And So To Fade Away
To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it.
This blog entry is my white whale. It has been my nemesis since the genesis of this blog. I have never been able to tame it or capture it. My goal in starting the Catfish Stew blog was not, like so many other baseball blogs, to second-guess The Management, but to express what it feels like to be an Oakland A's fan. If I have failed as a blogger, it is because I lacked the willpower to bring myself to tell this story, to confront the core pain of my mission. Would Herman Melville have succeeded if he had tried to write his masterpiece without ever once mentioning Ahab's peg leg, the scar that drives his obsession? If you face the Truth, it hurts you; but if you look away, it punishes you.
Load the harpoons, gentlemen, it is showdown time. Today, my adventure as a baseball blogger ends. I'm going down, and I'm taking Moby Dick with me.
It Wuertz Me To Say This, But...
I've told Wuertz jokes than this one. Fear not, there's only one blog post left on Catfish Stew.
Happy Rickey Day
The paragraph above, I think, sums Rickey Henderson up quite well. Like the splotches in an impressionist painting or the words in a Rickey Henderson speech, it makes no sense if you look it at too closely. But let it flow over you, and you can comprehend it--the divine talent, the opposition's fear, the walks, the hitting, the stolen bases--Rickey Henderson was a Hall of Fame baseball player like no other.
And today, it becomes official. Here's my best old Rickey story: watching an aging Rickey as a San Diego Surf Dawg. I wish I had some great new story to tell about him, but all I can think of are snapshots. Going to a game with an out-of-town friend and betting him that Rickey would take the count to 3-2 in the first at-bat, and winning the bet. The way he'd freeze and stare straight down at the ground and mutter if he disagreed with an umpire's strike call. Watching him lead off both ends of a doubleheader with home runs. The fingers dangling as he eyed a pitcher, waiting to steal second. The headfirst slide, through the bag, not to the bag, as if he were trying to steal second straight Outta Town.
Jason Giambi Returns To Oakland
It sounds like a bargain for a free agent who hit over 30 home runs last year. Keith Law agrees. It gives the A's positional flexibility: if Daric Barton struggles as he did last year, Giambi could play first base, with Jack Cust DHing. If Barton hits, but Cust or Travis Buck struggles, Giambi could DH while Barton covers 1B, and either Cust or Buck roams the outfield.
It's almost a perfect fit...except...it's kinda like taking back the old girlfriend who dumped you for the richer, handsomer guy so many years ago. You loved her so much while you had her, then you hated hated hated her after she betrayed you. And now, taking her back? There may be some benefits, but I can't imagine that it wouldn't be healthier for the soul if everybody had just moved on, for good.
That is, if baseball teams have souls. Maybe they don't. In which case the analogy is flawed. And so is our fandom.
Happy 50th to Rickey
Rickey Henderson reaches another milestone today. Next milestone: election to the Hall of Fame.
And for those of us who don't surpass milestones at Rickey's pace (meaning everyone), may your holidays be blessed with good food, good health, and the love of friends and family.
Furcal No Longer Athletics' Top Priority
I suppose I need to say something about Rafael Furcal, then. He was obviously Billy Beane's Plan A for fixing the shortstop hole, but Plan A failed, even though Beane offered more money and years to Furcal than any other team. I suppose it's hard to sell a player on moving in to your city when you're working really hard to move out.
The question now is, is there a Plan B that would bring the A's back to competitiveness in 2009, or are we back to the old 2010-12 target date now? Orlando Cabrera is the only other significant free agent shortstop left, but he will cost a 2nd-round draft pick, and he's not nearly the upgrade over Crosby that Furcal would have been. The Braves could presumably make Yunel Escobar available in a trade since they now have two shortstops, so we'll look at him, and the perpetually trade-rumored Jack Wilson.
(I love that Fangraphs now has +/ numbers for offense and defense, so we can compare. I'll use the 2009 Marcels wRAA for offense and the career UZR/150 for defense.)
