Monthly archives: January 2006
FanFest: Three Things Learned
I feel about FanFests the way I feel about trade conferences: you spend all day at the thing, and if you're lucky, you find one or two useful pieces of information. Are those one or two things worth a day of your life? I'm never quite sure.
I spent five and a half hours today at the Coliseum today, and came out with about five minutes worth of interesting stuff. I keep thinking there could be a more efficient use of my time, but for some reason, I keep going. At least the entrance fee is free, with my season ticket package. Plus, it provides a nice little emotional baseball fix in the middle of winter, if nothing else. Or so I tell myself.
I think the emotional fix would have been stronger if I had walked into the Coliseum today and seen a plush green field under a bright blue sky. Unfortunately, the grass had been completely removed. There was only drab gray dirt under a drab gray sky. Baseball still seemed to be deep in hibernation.
On the bright (or at least less drab) side, I had actually never seen the field completely bare like this, so I was provided with a new experience, even if it wasn't exactly a beautiful one.
* * *
Another new experience was seeing some tarp installed over the third deck sections behind home plate. I wonder, are they going to install tarp over the whole third deck, or just those four sections? I hope it won't just be like this. The tarp layout looked off-center: they covered one middle section, one section on the first base side, and two sections on the third base side. Those of us who have even some minor Adrian Monk tendencies will be left haunted by the unevenness.
Seeing the third deck even partially covered makes me wonder something: if you're not going to use the third deck, could you move home plate a few feet closer to the seating bowl? Isn't it the angle of the third deck the main reason home plate needs to be so far away from the seats? Are there any other seats that would be obstructed by moving home plate back a foot or three? If one of the reasons for closing the third deck is to create a more intimate atmosphere, wouldn't effectively making everyone's seat one row closer to the action be more intimate?
You'd have to fiddle with the fences, and there's only about three feet of wiggle room in the corners, but the position of the outfield fences is already arbitrary.
* * *
I used to always enjoy the Billy Beane Q&A sessions, but my interest is starting to wane. I've seen his act enough now to know pretty much what he (isn't) going to say. This year was particularly uninteresting, because he didn't have to defend any controversial moves.
And yet...there was one new tidbit he dropped, almost in passing. He claimed that young players usually play quite inconsistently until sometime midway through their second season (Huston Street being a rare exception). He fully expects Nick Swisher and Dan Johnson to struggle at times in the first half of the year, and then sometime around midseason, things should start to click for them.
I'd never heard of that one-and-a-half-year rule of thumb before. I wonder if that idea is merely observational on Beane's part, or if he has some statistics backing that idea.
* * *
The player Q&A sessions never really teach you anything about the game itself, but sometimes it can be fun to learn a little bit about the clubhouse chemistry. For example, who knew that Dan Haren was such a tease? Or that Kirk Saarloos is quite the wit? I had always imagined Frank Thomas as rather surly, but he seemed downright jovial in his Q&A session. Esteban Loaiza, who played with Thomas in Chicago, called Thomas "a big man, but a big teddy bear". Those were the most interesting words out of Loaiza's mouth, as otherwise he was a fountain of baseball cliches.
Which brings us to the second interesting point of the day: that Thomas and Loaiza each said that they chose to sign with Oakland because they wanted to play for a winner. Normally, those are words reserved for teams like the Yankees and Red Sox--I can't ever recall anyone saying it about the A's before. Usually, the A's get free agents who are just happy to have a job. The A's have reached a new level of respect within baseball. If done right, it could be the start of a virtuous cycle: good players want to play for you, which makes you a good team, which makes more good players want to play for you.
* * *
In the afternoon, I eschewed the crowded player Q&As, and attended some more intimate seminars with A's coaches. There were a couple of "Baseball 101" sessions that dealt with how hitters and pitchers use video to maintain their mechanics and prepare for their opponents. Hitting coach Gerald Perry and catcher Adam Melhuse spoke about hitters, while pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen catcher Brandon Buckley talked about pitchers.
It was the combination of these two separate sessions that led to the third interesting thing I learned today: there is a sort of unspoken Hippocratic Oath that (A's) coaches follow: first, do no harm.
The mechanics of both hitting and pitching are subconscious--you want the hitter concentrating on the pitcher, and you want the pitcher concentrating on his target. You don't want a player thinking about his mechanics, because then he isn't concentrating on the thing he needs to concentrate on to succeed.
So there is a very real risk that by talking to a player about his mechanics, you can actually make things worse, because you can turn a subconscious act into a conscious one, and interrupt the automatic mechanism that brought them the success to reach this level.
Gerald Perry and Curt Young each spoke independently about not telling their pupils everything they notice. They choose what they talk to players about with great care. If they make a suggestion, they make sure to keep it a small and simple one, so that their conscious mind doesn't have too much information to hold. If you give a batter three different things to think about, by the time he thinks about those things, a fastball has gone right past him.
Earlier in the day, Dennis Eckersley was asked in a Q&A session why he was not a coach. Eck replied that it takes a special kind of person to coach, someone with a passion for it, and someone with patience. Eckersley admitted he did not have the patience to be an effective coach.
Coaching involves understanding technique, tactics, and psychology. You may see something that needs fixing, but you need the patience and understanding to know when and how to try to fix it, and when not to. Coaching is a delicate craft, and I don't think I fully appreciated that until today.
Jairo Garcia Van Winkle
Clunk! Bam! Crash! What's that sound?
It's the sound of an A's prospect plummeting down the rankings of top A's prospects, that's what it is. For it turns out the name Jairo Garcia is not spelled "Jairo Garcia", it's only pronounced that way. It's actually spelled "Santiago Casilla". Oh, and this Santiago Casilla fellow is nearly three years older than "Jairo Garcia".
What are we going to find out next, that Dan Haren isn't actually Dutch? Oh, yeah, that too.
Frank Thomas, meet Steve Jobs
Can't help but think about the Pixar-Disney deal. It's not a huge surprise, and it seems to make sense for everyone involved.
Everybody is saying how this deal can help Disney get back to its glory days of great animation. Perhaps. I'm more curious about how it affects baseball. A few facts of note:
So with Steve Jobs as the largest individual shareholder in ESPN's parent company...will we soon see an ESPN iPod cellphone? If Disney owned the exclusive rights to all MLB national broadcasts, would that help Apple sell more iPods?
