A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Tenderness Is Arbitrary

Every year, Billy Beane goes shopping to make sure he is stocked up on about seven starting pitchers. He puts five of them in the Oakland fridge for immediate consumption, and dumps two in the freezer in Sacramento for future use. This year, he was eyeing some Mark Redmeat, but today he decided it was too much flank steak at filet mignon prices. So now he must keep shopping, hungrily eyeing today's butcher block for the best deal he can find on fresh, non-tenderized beef.

Justin Duchscherer gets to stay in the fridge for the moment. Meanwhile, Menechino scutaros off, and Fikac is free to agent himself around. I wonder why Billy kept Frankie and Jeremy on the 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft? I don't know. Mabeus A's didn't really care for those guys they lost. But it's not like Jeremy didn't slider or something. For A's fans, what else is Neu? Nothing, apparently, and that's what they got for him. Perhaps we're wishing farewell to them because they happened to get caught with a Hammond the new cookie jar.

The duration of Durazo's A's tenure was extended a year. It's the right thing to do. So only one guy left: whither Chad Brad Ford? I've not heard a word. It would be wise if he were tenderized. In his case, no news is good news.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Arthur Rhodes coming to Oakland

If he passes his physical exam, Arthur Rhodes will be the new Oakland A's closer. He was hurt by a sprained ankle in the second half of last year, so it's not a done deal. The A's are wise to make sure it is healed before they commit $9M over three years to him.

Over at Baseball Primer, Dan Szymborski has run a statistical projection called ZiPS for all 2004 players. Here are the projected 2004 ZiPS ERA and WHIP values for the last three A's closers, plus Rhodes:
Jason Isringhausen 2.90  1.12

Billy Koch 4.50 1.38
Keith Foulke 3.53 1.18
Arthur Rhodes 2.57 0.98
Rhodes has better projected numbers than any of the others!

Now, I don't really believe that Rhodes is better than Foulke. If I'm not mistaken, the numbers take ballparks into account, so Foulke's projected numbers are inflated by Fenway Park, and Rhodes numbers probably assume Safeco Field as his home park. But Rhodes is certainly better than Koch, and probably about as good as Isringhausen. If the A's could win with Koch and Isringhausen as their closer, they can win with Rhodes.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

First Pitch 2004 Notes

If you took 6,000 A's season ticket holders, and lined them all up, how far would they stretch? Apparently, the A's wanted to know, as they tried an experiment designed to answer that question before the First Pitch 2004 event in the Coliseum Arena.

To conduct the experiment, they only opened one entrance to the building, and they opened it late. So when we arrived at 6:50pm, the one line into the arena stretched down the ramp to the North side parking lot, across the plaza to the stadium entrance behind home plate, all the way along the third-base side of the stadium, and up the ramp to BART behind the left field bleachers.

It creates a very interesting illusion. A line that long looks like a heck of a lot more people than when they're all sitting in a half-empty arena. With all those people in one line, I started to wonder how anybody ever complains that there aren't enough A's fans.

Eventually the line moved, and we got in. They started late so we didn't miss anything. I took some notes. Here they are:

The first segment was hosted by KTVU sports anchor Joe Fonzi and comedian Mark Pitta. It was a talk-show-like set, with a couple of sofas. They showed a highlight reel from 2003. I hadn't really thought much about it until then, but watching those highlights it really hit me: Damn, I miss baseball. Then, the "guests" were brought out. In order of appearance:

  • Billy Beane. Pitta has apparently been hanging out with Joe Morgan, since he called Beane the author of Moneyball in his introduction. Fonzi corrected him. Beane confirmed that the A's have an agreement with Arthur Rhodes and the contract should be finalized sometime this weekend. He also said that the A's should have a catcher (Damian Miller? He didn't say) pretty soon. This drew plenty of hisses from the large contingent of Ramon Hernandez fans in the audience, including one guy who shouted "We already had a catcher!" Pitta asked him about what he does during games, because he gets too nervous to watch. Beane says he goes to the beach or Safeway or Barnes and Noble. Said he did the Ted Lilly trade while at the beach with his daughter.

  • Ken Macha. Asked about the two interference calls in Game 3, he said they got the Varitek call right, but the Tejada call wrong. He's still angry about the Tejada call. He got calls from people he's worked with before telling him they'd never seen him that angry. Back at home in Pittsburgh, he got a lot of grief over his Game 3 outburst, especially from his mom, a devout Catholic. On Halloween, he was handing out candy, and a kid dressed as a policeman comes to his door and tells Macha he is under arrest. "What for?" asks Macha. The kid replies, "For saying bad words on TV."

  • Rich Harden. Harden was forced to tell the tale of the rookie hazing where the rookies had to wear ridiculous outfits in public. Harden was forced to dress up as SpongeBob SquarePants. They went to a shopping mall, and ate in an upscale restaurant in their outfits.

  • Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg was asked to tell the story of the home run that got the A's their 20th consecutive win in 2002. Plays guitar with Zito sometimes, but only knows three chords, so he's limited to songs by guys like Bob Seger. Wife is expecting third child in March. Hates facing Mariano Rivera, who doesn't really strike him out, but breaks his bat nearly every time. Ken Macha hates his ratty jeans.

  • Barry Zito. They showed a clip of Zito's acting gig on JAG. Zito tells that there was a lot of downtime during filming, so one time "the brown-haired dude on the show" (David James Elliot) asked him if he wanted to go back to his trailer and play some guitar. Zito said sure. Zito thought they would take turns playing stuff. But Elliot played for a half-hour straight, and "I was just his audience". Then someone came and said it was time to go back on the set.

    Then Zito was asked about hecklers. He said the hecklers in New York are not as bad as the ones in Boston, but Chicago clearly has the worst hecklers. Beane then interrupted to confirm that Chicago's hecklers were harshest. One time as a player at Wrigley, someone kept shouting at him "Hey 35! Hey 35! Who are you?" Beane got tired of it, so he shouted back, "Go buy a program, meat!" The heckler responded, "I did, but you weren't in it!"

  • Hank Greenwald was brought out for a brief appearance. He turned to Beane and said, "I just learned that you and I have something in common. I've had lots of nights doing Giants games when I couldn't stand to watch, either." Cheers.

Then came the second half of the show, which was to be part of the Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox at some point. Leeann Tweeden hosted. She will be participating with Barry Zito in the Oakland Ballet Nutcracker tomorrow night.

  • Hatteberg. Hatteberg was asked about how he had his wife hit balls at him on a tennis court to prepare him to switch to first base. So they brought out tennis pro and A's fan Brad Gilbert to hit some tennis balls at Hatteberg. He hit them pretty hard. Hatteberg snagged all but one of them.

  • Zito. Zito was asked to demonstrate his yoga techniques. Tweeden, Macha, and a fan followed his instructions. There were some, um, suggestive positions. A lot of bending over. The males sitting directly behind Tweeden seemed to enjoy this segment the most.

  • Harden. Harden was asked about throwing snowballs when he grew up in Canada. Then they brought out some Hostess Snoballs, took a guy out of the stands, gave him a mitt, and had Tweeden and Harden throw the Hostess Snoballs at him. Harden was wild, and frequently missed his target. I think Tweeden had more control. But on his last throw, Harden faked throwing at the fan, and then turned and drilled Macha in his stomach. End of show.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

First Pitch 2004

I have two extra tickets for First Pitch 2004, the A's kickoff event for next season.

UPDATE: Tickets have been claimed. I'll give a report about the event tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Hammond Song

Newsday is reporting that the Yankees are about to trade Chris Hammond to the A's.

Hammond is a lefty change-up artist who has an easier time getting right-handed batters out than lefties. He had a great year two years ago with the Braves (0.95 ERA/1.11 WHIP), but in 2003 with the Yankees, he wasn't quite so impressive: 2.86 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. Actually, when you compare stats from the two years, most stats only decline a little bit, except one: in 2002 the slugging % against him was insanely low: .261. In 2003, that jumped to .407. And that's kinda worrisome in one of the few guys left in the majors who are older than I am.

So he's a nice addition to a bullpen, but he's not a closer, either. More trade bait? I kinda hope so. If he ends up on the A's, I swear I'm gonna have The Hammond Song stuck in my head every time he warms up in the bullpen:
If you go down to Hammond
You'll never come back
In my opinion you're
On the wrong track
We'll always love you but
That's not the point.

If you go with that fella
forget about us
As far as I'm concerned
that would be just
throwing yourself away
not even trying.

Mark Redman traded to A's

The A's give the Marlins Mike Neu and a player to be named later, or cash.

Depending on who the PTBNL is, this sounds like a steal. Neu doesn't have the kind of stuff that would make you think he'll ever be anything more than an average right-handed middle reliever. Redman's an above-average left-handed starting pitcher, a far more valuable commodity. He'd make a darn good fifth starter for the A's staff, if that's what the A's acquired him to be.

But he's eligible for arbitration. He made $2.1M last year, and is bound to get a lot more this year. In other words, he's a more expensive Ted Lilly. Is that what the A's want to spend their money on? I have to wonder if Redman will stay on the A's any longer than Michael Barrett did.

Will they flip him to Boston for Williamson? To Pittsburgh in a package for Kendall? To the Dodgers for LoDuca? It just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.

UPDATE: In the ESPN.com report, it sounds as if Beane intends to keep Redman and use him as the fourth starter. Beane was quoted as being "hopeful" a salary agreement could be reached.

Well, OK, then. I certainly do feel more comfortable with Redman in the rotation than Duchscherer, who gives me the Scott-Sandersonian here-hit-my-slow-curve-ball willies. And having Harden as the #5 starter can keep his workload down while he's still young and fragile.

But we still have no resolution to the closer and catcher questions. I'm on the edge of my seat here, waiting...

