A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Barry Zito Forever

Barry Zito, wearing the Mellow Johnny, wasn't spectacular, but he won the game tonight in Texas. A's are back in first, Zito is back to .500. I am really glad we didn't lose any of the A's I like at the deadline. Who'd have thought Damian Miller would be as great offensively as he has? I haven't heard anyone talk about Ramon Hernandez anymore. Damian Miller is just too good.

A's didn't make a trade deadline move. But they made the move to get Dotel, so far so good on that one. I guess moving Rincon never materialized. I am OK with that, McLemore and Scutaro can get it done at 2b. This takes some imagination, but the A's are like bands that visit Tucson. In Tucson, it is well known that a band will play there when they are on the way up or on the way down, but not in the prime of their careers. Metallica just played Tucson for the first time in 10 years. The big bands always play Phoenix. Rage Against the Machine played Tucson 3 times in 92 right before their popularity went through the roof, and never played there again. How is that the A's? For money reasons the A's gravitate toward young guys until they get too expensive (Giambi, Tejada), and old guys who other teams may have given up on (Justice, McLemore, Karos). Guys on the way up, or guys on the way down. But they have Chavy for 6 more years, that looks good. There is a chance Huddy, Zito and Mulder will make it to 30 in an A's uniform. I'm not complaining, we should know we get the most bang for the buck in baseball. But it is interesting the dynamics we get when we have a 39 year old and a AAA player (although Scutaro is doing his best) platooning at 2b.

The A's have quietly morphed this season. Michael Lewis, in an interview at Athletics Nation, said that Beane was "in mourning" when Ellis got hurt. It wasn't because of Ellis' bat, it was his glove. Some time since last season, Beane has decided that defense is a higher priority than it has been. The A's plug in Kotsay, Crosby, Scutaro and Miller and all of a sudden they have the best fielding percentage in baseball. Maybe it is just that the D has been performing better than in the past, but my theory is there has been a subtle shift in priorities. I wonder if he is already looking ahead at the playoffs and trying to figure out how to win those short series. Having great defense in tight low scoring playoff games sounds like a great plan to me.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Responding to Reader's Mail

Thelma from Houston writes:

The Astros, my home team, are in a bit of a slump right now,

but I still love them. What would help, though,would be for

us to trade for Barry Zito and strengthen our pitching staff.

Do you think that trade would ever happen?

Sincerely, TC

Hey Thelma, say "hi" to Shaggy for me. This is a nice idea for Astros fans. But for A's fans? I think I speak from most of them when I say we don't want to see Zito traded. For anyone. Maybe you have seen the Zito splits for the months of August and September? I posted them a few weeks ago. I just don't think the Astros have the right guy to trade Zito for. I have no say whatsoever in who the A's would trade Zito for, but assuming money was no issue for a second, I still could only come up with about 4 players I would trade straight up for Zito. They would be: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guererro and Todd Helton. Even listing those 4, Vlad has had back problems, and I wonder how much Coors Field has inflated Helton's stats. It would have to be a big bat with a big future. If one of those guys is in the mix, we can talk, otherwise if I am Billy Beane, I keep Zito.

Back in first

With the team's come-from-behind win over Texas last night, Oakland is back in first place in the AL West by half a game (and 3.5 games up on Anaheim). The bullpen was outstanding, bailing out Kirk Saarloos (who gave up five runs in the first two innings) and Justin Duchscherer (who was effective but had to be removed with a back strain after 1 2/3 innings). Meanwhile, the clutch hits just keep pouring in.

In other news, the trade deadline is tomorrow at 1 pm Pacific, and I keep hearing rumors that the A's will deal Ricardo Rincon to Philadelphia for second baseman Placido Polanco. I think this would be kind of a weird move. Polanco is just like the second basemen that the A's already have (McLemore, Scooter): he's good defensively but doesn't hit a lot. Last year, when he hit 14 homers and slugged .450, he was definitely an offensive asset, but this year he's only hitting .262/.322/.348. And it's not as if the A's would be saving on salary by dumping Rincon: Polanco is making $3.95M this year, well above the $1.75M that Rincon is earning.

From the Phillies' perspective, on the other hand, this deal makes a lot of sense. They save a nifty bit of cash, and they already have Polanco's replacement ready in the person of Chase Utley. Meanwhile with Billy Wagner injured and going on the DL yet again, they are once more a lefty short in their bullpen. So I can see why they would make this trade; I just don't see, though, what it brings to the A's. With Esteban German beginning a rehab assignment and Ramon Castro still on the roster, how many more infielders is the team really going to need?

Return of the Yellow Jerseys

The A's wil take the field tonight and tomorrow in Texas with the yellow jerseys and kelly green hats. These uni's always remind me of a stretch drive. Know what else they remind me of? Le maillot jaune, the yellow jersey of the leader of the Tour de France.

A year or 2 back, Rick Peterson said something to the effect of, the A's in August are like Lance Armstrong when he gets to the hills. Rick Peterson is a genius and I miss him and his curly hair going out to the mound. Lance won after not winning more than 1 of the first 10 stages this year, and then won like 4 of 5 stages down the stretch, all in the hills. Lance would ride 100 miles against the best bikers in the world then with 1 km left he would stand on the pedals and power past them like they were not moving.