I don't know...I'm just askin'.
* * *
Back in Disney's glory days, one of Walt Disney's main animators was a man named Frank Thomas. So is it a coincidence that the day after the Disney deal is announced, ESPN.com issues a scoop that a Frank Thomas deal is imminent?
I don't know...I'm just askin'. Even if this isn't confirmed yet, it's not a huge surprise, and it seems to make sense for everyone involved.
If Frank Thomas stays healthy...well, we all have imaginations. I'm hoping having Frank Thomas on in their lineup will restore the A's to their glory days, just as the Pixar deal can help bring Disney back to its glory days when Frank Thomas was in their lineup.
Crosby - Scutaro = x
The point of interest for A's fans is the defensive falloff from Bobby Crosby to Marco Scutaro when Crosby was injured. Crosby's numbers for 2005 were among the top 10 defensive shortstops in the majors, while Scutaro's were the second-worst, ahead of only Derek Jeter.
Now keeping in mind that we have to take these defensive numbers with a healthy grain of salt, as Dave Cameron so eloquently explains at USS Mariner, it's a fun exercise to try to roughly quantify how much Crosby's injuries impacted the A's last year.
Scutaro made 229 outs at shortstop. If you replace his opportunities with Crosby's rate numbers, you'd get 257.4 outs. So replacing Crosby with Scutaro cost the A's about 28.4 outs on defense.
How many runs is that? Using Chris Dial's run value per play at shortstop of .753, that means those extra outs costs the A's about 21.4 runs.
Using the rule of thumb that 10 runs is worth about one win, we can then estimate that Crosby's injuries cost the A's about two games in the standings, just on defense alone.
* * *
On offense, Crosby had 50.8 Runs Created in 84 games (.605 RC/game), while Scutaro had 47.1 Runs Created in 118 games (.399 RC/game). That's a difference of .206 RC/game. If you give Crosby 162 games instead of 84, and subtract out Scutaro, you'd get an extra 16 runs.
Again, going by the 10 runs/win rule of thumb, the A's lost about a game and a half on offense from Crosby's injuries.
So in total, replacing Crosby with Scutaro for half the season cost the A's about three or four games in the standings. That's not enough to make up the seven games they missed the playoffs by, but judging by these (admittedly rough) numbers, it is roughly half the story.
There are some interesting things to note about the A's from David Pinto's latest defensive report, where he shows (a) which pitchers had the best defensive support behind them in 2005, and (b) which pitchers produced the easiest balls for fielders to turn into outs.
First to note is that the A's had a great defense last year. All of the A's starting pitchers from 2005 show up in the upper half for best defensive support:
The result was more mixed with regards to which pitchers gave their fielders the easiest balls to turn into outs:
For Haren and Harden, this probably doesn't hurt them much, because they're strikeout pitchers. They don't rely on their fielders as much as other pitchers. But for Saarloos, who strikes out very few batters, the fact that the balls he allowed into play weren't particularly easy to field is not, I would think, a good sign of things to come.
This brings us to Saarloos' replacement in the rotation, Esteban Loaiza. How were his numbers?
Easy to field: 13th best.
Of all the major league pitchers who had over 300 balls in play last year, only Carl Pavano had worse defensive support. Let's compare Zito to Loaiza:
The numbers look awfully similar: they both pitched about the same number of innings, and produced similar levels of easy-to-field balls, but there's one big difference: Zito's defense turned about 44 more balls into outs than Loaiza's.
It should be quite interesting to see what happens when Loaiza gets put in front of the A's defense come April.
SF Chronicle Interviews Wolff
The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting interview with A's owner Lew Wolff today.
Juicy tidbit, about how to finance the new park:
Cities don't have a lot of money these days, and when they go into the bonding capacity, at the end of the day, the city is on the hook no matter if you have a joint powers agreement or you have a parking bond or revenue bond or tax increment bond.
More interesting notes:
Reading between the lines, it seems that Wolff thinks a deal with the Giants over San Jose should be possible. I'd guess that the best way to get those rights is to threaten to build in Fremont. Fremont is in the A's territory, where the Giants would get no compensation, but close enough to San Jose that the A's would siphon off a lot of Silicon Valley revenue. Would the Giants rather have the A's in Fremont and get no compensation, or have them in San Jose and receive $100 million (or whatever it would cost)?
Mets Trade Benson: Could Zito Be Next To Move?
John Maine being part of this deal is interesting, because Maine was one of the rumored pieces last year, when Billy Beane was shopping Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder to the Orioles.
If a Zito trade happens, I'd guess the scenario now looks something like this:
From Oakland to Boston: Jay Payton
Whether something like that happens or not, we'll just have to wait and see. Beane certainly didn't slam the door shut on that possibility in his recent interview with Blez. Until Jeff Weaver and David Wells get new homes, we won't know for sure.
Update: Or maybe not. Looks like the Red Sox are about to acquire Coco Crisp, so they won't need Payton. Which might mean the Red Sox would want Justin Duchscherer for Wells, as previously rumored. That would mean that the A's wouldn't need Diaz, but that the A's would want Aaron Heilman instead, to replace Duchscherer. Mets GM Omar Minaya is probably reluctant to part with both Heilman and Milledge, so this deal is looking less likely now.
Baseball in the Vanilla Sky
You ever have one of those weeks where there are just too many coincidences for comfort? The very evening I found my kids discussing macaroni and cheese rain, and I wrote about it, my sister-in-law turned the TV to the Food Network to watch Unwrapped. And what were they covering that evening? A man who collects macaroni and cheese boxes, of course.
* * *
I went to the Baseball As America exhibit at the Oakland Museum yesterday, and I left somewhat disappointed and bewildered.
It wasn't that they didn't have an impressive list of memorabilia: Babe Ruth's bat, Shoeless Joe's shoes, Jackie Robinson's uniform, Honus Wagner's baseball card...but somehow it just didn't make quite the emotional impact I expected.
Perhaps it was the way everything was displayed. Nearly everything was behind glass, each item crammed into a three-foot-wide display case with about 30 other items. It's hard to contemplate one thing, when there were about thirty other things to contemplate right beside it. Your eyes bounce around from item to item, and you can't pull it all into your mind.
