A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, June 26, 2004


I went to the Red Sox game at Fenway Park Thursday afternoon. If there is one building on earth worth saving, it's Fenway Park. The Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids... if you had to pick one structure built by man to keep, its Fenway.

The game was great too. 3-1 Twins most of the way, then in the bottom of the 8th, Ortiz had a clutch 2 out 2 run single. 3-3, and in the bottom of the ninth, in comes Foulke. Foulke proceeds to mow down the Twins in the 9th with extreme prejudice. 2 K's and a grounder to 2nd. 16 pitches, 12 strikes. The Red Sox go down in the bottom of the 9th and Foulke comes out for the 10th. the first batter of the 10th is Guzman, who hits a ball towards the hole at short. Nomar gets the ball, spins like a ballerina, then throws the ball in the dugout. Next is a ground out which gets Guzman to 3rd. Then a sac fly scores him. Then another out. The Red Sox lose 4-3, Foulke takes the loss, pitching 2 innings without giving up a hit or a walk. Maybe there has been a less just loss hung on a pitcher but I have never seen it. Even if the A's still had Foulke the A's could lose a game that way, and I don't know if it would hurt more or less. Every team has their problems. I am excited about Dotel.

Friday we went on a whale watching tour. If you go to Boston, DON'T GO ON A WHALE WATCHING TOUR! We went out in a boat and for 3 hours went through swells which made more than 10% of the people on the boat sick and all the others feel like barfing.
People were barfing everywhere, it was really cold, but I wanted to stay out of the inside areas because of the vomit smell. We didn't see a single whale or anything interesting, and at the end, they gave us a coupon to come back again. For $30 it might have been a better deal if they just hit me in the stomach with an oar and let me leave.

Friday, June 25, 2004


As you may have heard, the three-way deal with the Astros and Royals went down yesterday. I posted about the trade a few days ago, and it basically happened the way it was rumored to. The A's gave up minor-leaguers Mike Wood and Mark Teahen (and the Astros sent catching prospect John Buck) to Kansas City. The A's also received some cash from the Royals; the exact amount was undisclosed but rumored to be less than $1 million.

I think this is a great trade for Kansas City and Oakland; I'm not quite as sure why it's such a good thing for Houston, who gave up a good catching prospect and an elite reliever for a terrific player at a position they've already got covered. If they just benched Craig Biggio and replaced him with Beltran, then that might be worthwhile; but presumably they'll either shift Biggio to a corner or back to the infield, thereby sending either Jason Lane or Morgan Ensberg to the bench. Those guys certainly have the potential to be useful players, so I just don't see how the Astros are better off than they were before, particularly if Beltran walks at the end of the season.

David Forst said on the A's radio pregame show that one of the biggest factors the A's were worried about in negotiating this trade was keeping Beltran away from New York, Anaheim, and Boston. Well done--Beltran is out of the AL entirely while the only impact player to come over from the NL lands with the A's. A huge plus.

Mike Wood is ready to be a part of Kansas City's rotation right away. I think he's got 5 or 6 years of middle-of-the-rotation material in him. Teahen is not as ready but he'll probably be their regular third sacker starting in 2005. If he develops power, he will be the best prospect the A's have traded away in the Billy Beane era. I guess he now joins Bill Murphy as 2002 (Moneyball) draft picks traded for good major leaguers.

Dotel wasn't in uniform at the game last night, but it didn't matter as the A's never took the lead and lost to the Giants 6-4. Zito had a really shaky first inning (not helped by his defense) and then settled down, but the A's couldn't come back against Jason Schmidt, who looked totally dominating until the ninth. When Dotel reports for Saturday's game, the A's will have to decide who to remove from their 25-man roster to make room for him.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Marks to the rescue

Outstanding pitching performances yesterday and today by Mark Redman and Mark Mulder allowed the A's to salvage a split of the crucial series with Anaheim and gather some momentum coming into their homestand. Redman has been brilliant for two starts in a row and Mulder has just been on fire. Despite getting only two runs of support from the offense (I think it's about time for the end of the starting-Karros-vs-righties experiment, don't you?), the big lefty shut down the Angels for nine innings, not even needing to hand over a one-run ballgame to the bullpen. I always feel that when Mulder starts, our best closer is Mulder.

I'll be at the Coliseum tomorrow to see the Giants, and again next week (probably Tuesday) to see the Angels again. But I'm feeling much better about the team than I was two days ago. It's funny how winning and losing just a couple of games can affect my emotional state so much.

Let's go A's!

How many fans in one season have seen all their teams games?

