.] Yorvit Torreabla (.702 OPS) is available from the Giants, after they acquired Pierzynski.

My preferences, I suppose, is to sign Benito Santiago for a year. Santiago has put up pretty good numbers the past two years (.765 and .753 OPS) playing in a pitcher's park in San Francisco. If he can approximate that in Oakland, the A's can approximate the production they lost with Ramon. Santiago can hold the fort with Melhuse until Jeremy Brown is ready.

I love this trade! This has made my week, my month, my entire off-season.

Getting rid of Terrence Long is great; losing Ramon is a small price to pay for that. I hope for Oakland's sake that Jeremy Brown is ready for this. But the real story here is that I love Mark Kotsay. Figurately, of course, since I've never actually met the man. He's brilliant defensively, though; he has great plate discipline, and so far the only thing that hasn't come around yet is his power. Even there, he's just the right age.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Barry Zito Arrested for Attempted Murder

Barry Zito will stand trial on Friday for assault with a deadly weapon, after hitting a batter in the head with intent to kill. At least, that's the premise of this week's episode of JAG on CBS. In his latest artistic endeavor, Zito gives acting a whirl. He portrays a pitcher (what else) in the annual Navy-Marines baseball game who throws a malicious pitch and gets in trouble for it.

There is no doubt in my mind that Zito will be great on the show. His performance as "the weird guy" in the A's commercial about "What animal would you like to be?" is one of the best thespian performances in baseball history. His timing and delivery was flawless; after hearing his teammates go on and on about lions and horses and eagles and the other usual animal suspects, it is nearly impossible to fail to fall off your chair in stomach-wrenching laughter as Zito delivers the classic line "This is gonna sound weird but...I'm gonna say...a fly."

Zito won't be alone in his baseball connections on the show. The father of Diamondbacks first-round pick Conor Jackson will portray, as usual, the Admiral in charge of JAG.

The show will be broadcast on CBS at 9pm ET/PT on Friday, November 21. There's a preview here.

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