In the rare cases where a small set of items were displayed by themselves, there was a greater emotional effect. The Honus Wagner card was in a case all by its lonesome, and it did make an impact. I was struck by how small it was, but even more struck by the color. I had seen pictures of it in books and online...but in person the colors were far more vivid than I had imagined.
Jackie Robinson's uniform was off by itself, too. The thing that grabbed me about that was not the history behind the man who wore the uniform, but the low-tech nature of the "Dodgers" script on the uniform. It looked like scissor-cut felt that had been hand-sewn on by Grandma. The result was an emotional effect quite the opposite of what you'd expect and want: instead of being pulled in and empathizing with Robinson's plight, I was struck with a distance...those events suddenly seemed so far away from our globalized, mechanized, high-tech age. It was a different era.
I was grateful to see some of the A's memorabilia on display: Rickey Henderson's 938th stolen base (with white shoes), Catfish Hunter's perfect game cap, the 1989 World Series trophy. Good times, but all too brief. We need an Oakland A's historical museum--as long as it's not filled with the kitchen sink. Sometimes, less is more.
Which I suppose why, overall, the show left me numb. Some choices were strange: Curt Flood's letter to Bowie Kuhn, Shoeless Joe's shoes, Bobby Thomson's bat...they all get crammed in with a bunch of other stuff, while the San Diego Chicken costume gets its own display case. Huh?
* * *
Oddly, the biggest emotional event of the day, for me, involved football. Yesterday morning, for some reason, Jason Kottke put up a link to a three-year-old article about The Play. A good article bringing back some happy memories. "The Bears...have won!"
One thing I learned from the article that I did not know: White Sox GM Kenny Williams was on that Stanford football team. So that afternoon, when I came across Freddie Garcia's cap from the 2005 World Series at the museum exhibit, I naturally started thinking about well Williams' trade for Garcia turned out, which led me back to thinking about The Play.
Now here's the weird part: moments later, I found myself at the museum standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Joe "Oh, the band is out on the field!" Starkey himself, staring at a display of baseballs autographed by U.S. Presidents. One minute I'm staring at an LP record of the most famous call in baseball history ("The Giants Win the Pennant"), locked behind a pane of glass. The next minute, I'm standing next to the man who made the most famous call in college football history, a call I was thinking about just a few minutes before.
The irony was palpable. Here was history contemplating history. Here was history that I was contemplating suddenly showing up in the flesh to contemplate history that I was contemplating.
A little while later, my two kids were each seated at these touch-screen computers with stories about Hall-of-Fame members. My youngest kid got up from her seat to go annoy her older sibling at the other seat. As she got up, Starkey stepped in to take her place. He immediately started browsing through a list of White Sox Hall of Famers...the very team that I was contemplating that made me contemplate Starkey's call in the first place.
At that point, I think if Starkey had suddenly pulled out a bowl of macaroni and cheese and started eating it as he sat in front of that computer, I would have instantly run out into the courtyard of the Oakland Museum and shouted "Tech Support! Tech Support!" at the top of my lungs.
Putting an A in WBC
Reading through the WBC rosters is interesting. Dan Haren (USA, Holland) and Marco Scutaro (Italy, Venezuela) are listed on two rosters.
Haren and Mark Mulder, once traded for each other, could be teammates on Holland's roster. I think the WBC may be confused about Holland...it's supposed to mean Holland the country, not Holland, Michigan. I wonder if Mark Mulder even knew he was Dutch. MLB probably hired some geneologists to research every player's heritage. Guess what, Mark? Your great-great-great-grandpa was from Haarlem. (Side note: If you ever lived in NYC's Harlem, are you eligible for the Dutch team? Or even anywhere in NYC? After all, even old New York was once New Amsterdam...)
Kirk Saarloos is on the Dutch team, too. At least his name has requisite Double-Dutch vowels. Perhaps we should change the spelling of his teammates' names, to make them appear more authentic. Dan van Haaren, meet Mark Muuldijr.
Barry Zito is off the USA roster, for some reason. Did he just not feel like it? Did he have an A-Rod like moment where he could decide if he was American or Italian, and decided he was neither? Certainly, I'd rather have Zito on my roster than Haren, especially if Haren is going to be a double-agent for those sneaky Dutchmen. But maybe someone discovered Zito was going to be a double agent, too? Or a triple agent? Is this all part of an international conspiracy?
It's too complex for me. I'm not ready for this national pride stuff. Let me warm up with some intense curling action from Turino first, and then I'll get back to you...
The Seattle Mariners were the dominant heavyweight of 2003. The won 32 title bouts, twice as many as their nearest rival, the Oakland A's. All 32 victories came in the first half of the year.
The year was a bit unusual, in that there were two separate pivot games. The NL grabbed the crown on June 29, when the Padres beat the Mariners, 8-6. However, due to a makeup interleague game, the AL was able to grab the crown back on September 1, when the Red Sox beat the Phillies, 13-9.
That unusual fact helped create another unusual fact: the Devil Rays ended the regular season as champions. That sure sounds strange, doesn't it?
