Monthly archives: December 2005
Maury Brown has a profile of Charlie Finley over at Baseball Analysts. Part 1 today, Part 2 soon...check it out.
Oakland sure had its fair share of unconventional characters in my childhood. Finley (who owned two teams in Oakland--the A's and the NHL Seals). The whole Mustache Gang. Al Davis. Franklin Mieuli. Billy Martin. Sandy Alderson (a lawyer running a baseball team?). And of course, Bill King.
A couple of questions come to mind:
* * *
Six former A's on the Hall of Fame ballot: Goose Gossage, Tommy John, Doug Jones, Willie McGee, Dave Parker, and Walt Weiss. Only Weiss spent a big chunk of his career in Oakland. Did you know Weiss had a career .351 OBP? I never would have guessed. He hovered around a .300 OBP for most of his Oakland years. But four years in Colorado will do that for you.
* * *
Some former A's moving around: Johnny Damon to the Yankees, Chad Bradford to the Mets, and Eric Byrnes to the Diamondbacks. I wish them luck in their new homes.
* * *
Kevin Millwood signed with the Rangers. I don't think Millwood is going to be a great pitcher for them, but it does change things in the AL West a bit. Before, when facing the Rangers in a three-game series, you were pretty much guaranteed to face at least one starting pitcher who didn't really belong in a major league rotation. I don't think that's the case anymore. The Rangers may now have five mediocre starting pitchers (Millwood, Padilla, Eaton, Loe, Dominguez), but that's quite an improvement for them. And with the addition of Otsuka in the pen to set up Cordero, I think Texas is going to be much harder to beat.
* * *
All quiet on the Zito front. However, it should be noted that:
Which means to me that Zito's home ballpark in 2006 is still very much in question.
Rickey Henderson turns 47 today. May he live to be 2,005, and keep playing the whole time.
Hope you and yours have a terrific holiday.
Random A's Flashback
I'm sure you remember what you were doing on September 11, 2001.
But do you remember what you were doing exactly one decade earlier? Here's what I was doing on September 11, 1991:
This happens to be a picture of Todd Van Poppel's first major league pitch, to Tim Raines. And of my shoes. And of some orange seats.
Man, I had almost forgotten about those orange seats. They are better left forgotten, I think.
Also best left forgotten is how excited I was that Van Poppel might be a huge star, especially after he struck out five of the first six batters he faced. Unfortunately, the second time through the order, the White Sox figured Van Poppel out. Carlton Fisk took Van Poppel deep, and well...that was the last time I had dreams about Todd Van Poppel.
Oakland A's To Buy Soccer Team?
I felt an earthquake this morning. Perhaps it was a omen, a precursor to a much bigger shakeup.
Yesterday, the San Jose Earthquakes announced that they are moving to Houston for the upcoming Major League Soccer season. MLS said they intend to expand back into San Jose as soon as 2007. The city of San Jose then immediately offered to spend $80 million on a new stadium, subject to voter approval.
This afternoon, the A's put out a press release announcing that they want to buy the expansion Major League Soccer franchise in San Jose, should MLS decide to do so.
What the heck could all of this possibly mean? My head is spinning.
OK, I can see that maybe Lew Wolff discovered he likes owning sports teams, and he wants to own another one. Fine. The thing I don't get is this: why put out a press release?
There's something more going on here. There's an intended audience for this press release. There's somebody the A's want to tell that they are officially intending to buy the new Earthquakes.
Could this be a prelude to the A's moving to San Jose? When asked this morning in the San Jose Mercury News, Wolff replied:
"The answer is, I'm going to comply with Major League Baseball rules," Wolff said, after noting that San Jose officially remains the Giants' territory.
Note: Wolff did not say "The A's won't move to San Jose." He said, "We will comply with the rules."
Perhaps, then, this whole Earthquakes escapade is a giant loophole? That there is some way, if the A's own a stadium in San Jose for soccer, they can move to San Jose without legally violating the territorial rights of the Giants?
Or perhaps, more benevolently, the rights to develop the Diridon South property with a soccer stadium can provide the necessary revenue stream needed to build a baseball stadium in Oakland?
Hard to tell. One thing is sure: I will be monitoring the situation.
I Am Monitoring The Situation
On KNBR radio yesterday, Billy Beane was asked point blank if the A's are still pursuing Frank Thomas. Beane hemmed and hawed, and finally said, "We are monitoring the situation."
Meaning, of course, that yes, they are. No big surprise. That's not so interesting.
What interests me is the phrase. I think this could be quite handy in all sorts of situations, when I don't feel like answering the question.
Wife: Are you going to take out the garbage?