I am on vacation in Boston. Today we are going to Fenway Park to see the Twins and the Red Sox. We saw the Reds and the Mets on Tuesday at Shea, and last friday we saw the Red Sox at Pac Bell against the Giants. My wife said, "Maybe some of the same fans who were at the Giants game will be there again today." Maybe. Probably not so many Californians will see both Red Sox games. But then we started to talk about how many Red Sox fans might go to ALL their teams games in a year. I am not talking about players or coaches or even wives of players or people that work for the team or the media, but how many fans, in a single season see 162 games of their favorite team in person? It would almost have to be a trust fund baby, because you'd need cash. There are plenty of old rich people, but I can't believe you'd get many of them to do that much flying. It can't be more than about 100 fans per team, but I'd guess the team which might have the most people doing something like that would be the Red Sox. People that watch all a teams home games are probably much more common, maybe on the order of a few thousand per team.

In 1998 I was moving from Tucson to New Orleans, and staying with my uncle George in Houston. New Orleans was being hit by Hurricane Georges, so I was staying a few extra days in Houston. I went to the NLDS Game 1 game at the Astrodome between the Astros and the Padres, Randy Johnson vs Kevin Brown. It was a day game, and I walked up to the Astrodome and the first guy I ran into there said, "want to buy my extra ticket?" I did. He was an old guy and his name was George (continuing the George trend of the week), and his ticket had been for his son. He told me, "I have been to almost all the games at the Astrodome." I was thinking, "this year?" But he said, no, all the games the Astros ever played at the Astrodome. He missed like 5 in 30 years. He bought me a soda, and we sat together, it was a great game which the Pads won 2-1, and it couldn't have been any better.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


If you've read this site for the past couple of weeks, you know that I'm not one of the A's fans who is panicking to death because of the bullpen's struggles this year. I think the guys we have now will perform. And the fact that the A's bullpen has been a laughingstock in the national media can't be good for leverage any time Billy Beane wants to discuss a trade for a reliever.

But when I heard that the A's are going after Astros closer Octavio Dotel as part of a three-way Carlos Beltran deal, I got excited. Dotel, unlike many of the other "closers" out there, isn't just a reliever who gets sent out in the ninth inning and racks up saves. Dotel is a dominant pitcher, and has been one of the best relievers in all of baseball for several years running. Since being moved into the bullpen full-time in 2001, he's put up a 2.08 ERA with a ridiculous 343/91 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 268.1 innings (yes, that's a heavy workload for a relief pitcher). In those 268.1 innings he has allowed only 166 hits, for a paltry .175 batting average. Those numbers don't include 2004, so I'll go ahead and show you what he's done this year: 34.2 IP, 50 K, 15 BB, 27 H, 3.12 ERA. In other words, more of the same.

If you look at the numbers for our best relievers now (just scroll down a few pages), those are great numbers. Opposing hitters are basically all reduced to T-Long levels against the likes of Rincon/Bradford (depending on handedness) or Rhodes. Dotel takes it a step further. He's totally unhittable. He doesn't get a lot of hype for it because he doesn't have a gaudy saves streak or goofy glasses, but he's every bit the dominator that Eric Gagne or John Smoltz is. And he's much cheaper; he made only $1.6M last year and is making $2.8M this year.

So while I don't think the A's necessarily need to make a move to strengthen the pen, if they made a move like this, I would be thrilled. Dotel has an even stronger track record than our current closer/set-up men, and he's younger, too. Assuming we don't sell the entire farm system to get him, it would definitely help the team. Mark Teahen for Dotel? No sweat. Teahen and Baker? Sure. Blanton? Uh... well, that's harder to swallow.

(Side rant: why does every major media source now call him "Mark Teahan"? I blame Gammons.)

Will it happen? I bet it's close. Kansas City GM Allard Baird loves Teahen and would prefer to deal Beltran to the A's to get him, since he can't pry David Wright away from the Mets. And last night, Houston used Brad Lidge to close out the 9th inning, for no apparent reason. Why would Dotel be held out of that game if a trade weren't on the horizon? C'mon, Billy, let's make it happen. We've been waiting for a F***in' A move the entire season. The team is in a rut, and while that's no reason to make a move just for the sake of making a move, getting a player like this is no mere shakeup. Dotel would instantly make the team better. And isn't that what it's all about?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Futures Game

Major League Baseball, in conjunction with Baseball America, have announced the rosters for the 2004 Futures Game, to be played during All-Star Weekend in Houston. There are two A's prospects named to the teams, so I thought it would be appropriate to share that information here.

Joe Blanton you've all heard about. Currently pitching in AAA Sacramento, Blanton got off to a great start this season and then tailed off a bit in May. But he's once again pitching extremely well for the Rivercats and was named one of the 10 pitchers for Team USA in the Futures Game. Supposedly Royals GM Allard Baird loves him, but the A's are reluctant to give him up, even in a potential Carlos Beltran trade. That seems wise to me; it makes more sense to deal somebody like Mark Redman or Mike Wood (or Justin Duchscherer) and have Blanton step in to fill out the rotation.