2003 Heavyweight of the Year: Seattle Mariners
2003 Heavyweight Standings
W L Team 32 16 SEA 16 14 OAK 14 6 BOS 12 8 NYA 12 10 SDN 12 13 LAN 8 5 CHN 6 6 MIN 6 13 ANA 5 6 PHI 5 7 NYN 5 8 SLN 4 1 COL 4 3 SFN 4 7 TBA 3 3 MON 3 4 PIT 3 6 TEX 3 6 CLE 2 4 ATL 2 7 DET 1 3 BAL 1 3 HOU 1 4 CHA 0 1 TOR Game Log 20030330: TEX 6, ANA 3. Champ: TEX. 20030401: TEX 0, ANA 10. Champ: ANA. 20030402: TEX 5, ANA 11. Champ: ANA. 20030404: ANA 3, OAK 7. Champ: OAK. 20030405: ANA 2, OAK 4. Champ: OAK. 20030406: ANA 6, OAK 7. Champ: OAK. 20030408: OAK 2, TEX 1. Champ: OAK. 20030409: OAK 13, TEX 5. Champ: OAK. 20030410: OAK 4, TEX 5. Champ: TEX. 20030411: TEX 4, SEA 2. Champ: TEX. 20030412: TEX 4, SEA 13. Champ: SEA. 20030413: TEX 3, SEA 4. Champ: SEA. 20030414: OAK 3, SEA 4. Champ: SEA. 20030415: OAK 3, SEA 5. Champ: SEA. 20030416: OAK 4, SEA 1. Champ: OAK. 20030417: OAK 3, SEA 4. Champ: SEA. 20030418: SEA 8, ANA 2. Champ: SEA. 20030419: SEA 6, ANA 7. Champ: ANA. 20030420: SEA 7, ANA 6. Champ: SEA. 20030422: CLE 5, SEA 8. Champ: SEA. 20030423: CLE 0, SEA 4. Champ: SEA. 20030424: CLE 2, SEA 4. Champ: SEA. 20030425: DET 0, SEA 6. Champ: SEA. 20030426: DET 6, SEA 4. Champ: DET. 20030427: DET 3, SEA 4. Champ: SEA. 20030429: SEA 6, NYA 0. Champ: SEA. 20030430: SEA 5, NYA 8. Champ: NYA. 20030501: SEA 1, NYA 2. Champ: NYA. 20030502: OAK 3, NYA 5. Champ: NYA. 20030503: OAK 5, NYA 3. Champ: OAK. 20030504: OAK 2, NYA 0. Champ: OAK. 20030506: CHA 0, OAK 6. Champ: OAK. 20030507: CHA 8, OAK 4. Champ: CHA. 20030508: CHA 5, OAK 8. Champ: OAK. 20030509: NYA 2, OAK 7. Champ: OAK. 20030510: NYA 5, OAK 2. Champ: NYA. 20030511: NYA 2, OAK 5. Champ: OAK. 20030513: OAK 3, DET 1. Champ: OAK. 20030514: OAK 1, DET 2. Champ: DET. 20030515: OAK 11, DET 2. Champ: OAK. 20030516: OAK 2, CLE 3. Champ: CLE. 20030517: OAK 2, CLE 4. Champ: CLE. 20030518: OAK 8, CLE 5. Champ: OAK. 20030520: MIN 1, OAK 4. Champ: OAK. 20030521: MIN 4, OAK 3. Champ: MIN. 20030522: MIN 6, OAK 5. Champ: MIN. 20030523: MIN 2, SEA 5. Champ: SEA. 20030524: MIN 7, SEA 2. Champ: MIN. 20030525: MIN 3, SEA 1. Champ: MIN. 20030527: OAK 3, MIN 4. Champ: MIN. 20030528: OAK 5, MIN 6. Champ: MIN. 20030529: SEA 10, MIN 6. Champ: SEA. 20030530: SEA 6, MIN 0. Champ: SEA. 20030531: SEA 5, MIN 2. Champ: SEA. 20030601: SEA 9, MIN 5. Champ: SEA. 20030603: SEA 4, PHI 0. Champ: SEA. 20030604: SEA 7, PHI 2. Champ: SEA. 20030605: SEA 5, PHI 4. Champ: SEA. 20030606: SEA 2, NYN 3. Champ: NYN. 20030608: SEA 13, NYN 1. Champ: SEA. 20030608: SEA 7, NYN 0. Champ: SEA. 20030610: MON 7, SEA 3. Champ: MON. 20030611: MON 3, SEA 1. Champ: MON. 20030612: MON 0, SEA 1. Champ: SEA. 20030613: ATL 1, SEA 2. Champ: SEA. 20030614: ATL 3, SEA 1. Champ: ATL. 20030615: ATL 1, SEA 2. Champ: SEA. 20030616: ANA 3, SEA 6. Champ: SEA. 20030617: ANA 4, SEA 8. Champ: SEA. 20030618: ANA 0, SEA 2. Champ: SEA. 20030619: ANA 2, SEA 0. Champ: ANA. 20030620: ANA 2, LAN 5. Champ: LAN. 20030621: ANA 2, LAN 4. Champ: LAN. 20030622: ANA 6, LAN 3. Champ: ANA. 20030624: SEA 6, ANA 4. Champ: SEA. 20030625: SEA 3, ANA 6. Champ: ANA. 20030626: SEA 10, ANA 6. Champ: SEA. 20030627: SDN 2, SEA 8. Champ: SEA. 20030628: SDN 6, SEA 0. Champ: SDN. 20030629: SDN 8, SEA 6. Champ: SDN. (Pivot #1) 20030701: SDN 7, LAN 1. Champ: SDN. 20030702: SDN 4, LAN 3. Champ: SDN. 20030703: SDN 7, LAN 4. Champ: SDN. 20030704: SFN 8, SDN 6. Champ: SFN. 20030705: SFN 2, SDN 5. Champ: SDN. 20030706: SFN 3, SDN 2. Champ: SFN. 20030707: SLN 1, SFN 5. Champ: SFN. 20030708: SLN 3, SFN 8. Champ: SFN. 20030709: SFN 7, COL 11. Champ: COL. 20030710: SFN 3, COL 11. Champ: COL. 20030711: LAN 6, COL 7. Champ: COL. 20030712: LAN 3, COL 5. Champ: COL. 20030713: LAN 9, COL 3. Champ: LAN. 20030717: SLN 3, LAN 6. Champ: LAN. 20030718: SLN 5, LAN 8. Champ: LAN. 20030719: SLN 3, LAN 1. Champ: SLN. 20030720: SLN 10, LAN 7. Champ: SLN. 20030721: SLN 4, SDN 5. Champ: SDN. 20030722: SLN 2, SDN 3. Champ: SDN. 20030723: SLN 8, SDN 4. Champ: SLN. 20030725: PIT 10, SLN 5. Champ: PIT. 20030726: PIT 8, SLN 13. Champ: SLN. 20030727: PIT 3, SLN 4. Champ: SLN. 20030728: PIT 3, SLN 0. Champ: PIT. 20030729: SDN 8, PIT 7. Champ: SDN. 20030730: SDN 2, PIT 7. Champ: PIT. 20030731: SDN 10, PIT 7. Champ: SDN. 20030801: SDN 0, PHI 6. Champ: PHI. 20030802: SDN 6, PHI 4. Champ: SDN. 20030802: SDN 4, PHI 10. Champ: PHI. 20030803: SDN 5, PHI 2. Champ: SDN. 20030805: CHN 3, SDN 0. Champ: CHN. 20030806: CHN 3, SDN 2. Champ: CHN. 20030807: CHN 9, SDN 3. Champ: CHN. 20030808: CHN 1, LAN 3. Champ: LAN. 20030809: CHN 1, LAN 6. Champ: LAN. 20030810: CHN 3, LAN 1. Champ: CHN. 20030811: HOU 3, CHN 1. Champ: HOU. 20030812: HOU 0, CHN 3. Champ: CHN. 20030813: HOU 4, CHN 6. Champ: CHN. 20030814: HOU 1, CHN 7. Champ: CHN. 20030815: LAN 1, CHN 2. Champ: CHN. 20030816: LAN 10, CHN 5. Champ: LAN. 20030817: LAN 3, CHN 0. Champ: LAN. 20030819: MON 7, LAN 5. Champ: MON. 20030820: MON 1, LAN 4. Champ: LAN. 20030821: MON 1, LAN 2. Champ: LAN. 20030822: NYN 1, LAN 2. Champ: LAN. 20030823: NYN 4, LAN 0. Champ: NYN. 20030824: NYN 2, LAN 1. Champ: NYN. 20030826: NYN 6, ATL 5. Champ: NYN. 20030827: NYN 1, ATL 4. Champ: ATL. 20030828: NYN 3, ATL 1. Champ: NYN. 20030829: PHI 7, NYN 0. Champ: PHI. 20030830: PHI 4, NYN 2. Champ: PHI. 20030831: PHI 4, NYN 1. Champ: PHI. 20030901: BOS 13, PHI 9. Champ: BOS. (Pivot #2) 20030902: BOS 2, CHA 1. Champ: BOS. 20030903: BOS 5, CHA 4. Champ: BOS. 20030905: BOS 9, NYA 3. Champ: BOS. 20030906: BOS 11, NYA 0. Champ: BOS. 20030907: BOS 1, NYA 3. Champ: NYA. 20030908: TOR 3, NYA 9. Champ: NYA. 20030909: DET 2, NYA 4. Champ: NYA. 20030910: DET 5, NYA 15. Champ: NYA. 20030911: DET 2, NYA 5. Champ: NYA. 20030912: TBA 4, NYA 10. Champ: NYA. 20030913: TBA 5, NYA 6. Champ: NYA. 20030913: TBA 3, NYA 6. Champ: NYA. 20030914: TBA 5, NYA 2. Champ: TBA. 20030915: TBA 2, BOS 8. Champ: BOS. 20030916: TBA 2, BOS 3. Champ: BOS. 20030917: TBA 7, BOS 0. Champ: TBA. 20030918: TBA 3, BOS 4. Champ: BOS. 20030919: BOS 2, CLE 0. Champ: BOS. 20030920: BOS 4, CLE 13. Champ: CLE. 20030921: BOS 2, CLE 0. Champ: BOS. 20030922: BAL 5, BOS 7. Champ: BOS. 20030923: BAL 5, BOS 6. Champ: BOS. 20030924: BAL 7, BOS 3. Champ: BAL. 20030925: BAL 3, BOS 14. Champ: BOS. 20030926: BOS 7, TBA 2. Champ: BOS. 20030927: BOS 4, TBA 5. Champ: TBA. 20030928: BOS 1, TBA 3. Champ: TBA.
Heavyweights: A Look Back at 2004
Here at Catfish Stew, we followed the MLB Heavyweight Championships during the 2005 season. This is where we treat the MLB championships like boxing: if you beat the champ, you're the new champ. The A's ended up being the 2005 Heavyweight of the Year, with the most title bout victories. The final champ was the World Series Champs, the Chicago White Sox.
Now I'm going to go back and look at previous Heavyweight seasons. We'll begin with 2004. 2004 was dominated by the Houston Astros, who grabbed the title on August 30, and then steamrolled through the entire month of September. They won both the Heavyweight of the Year, and the Final Champ honors.
The "pivot game" took place on June 17, when the Cardinals beat the A's 5-4. Jim Mecir coughed up three runs in the bottom of the ninth without retiring a batter. (Shortly thereafter, because of late-inning failures such as this, the A's traded for Octavio Dotel.) The schedule never gave the American League another opportunity to fight for the crown.
2004 Heavyweight of the Year: Houston Astros
2004 Heavyweight Standings:
W L Team 34 13 HOU 22 20 FLO 21 27 CIN 20 10 ATL 19 19 PIT 13 14 SLN 11 13 MON 4 9 ARI 4 14 MIL 6 3 OAK 3 10 NYN 2 1 SFN 2 5 PHI 0 3 COL
20040406: MON 3, FLO 4. Champ: FLO. 20040407: MON 3, FLO 2. Champ: MON. 20040408: MON 0, FLO 3. Champ: FLO. 20040409: PHI 3, FLO 4. Champ: FLO. 20040410: PHI 3, FLO 5. Champ: FLO. 20040411: PHI 1, FLO 3. Champ: FLO. 20040413: FLO 5, MON 0. Champ: FLO. 20040414: FLO 9, MON 0. Champ: FLO. 20040415: FLO 3, MON 0. Champ: FLO. 20040416: FLO 4, ATL 5. Champ: ATL. 20040417: FLO 1, ATL 4. Champ: ATL. 20040418: FLO 2, ATL 3. Champ: ATL. 20040420: ATL 2, CIN 3. Champ: CIN. 20040421: ATL 9, CIN 5. Champ: ATL. 20040422: ATL 3, CIN 5. Champ: CIN. 20040423: CIN 6, PIT 4. Champ: CIN. 20040424: CIN 9, PIT 7. Champ: CIN. 20040425: CIN 0, PIT 6. Champ: PIT. 20040426: CIN 5, PIT 2. Champ: CIN. 20040427: CIN 8, MIL 9. Champ: MIL. 20040428: CIN 9, MIL 10. Champ: MIL. 20040430: PIT 4, MIL 2. Champ: PIT. 20040501: PIT 8, MIL 7. Champ: PIT. 20040502: PIT 4, MIL 3. Champ: PIT. 20040504: PIT 3, HOU 4. Champ: HOU. 20040505: PIT 2, HOU 6. Champ: HOU. 20040506: PIT 2, HOU 5. Champ: HOU. 20040507: HOU 5, ATL 3. Champ: HOU. 20040508: HOU 4, ATL 5. Champ: ATL. 20040509: HOU 2, ATL 1. Champ: HOU. 20040511: FLO 1, HOU 6. Champ: HOU. 20040512: FLO 5, HOU 2. Champ: FLO. 20040513: FLO 3, HOU 2. Champ: FLO. 20040514: FLO 3, SLN 6. Champ: SLN. 20040515: FLO 0, SLN 4. Champ: SLN. 20040516: FLO 3, SLN 2. Champ: FLO. 20040518: HOU 9, FLO 2. Champ: HOU. 20040519: HOU 10, FLO 2. Champ: HOU. 20040520: HOU 2, FLO 6. Champ: FLO. 20040521: ARI 5, FLO 6. Champ: FLO. 20040522: ARI 2, FLO 11. Champ: FLO. 20040523: ARI 4, FLO 3. Champ: ARI. 20040524: ARI 5, FLO 13. Champ: FLO. 20040525: FLO 2, CIN 5. Champ: CIN. 20040526: FLO 3, CIN 0. Champ: FLO. 20040527: FLO 5, CIN 2. Champ: FLO. 20040528: NYN 