Month: October 2006
Another Long, Rambling Post That Starts Out Nowhere Near Where It Finally Ends Up (The A’s Dugout)
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-31 12:24

This article is about who the A’s should hire as their next manager, but it starts out several light-years away in the world of politics. Now don’t run away just because of that; I won’t be telling you whom to vote for. I’ll trust you to make up your own mind on that, if you’ll trust me to get to the baseball in the end.

* * *

A couple of years ago, the American left-wingers were all excited about the theories of George Lakoff. Lakoff is a linguistics professor at UC Berkeley, who specializes in metaphor. His thing is that all language, and possibly all human thought, consists of metaphors built on other metaphors built on other metaphors…built on the basic functions of the human body.


Six Word Stories
by Score Bard
2006-10-25 10:09

The six-word-story meme is making its way across the web. Let’s play with it.

Paint a baseball image with six words. I’ll start.

Zito curve. Palmeiro frozen. Inning over.

Your turn.

Ken Ponders Kens
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-23 17:49

Kenny Rogers, Ken Macha, blah blah blah. All we ever hear about these days is Kenny, Ken, Ken. Somebody should hold a Ken fast. I’d do it myself, but I’m afraid I’d end up like that kid in that Gary Larson Far Side strip who accidentally sucks himself into a bottle.

So let’s take a breath, and contemplate some non-Ken news. Guillaume Latendresse of the Montreal Canadiens just became the first person in the history of the NHL to wear uniform #84. It was the last unused number in NHL history. This got me curious about A’s uniform numbers. There’s a list of uniform numbers over at Baseball Almanac. Which leads us to:

Ken’s Non-Ken Fact of the Day:

The lowest number that has never been worn by an Oakland A’s player during the regular season is 62.

Ken’s Non-Ken Addendum of the Day to Ken’s Non-Ken Fact of the Day:

Only four numbers above 62 have been worn by Oakland Athletics players: 64 (Joe Blanton), 73 (Ricardo Rincon), 75 (Barry Zito) and 99 (Willie Crawford).

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Ken programming.

OK, so Kenny Rogers used pine tar. I don’t care. I don’t like Rogers, but I’m not going to jump on the “Get Kenny Rogers” bandwagon just so I can feel a little schadenfreude.

I don’t think the pine tar explains why he beat the A’s in the ALCS or the Yankees in the ALDS. On the levels of cheating scale, this ranks just beyond stealing signs. Stealing signs is fully preventable. If you lose because someone cheated you that way, blame yourself. Stopping pine tar abuse is a little harder than that, but once you know someone’s done it, you don’t let him do it again. You check every time. Rogers won’t have that advantage anymore. If he beats you again because of it, blame yourself. Move on.

As for Ken Macha, I don’t feel a bit sorry for him. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he signed that contract. He probably didn’t want to stay in Oakland and work for Billy Beane, but it turned out to be his best option, so he took it. Now he can sit at home in Pittsburgh for two years, and collect $2 million for services already rendered. Good for him.

The person to blame here is Billy Beane. He obviously micromanages his managers. But anyone in business knows, if you have to micromanage an employee, you have hired the wrong employee. Any business thrives best when you hire people you can trust to leave alone to do their jobs. Which leaves one of three possibilities:

  1. Billy Beane is incapable of trusting anyone enough to leave alone to do their jobs;
  2. Billy Beane made the mistake of retaining someone whom he couldn’t trust enough to leave alone to do his job; or
  3. There is nobody in organized baseball who is both qualified to lead a team as manager, and who also understands and agrees with the Moneyball philosophy of risk management. As a result, there is nobody out there he can fully trust to do the job, so he hired someone who was not what he wanted, but someone who was “good enough” for now.

One way or another, Beane is accountable for the error. Let’s hope it’s error #2, and Beane can learn from it and do better next time.

If it’s error #3, then Beane is guilty of not preparing someone for the job. Somebody within the organization should be groomed for the job under the current management philosophy, and be ready to go if called upon.

