And that pretty much sums it up. The only thing worse than watching the broadcast of the A's go through the motions against the Devil Rays? Seeing it in person. Guess how I wound up spending my Friday evening?
Game 23: Devil Rays 4, A's 1
Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- J. Shields (2-0) LP -- C. Gaudin (1-1) S -- Reyes (8)
Went Deep: Crosby (2)
Your Room Temperature Corona Star of the Game: It's hard at this point to tell when a pitcher manages to shut down the A's because he's in top form or because he has the advantage of... well... facing the A's. We'll give James Shields the benefit of the doubt, considering he notched 12 strikeouts in his last start against an Indians team that hits the ball much better than this Oakland outfit. Eight innings of four-hit, nine-strikeout pitching is impressive no matter who you're facing.
The Turning Point: I could point out the bottom of the first, where the A's had runners at the corners with one out, thanks to a blooper-reel-worthy throw by Dioner Navarro, and still came away without a run. But I have hammered on the A's offense too much lately -- certainly more than the A's have hammered opposing pitchers.
So let's look at a pitching staff miscue -- that'd be in the third inning, when the Devil Rays failed to record a hit, and yet, still plated two runners. (Thanks to a pair of Chad Gaudin walks, a double-steal, a run-scoring ground-out to third, and a passed ball.) That put the score at 4-1 Tampa, where it would stay the rest of the evening.
Suite Spot: A friend of my wife's offered her a ticket to Friday night's game in one of the fancy-schmantsy Club Suites. That's a ticket, singular. So my plan was to watch the game from the comfort of my home. Then, late Friday afternoon, my wife's friend called back -- another ticket came available and would your husband care to join us in the luxury suite?
We had a fun time. The other folks in the suite were friendly, my wife spent most of the game conversing freely, and the promised taunting for my decision to watch and keep score of the game never really materialized. So again, I had a fun time, irrespective of the results on the field. I was grateful to be invited. Phil is always pleased as punch to be invited to a ballgame, and double-pleased when it's on someone else's dime.
That said, I'm not sure that a luxury suite at the Coliseum is the best seat in the house for watching a baseball game. It's a great place for mingling and keeping out the riff-raff (though twice on Friday, we had to repel suite crashers) and striking deals that redefine the fate of the Western World. But in terms of watching the game and feeling a part of the stadium experience -- not so much. You get a lot of feedback from the stadium sound system, the cheering from other fans feels likes it's coming from a different building, and the view of the field is not as stellar as one might think. Because of the way the suite is designed, only two seats have an unobstructed view. Otherwise, you're watching the game through glass or, worse, craning your neck to see around the window frames. I wound up sitting in a corner of the top row of the suite -- to get a view of home plate, I had to look through the glass window encasing my suite plus the window of the suite next door. And if anyone in that suite stood up, my view of home was blocked; and it's not like you can shout "down in front" at someone who's ponied up $700 to $1,600 for a suite.
"Hey, you -- I paid good money for these seats."
"So did I."
"I guess you did... Say, are those buffalo wings?"
So I wound up watching most of the game taking place a few hundred feet in front of me on the television included in the suite. That strikes me as silly.
Again -- had a great time! Thanks for the invite! I am not a horrific ingrate, but an observer of human experience!
One other experience worth observing -- the folks who rented the suite very graciously ordered us all beers -- no, make that especially graciously, since a beer order for the suite will run you $26 per six pack. And when Aramark delivered the beer bottles ... they clearly hadn't seen the inside of a refrigerator since their arrival at the Coliseum. Hey, I was there thanks to someone else's largesse, so I've got no beef. But if I were the one footing the bill for all this, I think I'd expect the beer I ordered to be slightly cooler than room temperature. It makes you wonder sometimes if the people who run the Coliseum ever actually try to experience the same things their customers do and, if they did, whether they would consider that experience one they'd be happy to share with their guests. I wouldn't think so, but maybe the thinking is you don't have to try too hard when, five years from now, you'll be down in Fremont anyhow, serving a different, more Silicon Valley-based fanbase. Who knows?
Q: Can suite holders bring their own food and beverage into the suite?
A: No. Aramark is the exclusive food and beverage provider for the luxury suites. All food and beverage arrangements must be coordinated through Aramark's catering office...