1, FLO 2. Champ: FLO. 20040529: NYN 2, FLO 3. Champ: FLO. 20040530: NYN 6, FLO 8. Champ: FLO. 20040531: CIN 9, FLO 7. Champ: CIN. 20040601: CIN 7, FLO 6. Champ: CIN. 20040602: CIN 3, FLO 1. Champ: CIN. 20040604: MON 4, CIN 2. Champ: MON. 20040605: MON 3, CIN 6. Champ: CIN. 20040606: MON 5, CIN 6. Champ: CIN. 20040607: CIN 2, OAK 13. Champ: OAK. 20040608: CIN 6, OAK 10. Champ: OAK. 20040609: CIN 8, OAK 17. Champ: OAK. 20040611: PIT 1, OAK 6. Champ: OAK. 20040612: PIT 11, OAK 12. Champ: OAK. 20040613: PIT 3, OAK 13. Champ: OAK. 20040615: OAK 4, SLN 8. Champ: SLN. 20040616: OAK 2, SLN 6. Champ: SLN. 20040617: OAK 4, SLN 5. Champ: SLN. (Pivot game) 20040618: CIN 3, SLN 4. Champ: SLN. 20040619: CIN 2, SLN 9. Champ: SLN. 20040620: CIN 6, SLN 0. Champ: CIN. 20040622: CIN 4, NYN 7. Champ: NYN. 20040623: CIN 6, NYN 4. Champ: CIN. 20040624: CIN 6, NYN 2. Champ: CIN. 20040625: PIT 4, CIN 6. Champ: CIN. 20040626: PIT 1, CIN 0. Champ: PIT. 20040627: PIT 14, CIN 4. Champ: PIT. 20040628: SLN 1, PIT 2. Champ: PIT. 20040629: SLN 0, PIT 3. Champ: PIT. 20040630: SLN 5, PIT 6. Champ: PIT. 20040702: MIL 1, PIT 8. Champ: PIT. 20040702: MIL 2, PIT 13. Champ: PIT. 20040703: MIL 3, PIT 5. Champ: PIT. 20040704: MIL 2, PIT 6. Champ: PIT. 20040705: PIT 3, FLO 1. Champ: PIT. 20040706: PIT 3, FLO 6. Champ: FLO. 20040707: PIT 4, FLO 3. Champ: PIT. 20040708: PIT 1, MON 2. Champ: MON. 20040709: PIT 11, MON 0. Champ: PIT. 20040710: PIT 0, MON 4. Champ: MON. 20040711: PIT 1, MON 2. Champ: MON. 20040715: MON 0, ATL 8. Champ: ATL. 20040716: MON 5, ATL 1. Champ: MON. 20040717: MON 2, ATL 6. Champ: ATL. 20040718: MON 5, ATL 16. Champ: ATL. 20040719: PHI 2, ATL 4. Champ: ATL. 20040720: PHI 4, ATL 3. Champ: PHI. 20040721: FLO 1, PHI 2. Champ: PHI. 20040722: FLO 10, PHI 8. Champ: FLO. 20040723: FLO 1, MON 2. Champ: MON. 20040724: FLO 2, MON 6. Champ: MON. 20040725: FLO 4, MON 6. Champ: MON. 20040726: NYN 10, MON 19. Champ: MON. 20040727: NYN 4, MON 2. Champ: NYN. 20040728: NYN 4, MON 7. Champ: MON. 20040729: NYN 10, MON 1. Champ: NYN. 20040730: NYN 1, ATL 3. Champ: ATL. 20040731: NYN 0, ATL 8. Champ: ATL. 20040801: NYN 5, ATL 6. Champ: ATL. 20040803: ATL 2, HOU 3. Champ: HOU. 20040804: ATL 5, HOU 4. Champ: ATL. 20040805: ATL 6, HOU 5. Champ: ATL. 20040806: ATL 4, ARI 2. Champ: ATL. 20040807: ATL 6, ARI 2. Champ: ATL. 20040808: ATL 11, ARI 4. Champ: ATL. 20040810: MIL 3, ATL 2. Champ: MIL. 20040811: MIL 3, ATL 10. Champ: ATL. 20040812: MIL 2, ATL 4. Champ: ATL. 20040813: SLN 4, ATL 1. Champ: SLN. 20040814: SLN 7, ATL 9. Champ: ATL. 20040815: SLN 10, ATL 4. Champ: SLN. 20040816: CIN 5, SLN 10. Champ: SLN. 20040817: CIN 2, SLN 7. Champ: SLN. 20040818: CIN 5, SLN 4. Champ: CIN. 20040820: CIN 2, ARI 0. Champ: CIN. 20040821: CIN 1, ARI 2. Champ: ARI. 20040822: CIN 11, ARI 1. Champ: CIN. 20040824: SLN 3, CIN 4. Champ: CIN. 20040825: SLN 6, CIN 5. Champ: SLN. 20040826: SLN 0, CIN 1. Champ: CIN. 20040827: ARI 4, CIN 3. Champ: ARI. 20040828: ARI 6, CIN 3. Champ: ARI. 20040829: ARI 2, CIN 6. Champ: CIN. 20040830: HOU 11, CIN 3. Champ: HOU. 20040831: HOU 8, CIN 0. Champ: HOU. 20040901: HOU 9, CIN 3. Champ: HOU. 20040903: PIT 6, HOU 8. Champ: HOU. 20040904: PIT 5, HOU 6. Champ: HOU. 20040905: PIT 5, HOU 10. Champ: HOU. 20040906: CIN 5, HOU 11. Champ: HOU. 20040907: CIN 7, HOU 9. Champ: HOU. 20040908: CIN 2, HOU 5. Champ: HOU. 20040909: HOU 1, PIT 3. Champ: PIT. 20040909: HOU 9, PIT 2. Champ: HOU. 20040910: HOU 1, PIT 6. Champ: PIT. 20040911: HOU 2, PIT 5. Champ: PIT. 20040912: HOU 5, PIT 4. Champ: HOU. 20040914: HOU 7, SLN 5. Champ: HOU. 20040915: HOU 2, SLN 4. Champ: SLN. 20040916: HOU 8, SLN 3. Champ: HOU. 20040917: MIL 1, HOU 2. Champ: HOU. 20040918: MIL 3, HOU 4. Champ: HOU. 20040919: MIL 0, HOU 1. Champ: HOU. 20040921: HOU 2, SFN 9. Champ: SFN. 20040922: HOU 1, SFN 5. Champ: SFN. 20040923: HOU 7, SFN 3. Champ: HOU. 20040924: HOU 1, MIL 0. Champ: HOU. 20040925: HOU 0, MIL 8. Champ: MIL. 20040926: HOU 11, MIL 7. Champ: HOU. 20040927: SLN 3, HOU 10. Champ: HOU. 20040928: SLN 1, HOU 2. Champ: HOU. 20040929: SLN 4, HOU 6. Champ: HOU. 20041001: COL 2, HOU 4. Champ: HOU. 20041002: COL 3, HOU 9. Champ: HOU. 20041003: COL 3, HOU 5. Champ: HOU.
Athletics fandom, as seen through Macaroni and Cheese Falling from the Sky
The USS Mariner series on fandom via philosophy is highly amusing. A sample:
The act of ticket buying is contextualized into a supercapitalist theory that further denotes common ground between sexual identity, commerce, and the use of language to establish a narrative ("the owners are losing money" for instance) that further subjugates the fans who are, in the view of the poststructuralist, happily whistling while they pound out additional links in the chains that bind them at the feet of their masters.