If it’s error #1–yikes. If Beane is a hopeless micromanager, this scene will just repeat itself over and over. As a part-owner, Beane is now essentially GM for life, or at least, until the team is sold. Ugly things happen when you can’t get rid of an evil or incompetent dictator. Checks and balances are a good thing.

The Funniest A’s Manager Suggestion Ever
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-17 15:39

I thought I was being funny when I suggested in the comments of Philip’s last post that my six-year-old daughter would be qualified to be the A’s next manager. But nothing is as funny as this:

I just wish Beane would broaden his scope a little, because Dusty Baker is the man for this job.

In my wildest dreams, I can’t imagine him being at odds with Baker, but I suppose we can rule out Dusty, Girardi or anyone else who would steal Beane’s thunder.

I literally laughed out loud when I read this.

Sometimes the Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins can make some interesting and astute observations, but sometimes…wow. In my wildest dreams I can’t imagine anyone thinking that Dusty Baker should be the first person on earth the A’s should hire to be their manager instead of the last. That anyone who has read Moneyball would not understand that if anyone in organized baseball personifies everything the A’s think is wrong with traditional baseball management practices, it’s Dusty Baker. And more amazingly, Jenkins is not alone. Dave Newhouse at the Oakland Tribune suggests the very same thing.

Dusty Baker will not and should not be the next A’s manager, guys. It has nothing to do with Billy Beane’s ego. It’s about belief systems. Their personalities might not clash, and yes, Baker is good in the clubhouse, but besides that, no two management philosophies are more at odds than Billy Beane and Dusty Baker. Beane is all about the rational approach to management; Baker is all about instincts and tradition. It could never, ever work. It doesn’t take a wild dream to see that hiring someone who believes the total opposite of what you believe is a bad idea.

I don’t mean to step on Zachary Manprin’s turf and bash local writers. But I am truly astonished here. How can anybody follow this team and this sport and not understand this obvious fact?

My six-year-old daughter is a better fit to be the next manager of the Oakland A’s than Dusty Baker. That’s no joke.

Congrats to the Tigers
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-14 16:59

They deserved to be American League champions. They were the best team.

The Tigers fell apart at the end of the regular season, but they were without Placido Polanco for most of it, so we’ll forgive them for that. The dropoff from Polanco to Neifi Perez–it’s about as big as the dropoff from Mark Ellis to D’Angelo Jimenez.

I wish the A’s could have put up a better fight. The Tigers might have won anyway, but I would have loved to have seen this series with both teams at full strength. The A’s style is to play solid defense, keep the game close, and then win it late with a deep bullpen. But without Ellis and his MLB-record 2B fielding percentage, and without Justin Duchscherer, who can throw two shutdown innings in the middle of a ballgame, the A’s M.O. was gone. Those two guys were the keys, the very heart and soul of the A’s success in 2006.

Defensive miscues cost the A’s game two, and the short bullpen cost them in game four. If the A’s had won one of those games, we’d get to see Barry Zito give one last effort in an Oakland uniform. Instead, his last appearance was a stinker. That’s a sad way to go out.

And now, once again, I’d like to say this to the many, many people who ridiculed me and questioned my sanity back in April, when I picked the Tigers to win the AL Central:

Phffffffffffffffffffffffffttttttt ;P !

Who’s insane now, suckers?

Tigers-Athletics, ALCS Game 4 Chat
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-14 12:46

Last call, or not?

J. Kendall c
M. Kotsay cf
M. Bradley rf
F. Thomas dh
E. Chavez 3b
J. Payton lf
N. Swisher 1b
M. Scutaro ss
D. Jimenez 2b

C. Granderson cf
C. Monroe lf
P. Polanco 2b
M. Ordonez rf
C. Guillen 1b
I. Rodriguez c
A. Gomez dh
B. Inge 3b
R. Santiago ss

Not Giving Up
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-13 16:57

There was a stretch of games in September where the A’s pitching seemed to be falling apart. In consecutive games, they gave up 8, 5, 6, 6, 9, 7, 9 and 7 runs. And then Dan Haren went into the Metrodome, threw a three-hitter, and the A’s won the game 1-0. The A’s seemed to settle down after that, and went on a 8-1 hot streak that won them the division title.