Jairo Garcia, on the other hand, is a guy we haven't really talked about on this site, despite his outrageous minor league statistics: 1-0, 16 saves, 0.30 ERA, 49 K's, 6 BBs, and only 16 hits allowed in 30 innings. His stuff is also off the charts--according to reports, he regularly throws his fastball at 97-98, faster than anybody else in the entire organization except for Rich Harden. So why haven't we talked about him here? One simple reason: he's a relief pitcher in low A ball (those numbers are from Kane County in the Midwest League). He's been named as a reliever for the World Team, but let's face it: minor league relief "prospects" are usually not really prospects. Anybody remember Franklyn German? Joe Valentine? Joe Adcock? These guys were all at some point billed as the A's "closer of the future" (add Chad Harville into that mix, although he, like the others, still has a chance to make something out of his career). They were all traded away for something more valuable. Now, Garcia may be the exceptional case (think Francisco Rodriguez) but I'll reserve judgment in his case until I see what he can do at higher levels. If he's still outmatching the competition when he gets a taste of AA ball and then the PCL, then I'll start to get excited. But as a general rule, great major league relievers don't come from great minor league relievers; they come from good or decent starters.

In other news, Peter Gammons of ESPN reports that Billy Beane tried to engineer a three-way deal that would send Carlos Beltran to LA, Guillermo Mota to Oakland, and prospects (Mark Teahen? John Baker? Presumably somebody from the Dodgers, too, right?) to Kansas City. But Paul DePodesta wouldn't give up Mota, a critical component of the best bullpen in the major leagues. Gammons also reports that Baird has limited the number of teams in the Beltran sweepstakes to four, and the A's are among them (along with the Yankees and Red Sox; the fourth team was undisclosed). After the LA deal was nixed, Billy tried to get Scott Williamson and Kevin Youkilis from Boston in exchange for Mike Wood and Teahen (who would go to Kansas City, along with Red Sox catching prospect Kelly Shoppach, with Beltran heading to Boston). But this trade makes less sense from the A's standpoint, because what do they do with Youkilis once Chavez returns? And is Scott Williamson really the answer at closer? I still think Arthur Rhodes can do better (see post below).

Gammons also suggested the following trade: Rhodes, Zito, Wood, Dan Johnson and cash to Texas for Francisco Cordero and Mark Teixeira. Not sure what I think about this one. On the one hand, the A's get a great hitter in T-Rex, a guy who could bash his way to some MVPs down the road, and a reliable closer. On the other, I'm reluctant to trade quality pitching to Texas... but Zito might be a terrible fit for that club. He's a flyball pitcher, and the Ballpark at Arlington is the best home-run park in the AL. Certainly it's a strange-looking trade. It might be more appealing if Teixeira's future contract status was more of a sure thing, but with Scott Boras representing him, all bets are off when he hits free agency. Either way, it's a moot point since Beane once again emphatically denied that Zito is on the trading block.

The A's got pounded in Anaheim tonight and dropped into a first-place tie with Texas. Yuck. We'll need Tim Hudson to right the ship tomorrow.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Rivalry week

The A's, still smarting from their 1-5 Midwest road swing (does that sound familiar?), return to California to take on the Anaheim Angels. Oakland has gone just 2-4 against Anaheim this year, but they come in with a 1.5-game lead in the standings, despite their recent free-fall. Yes, Texas is currently in 2nd, but nobody really thinks they'll still be there at the end of the season. The AL West will come down to these two teams, and so the head-to-head games count double. And we are about to have a lot of them.

Four games at Anaheim this week. Then back home to face the Giants in a weekend series, and then Anaheim again for three next week. Then three more with the Giants (at SBC Park), followed by the All-Star Break. By the time the break rolls around, we will have a pretty good idea how the West will shape up.

It's going to be a great couple of weeks to follow baseball.

Some miscellaneous A's notes:

- Chris Hammond has been placed on the DL retroactive to June 11 with shoulder soreness. An infielder will be called up from Sacramento to replace him on the roster for Monday's tilt with the Angels. It looks like it'll be either Adam Morrissey or Mark Teahen. Right now Morrissey has the better numbers (he's batting .354/.405/.533), but isn't as selective at the plate as the A's would prefer. Teahen hasn't been bad since being promoted from Midland a couple of weeks ago, but on the other hand he hasn't been particularly good, either (.241/.353/.328). It's possible, however, that the front office will try to showcase him for a potential trade. My guess is it'll be Morrissey.