Marcel dings Furcal because he missed large chunks of 2008 and played hurt in 2007. If he's healthy, he probably performs more like a +10 to +15 player offensively. So I'd group the talents like this:
With Furcal or Escobar, you're looking about a three win improvement over Crosby. Cabrera gets you about half that. Does it take all three wins to improve the A's enough to compete in 2009? If so, should the A's give up good prospects for Escobar? If it only takes a win or two, should the A's go after Cabrera or Wilson? Sorry, I've got no answers. I don't have time to do that kind of math, that's what I pay Billy Beane for.
Catfish Attacked By Evil Basketball
Actor Jeff Bridges has the story.
I Have Outsourced All My Worries To Billy Beane and Barack Obama
Today, Billy Beane officially traded three lemons for an overripe, spotted banana.
Greg Smith is a lemon, because his peripheral stats suggest his 4.16 ERA probably should have been about a run higher than it was. Carlos Gonzalez is a lemon because while he is young and graceful and lovely to watch both at the plate and in the field, he has no clue how to control the strike zone, and probably never much will. Huston Street is a lemon, because he is a reliever with "closer" on his resume who is becoming increasingly expensive, increasingly injury-prone, and decreasingly effective. Matt Holliday is an overripe banana, because the A's are building around a core of players who will mature in about 2012 or so, but Holliday, with only one year until free agency, needs to be consumed long before the maturity date of the other fruit in Billy Beane's basket.
Aren't you supposed to turn lemons into lemonade? Perhaps lemonade demand is high these days, and banana bread is the new market inefficiency. But even if that's true, Billy Beane is still two cups of flour, a scoop of sugar, and a stick of butter shy of assembling all the ingredients in any known banana bread recipe. Matt Holliday probably makes the A's about 4 wins better or so, but eating that banana raw still leaves the Athletics 5 to 8 wins shy of a playoff spot in 2009.
All of which is another way of saying, I have no idea why either the Rockies or the A's made this trade. And, ladies and gentlemen, I have an important announcement to make: I don't really care, either.
Oh, getting all high and mighty, eh? Fresh fruit not good enough for you, eh? Well, I'll tell you something, my lad. When you're walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after you with a bunch of loganberries, don't come crying to me!
So be it. Loganberries be damned, I have decided, at long last, to stop trying to imagine myself as Billy Beane or Bob Geren or George Bush or Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to make all the great and important decisions of the world, and instead to just be Alfred E. Neuman. I shall no longer worry about being attacked by pomegranates or grapefruits or plums or lingonberries or mangoes in syrup. My life had become such a burden, what with all the guns and 16-ton weights and tigers I've been hauling around to protect myself from the outrages of mistaken decisions by those wielding the fruits of power. It is time to outsource those responsiblities.
In Billy Beane and Barack Obama, the A's and the US of A's leaders are seemingly both intelligent, pragmatic men who will avoid quick reactions from their guts, carefully consider all the empirical evidence, and make their decisions as rationally as they can. I may disagree with elements of their overall philosophy and with their individual decisions, but I believe I can finally say in both cases that I don't think I could, on the whole, do a better job than they could.
Therefore, with relief, I hereby outsource my worries about the A's and the USA, to Billy Beane and Barack Obama. The job is yours, guys, I'll let you do it. Go ahead and trade for a slugger who won't be sticking around to help the A's win their next championship. Go ahead and send gazillions more dollars to General Motors and their incompetent management. Go ahead and overhaul the health care system using the advice of a man who sends scouts the world over and somehow can't manage to find 25 healthy young men. I probably won't understand any of those decisions in the slightest, but I'm fairly confident that you've thought it through, so I'll trust your judgment. I'll probably check in from time to time to make sure you're not burning the toast, but mostly, you're on your own from now on.
I shall now return to my life, to focus on bringing home the bacon from the fruits of my labor, and on enjoying more time with my wife and three daughters, the apples of my eye. Bon appetit, my friends.