If Haren can come through again, and get the A’s a Game 5, I have a feeling Barry Zito will bounce back from his bad Game 1 start. Everyone keeps saying how brilliant the Tigers game plan was against Zito, but how brilliant is it to score runs against a guy who can’t throw his fastball or his curve for a strike? You sit changeup and hit it. Duh. Zito won’t have that kind of bad control again. He’ll be better. Win those two, and suddenly, you’re back in Oakland again, and things get interesting.

Of course, that would mean using Esteban Loaiza again, but we’ll deal with that if it comes to that.

Athletics-Tigers, ALCS Game 3 Chat
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-13 12:16

The Scott Brosius trade comes full circle as Mark Kotsay and Kenny Rogers square off at last.

Bonus: there’s Rich Harden and some other guys, too. Lineups:

Oakland Athletics
J. Kendall c
M. Kotsay cf
M. Bradley rf
F. Thomas dh
J. Payton lf
E. Chavez 3b
N. Swisher 1b
M. Scutaro ss
D. Jimenez 2b

Detroit Tigers
C. Granderson cf
C. Monroe lf
P. Polanco 2b
M. Ordonez rf
C. Guillen 1b
I. Rodriguez c
O. Infante dh
B. Inge 3b
R. Santiago ss

Mystery Photo #13
by Score Bard
2006-10-12 13:37

Here we have Mystery Photo Number Thirteen. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo. Plus, in this case, the photographer, who tells me, “Make ’em work for it!”

No larger view this time.

Thanks to all who have sent in photos. Feel free to send in more, by emailing them to mystery At humbug .com. (Your own photos only, please.)

Game Time Change for ALCS Game 3
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-12 13:15

Game Three will now start at 1PM Pacific, 4PM Eastern, on Friday. This is partly to accomodate the NLCS rainout last night, and partly because the weather is supposed to be quite cold in Detroit.

One good thing for the A’s: if you’re going to play a game where there’s a chance of snow, having a Canadian start the game for you is an advantage. Rich Harden loves to pitch in cold, damp weather. Back in April, he said this about pitching on a cold, wet day:

“Basically, this is identical to the weather up there in Victoria (British Columbia, where Harden grew up). It’s always wet, like my home,” he said. “Light rain, cold, that stuff. I’m comfortable. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

Hooray for optimism!

No Satisfaction
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-11 23:24

I got a phone call at 4:30am Wednesday morning from the Alameda Police Department. They told me that my stolen car had been found in Oakland, slightly damaged, but not stripped. The words that came out of my mouth were, “Thank you.” The words that wanted to come out of my mouth, but didn’t quite make it, were, “Why the #$&*#&(@#$&! are you calling me at 4:30 am?!?!?!?”

I tried to get back to sleep. Maybe I did, but whatever sleep I got did not satisfy.

Next time my car is stolen, I’d prefer it stay stolen. Getting your car back sucks up a whole day of your life. First, I trudged off to the Alameda Police Department to get a “vehicle release form” from the agency that filed the missing car report. Then, over to the Oakland Police Department to stand in a stereotypical long, utterly bureaucratic and inefficient line for over an hour to get yet another “vehicle release form”, from the agency which found the car. And then finally to the auto yard to which the car had been towed, to retrieve the car at last.

If there was anything efficient about my day, it’s that the auto yard was about three blocks from the Coliseum. And since I was headed there anyway that afternoon…well, that was convenient.

Somewhere in there, I heard the awful news about Cory Lidle. By the time I showed up at the ballpark, I was already spent.