Toaster user: Can we get some italics and HTML links in the comments?
Toaster user: Will Score Bard ever write another poem?
Offspring: Where do babies come from?
Toaster reader: Does this blog entry have a point?
All the Milton Bradley Puns
are hereby officially all used up. Let us never hear another.
Paris Hilton Gums Up Barry Zito Trade
Paris Hilton is extremely famous, therefore Barry Zito is still on the Oakland A's.
This argument, admittedly, is a stretch, but I'm quite curious how much traffic I'll get by putting Paris Hilton in my headline.
As the winter meetings closed last week, we were told that the rumored Milton Bradley-to-the-A's, the Barry Zito-to-the-Mets, and the David Wells-to-the-A's deals were all dead.
Then suddenly, Milton Bradley was on the A's. The deal not quite as dead as we thought. So are those other deals still on the table, too?
In interviews after the Bradley trade, Billy Beane would neither confirm nor deny any possible further trades. He would only say that he's happy with the team as it stands. Which means nothing.
As we understood it at the time, Zito would go to the Mets for Lastings Milledge and some other players, after the Mets cleared some payroll and roster spots. The A's would then trade for David Wells to fill Zito's rotation spot.
It almost happened. The Mets got close to trading Kris Benson to the Royals, clearing roster space, and giving them the kind of middle reliever the Mets wanted, either for themselves, or to trade to Oakland. But the deal fell through. Why?
Apparently, Kris Benson's wife Anna is somewhat to blame. Anna Benson wants badly to be the next Paris Hilton. She wants to get famous, like Hilton, by dressing provocatively, and acting outrageously. But if it's your dream to be chased around by the paparazzi all day, you want to live where the cameras are. And that ain't Kansas City. As MLB trade rumors put it:
The Mets don't have the upper hand in any possible Kris Benson trade, so teams are backing off and offering less value. The feeling is that Anna Benson's media tirades are precluding small market teams from acquiring her husband. Anna has definitely decreased Kris's value around baseball. She knows that her career will stall if they end up in a place like Kansas City, so she'll do anything she can to stay in New York.
So Mets' GM Omar Minaya's job has gotten harder. But the buzz still lingers that Minaya is still shopping around, trying to put together the pieces that will satisfy Billy Beane.
And as long as David Wells remains a Boston Red Sox (Wells has said he wants to be traded to the West Coast, or he'll retire), you gotta believe that the Barry Zito trade is still very much on the table.
A's Trade Ethier to Dodgers for Bradley and Perez
I heard the A's traded Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley. I hated the deal.
Then I heard the A's also get Antonio Perez.
OK, now I like the deal.
This trade makes the A's a very deep team. And the A's will need it, because they have several injury-prone players.
The worst case scenario for the A's 2006 title hopes is that Eric Chavez's bad shoulder doesn't last through the season. The A's had nobody in the organization who could step in and do any sort of credible job there. With Perez, now they do.
Bradley is a risk, both with his personality, and with his injury history. But when he plays, he will definitely upgrade the offense. And if this pushes Nick Swisher to first and Dan Johnson to DH, it upgrades the defense, too.
You have to ask some questions as a result:
An Ace of Spades
Once upon a time, there was a young man, born in Seattle, Washington, raised in the dense forests of western Sweden, who dreamed of playing the clarinet like Benny Goodman.
(Many years later, he would stop playing the clarinet, and turn his musical passions to the piano, instead. He loved to play, and would become a very good piano player, but he would never quite be satisfied. He would always openly envy people like Oscar Peterson, who could play better than him.)
* * *
One day, in 1945, this young man found himself on a boat. He was an American soldier. There were many other American soldiers on the boat with him. It was crowded.
There was nothing to do. To pass the time, the soldiers all sat around, reading books, playing cards, talking, taking naps, watching the waves go by.
The boat was headed in no known direction. It had no known name. Only the young man from Seattle had a name. He was named Sigurd. Sigurd's mission, and the mission of the other soldiers, was unclear.
* * *
Somehow, at some point, Sigurd got off the boat. He found himself somewhere in Germany, shortly after V-E Day. It was a somewhat cold day. He wore a coat.
He felt like doing something silly. So he put a playing card in his hat. The card was an ace of spades.
* * *
The young man in the above story was my father. He died, quite suddenly, almost exactly a decade ago, at the age of 67. What I know of his life resembles that story: fractional, incomplete, constructed from random photographs and half-remembered tales, a jigsaw puzzle with many of the pieces missing.
* * *
This past Sunday afternoon, my father-in-law Calvin passed away. He was 81.