I look forward to seeing which prospects he's eventually flipped for.
Mark Ellis To Sign 2-Year Deal
Mark Ellis will be back, according to ESPN. It's a 2-year deal, with a team option for a third, at about 5 to 6 million/year. That sounds fair to me. It doesn't block their best 2B prospects, Jemile Weeks and Adrian Cardenas, who are both a couple years from being ready. With the youth movement, the vast majority of the team will hold pre-arbitration salaries, so there's plenty of room in the budget for this modest salary. Assuming Ellis fully recovers from his minor shoulder surgery and stays somewhat healthy, this is a good deal.
Win One for the Sipper
Confession time: Your correspondent did not expect the A's to be very good this year. In those heady days of spring training, when all teams start out 0-0 and everyone is mathematically alive, I looked at the 2008 handiwork of Billy Beane and saw 95 losses, a last-place finish, and 1979-sized crowds dotting the Coliseum's many available seats.
Well, the A's went out and only lost 85 games as of this writing, securing themselves a third place finish. So I guess they showed me a thing or two. (Not that you asked, but my most prescient preseason prediction? That the White Sox would make the playoffs -- even if they fall short today and/or tomorrow, I figure that my pick is close enough for government work. And the preseason prediction you'll never hear me cop to after this paragraph? Your 2008 Central Division Champion Detroit Tigers, ladies and gentlemen.)
What does one do when one has already written off the season before a single meaningful pitch has been thrown? I confess I was uncertain -- I fully expected the A's to contend in 2007 ("They've got Milton Bradley and Rich Harden! What could possibly go wrong?"), so it wasn't like I went into last season with an impending sense of doom. You'd have to go back to the mid-to-late '90s to a time when Oakland went into a year realistically out of it, and back then, the impetuousness of youth would never have allowed me to write off a season in late March.
For spiritual guidance, I turned to my friend Curt, who, as a Royals fans, knows a thing or two about hopelessness. Curt's advice for enduring, and even enjoying, a season in which the team you pull for has no conceivable chance of finishing on the happy side of .500, let alone playing into late October? Appreciate the little things -- the development of a promising player, the rare walk-off win, the occasional hot streak.
Also, you make bets. Lots and lots of bets.
Which is how Curt and I came to make a bet to add a little something extra for what figured to be a doomed campaign for both our favorite squadronswe have a six-pack of beer riding on whether Oakland or Kansas City finishes 2008 with a better record. And not some cheap water-down-lager-in-a-can six-pack either -- we're talking beer assembled by pretentious microbrewers who prattle on and on about hops and barley and frou-frou seasonal beers until you just want to punch them in the mouth if only so that the muffled sounds of their agony will provide you with enough silence to enjoy their nice, cold beer.
Honestly, when the A's got off to their unexpectedly hot start, I kind of thought this thing was in the bag. I remember the heady days of mid-April, when the A's completed a three-game sweep of Kansas City and feeling sorry for Curt. "Maybe we should call this thing off," I thought to myself. "Out of friendship." Then I remembered that friendship offers poor relief from the heat on a blistering summer's day. The bet remained on.
Even as players like Emil Brown and Bobby Crosby looked in the mirror and remembered, "You know what? We're not very good at baseball," and the A's returned to earth, I didn't panic. Oh sure, I was a little nervous in July when the Royals returned the three-game-sweep favor. But I also took a trip to Kansas City to scout out the competition, and I realized that as bad as the A's might be, the Royals were even worse. Indeed, when Oakland was causing us to avert our eyes with a 10-20 record in August, do you know which team was busy compiling an even worse record for the month? That's rightthe spiritual heirs to Bob Hamelin, Buddy Biancalana, and Onix Concepcion.