On a normal day, I suppose I would have been ready to promote Esteban Loaiza to #1 on my least favorite A’s list for immediately blowing two leads he had been handed. I would have been ripping my hair out wondering why Ken Macha left Loaiza out there in a playoff game in the sixth inning when he was having a bad day, especially after Magglio Ordonez almost took him deep. I would have been cursing our fate every time D’Angelo Jimenez messed up a play that Mark Ellis would have made look easy.

But I was just kinda numb to all that negativity. It should have been a most agonizing loss, but oddly, I actually kinda enjoyed myself.

Perhaps I felt a sense of redemption, that even though the A’s were losing, they were going down fighting. Things have not gone the A’s way so far this series; the hits aren’t quite timely enough, the defense always seems just half an inch from making a play, and the starting pitchers have let them down. The A’s could have easily rolled over and let the Tigers just walk away with this game, but they slogged their way back into the game, with the help of some home runs by Eric Chavez and Milton Bradley.

When Frank Thomas came up, down by three, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, I thought maybe, just maybe, that this long day would climax with a memorable, magical moment.

But, sadly, this was a day we were merely meant to endure, not to celebrate. Magic did not befit the day.

Thomas popped up, and that was that. I got into in my dirty old car, and we trudged back home together once again.

by Ken Arneson
2006-10-11 23:09

Time it was and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences.

Long ago it must be, I have a photograph.
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.

–Simon and Garfunkel

Athletics-Tigers, ALCS Game 2 Chat
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-11 13:30

I was just about to head out to the Coliseum for tonight’s game, when I heard the horrible news about the Cory Lidle plane crash.

This is terribly, terribly sad news.

The game doesn’t seem to matter much right now, does it?

Phil, here… subbing in for Ken, who’s at the park. Here are the starting lineups for tonight’s game.

Condolences to the Lidle family.

Detroit Tigers

Curtis Granderson — CF
Neifi Perez (!) — SS
Placido Polanco — 2B
Magglio Ordonez — RF
Carlos Guillen — 1B
Ivan Rodriguez — C
Craig Monroe — LF
Alexis Gomez — DH
Brandon Inge

Oakland Athletics

Jason Kendall — C
Mark Kotsay — CF
Milton Bradley — RF
Frank Thomas — DH
Eric Chavez — 3B
Jay Payton — LF
Nick Swisher — 1B
Marco Scutaro — SS
D’Angelo Jimenez — 2B

And your pitching match-up: Justin Verlander versus Esteban Loaiza — a replay of a game I attended back in April. It was the best of Loaiza’s pre-DL starts, though he didn’t factor into the decision. Nick Swisher won the game with two home runs, both hit off of Verlander.

I would tell you that I anticipated that game would be a dry-run for Game 2 of the ALCS, but my mother raised me not to lie.

Athletics-Tigers, ALCS Game 1 Chat
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-10 16:00

I have a ticket for Game 2 and Game 7, but I’ll be watching this one on TV.

The good news: the radio and TV announcing crews for the series are apparently devoid of any cursed Bucks.


Detroit Tigers
C. Granderson cf
P. Polanco 2b
S. Casey 1b
M. Ordonez rf
C. Guillen ss
I. Rodriguez c
C. Monroe lf
M. Thames dh
B. Inge 3b

Oakland Athletics
J. Kendall c
M. Kotsay cf
M. Bradley rf
F. Thomas dh
J. Payton lf
E. Chavez 3b
N. Swisher 1b
M. Scutaro ss
D. Jimenez 2b

ALCS Bullet Points
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-09 22:03

I’m sure you can find plenty of ALCS previews out there. No need to repeat that stuff. I’ll just dash off a few thoughts as the ALCS approaches:

  • Trivia question:

    Which member of the A’s organization has the highest career OPS against Kenny Rogers?

  • Teams have styles, and it’s often hard to discern teams’ true modus operandi just by looking at the common statistics.

    The A’s style was evident in their series victory over the Twins. I call this style “outnotmistaking”.

    The Twins made all kinds of mistakes: defensive mistakes, batting approach mistakes, baserunnings mistakes. The A’s outnotmistaked the Twins.

