2006 Photo Outtakes #1

I took a lot of photos at the games I went to this year; most of them didn’t make it to the web site. I thought I’d start posting some of the outtakes, maybe one a day, to help us get through the winter.

Here’s the first one, of Akinori Otsuka, taken on April 16:

Otsuka delivers

Akinori’s balance looks perfect. That’s interesting in and of itself, but I’m more interested in the umpire.

My question is this: why do umpires wear their pants too long? You always see them doing what this umpire does: pulling their pants up as they crouch into position, because otherwise, they might step on their own pants. Wouldn’t it be better if their pants were an inch or two shorter?

Half a Kielty

It seems I’ve been working 24/7 for about three weeks or so now, but things are starting to wind down. I had a post half-written about the odd lack of rumors I was going to finish, but that old fruit has turned to mold. Now we have rumors! Mike Piazza! Kei Igawa! (Really? No.) Alan Embree! Joe Kennedy as a starter! Whoopee!

No point finishing that post now, so I’ll just chop out the part that’s still not dated: a little ditty about Bobby Kielty. The cheapest solution to replacing Frank Thomas might be in the A’s organization already.

* * *

Bobby Kielty rakes as a right-handed batter. Last year, he hit .325/.358/.607 right-handed. For his career, he’s .299/.382/.518. Those are all-star/MVP-caliber numbers.

Unfortunately, Kielty also bats left-handed. And batting left-handed last year, he hit .229/.308/.314. His career numbers are .230/.333/.350.

Every left-handed plate appearance Kielty gets is a waste. The A’s wasted 169 such PAs last year. That needs to stop, one way or another.

The cheapest way to stop that waste that is to tell Kielty, “Dude, you can’t hit left-handed. You just can’t. And at age 29, you probably never will. You suck. Neifi Perez has a higher career left-handed slugging percentage than you do. Hit right-handed all the time. You can hardly be worse, there’s a good chance you’ll have much more success, and you’ll probably never see another left-handed at-bat in the major leagues anyway.

He really should give it a shot. His career could last years longer if it turns out he can hit right-handed pitching better as a right-handed batter. But he probably won’t make that decision until he’s forced to: when he’s about to lose a major league job.

* * *

If they can’t convince Kielty to give up switch-hitting, Billy Beane could try to find him a strict platoon partner, a left-handed hitting corner outfielder who can’t hit lefties.

A couple of such potential platoon partners are rumored to be on the trade market: Geoff Jenkins of the Brewers, and Jacque Jones of the Cubs.

Jenkins hit .133/.265/.214 against lefties last year (.244/.315/.408 career), but .306/.381/.490 (.291/.362/.530 career) against righties.

Jones has similar numbers: .234/.261/.416 vs. lefties in 2006 (.228/.275/.350 career), but .303/.358/.528 (.295/.343/.493 career) against righties.

Whether the A’s can afford to acquire or pay them, however, is another question.

Three Changes, One Surprise

A’s moving to Fremont? No surprise.

A’s hire Bob Geren as manager? Ho hum.

Frank Thomas leaves for the Blue Jays? OK, that one caught me off guard.

Darn shame, really. The A’s and Thomas were such a perfect match. The fans loved him. His teammates loved him. He filled a huge need on the team. His style of play is exactly what the team philosophy aims for. I would have loved to have seen him finish his career in Oakland.

But if Toronto is willing to risk $10-$12 million more than the A’s are willing to risk on this aging player, what can you do? I can see paying $10 million/year for Thomas, but a three-year deal strikes me as too big a gamble for the A’s to take. And I can’t really blame Thomas for taking the extra year. Nobody in their right mind turns down $10 million guaranteed, even if you’re already wealthy.

And after Boston bid $51 million for Matsuzaka, I think baseball fans are going to have to readjust their brains for a new salary scale. With so many teams flush with cash, every free-agent contract that is signed this offseason is going to seem outrageously expensive in comparison to the past.

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that, although the A’s have been able to stay competitive for many years while crying poor, the very week that they get a new stadium lined up, all those years of limited revenues might finally catch up to them. Thomas’ production will be hard to replace, and with so many other teams with so much cash to spend, it’s hard to imagine the A’s could find a replacement on the free market very easily.

Daric Barton is the only viable candidate from the minors, but he suffered an injury-plagued lost season in 2006, so he probably won’t make any impact in 2007. Beane could make some creative trades, I suppose, but as a participant in a previous A’s trade once said, youneverknow.