Unfortunately, the season didn't end on Labor Day. The Royals have won 13 of their last 15 and will post a winning record for the month of Septemberonly their second in two decades, according to the Chronicle. And the A's? In spite of -- or perhaps because of -- Smilin' Bob Geren's insistence that the team wishes to finish on "a good note," the A's have lost four consecutive games, dropping series to the middling Texas Rangers and the woeful Seattle Mariners. The 101-loss Mariners, who would desperately love to pick up that 102nd loss if it means securing the top pick in next June's draft. The same Mariners who, if newspaper accounts are to be believed, dream more about thrashing Ichiro Suzuki with orange-stuffed socks than winning ballgames. And yet, Oakland can't beat them.
What note would you be finishing on there, Bob? C-flat?
Which brings us to the final day of the 2008 regular season. The A's enter today with a record of 75 and 85, the Royals with a 75-86 mark. That means if the Royals complete their improbable sweep of the Twins and the Athletics continue to roll over and play dead for Seattle, I will wind up buying my good friend Curt a six-pack of beer.
I hope you understand how completely unacceptable that would be.
So I'd like to take a moment now, if I may, to address the Oakland A's personally. I'm sure that in these waning hours before the final game of the season, some members of the team are preparing for today's contest by booking off-season vacations on Expedia or dashing off e-mails to friends and family about how they'll be home soon or perhaps even downloading porn. And if their idle surfing happens to bring them to this corner of the Internet, I hope my words -- offered in the sincerest hope of helping inspire the team to victory -- move them to give their utmost today. If nothing else, know that the words below come straight from my heart.
Listen, you jerks...
You don't like me, and at this particular point in time, I don't much care for you either.
Ours has always been a one-sided relationship. I don't recall Eric Chavez being broken up when I have a bad day at work. Huston Street doesn't spend the night pouting when I blow a deadline. And if Mark Ellis has ever had a sleepless night because he's worried that I'll sign a big contract with some New York-based publication, he does a fine job of concealing his concern.
Me, on the other hand -- I've suffered through playoff losses that have been both maddening and laughable. I've seen beloved players come and mostly go. I have put up with some bad baseball over the years in the name of loyalty. And in that time, you guys have given me heartache, agita, and robbed me of the bloom of my youth.
And now you want to take away my beer.
Well, guess again, fellas. I will endure many indignities. I will keep a stiff upper lip as 2-0 leads in playoff series are blown, and I will not get my dauber down as one player after another departs for points east, and I will even sit through an 85-loss season with nothing more than a "You'll get 'em next year, boys."
But to deprive me of a Longboard Lager or a Fat Tire Ale? That's cutting a little close to the knuckle, friend.
So I don't care what it takes today -- you will beat Seattle. If you have to tell Emil Brown that the game's been moved to Vancouver so that he shows up at the wrong ballpark and removes any temptation for Bob Geren to put him in the lineup, then do it. If you have to load up Josh Outman with so much K-Y Jelly that even Gaylord Perry shakes his head in disgust, then start slathering. If it means benching strikeout-prone Jack Cust in favor of his bobblehead, then make it so. There's less of a chance that the bobblehead will take a called third strike, at any rate.
I would like to share a story with you jerks, a story about a young man not unlike yourselves, with hopes and dreams and ambitions that got ground down by the bootheel of reality. So it turns out this young man was dying from some fatal disease... let's say it was black lung. And I when visited him on his death bed, he turned his sad eyes to me and croaked, "Some day, when the chips are down and the breaks are going against the boys, I want you to turn to them and say... I could really use a beer right now to blot out the memory of how awful they're playing."
Powerful words. So when you take the field today, I want you to go out there and win this game for that poor, dead, possibly fictional young man. Or else, he'll haunt you from beyond the grave.
Please Fill In This Joke
There's something funny about these two consecutive pictures I took today, one minute apart. There's a setup and a punchline, but I can't figure out the middle.
... (insert body of joke here) ...