    • The Twins committed five errors. The A’s committed one.
    • The Twins had one costly caught stealing, and another costly runner thrown out at home. The A’s did not attempt a stolen base. Nobody was thrown out trying to take an extra base.
    • The Twins cost themselves several baserunners (mostly named Nick Punto) by sliding into first base. The A’s did not slide into first base.
    • The Twins wasted several opportunities for big innings by giving up an out with a bunt, or falling behind in the count while trying to. The A’s had no sacrifices.
    • The Twins swung at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. The A’s generally swung at strikes, and laid off the balls: few wasted at-bats because of poor pitch selection.

    The A’s aren’t the most talented bunch of players in the history of baseball. They can be defeated. But if they lose this ALCS, it will probably be because the Tigers defeated them, not because the A’s defeated themselves.


  • D’Angelo Jimenez gets too involved in the proceedings.

    Mark Ellis was a huge part of the A’s “outnotmistaking” style. He set a major league record this year for fielding percentage by a second baseman. Ellis is a solid as they come; he always seems to make the right decision.

    How much will the A’s lose by having D’Angelo Jimenez at 2B instead of Mark Ellis?

    Here are some career stat comparisons at 2B:

    Player Fielding % Range Factor Zone Rating DT Rate UZR (2000-03)
    Mark Ellis .987 5.19 .873 104 +22
    D’Angelo Jimenez .984 4.99 .829 99 +3

    Ellis is clearly better in every way. The good news is, Jimenez isn’t completely horrible. I’m guessing the dropoff will cost the A’s one run, maybe two, over the course of the series. Hopefully, that one run won’t be a costly one.

  • Obviously, Kenny Rogers’ career record of 25-4 in Oakland has to be a topic of discussion, if not a source of concern for the A’s. But if you look at what the current A’s lineup has done against him, you wonder what all the fuss is about.

    Here’s are the current A’s lifetime numbers against Rogers, in OPS order:

    Bradley, 10 ABs, 1.238.
    Thomas, 58 ABs, 1.127.
    Scutaro, 19 ABs, 1.034.
    Kendall, 27 ABs, .989.
    Payton, 21 ABs, .935.
    Kotsay, 36 ABs, .760.
    Swisher, 15 ABs, .722.
    Kielty, 35 ABs, .714.
    Chavez, 54 ABs, .603.

    Jimenez doesn’t seem to have faced Rogers.

  • Last year, Billy Beane predicted that the playoff winner would be the one who hit the most home runs. Looking over the stats from the A’s and the Tigers, if the Tigers can avoid the same type of mistakes the Twins kept making, I think that the most-homer-rule will probably be decisive in this series, as well.

    Both teams are good at keeping the ball in the ballpark. The Tigers (160) were 2nd and the A’s (162) were 3rd in fewest home runs allowed. The Tigers hit 203, while the A’s hit 175.

  • If the A’s have a weakness on the mound, it’s that they walk too many batters. However, the Detroit Tigers hardly ever take a walk. They were next-to-last in the AL.

    This will be of particular interest in Game 1. Barry Zito makes a living off overaggressive teams who chase his pitches outside the strike zone. If the Tigers don’t work the count against Zito, and force him to either throw strikes or walk them, they might be in for a long evening.

  • Somebody get the A’s a new scouting report on Placido Polanco! Look what he’s done in his career against the A’s starting rotation:

    Haren: 5-for-12
    Zito: 7-for-11
    Blanton: 7-for-10
    Loaiza: 3-for-10
    Harden: 4-for-4

    If Polanco comes up in a key situation, we might see Kirk Saarloos, who is the only pitcher on the A’s roster who has had any sort of demonstrated success against him. Polanco is only 2-for-13 against Saarloos.

  • Trivia answer: Billy Beane. He’s 1-for-1, with an RBI, for a career OPS of 2.000 against Rogers.
Brosius Update
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-09 14:24

Remember how that Scott Brosius baseball card mysteriously appeared in my kitchen last month? And how that convoy of cars with Michigan plates kept driving past my office?