So that leaves us with…gasp…Barry Bonds. The A’s need a DH. Bonds needs to DH. He lives in the Bay Area. Maybe he’d take a little less money to stay near home, who knows?

I’d prefer that this did not happen. Quite honestly, I’d rather see the A’s suffer through a lousy season with a bunch of young players than to deal with the circus surrounding Barry Bonds. If he does sign with the A’s, I’ll tell you right now, I’ll initiate an immediate Barry Bonds fast. I won’t watch Bonds until…well, I don’t know, but I guess until something happens that makes me like the guy. I lack the imagination to figure out what that could possibly be.

(San Fran) Cisco A’s of Fremont

I had the Cisco Field press conference going on my computer at work this morning as I was trying to track down a particularly tricky bug in some software I’m writing. I reached a critical stage in my debugging just when Bud Selig got up to give his speech, and stopped paying attention. So if Selig said anything brilliant, I cannot comment on it.

What I did hear before and after Selig was not particularly surprising. But I’ll just jot down a few reactions:

  • If you have to have a corporate name for your ballpark, Cisco Field is probably about as good as it gets. It rolls off the tongue pretty easily. The name has some regional connotations, not unlike Pacific Bell Park.
     
  • As much as I like the “Cisco Field” name, I hate the news that “of Fremont” will be part of the team name. The Angels have an excuse for such a goofy name, because (1) their lease required it, and (2) Anaheim is the home of Goofy.

    The only way I’ll ever say the words “of Fremont” is if we can convince the other AL West teams to follow the same convention. Somethingorother Athletics of Fremont. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Texas Rangers of Arlington. Redmond Mariners of Seattle.

  • I was a little disappointed to see the ballpark rendering look so enclosed. The most beautiful thing about Fremont is that the East Bay hills always feel as if they are right on top of you, even if you’re down close to the bay. It would be as much of a shame to block the view of the hills as Mount Davis was, if not more.

    But if you look at the slideshow on the A’s web site, the hills do appear to be visible, at least from the upper deck. So I’ll hold out hope for this.

  • When Billy Beane said we can start rooting for players instead of just for laundry, I thought two things: (1) The A’s believe they’re gonna make a lot more money in this ballpark, and (2) I wonder if giving Billy Beane more money to play with is actually a good thing.

    Beane’s record with signing free agents has been spotty at best. Arthur Rhodes, anyone? But perhaps his record has been spotty because spotty players are all he can afford. Maybe with some more money, the A’s can actually pursue players who are more of a sure bet. Can you imagine the A’s signing a top-tier free agent? Seems impossible today.

  • I was highly impressed by Cisco’s Chief Demonstration Officer. Not so much with his demonstration, though. I was impressed with his title.

    How did he (Jim Grubb?) get to become a Chief Demonstration Officer? Was he so good at his job that Vice President of Demonstration just wasn’t a big enough title to describe him?

  • A question: when did Cisco become a software company? All this “upgrade my ticket” stuff: what does any of that have to do with routers?

    Does anyone outside of the A’s and Cisco organizations think that having a super-high-tech ballpark is a brilliant idea? The only way high tech is going to make fans happier at the ballpark is if the high techs helps make the lines shorter. They need to use the technology to provide real value, not just make things shinier.

    Don’t get me wrong. Cisco is a great company. They make great, solid, reliable hardware. I can’t think of a single high-tech company I trust more to make a quality product.

    But Cisco isn’t sexy. They make the kind of technology you’re only supposed to notice if it doesn’t work. How do you showcase something that supposed to not be noticed?

    You hire a Chief Demonstration Officer and slap your name on a ballpark, I guess.

  • Reading the body language a bit, it seemed pretty clear to me that Lew Wolff wants to name the team the “San Jose Athletics”, but Bud Selig doesn’t want him to.
     
  • Repeat after me:

    Alameda County.
    Alameda County.
    Alameda County.
    Alameda County.

    OK, now this time, bend over backwards, and say:

    Alameda County.
    Alameda County.
    Alameda County.
    Alameda County.

    I think they wanted to make a point about mentioning they were staying in Alameda County. They could hardly mention the words “Oakland” or “Fremont” in the press conference without also saying the words “Alameda County”.

    A reporter picked up on this, and asked about it. I think the conversation went like this (not by any means a direct quote):

    Reporter: I understand why you have to deal with Fremont, but what does Alameda County have to do with this process?

    Wolff: Um, nothing really. But did you notice we’re staying in Alameda County?

Newsflash: A’s GM Hamlet Indecisive Again

The A’s have lost another managerial candidate to another team acting more quickly and decisively. The San Diego Padres have hired Bud Black as their new manager.