In Which Phil Once Again Says Mean Things About K-Rod
Your single-season saves record-holder Francisco Rodriguez -- and hey, that distinction worked out well for Bobby Thigpen, didn't it? -- likes to celebrate each of his saves with an elaborate dance as if he's never closed out a game before. I may have mentioned my dislike of this practice once or twice or possibly every time he does it, which would be roughly a jillion times. I am not alone in my disdain. This item from the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the Athletics, while respectful of K-Rod's accomplishments, find his theatrical prancing to be... let us say "distasteful." I would not go so far as to suggest that they wouldn't be the least bit sad to see Francisco Rodriguez get run over by a stray AC Transit bus mid-celebration. That is my wish, not theirs.
Anyhow, I have a modest proposal for K-Rod. Instead of jumping and hollering every time he saves a ballgame -- which, really, appears to not be that difficult a task for Mr. Rodriguez -- how's about only dancing about in that "Hooray For Me!" fashion when you successfully complete a throw to first base? Judging by your form and results in Tuesday night's game, a simple 1-3 putout is a much more remarkable achievement for you.
One other note about the single-season record that formerly belonged to Bobby Thigpen: More than a decade ago, your faithful correspondent found himself without access to a TV and, therefore, had to listen to ESPN Radio to get his national baseball fix. The color man on those ESPN radio games in the mid-'90s was Jeff Torborg, the same man who called upon Bobby Thigpen every day until his arm fell off.
One time Thigpen's name came up in the radio broadcast, which caused Jeff Torborg to ruminate about that 1990 season in which the Sox reliever saved a then-record 57 games. "You know," Torborg said in the tone of voice meant to invite his play-by-play partner to immediately leap in to his defense, "a lot of people think I ruined Bobby Thigpen's career by having him save that many games."
The 15 seconds of dead air that followed spoke volumes.
The Vacuous Season
All the players I like are now gone. Rich Harden was traded. Justin Duchscherer is probably lost for the year. Eric Chavez is out for the season, and may never grace the hot corner again. Frank Thomas is out for the season, and may never play again. Mark Ellis is out for the season, and may never return to Oakland.
Who is left to watch? The Oakland A's have been drained from my soul. I feel empty.
What is left to say? Meaningless talking points, nothing more.
I never presume to know what Billy Beane's will is, and I would never presume to know Billy Beane's will or to speak Billy Beane's words.
But let us not pray that Billy Beane is on our side in a pennant race or any other time, but let us pray that we are on Billy Beane's side.
And I do believe, though, that this rebuilding in the face of wealthier AL opponents is the right thing. It's an unfortunate thing, because rebuilding is hell and I hate rebuilding, and, this Sunday is the day that I send my wife and three children in our Honda Odyssey minivan to the Coliseum one last time to root for our team, for the East Bay, and for statistical methods of evaluation.
Those are evaluations that too many of us just take for granted. I hate rebuilding and I want to see rebuilding ended. We end rebuilding when we see victory, and we will see victory in sight in the AL West.
I believe that there is a plan for this team and that plan for this team is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every prospect to be able to play and be developed with inalienable talents that I believe are God-given, and I believe that those are the talents for hitting for average, hitting for power, running speed, arm strength and fielding ability. That, in my world view, is a grand -- the grand plan.
How Green Were My '83 Athletics?
When your team is in the process of completing a 10-20 August run, you look for entertainment wherever you can find it, since it's certainly not located on the field of play. So it was with some relief that I spotted the following in the Chronicle's write-up of the A's 10th and final win in the month of August over the weekend:
The A's extended their Oakland record for most DL uses in one season to 24, two more than the previous mark. They have used 18 rookies, their most since using 19 in 1983.
The DL thing isn't all that surprising or interesting. You bring in both Mike Sweeney and Frank Thomas, and your team is going to wind up in the Under the Knife column more often than not.