Unless they don't catch you, that is.
The Occasional Highs and Frequent Lows of Bobby Crosby: When Bobby Crosby smacked his second inning homer to left in the second inning -- a well struck ball that just kept carrying past the 362 mark -- it was as if he had taken my stinging comments from the Mariners series write-up to heart. "So I swing violently at balls that are two feet out of the strike zone, eh?" he seemed to be saying. "Well, can a person who swings that awfully hit a ball like this?"
Unfortunately, Crosby followed that up with a strikeout. And another strikeout. And another strikeout still, looking progressively more flummoxed by Shield's change-up each time. So I continue to be a non-believer in Crosby's ability to hit consistently at the Major League level.
Phil's Phun Phacts: Carl Crawford ended the A's season-long streak of not allowing their opponents to score in the first when he doubled home Elijah Dukes in the third at-bat of the game.
Chad Gaudin not only turned in the the shortest appearance of the season by an A' starter, check out this line score for IP-R-ER-H-W-K: 4-4-4-4-4-4. That's a line score only Moses Malone could love.
If the A's telecast piped into the suite is to be believed, when Todd Walker took over in left field after pinch-hitting for Danny Putnam in the eighth, it was only the second time in his career that he's played the outfield. Fantasy nerds, take note -- you can now start Walker in the outfield alongside that other noted corner outfielder, Marco Scutaro.
I can only speak for myself, not other A's fans, but for me the answer is this: Not very much at all! Thanks for asking!
OK, some background is in order. Before I was an A's fan, I grew up rooting for the Dodgers -- the Fox ownership cured me of that, thanks -- and spent a fair chunk of my post-collegiate life in Southern California about the same time Piazza was enjoying his glory years in Los Angeles. And I really didn't care for the guy back then. He's obviously a ridiculously talented hitter, but I always thought he lacked the requisite fire. Some people are reluctant to embrace the leadership role that often gets thrust upon the guy with the best stats -- Piazza seemed to openly shun it. Along with Eric Karros, he formed a black hole of leadership that I think was partially responsible for those mid-90s Dodger teams never making as much playoff noise as they probably should have.
Right or wrong, I think of Piazza as a guy who puts up some fairly decent numbers, but at the end of the day, isn't too bothered whether he's on the winning or losing end of the score. And I was a little disappointed that the A's added him to the roster this year -- that role is already filled. And I haven't seen much in the past month to make me rethink my position.
Diversions: A strange ceremony before the game: to promote All-Star balloting, the A's had Bob Geren appear in front of home plate to cast his All-Star ballot. I don't know if the idea was for Geren to smile broadly and then deposit it in the nearby box, but he decided to put on a show for the fans. He frowned and held his pencil over the ballot and gave all the facial tics of a man in heavy deliberations over the choices before him -- odd, since the whole point was likely to encourage Oakland fans to stuff the ballot box with lots of votes for Athletics, deserving and un. I guess even Bob Geren isn't cruel enough to saddle Jim Leyland with Jason Kendall as his starting catcher this coming July in San Francisco.
Also, this was my first glimpse at the video that plays before games now, the one featuring Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" that seems to be made up entirely of highlights of the 2002 team. I've dubbed this the "Boy, Did We Let Go of Wrong Guys" video.
Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Building in the Coliseum Complex: The extremely generous let's-count-imaginary-friends-too attendance at Friday night's game: 15,388. The probably more accurate figure across the way at the Larry Ellison Presents: The Oakland Arena: 20,629. And I don't think anyone will say that I am exaggerating when the three biggest cheers of the night from the Coliseum crowd were as follows:
1) When they posted the Warriors-Mavericks halftime score.
2) When they posted an update to the score later on in the game, showing that the Warriors were still winning.
3) When Bobby Crosby homered.
Of course, that's probably because they only posted the Warriors score twice; otherwise it would have been a clean sweep.
All in All: The other day, I wrapped up my summary of the Mariners series by griping that the starting pitching, solid up to this point, could not necessarily be counted on to maintain that level of performance. Gaudin pitched Friday like he wanted to make me look prescient, and I really wished he wouldn't -- especially since the offense continues to live down to its reputation.