- Idle thought: if Teahen does get the call, he'll be the fifth Mark on this A's team, joining Kotsay, McLemore, Mulder, and Redman. Add in a Marco and you've got a pretty weird situation--say "Mark" aloud in the clubhouse and half the guys will turn around and look at you.

- Jason Windsor continues to impress. The A's third-round pick pitched a three-hit shutout of powerful South Carolina in the opener of the College World Series, improving to 4-0, 0.32 in the NCAA tournament. Wow. Do you think if the draft were held today he might go higher than the late third round? Windsor's batterymate Kurt Suzuki (picked one round in front of Windsor) scored the winning run and is becoming known across the NCAA as "Kurt Klutch." The downside: Windsor was allowed to throw 145 pitches in the game, and he's been worked pretty heavily the entire postseason. The A's front office, of course, has been monitoring his workload (even though they can't yet do anything about it) and will baby him accordingly if he signs in time to play in the minors this season.

- Justin Lehr saw his first action with the major league club on Sunday and retired the Cubs' 3-4-5 hitters in order, including a swinging strikeout of Sammy Sosa. Macha hinted that Lehr might find himself in more high-leverage roles soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

The sky is not falling down

Okay, A's fans... take a deep breath. Relax. Easy. There, feel better? No? Well, bear with me for a minute. I come to praise the Athletics bullpen, not to bury it.

It's the middle of June. The A's are in first place. The starting rotation has been predictably dominant. The offense has been a pleasant surprise, averaging better than 5 runs a game. And yes, the bullpen has been a disaster of titanic proportions. But it's just the bullpen. It's not as important as the offense or the rotation. And that's why, with arguably the worst bullpen performance in the American League, the A's find themselves in first place, ten games over .500.

On a psychological level, giving away games in the ninth inning hurts. These losses feel different from other losses. But they are just losses. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if your 4-3 loss comes from a blown save in a 3-2 ballgame, or because your starter gave up four runs in the first and you never quite climbed the hill. A loss is a loss. And just because some losses are harder to stomach than others, doesn't mean that you should do something stupid...

Which brings us to the following. Just in the past two days I have read rumors or suggestions from A's fans that the A's will/should make any and all of the following pitchers the new closer...

Rich Harden
Mariano Rivera
Keith Foulke
Eddie Guardado
Danny Kolb
Guillermo Mota
Huston Street
John Smoltz
Dennis Eckersley (but I think it was a joke...)
Chad Gaudin

As ridiculously diverse as this range of pitchers is, they have one thing in common:


Some of them are prohibitively expensive to acquire and/or pay. Some of them are just not good enough pitchers to make it worth the effort. Street is still closing games for Texas in the freaking College World Series, for crying out loud! Rich Harden is a spectacular 22-year old starting pitcher! You'd rather have him throw 35 innings instead of 120 for the rest of this season?

Let's look at a quite different list.

Arthur Rhodes
Chad Bradford
Ricardo Rincon

See anything you like? No, of course you won't if you refuse to remember anything that happened before this year (or this week). But these pitchers have track records of success. Rhodes, over his entire career as a reliever, has been absolutely lights-out against both lefties and righties. He's struggling this year and has gotten into a bit of a rut confidence-wise. Does that mean that he never sees the light of day again? No--he is still the best pitcher, inning for inning, on the entire staff. Yes, I'm including the starters. Look at his last three full seasons: 2.63 ERA, 0.98 WHIP. During that span he has held lefties to a .524 OPS and righties to .594. Chrissakes, he's a monster! What we need is not a new closer, but Arthur Lee Rhodes pitching like Arthur Lee Rhodes can.

Now let's look at our set-up men.

Right-handed batters vs. Chad Bradford, 2001-2003:
.231/.266/.312 in 518 plate appearances

Left-handed batters vs. Ricardo Rincon, 2001-2003:
.205/.251/.305 in 312 plate appearances

Instead of crucifying these guys, let's show them a little love, shall we? If the A's were down going into the 8th inning and the other team had relievers with these numbers, how would you feel?

Taking a step back--here's why I like the A's chances this season. The guys they have on the team right now, are really good baseball players. Billy Beane knows this; David Forst knows this. Anybody with a little bit of perspective realizes this. And they won't be hounded into making an unfavorable trade, being saddled with a burdensome contract, giving up on prized prospects, etc. just because the national media is mocking the A's bullpen performance recently.

It's unlucky, and noticeable, that the guys in the pen are all struggling at pretty much the same time. (It's also unfortunate that Jim Mecir has been thrust into so many crucial situations. Couldn't this have been avoided somehow? Mecir is fine for the back of the pen, but for high-leverage innings, give me those front three guys only, please.) But you probably don't need me to tell you that it's folly to judge the merits of any one pitcher based solely on 25 innings' worth of results.

There, I'm done. I've said what I wanted to say. Feel any better? I sure do.

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