No, it's the rookie thing that caught my eye. I would have pegged some of the mid-to-late '90s teams as relying on more than their fair share of rookies -- installing your Chavezes and your Tejadas and your Grieves as Oakland kicked its rebuilding drive into high-gear. Those early-to-mid '80s teams, in contrast, always struck me as having a surplus of old guys -- a veteran of the Bruce Bochte or Joe Morgan or Dave Kingman variety that the A's grabbed in order to patch over an obvious hole. Indeed, that '83 team featured 38-year-old Davey Lopes manning second base, 34-year-old Jeff Burroughs getting most of the starts at DH, and the Wayne Gross Era coming to its logical conclusion.
And yet, there they are -- 18 rookies spending some amount of time on the roster in 1983. Many seem like September call-ups while a handful earned starting roles. But no matter how you slice it, the '83 Athletics were lousy with rookies. And all this time, I had just thought of them as lousy.
And that got me thinking: How many of those rookies wound up panning out for Oakland? Did the triumphs later in the decade have their roots from those humble seeds planted in 1983? And if so, can we find any solace, 25 years later, for the rookie-infested squad that's finding itself on the wrong end of so many scores in this, the Two Thousand and Eighth Year of Our Lord?
Let's take a look at the 18 members of Oakland's Class of '83 after the jump.
Boom Goes the Dynamite
One of the nice things about living where I do is that I can step outside my front door, walk approximately a half-mile to the southwest, hang a sharp left, and I've got an excellent view of the Coliseum from across the San Leandro Bay. This view comes in particularly handy when the A's decide to shoot off some fireworks. So that's four nights of free entertainment for each of team's in-season Pyro-Spectaculars... at least until the A's perfect the Molecular Disruption Ray that only lets paying customers watch the fireworks. Really, it's the next logical step after you've tarped off the upper deck.
Anyhow, I spent the evening toggling back and forth between Cal's lid-lifter against Michigan State (Hooray, Bend-Don't-Break Defense for not breaking!) and the A's-Twins game (Hooray, walk-off errors!). And the second after Joe Nathan's ill-advised throw to third, I flipped back to the Cal game while my wife grabbed a sweater. We waited long enough for the Bears to salt away the victory, headed out the door and arrived to our prime vantage point just as they killed the lights at the Coliseum. Then, we got to watch stuff blow up.
Which is a nice way to spend a holiday weekend, really.
You really can't hear the stadium sound system from where we watch fireworks displays, so I can't say for certain if there was any announcement about the theme for this particular Pyro-spectacular. But judging by the severity and breath-taking nature of the explosions, my guess is that title of tonight's fireworks display was something along the lines of "What Happened to Our Season After the Harden and Blanton Trades: A Visual Representation."
The A's had two of the biggest coups in the draft, according to Jim Callis at Baseball America.
Trevor Cahill will start against Japan on Wednesday (4am PT). The game is meaningless to the US medal chances, as they have already qualified for the semifinals. But it should be interesting to see how Cahill does against a quality team like Japan.
ShysterBall has a conversation about the worst seats you ever had at a ballgame. Here's my contribution:
The A's have been awful in August, but they've also had a pretty tough schedule. The only sub-.500 team they've played this month is Detroit, who aren't exactly patsies themselves. By contrast, they'll only play three games in September against a team (the Angels) currently above .500.
Uh, oh. Justin Duchscherer has injured his hip. I'm assuming it's the hip he had surgery on last year. Bad news, for two reasons: one, I like the guy and want him to succeed. Two, a recurrence to an old injury hurts his trade value a lot. If I guy injures something and then gets it fixed, that's fine, but if he injures it twice, he'll probably injure it three times.
The A's signed Brett Hunter, their seventh-round pick out of Pepperdine, just before yesterday's signing deadline. Hunter is a top-two-round talent who fell because of injury concerns. But he spent the summer pitching for a collegiate all-star team, and pitched well enough to convince the A's he was healthy enough to play.
Brett Anderson started for the US against Canada, and yielded four runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. But like Trevor Cahill the day before, Anderson ended up with a no-decision.