Rincon returns

The A's signed Ricardo Rincon to a two-year deal. He gets $1.75 million in 2004 and $1.9 million in 2005. That's sounds like a reasonable salary for a good left-handed specialist.

Signing Rincon doesn't mean that chasing Arthur Rhodes would be a superfluous act. Rincon is a left-handed specialist: he has held left-handed batters to a .203 batting average in his career, vs. .246 for right-handed batters. Rhodes doesn't have big splits like that, at least not in recent years. When healthy, he's been about equally tough on both lefties and righties, which is what you'd want in a closer.

However, the reports that made the Rhodes signing seem imminent two days ago now sound less sure about it. So we'll see. After the Barrett trade, I really have no clue what Beane is up to. He's keeping us guessing, and that's probably how he likes it.

A for a day

The A's traded Michael Barrett to the Cubs, one day after getting him from the Expos, for yet another Player To Be Named Later. What the heck was that all about?

What are the Cubs doing? They've got two catchers, Damian Miller and Paul Bako. Supposedly, they're interested in either Ivan Rodriguez or Javier Lopez, if the price is right. That means they'd want to get rid of a catcher. So now they go and get Barrett?

I don't get it.

Monday, December 15, 2003

New A's Catcher: Michael Barrett

After the Rule 5 draft, the A's went out and acquired Michael Barrett from the Expos for a player to be named later. Barrett is eligible for arbitration, but I doubt it will get that far. This is similar to the deal the Dodgers made for Juan Encarnacion the other day; if they can come to an agreement on a contract, fine; if not, they'll non-tender him on December 20, and the PTBNL will be nothing.

Barrett is one of the huddled masses of .650-.700 OPS catchers. His career OPS is .698. But if you're going to get one of those guys, you might as well get one who is coming into his prime age (27), so at least there's a chance he could still improve and/or have a career year. As long as they don't overpay him, it's not a bad gamble.

Rule 5 Draft

The A's lost a combined four minor leaguers in the Rule 5 draft: Chris Mabeus, Jorge Mejia, Matt Bowser, and Darvin Withers. In turn, they picked up two players: Frank Brooks and Shawn Sonnier.

Mabeus had an impressive 70/15 K/BB ratio in 62 innings split between Modesto and Midland. He was selected by Texas and will have to stay on their major league roster all year, or be offered back to Oakland.

Mejia is a shortstop selected in the AAA draft by Cincinnati. He lit up the Arizona Rookie League with a 1.010 OPS, before making a brief appearance in Vancouver. He'll have to make the leap from A-ball to AAA to stay with the Reds.

Matt Bowser and Darvin Withers were selected in the AA phase of the draft. Both played for Modesto last year. Bowser, a first baseman, hit .294/.382/.434 last year was selected by Tampa Bay. Withers, a pitcher who posted an unimpressive 5.45 ERA with a 69/34 K/BB ratio in 119 IP, was picked by the White Sox.

Frank Brooks was taken from the Pirates organization in the major league Rule 5 draft by the Mets and then traded to the A's for a player to be named later. Baseball America said this about him:
Lefthander Frank Brooks, acquired from the Phillies for Mike Williams in July, held opponents to a .202 average between Double-A and Triple-A. He works with a 90-91 mph fastball and 81 mph curveball with three-quarters break. His crossfire delivery is tough on lefties.
Sounds just like the type of funky pitcher the A's love to put in their bullpen.

Shawn Sonnier was taken in the AAA draft from the Cubs. He didn't pitch much last year, just 36 innings, striking out 32 and walking 20. He's a hard thrower with control issues who has had some shoulder problems. He should be a useful reliever in Sacramento.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Tejada an Oriole

Rules for not alienating A's fans when you leave for another team:
1. Don't go to the Yankees.
2. Don't go to another AL West team.
3. Don't go to the Giants.
4. Don't go to the Red Sox.

Tejada passes the test! He signed with the Orioles, which assures him of not getting the Jason Giambi treatment when he returns as an opposing player. I would be surprised if he didn't get a standing ovation in his first at-bat in Oakland.

He got a six-year deal for around $10M per year. Getting the long-term contract he wanted in this market is pretty good. I'm happy for him. Good luck, Miguel, and thanks for all the good times.

Baltimore finished in the bottom half of the standings, so the A's will get a supplemental round pick and a second-round pick from the Orioles, instead of the late first-round pick had Tejada signed with a winning team. With the picks from Boston for signing Foulke, the A's will have two first round picks, two supplemental picks, and two second-round picks in the 2004 draft.

In other news, it looks like Arthur Rhodes may indeed be heading to Oakland, as the A's are pursuing him to be their closer. It seems like a good fit. The Braves appear to be the primary competition. I hope it's true that he's coming; we've finished second in free agent races twice this week already.

But all my disappointment will vanish if this report is true: Hank Greenwald coming out of retirement to do 60-70 A's games on TV. All I can say to that is: YIPPEE! With Greenwald on the air, watching the A's will be pleasurable even if the team sucks. I love Hank Greenwald.

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