Now a convoy of Michigan baseball players is headed to Oakland. And if that wasn’t coincidence enough, check this out:

  • Scott Brosius was traded from Oakland in a deal for Kenny Rogers
  • Kenny Rogers was traded from Oakland in a deal for Terrence Long
  • Terrence Long was traded from Oakland in a deal for Mark Kotsay

When we look back at the ALDS series between the Yankees and Tigers, what are we going to remember? Kenny Rogers’ shutdown performance, right?

When we look back at the ALDS series between the A’s and Twins, what are we going to remember? Mark Kotsay’s inside-the-park home run, right?

Spooky, eh? I’m beginning to feel like the Japanese guy from the new TV show Heroes who finds a comic book with details of his own life on the news stand. This is getting really freaky.

What’s next? What’s going to happen when Kenny Rogers faces Mark Kotsay? Stay tuned…

Fixing Things
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-08 16:08

One of my best friends grew up in Michigan. If you ask him his favorite baseball team, he’ll say the Detroit Tigers. But the truth is, he pays about as much attention to baseball as my mother, who lives in Sweden; that is to say, he pretty much ignores the topic entirely.

This morning, however, he sent me this email:


Can anyone on the A’s roster hit a 102 mph fastball? I think such a skill might come in handy in the near future.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “This is not good.”

* * *

Those who do not follow sports often cannot fathom why those of us who do devote so much time and energy to it. My mother always thought my passion for sports would be something I’d grow out of. It hasn’t happened yet.

Paul Ford has a fabulous blog entry called Men standing around broken machines. It’s about the mysterious way that men communicate their feelings for each other through the act of fixing things:

For much of my life I was able to bring myself to an emotional boil by reading or writing. I used this as a kind of fuel and assured myself that in my agonies I was more intense than the person sitting next to me on the subway. But I have come to sympathize with those men who stood around saying little, who gathered around the open hoods of brown cars or around malfunctioning typewriters.

And today, over on Bronx Banter and Dodger Thoughts, the men are standing around their broken machines, trying to figure out what went wrong.

And here on Catfish Stew, the men ponder how to avoid the same sad fate, in the face of
102 mph fastballs, and a convoy of Michiganders heading into town.

* * *

It all sounds so noble, this cooperative effort to fix things. But we men aren’t quite such simple creatures. There’s a certain amount of competition within this cooperation, too. There’s a wonderful Darwinian balance between altruistic behavior that helps the group survive, and selfish behavior that increases the social status of the individual within the group.

You want your group to fix the car, but preferably when you find the solution. Men cooperate and compete with their friends at the same time.

* * *

When the A’s beat the Twins, I felt a huge burden lift. The A’s failures in the postseason was no longer a machine that needed to be fixed. I felt like I could simply sit back, and appreciate the beauty of playoff baseball. Whatever else happened would be gravy.

But now, the stakes have been raised. My buddy from Michigan has been given a potentially devastating weapon in our relationship. Should the Tigers happen to defeat the A’s in the ALCS, he will have permanent ammunition over me in any discussion we may have from this point forward.

We could be discussing foreign politics or operating systems or Battlestar Galactica, and I could rebut every point he makes with a brilliant counteranalysis, and all he’d have to do to win the argument is to play the “Yeah, but Detroit won the 2006 ALCS” card and I will be helpless to do anything but crawl back under my rock in meek submission.

And since he doesn’t really give a hoot about baseball, I can’t pull out the “1972 ALCS” card in response. Nor will I gain any advantage if the A’s win. If the Tigers lose, it won’t bother him in the slightest.

What was the subtitle of Moneyball? The art of winning an unfair game? This is an unfair game. I care about this ALCS, and he doesn’t. He can’t lose; I can’t win. My best case scenario in this particular game is a tie.

My feelings of pure altruism toward playoff baseball lasted about a day and a half. My competitive drive has returned. I need the A’s to beat the Tigers. How do we fix it so that happens?