Trevor Cahill was the starting pitcher for the US in today's Olympic ballgame against Cuba. He got a no decision, pitching five innings, allowing two runs on six hits and four walks, striking out three.
The End of Ziegler's Streak, in Photos
I witnessed an end of an era today: Brad Ziegler's consecutive scoreless innings streak ended at 39 and whatever innings. Ziegler didn't have good stuff today: the Rays hit several balls hard in the previous inning, but they were caught at the warning track.
His luck didn't last another inning.
He gave up a single to Akinori Iwamura. Then that lovely swing of B.J. Upton connected:
The line drive shot into the left field corner, and the runners were off to the races:
Jack Cust didn't pick up the ball cleanly, and Iwamura came around to score the first run ever against Brad Ziegler:
And the streak was over. The Rays took the lead 5-4. It was the first time I've ever seen the home team fans give a relief pitcher a standing ovation after giving up the lead:
* * *
That's what A's fans will remember about this game. But for teams that are still in the AL pennant race, this play is probably more significant:
Troy Percival fielded a bunt by Mark Ellis and sprinted over to tag him out. Percival injured his leg on the play, and had to leave the game. His replacement yielded the tying run, and the game went to extra innings. The Rays won the game in extra innings, but if Percival is out for any extended period, that could be the injury straw that breaks the Rays' back. I'm rooting for the Rays, so here's hoping Percival is OK.
Another tidbit I noticed that I didn't include in my wrap up of last night's game: Brad Ziegler throws his first two warmup pitches on the mound using his old overhand motion before he switches to the sidearm delivery.
Help! The sanctity of my home has been violated by Albert Pujols! Won't anyone think of the children?
I had plenty more important things to do, but when my brother-in-law called this afternoon and said he had seats he couldn't use right behind home plate, I thought, hmm...Gio's Oakland debut, Pennington's first game, could be interesting. OK, I'll go. Here's the wide angle view of the seats I had:
From this short distance, you get a much more realistic sense of the impressive speed of the game at the major league level. How any batter ever manages to discern ball from strike, and make any sort of contact at all off these pitchers throwing over 90mph is a minor miracle. And then to recognize the difference between that and a changeup before it's too late? It looks so much easier on TV than up close and personal. Also, foul balls should be renamed "Death Missiles". They're absolutely terrifying as they go whistling overhead or slam into the screen in front of you.
Pennington Called Up to Replace Hannahan
Cliff Pennington has been called up to be the A's new third baseman, replacing the severly slumping Jack Hannahan at 3B. Pennington doesn't have much power--he profiles more as a shortstop offensively--but anything would be better than Hannahan at this point.
Hannahan was hitting .222/.307/.333 for the year, but only .136/.191/.159 over the last two weeks. Pennington was hitting .297/.426/.386 in 236 at-bats in Sacramento.
Lenny DiNardo was sent back to AAA to make room on the 25-man roster, and Brooks Conrad was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Pennington.
David Laurila at BP Radio has interviews with Jerry Blevins, Ray Fosse and Justin Duchscherer (mp3). If you're a serious A's fan, you can probably skip the Fosse interview--you've probably heard him say the same things a hundred gazillion times before, but I enjoyed hearing Blevins and Duchscherer.
Melissa Lockard takes a look at Dan Meyer's future. Money quote:
That last sentence is the key to Meyer for me. I exchanged greetings with Meyer at Fanfest just after the Tim Hudson trade, and the guy looked like a scared puppy, totally overwhelmed. Unlike Hudson, who I also ran into once in his rookie season. Although Hudson is physically no bigger than I am, he had a look in his eyes that said, "I'm the big dog around here." It didn't surprise me that Meyer was too afraid to admit to his spring training injury his first year in Oakland, or to hear that he sometimes lacks confidence on the mound. Meyer's just probably not a naturally self-confident guy, but instead probably needs some success to give him the self-confidence to have success. It's a bit of a catch-22. You could probably throw a bulldog like Hudson into the World Series as a fresh rookie and he'll be fine, but a guy like Meyer needs to be eased into things. Start him in the bullpen against some lousy teams, and then let him work his way up.