I have no idea what that sentence actually means, but taking a metaphor and stretching it out to absurd lengths is a fun game for all ages. Why, just this morning I overheard my two daughters (ages 8 and 5) discussing the consequences of having clouds rain macaroni and cheese instead of water.
Their discussion focused mainly on the effects this would have on school lunches. You wouldn't have to buy lunch, because you could just hold a bowl out and collect your lunch from the sky. But if it rained mac & cheese 27 days in a row, you would really get tired of mac & cheese for lunch.
But certainly, mac & cheese rain would have plenty of effects on baseball, too.
First of all, since mac & cheese would be abundant and cheap, a lot more things would be orange. Every ballpark would probably have orange seats. The A's team colors would certainly be green and orange, instead of green and gold. And maybe the baseball itself would be orange, just as Charlie Finley once suggested.
The fields would have to be designed differently. Current drainage systems depend on the relatively sub-microscopic size of water molecules. Macaroni is much larger than water. After a macaroni storm, you'd probably need machines similar to snowplows to quickly remove the macaroni from the field. You'd also need somewhere to dispose of all the excess macaroni.
Mac & Cheese rain would affect the economic system of baseball, as well. Would fans spend $10 for a hot dog and a beer, if mac & cheese were freely available everywhere? No way. Can you drink anything besides milk with mac & cheese? Blecch, I don't think so.
Beer sales would plummet, beer ad sales would plummet, and so television and radio revenues would plummet. Baseball's whole economic system would collapse! To build a competitive team in this new economic landscape would require some very innovative thinking, the kind of creative ideas the Oakland A's have always been at the forefront of. While the other teams complain about the macaroni problem, the A's actually find a way to use it to their advantage. How they did it would be a mystery for many years, until finally unveiled in a best-selling book entitled Macaroniball.
Cotroneo Named To A's Radio Booth
Vince Cotroneo, formerly of the Texas Rangers radio booth, has been hired as the new radio announcer, filling the spot vacated by the late Bill King.
I don't know much about him other than what's listed in the article. Googling around, it seems that Rangers fans took some time to get used to him at first, but then they generally seemed to like him.
That's what I'd expect to happen in any event, even if the A's had hired Vin Scully instead of Vince Cotroneo. Whoever the new guy is, he won't be Bill King, and that will be weird.
Way back when, Ken Korach wasn't Lon Simmons, and that was weird, too. But now I love Ken Korach. Here's hoping the same happens for Mr. Cotroneo.
Letter to Bill King
This afternoon, the voice inside my head urged me to write you a letter. The voice did not explain this message at all. He just said, "Write Bill King a letter".
Stupid voice. What am I supposed to say? I'm really tired of this.
Bill, if you're looking for something to do up there in heaven, would you possibly consider becoming the new voice inside my head? My current voice is simply incompetent. I'm seriously considering letting him go.
That's a rough thing to do after almost 40 years together, but it's time I admit that nearly everyone has a better inner voice than me. For example, at dinner today, the family was discussing the wooden folding chair I have in my new office. I was struggling, like I always do, to find any words at all to insert into this conversation, even one which happens to be about my very own chair. I'm like, "Uh...uh...my chair is too hard." And, "Uh...yeah, a new chair would be nice," when my eight-year-old daughter blurts out, as casually as can be, "Any chair is comfy if you have a good book."
Now where did that come from? That's positively proverbial, like a line from a popular greeting card or one of those motivational posters or something. That girl has a wonderful muse. I stared at her in disbelief, trying to think of some way to reply, but I was simply unable to do anything but grunt like a caveman.
I need a new inner voice--one who, like you, Bill, could say just the right thing at just the right time. And this is the just the right time to make that change.