Athletics-Twins, ALDS Game 3 Chat
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-06 12:02

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? The A’s need just one more win to advance to the ALCS.

It’s an overcast October day in the East Bay. But perhaps a hole in the sky will appear over the Coliseum once again, and make fairy tales come true.


Minnesota Twins
L Castillo, 2B
N Punto, 3B
J Mauer, C
M Cuddyer, RF
J Morneau, 1B
T Hunter, CF
R White, LF
J Tyner, DH
J Bartlett, SS

Oakland Athletics
J Kendall, C
M Kotsay, CF
M Bradley, RF
F Thomas, DH
E Chavez, 3B
J Payton, LF
N Swisher, 1B
M Scutaro, SS
D Jimenez, 2B

Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-04 18:20

We A’s fans just can’t ever get to enjoy anything, can we? The A’s take two in the Metrodome, but then find out that Mark Ellis has a broken index finger.

There’s a big defensive dropoff from having Bobby Crosby and Mark Ellis up the middle to having Marco Scutaro and D’Angelo Jimenez. Huge, huge bummer.

Athletics-Twins, ALDS Game 2 Chat
by Ken Arneson
2006-10-04 6:59

I was planning not to watch yesterday’s game at all, but as game time approached, a strange zen-like calm descended upon me. The nervousness I usually suffer during A’s playoff games left me, and I was able to watch the fabulous pitching duel between Johan Santana and Barry Zito with great pleasure. For about two hours, anyway.

The best thing about yesterday’s playoff games is that all the games were decided by great players making great plays: Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Cris Carpenter, Johan Santana, Frank Thomas, Barry Zito. Any sport is at its best when its best players rise to the occasion when it counts the most.

How much money do you think free-agent-to-be Barry Zito earned with yesterday’s performance? $10 million? He’s already the most durable pitcher in baseball (he’s never missed a start), with a Cy Young award under his belt. And now he can add “can outduel the best pitcher in baseball in a playoff game on the road” to his resume. Scott Boras went to bed last night a happy man.

This game was a great example of why Zito is a much better pitcher in 2006 than he was back in, say, 2003. Back then, he was strictly a three-pitch pitcher, and if one of his pitches was off, he had no way to adjust. Since then, Zito has added a slider and a cutter. When his command of a pitch is off, he has plenty of other options for attacking a batter. Yesterday, his fastball wasn’t particularly sharp, but he still got batters out, by throwing his fastball out of the zone, and mixing in some changeups, sliders and curveball with masterful effect.

Santana was similarly masterful. The dude is awesome. He will, however, give up the occasional long ball. Which leads us to Frank Thomas. What else can you say about Frank Thomas? He is THE MAN.

So it was a beautiful day for baseball, with one exception. Which was exactly the sort of thing I had feared about facing the Twins: that great baseball would be ruined by bad architecture. In the ninth inning, the Metrodome decided to insert itself into the proceedings and score a run for the Twins, as Milton Bradley lost a fly ball in the roof.

I flipped out. I ranted. I shouted. I screamed in horror. I think I punched a wall for good measure. Thankfully, my wife stepped in and restored calm in the Arneson household, by ejecting me from the ballgame. I spent the rest of the game exiled in the kitchen.

Huston Street closed out the victory without me, and the A’s have a 1-0 lead in the series. We A’s fans know not to get too excited about that, though.

So here comes Game 2: Esteban Loaiza vs. Boof Bonser. Do I dare test the Metrodome fates, and watch the game again?

Today’s Lineups:

Oakland Athletics
J. Kendall c
M. Kotsay cf
M. Bradley rf
F. Thomas dh
E. Chavez 3b
J. Payton lf
N. Swisher 1b
M. Scutaro ss
M. Ellis 2b

Minnesota Twins
L. Castillo 2b
N. Punto 3b
J. Mauer c
M. Cuddyer rf
J. Morneau 1b
T. Hunter cf
R. White lf
J. Tyner dh
J. Bartlett ss

      older >>
This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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