The Mark Ellis trade market has suddenly picked up after couple of key broken bones to contenders. The Diamondbacks recently lost Orlando Hudson for the year, and today, Evan Longoria went down with essentially the same injury: a broken bone from a hit-by-pitch.
Ellis is hitting .231/.317/.361, which isn't really any better than Orlando's backup, Augie Ojeda (.257/.358/.324). So even with the defensive upgrade to Ellis, the Diamondbacks might not want to pay the price. Then again, Ellis would be going from one of the most difficult ballparks for hitting to one of the easiest, so his numbers would probably improve. Susan Slusser of the Chronicle adds her weight to this speculation.
This article suggests that the Rays will replace Longoria with Willy Aybar, who is hitting .225/.299/.379. Even with his bad season at the plate, Ellis would still be an improvement over Aybar at the plate, and is an improvement over anybody in the field. Now obviously Ellis isn't a third baseman like Longoria, but current Rays 2B Akinori Iwamura played third base last year, so the Rays could switch him back. Although I'm not sure why the Rays wouldn't just play Eric Hinske at third base over Aybar and never mind Ellis.
All of this assumes that Ellis has/will pass through waivers. There is no word on that.
Who will play professional baseball first, cavemen or robots? You know that eventually, mankind will go there. Will our single-minded pursuit of sports glory eventually cause the fall of mankind? How will our civilization end? Like Planet of the Apes? Or like Terminator? Or perhaps we shall create a race of robot/cloned human hybrids to play our professional sports for us, and when they inevitably turn on their human creators, we shall be forced to take refuge in outer space, like Battlestar Galactica. Woe is us.
Ex-A's report: Bobby Kielty, recently released by the Red Sox, has signed a minor-league deal with the Twins.
Chris Carter (1B/3B/OF-Stockton) and Aaron Cunningham (OF-Sacramento) both make Kevin Goldstein's Monday Ten Pack ($) at Baseball Prospectus. Goldstein notes that the A's are moving Carter around trying to find a position for him to settle at, and Cunningham will likely challenge for a big-league job next spring. Cunningham's task shouldn't be too hard, considering two outfield roster spots are currently held by Emil (.289 OBP) Brown, and Rajai (.259 OBP) Davis.
Difference between the Dodgers front office, and the Athletics front office, in a nutshell:
Related note: the only three A's batters with a batting average over .255:
Ryan Sweeney: .291
I'm glad Huston Street has some perspective on his recent slump:
There are a lot of clueless athletes with a sense of entitlement who would be outraged by a demotion. At least Street knows he's been awful this month, and recognizes Brad Ziegler's accomplishments.
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Meanwhile, the A's front office apparently expected the A's to be terrible like this all year long, and were a bit surprised they didn't. A's assistant GM David Forst:
Oops, sorry fans, see those standings, where we're 9 games over .500? Ignore that. We actually suck. Watch, we'll prove it to you!
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Reminder: we've started running short snippets on the Catfish Stew homepage that don't show up in the "Hot for the Toaster" list. So check back often, y'hear?
Breaking news from the San Francisco Chronicle: Going 3-21 is "no fun".
Don't ignore the Never-Heard-Of Guy: I didn't like the Rich Harden trade at first glance, because in return for Harden and Chad Gaudin, the A's got three players I'm not too excited about, and another guy I had never heard of.
That "guy" is single A catcher Josh Donaldson. Donaldson had a triple and a home run for Stockton on Sunday, and is now hitting .394/.466/.712 in 114 plate appearances since the trade.
Matt Spencer, the Never-Heard-Of Guy in the Joe Blanton trade, is hitting .353/.411/.576, even after an 0-for-4 yesterday.
Interesting interview with Brad Ziegler by BP's David Laurila.
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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