Like my father, my wife's father was born in the 1920s in the Pacific Northwest (Butte, Montana) to immigrant parents (China). Like Sigurd, Calvin came of age during World War II, and served in the US military. Like Sigurd, after his enlisted days were over, Calvin worked for the US Military as a civilian for most of his career.
And like Sigurd, Calvin left us with many untold stories. For example, we know that Calvin served as an mechanic servicing airplanes during the "Flying the Hump" airlift in the Burma-China-India theater. What was that like? We can only guess. Calvin didn't care to talk about it much.
* * *
How wonderful would it have been to read a blog entry alongside that photograph of my dad on that boat? I would love to know what book my dad was reading, what he thought of the book, who those other soldiers were, where they were all going, and above all, how they felt about the whole experience. Sadly, there were no blogs in 1945.
This is why I blog. I want to record my stories as they happen, so that when I'm gone, my children and grandchildren won't have to feel bad that they never got around to asking me to tell my story. I want them to inherit a jigsaw puzzle with a lot more pieces.
* * *
Last evening, the five-year-old granddaughter of Sigurd and Calvin had her first piano recital. She had been looking forward to it for weeks.
She adores music. She loves to play around with songs, to twist the words and notes around. When she's satisfied she knows one of her piano assignments well enough, she'll transpose it, taking a song in a major key, and turning it into a song in a minor key. Lately, she has been singing the chorus to that Hawaiian Christmas song as "Mele KaliKenMacha is a famous man".
I'm glad that the news of her grandfather's passing went almost completely over her head. The recital was probably the most exciting event in her young life so far; I am grateful that not even the saddest of news could ruin it for her. Let the adults grieve the untold tales; let the kids go build the stories of the future.
My daughter was by far the youngest and smallest student in the show, but she stood out. While most of the other kids three or four years older than her struggled just to play the right notes, my little five-year-old seemed to be working on another level. She wants to get the notes to feel right, to sound smooth and polished, with just the right volume at just the right spots.
When I told her afterwards that I didn't think she could play her two songs any more perfectly, she disagreed. "My dynamics on the second song could have been better," she said.
I smiled. That kind of passion for music hasn't been seen in my family since once upon a time, when a young man dreamed of playing the clarinet like Benny Goodman. But that's a whole nother story. Someday, perhaps, I'll get around to telling it to you.
In signing Esteban Loaiza, the A's surrendered their first round draft pick in 2006. The last time the A's lost a draft pick was in 2000, for signing Mike Magnante. Mike Magnante is obviously not worth losing a first round draft pick over, right?
Well, maybe. I went back and looked at who the A's could have taken with that lost draft pick in 2000. And what I found kinda surprised me.
The 2000 draft really really sucked.
Here are the players the A's could have taken between that lost draft pick, and their second-round pick, Freddie Bynum.
20. Anaheim, Christopher Bootcheck, RHP, Auburn
That list isn't exactly screaming with all-stars, is it? Five years later, only Heilman and Nady have really done anything in the majors at all. A few still might have a shot, but still, it's a pretty weak crop.
Which leads to this obvious question: if draft sucked the last time the A's gave up a draft pick, will it suck in 2006, too? In other words, are the A's more willing to give up a draft pick in a bad draft year?
I emailed Bryan Smith and asked him what he thought about that idea. Here's his response:
The 2006 draft is interesting, because to me, it looks very pitching-heavy. The number of good pitchers in the draft will be high, and there could be 8 or so pitchers within the first 10 picks. There are very, very few impact hitters in the entire draft. The college hitting class, where the A's like to draft from, looks especially weak.
So maybe. It's ironic that the Giants, who like to give away their first round picks, will have multiple picks this year, while the A's, who usually like to hoard them, will have none.
In Which The Hero Solves Another Great Mystery Of Science
One of the great questions of modern linguistics, answered by yours truly.
The A's offered arbitration to Ricardo Rincon today, but declined making offers to their other free agents: Erubiel Durazo, Octavio Dotel, Scott Hatteberg, and Alberto Castillo. Nothing much surprising, there. Rincon still may end up going elsewhere, but the A's are keeping their options open.
That's OK with me, as long as they don't sign Rincon to a two-year deal. Let somebody else do that.
* * *
The Barry Zito trade buzz is starting to die out. No one is saying why, but my guess is that the Mets wouldn't give up Aaron Heilman unless they got a flame-throwing setup guy from elsewhere. When the Royals refused to give up Mike MacDougal for Kris Benson, the Zito deal fizzled.
As a result, the David Wells-for-Justin Duchscherer deal is now dead, too. The A's won't need Wells to replace Zito in the rotation, so Wells is likely headed for the Padres.