The A's have been at least 2 games back at the All Star break the last 5 years, but are back in first and appear to be driving for the division again as the calander turns to August. The trouble with analogies is they aren't very often very accurate. A 25 day bike race is not a 162 game baseball season. And Lance Armstrong is probably the best athlete of our lifetime, while the A's are just one of the good teams in baseball. I can't believe I just wrote that. The last 3 years I was convinced the A's WERE the best team in baseball, but I have finally seen the truth, they are just one of the good teams. My favorite good team. The last 2 teams to win the WS were not really great teams, the Angels and the Marlins were good teams. This could be the year. The A's have the yellow jersey, and these are the hills and they know what to do. Forget what I wrote yesterday, the A's can do better than 5-5 on this trip. They can power up this mountain and win 8 of 10 and demolish the field. Maybe they won't, but they know they can.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The "Survival" part of the schedule
Welcome back, Joon.  You got it right, the A's had the "make hay" part of the schedule and the next 10 games are the "survival" part of the schedule.  5-5 would be great.  3 series against the 3 first place teams.  NY and the Twins are hot, and Texas, the place, is hot, even if Texas, the team, is not.  It looks like Mulder will start the first game against the Yankees, and if that was set up intentionally by Macha weeks ago,  good work.  In an interesting coincedence all 3 teams on the road trip are names of states,(although NY is also a name of a city and the team is probably named after the city.  Since Anaheim changed it's name from  the California Angels, these are the only 3 AL teams that have a state in their team name.  In the NL there is Arizona, Colorado and Florida.

Growing up in MN I always noticed that most of the teams my home team would play would be cities, but MY team was always the "Minnesota" whatevers..Twins, Vikings, North Stars.  I guess that has to do with there being 2 cities, Minneapolis and St Paul, neither of which was really big enough to have it's own team.  But it is also an attempt to draw people from all over Minnesota and make them feel like it is their team too.  I have lived in 5 states: MN, WA, AZ, LA and CA,  and by far, Minnesota has the most state pride.  Seattle people look down their noses at the rest of the state of Washington.  New Orleans doesn't even consider the rest of the state of Louisiana.  The state pride thing was also big in Arizona, where the residents of Tucson seem to hate Phoenix.  So, the Phoenix Cardinals changed their name to the the Arizona Cardinals, and the new baseball team called themselves the Arizona Diamondbacks and put their AAA team in Tucson.  Marketing.  I can't think of a state that is more split and territorial than California, which is why it makes sense for the California Angels to decide to rename themselves the Anaheim Angels.  But this renaming of stadiums and teams  could stop and I wouldn't mind.
When I call it Pac Bell Park does the world REALLY need to correct me every time?  It's not like I am saying 2+2 = 5.   

Back from vacation

I'm back from my trip to the East Coast and I'm thrilled to see the A's on a winning streak. 2 of 3 from Texas and a sweep of the Mariners leaves Oakland just a half game back of the division lead. The team now leaves on a crucial 10-game road swing through Arlington, the Bronx, and Minneapolis. I figure if they can manage a .500 road trip, the rest of August should be easy pickings: Detroit and Kansas City at home, and then 13 in a row against Baltimore and Tampa Bay. Given the team's sterling performance against also-rans, that ought to be enough to put a little bit of distance between the A's and the Rangers (and Angels) by the end of August.

Also, it looks like short-season ball is underway and the A's have signed all of their high draft picks. Check out the stats from the Vancouver Canadians, featuring most of the A's 2004 draft class. The exception? Huston Street has been sent to full-season Kane County, where he's struck out half the batters he's faced so far. Expect him to chase Jairo Garcia all the way up the ladder until both of them are blowing away batters in Oakland.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Barry Zito Foratleastonemoregame

A sports writer on KFRC this morning brought up the point that tonight could be the last start for Barry Zito on the A's.  I think it is very unlikely, but there is a non-zero probability that this IS the last start for him in an A's uni.  If the A's could land a big player at the trading deadline for Zito, now might be the time to trade him.  I don't want them to do it though.  Probably Huddy's questionable status makes trading Zito a less viable option.  Tonight's start might be big for him though.  Blanton's arrival can't be too far off on the horizon.

Red Sox Nation

The A's took 2 of 3 from the Rangers this weekend, even though Mulder lost.  Meanwhile the Red Sox and Yankees were doing battle at Fenway.  Saturday featured a huge brawl after ARod was hit.  Sunday night was the ESPN Sunday night game.  I am always amazed at the craziness of the Red Sox fans.  They have had over 100 consecutive sellouts and Red Sox fever is at an all time high.  It seems like they live and die with each game.  That can't be a healthy way to go through life, but that's the Boston way, kind of like how there is a Dunkin Donuts shop on every corner.  Not healthy, but that's Boston. 

I don't know if that is the kind of passion I'd want in the A's.  It's got to be a tough place to play, knowing that no matter what you did yesterday, today if you screw up, the press will rip you up.  But those fans, besides being rabid, are also real baseball fans, they know the game.  In the 2nd inning last night, Johnny Damon hit a ball down the right field line.  The cameras had a great shot of the ball in flight.  As the ball closed in on the foul pole, all the fans in that area were looking right at it, and when it hit the pole, they all threw their hands in the air and screamed.  Thousands of 'em, in unison.  They all knew that hitting the foul pole meant home run.  I would guess less than half the people I work with would know that, although I do work with a lot of foreigners.  If that same play happened in Oakland, I don't think we'd see quite the same reaction.  Especially not in the 2nd inning of a game in July.  But that's the Red Sox.  Kinda like the band Rush, not sure I like them that much, but you gotta give them credit.  They are nuts about that team. 

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