Last Friday was the 10th anniversary of my father's death. Today, it's been one month since my father-in-law passed away. And next week, Bill, it will be three months since you left us. My generation could once defer responsibility to yours, but that torch has now been passed.
My brother turns 50 on Saturday. I'll turn 40 three weeks later. It's our generation's turn to steer the ship. We're the ones who now have to go off to do heroic deeds, like raise a family, build a web site, or when needed, walk out on the ice.
People are relying on us now. As I looked at the calendar today, I felt weighed down by the sheer loneliness of that burden. Nonetheless, I accept the job. But the task sure would be a whole lot easier if I just had someone whispering in my ear the perfect words to say.
So please, Bill, think it over. You're needed as much as ever. A generation turns its lonely ears to you.
With sincere gratitude,
Paul Lindblad Dies
Lindblad was the winning pitcher for the A's in Game 3 of the 1973 World Series against the Mets, pitching shutout baseball in the ninth and tenth innings. In the 10th, he retired pinch-hitter Willie Mays on a groundout to end the inning. It was Mays' final career at-bat.
I wish I could say I had some clear memory of watching Lindblad play, but I don't really. I remember mostly my impression of him: as a reliable left-handed reliever. A quick look at his stats pretty much confirms that impression. In 1974-76, he pitched over 100 innings each year for the A's, recording ERAs of 2.06, 2.72, and 3.06.
My other memory of Lindblad is from 1974, when as an eight-year-old, I obsessively collected Topps baseball cards. Lindblad's 1974 card was, besides Blue Moon Odom's, the most difficult A's player card for me to find.
Looking at that card today, it makes me wonder how it could be that I don't remember Lindblad playing. His follow-through looks positively Mitch Williams-esque. Don't do that at home, kids.
But whatever the style, it worked for him. He had a career 68-63 record, with 64 saves, a 3.29 ERA, and three World Series rings, 2 with the A's in 73-74, and one with the Yankees in 1978. That's a career to be proud of.
The Roster: A Thought Exercise
There are basically three names floating around the A's rumor mill these days: Barry Zito, Justin Duchscherer, and Frank Thomas. Beane is still "monitoring the situation" with Thomas. Just as an exercise, I thought I'd try to see what signing Thomas would do to the roster.
Here's what the roster looks like right now, with my 25-man projection:
Active RosterThe first question about signing Thomas would be who would Thomas replace on the 40-man roster? Easy: replace Thomas (Charles) with Thomas (Frank)! Unless, of course, you're not ready to admit the mistake in the Tim Hudson trade. Otherwise, drop Watson. Watson's better, but he's also older. Update: Disregard this paragraph. I can't count. There are only 39 players on the 40-man roster. It appears there exists a number called "37" of which I was previously unaware.
A more difficult question is who would Thomas replace on the 25-man roster. The first thing that jumps out is that there are 12 pitchers. The A's probably don't really need 12 pitchers with the strength of that starting rotation. An 11-man staff would probably do fine, especially with guys like Kennedy, Cruz, Duchscherer and Saarloos, all of whom can throw multiple innings.
But who would you send down to Sacramento? Cruz or Saarloos, I guess, since they each have one option remaining, if I read my MLB rules correctly. But neither one of them really has anything left to prove in AAA.
The alternative would be to send down either Perez or Scutaro. But that leaves the infield rather thin at 2B, SS, and 3B. The A's played for awhile with just one IF backup last year, and Ken Macha didn't like it.
The result is a roster crunch if everyone is healthy. There are worse problems to have, I suppose.
* * *
The alternative is to free up a roster spot with a trade. Even without signing Thomas, at least one of those pitchers is going to have more value for somebody else than for Oakland. Someone is going to be wasting away, either in the bullpen or in AAA.
I'm sure Beane would love to trade Saarloos, if he could get anything decent in return. But with more and more teams subscribed to Baseball Prospectus, I'm sure Saarloos didn't become as overrated as the A's might have hoped after 2005. Red skies at night, sailors delight; extremely low strikeout rate, GMs take warning.
But the big question is Barry Zito and his impeding 2006 free agency. How do the A's replace him in 2007, without reducing their chances in 2006?
Beane appears to be working from this starting point: trade Duchscherer to Boston for David Wells. There would be a dropoff in the pen, certainly, because Duchscherer was one of the A's best pitchers last year, and presumably would be this year, too. But it might not be a huge dropoff, because there's a lot of depth.
If the A's make that trade, it leaves the A's with two options:
The rumors around option #1 have involved the Cubs and the Mets. We've heard all about those. The benefit here is that Zito would bring in a top-tier prospect that the A's could have for the next six years.
The rumors around option #2 have focused on the Dodgers. The A's wouldn't get a top-tier prospect like Chad Billingsley for Wells, but probably a second-tier pitching prospect or two, like Edwin Jackson or Justin Orenduff. An additional bonus to this scenario is that the A's would end up with a couple of extra high draft picks when Zito leaves.
In either case, the A's end up with a solid 11-man pitching staff for 2006, a spot on the roster for Frank Thomas, plus some candidates to take over in 2007 at a fraction of the cost.
* * *
Without knowing exactly which prospects would return in these scenarios, it's hard to discern which is the best way to go. We just sit and wait, as we always do this time of year.
Little People and Big Ideas
Happy 2006, everybody. I've been somewhat quiet lately, due to Christmas, New Year's, a memorial service, and all the attending family obligations. I've poked my head in, only to comment about two supremely important interrelated topics, Little People and string theory. The less important stuff, like the Hall of Fame, I've simply had to take a pass on.
Adding to that is that I've started working this week in a new office that has no Internet connection. The feeling of disconnectedness is quite odd, but on the other hand, my (non-blogging) productivity is much, much higher. I suppose that will decline a bit when the DSL line gets installed on Friday (knock on wood).
Fortunately, while I was busy, not much has happened. On the stadium front, the A's are now officially disappointed in the progress on Lew Wolff's Oakland ballpark proposal. Which makes the soccer idea even more sensical. On the trade front, David Wells and Barry Zito still have not been traded, although the focus of the rumor mill has shifted away from the Mets and over to the Cubs. The Cubs rumors are rather vague, so I don't put much stock in them.
In other words, not much to see here, so move along, back to the office. If there's some breaking news in the next few days...well, you probably won't hear it here first.
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Ken: catfish AT zombia d.o.t. com
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