* * *
Too bad. I was starting to imagine what it would be like to have an athlete like Milledge in Oakland for six years. It's been so long, maybe since Rickey Henderson was in his prime, that I've pretty much forgotten what the awe and joy and amazement of watching a great athlete on my favorite team feels like. (Kinda like how you forget what pain feels like, unless you're in pain.)
I try to recall, but for some reason, my memory for that sort of emotion only seems to go back as far as Matt Stairs and John Jaha. Not quite the same thing.
Instead, it looks like I'll just have to make one last effort this season to appreciate the sight of Barry Zito buckling the knees of a hopelessly fooled batter on a picture-perfect curveball. Delicious. But alas, now that sensation will be tinged with a bittersweet flavor, knowing that Zito will only be on our side for this one last fling.
Reading the Tea Leaves
Rumors are flying from Dallas, and if you were to believe all of them, you would think Billy Beane has been working on a massive ten-team trade involving the Cubs, Rangers, Devil Rays, Red Sox, Dodgers, Royals, Diamondbacks, Padres, and Mets, all of which, in the end, results in the A's signing both Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza as free agents.
It all sounds very complicated. But I think from all this activity, we can boil down what Billy Beane wants into three simple things:
Milledge is the key to all the activity. It looks like Mets GM Omar Minaya is willing to trade Milledge to obtain a star player. His first preference would be Manny Ramirez. Option 2 is Barry Zito.
In order for the A's to land Milledge, then, the Manny Ramirez-to-the-Mets deal had to fall through. That now appears to be the case.
So the Zito-Milledge trade talks are on. The problem is, if Zito is traded, the A's once again have a rotation with Saarloos in it.
Hence, the David Wells-for-Justin Duchscherer rumor. If the Milledge package included Aaron Heilman, Heilman could take Duchscherer's spot, Wells could take Zito's spot, and the A's become Milledge people.
Milledge isn't ready for the majors yet, so he wouldn't fill need #1. The A's wish list for that need originally included Milton Bradley, Frank Thomas, and Mike Piazza. The Bradley rumors suddenly ceased after the A's met with Frank Thomas yesterday, so we can probably assume Thomas is coming to Oakland.
So what's the holdup now? For one, the A's won't sign Thomas until after 9pm tonight, when they can get him without giving up a draft pick. But the Mets also have a couple of things they need to do first:
If the A's can't get Milledge, they'll keep Zito, and still have #1 and #2 on their wish list. Whether they get all three remains to be seen, but it is looking increasingly likely. It will probably happen or fall apart within the next few days. Stay tuned.
A's Acquire Chad Gaudin
This is the fun part about watching Billy Beane: seeing how he finds ways to fill out the roster at Sacramento with quality players. In this case, he saw Toronto needing to get rid of somebody on their roster, and Beane swooped in.
Gaudin had been dropped from the Blue Jays' 40-man roster when they signed B.J. Ryan. The Jays had 10 days to trade him, or they could lose him as a free agent. I wouldn't worry about the PTBNL being a top prospect. I'd guess it's someone the A's left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, like former first-round pick Brad Sullivan, who has struggled with injuries and velocity loss since being drafted.
Gaudin spent most of 2005 as a 22-year-old starting pitcher in AAA. His 6.76 K/9 rate was not too impressive, considering he had posted a rate of 9.82 K/9 at AAA Durham the year before. But all his other stats moved in the right direction. He cut down his walks from 3.21 to 2.10 per nine innings, his WHIP from 1.36 to 1.16, and his ERA from 4.72 down to 3.35.
Acquiring Gaudin fills the A's 40-man roster. So if they want to acquire another major-league player, they'll have to find someone on their current roster to drop.
Update: According to this article, the A's are designating John Baker for assignment. I'm not sure why, at this point. The 40-man roster on the A's web site only has 39 players. Is it missing someone? Or are the A's leaving room for someone else: a trade, or a Rule 5 pick?
Update: I see it now. Shane Komine is missing from the 40-man roster on the A's web site.
Six A's in World Baseball Classic
Six players on the A's roster, plus two more A's free agents, are on the initial rosters for the World Baseball Classic, according to MLB.com.
The six current players are:
The free agents are:
Marco Scutaro is an interesting case. He's among three players--Alex Rodriguez and Mike Piazza are the others--who can choose which country to represent. The MLB.com article says his choices are Italy and Puerto Rico, which is odd, because Scutaro was born in Venezuela.
The initial rosters will have up to sixty players, which will be trimmed to 30 before the start of play.
The Lucifer Times
Must have been a cold day in Hell yesterday.
What else is going on inside the walls of the Hell Shopping Senter?
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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