Kirk Saarloos: Friend to Old Men and Depleted Rotations
by Philip Michaels
With Catfish Stew world headquarters bidding a fondfarewell to Kirk Saarloos, I feel obligated to share a personal interaction with the latest ex-Athletic. Well, not my personal interaction with Kirk Saarloos, precisely, but a Kirk Saarloos interaction involving someone in the Michaels family.
Kirk Saarloos, as you may or may not know, is quite the golfer -- in fact, the newspaper article announcing his trade to the Reds mentions both his passion for golf and the fact that he shot a course record at a Michigan golf course during an A's off-day last season. My father has decided to live out his dotage working at a local track, where Mr. Saarloos has been know to spend his off hours during his Athletics tenure. In the course of his duties, my father would occasionally encounter Kirk Saarloos, and the two would have brief-though-amiable conversations.
My father's verdict: Kirk Saarloos is a polite young fellow who treats his elders with the respect that they have earned and thus should have been given a place at the top of the A's rotation, especially ahead of that Zito character.
The lesson here is two-fold: 1) Professional ballplayers, be kind and courteous to your friendly neighborhood golf marshal, and they shall immortalize your deeds in legend and song long after you are shipped off to Ohio. And 2) My father is unlikely to become Billy Beane's next unconventional hire for Oakland's corps of talent evaluators.
My own Saarloos memories are a lot less personal, though no less positive. I liked the guy -- he was a serviceable fifth starter/injury fill-in/oh-no-someone's-getting-shelled-in-the-second-better-warm-up-Kirk kind of option. My lasting memory of Saarloos in an A's uniform will probably be from this Oakland-Texas game from earlier this year. Shane Komine was making his second start for the A's, and he was simply dreadful that night -- he gave up a couple of bombs to Michael Young and Mark DeRosa in the third and let the first two batters reach to start the fourth, which was pretty much when Ken Macha decided he had seen enough. Saarloos came in and held the Rangers at bay -- three hits and an intentional walk over four scoreless innings -- buying the A's offense enough time to wake up and take the lead. Huston Street did his level best to cough up the game in the ninth -- if not for Jason Kendall wheedling a rather questionable interference call on a stolen base attempt, the Rangers might have tied things up. But the A's held on, and Saarloos picked up the win.
I was in the stands that night, though not in my customary bleacher seat. Because the bleachers had become a little too Mos Eisley Spaceport if you catch my drift, I paid up for seats in the plaza infield, with an eye toward maybe moving my season ticket package up there for 2007. Directly behind home plate, at about the press box level so that you can really pick up the flight of the ball -- for my money, that's the best seat in the house.
This particular night turned out to be an unrewarding trip. The clutch of 12-year-old-boys seated in the row in front of me spent the first few inning spitting peanut shells at each other -- one saliva-covered projectile came millimeters away from splashing down in my not-insignificantly-priced beer. I am generally a mild-mannered fellow, but I'm reasonably sure that would have sparked some sort of incident. The pair of college-aged lads a few rows in back of me added to the ambience by carrying on a conversation so loudly and so profanely that a woman seated elsewhere in the section was moved to tell them to watch their language. For her efforts, the two gents spent an inning or two directing profanities at her.
Live baseball at the Coliseum -- I live for this!
Anyhow, there it is in the summary box of the scorebook I take with me to every game: "Saliva-covered peanuts/awful language/Saarloos gets the win." That's my take-away Kirk Saarloos memory, and while it may not seem like much of a legacy, at least he didn't pick up a no-decision.