Billy Beane could not be reached for comment. Witnesses report that Beane was last seen wandering around muttering, “To hire or not to hire; that is the question…”

In other news:

  • The armies of Gerenbras are marching on Oakinore.
     
  • Gerald Palaertes is leaving Oakinore to join Lou Polonius
     
  • Rosenblack and Washingstern are dead.
     
  • Old King Macha refuses to explain the details of the events that led to his departure, but notes of the events that triggered this drama:

    “But that I am forbid
    To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
    I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
    Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
    Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
    Thy knotted and combined locks to part
    And each particular hair to stand on end.”

Keep Low, Squirrels

Jamie Newberg has a must-read report about how Ron Washington became the top dog in Texas. If everything Newberg reports is true, makes you wonder why the heck Billy Beane would ever let Washington slip through his fingers.

* * *

hawk on lamppost

Darwin the Hawk was out there again this morning as I walked to work, so I took a picture of him with my cell phone.

* * *

Vlae Kershner has a formula for whether you are for or against the move to Fremont.

I guess I qualify as “for”. I’m happy as long as the A’s stay in the Bay Area, even if the move inconveninces me personally. Even though I live closer to Oakland than Fremont, I grew up near Fremont, so I have a positive view of the area.

I drive to A’s games now, but that’s mostly because the nearest BART stations to my home have no parking. And if I took a bus to the BART station, my trip would take an hour each way, when I can just drive to the Coliseum in 15 minutes. And if I drove to the nearest BART station that does have parking (Fruitvale), I’d already be 90% of the way to the Coliseum anyway.

For the Fremont ballpark, though, I’d drive to Fruitvale and take BART, if the extension were built. If I had to take a bus from the Fremont BART station, however, I’d probably drive, especially if I have kids with me.

The View From Above

Across the street from my office is a field. The field is next to the bay. There are no trees or bushes in this field, just dirt, dry grass, and a some ice plant. The field is occupied by dozens of scrawny-looking little squirrels who live in small holes they’ve burrowed into the field. Their fur is dull and gray. They all look like they’re starving to death.

If you walk two blocks inland, the squirrels are all fat, with sleek brownish-red coats.

Walking to work yesterday, I saw a hawk sitting on a lamppost, surveying the field. I named him Darwin. I wondered if one bird on one lamppost could cause a species to split in two like that. The squirrels that survive out here are small and quick and blend into the background when viewed from above. The fat, shiny squirrels who stand out, and are too big and slow to find a hole to hide in when they need to, find themselves eaten by Darwin.

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You Snooze, You Lose: Washington Leaves

I guess Texas GM Jon Daniels liked what he saw in Ron Washington’s eyes.

Congratulations to Ron Washington, for being named the next manager of a team that wins the World Series the year after Buck Showalter is fired.

And congratulations to the Texas Rangers, for a well-played hand. They pushed all-in before the flop, making their job offer before Oakland had a chance to finish their interviewing. Even if Billy Beane had wanted to hire Washington, the A’s were too late on the trigger.

It’s a good move for Texas. The Rangers have been stuck in mediocrity, and they need to take some chances. Washington seems to me like the kind of person who will either strike out or hit a home run at the next level. He’ll either be highly ineffective or a genius. Texas is just the kind of team that should take chances on a person like that. They need someone with the potential to lift them out of their stagnation. A safe, average manager isn’t going to make a difference for them.

It’s probably the perfect fit for Washington. From a philosophical standpoint, Washington didn’t seem to be a great match to work with Billy Beane’s micromanaging. He’ll probably get more of a free hand to be himself in Texas. Texas has some rebuilding to do, and Washington is a good teacher. Plus, from a personal standpoint, Washington is now working much closer to his Louisiana home. I’m very happy for the guy; he has earned and deserves this opportunity.

For the A’s, losing Washington at third base and as infield coach probably hurts more than losing him as a potential manager. Fans of most teams complain constantly about their third base coach, but you never heard that from A’s fans. Seriously, Washington may have been the best third base coach ever. Going from Washington to whoever replaces him will be about as big a drop in talent as going from Mark Ellis to D’Angelo Jimenez. Every time the A’s get a runner thrown out on the bases next year, I will feel the pain.

I Am B

The other players on the ice are taunting me with cries of “Chicken Swede this and Chicken Swede that.”

That’s OK. Like Börje Salming, I can take it. I’m honored by the comparison, even if I do make it myself.

I don’t care if someone else wants me to smash my ideas into people’s heads with my fists like Tiger Williams. You can fake your way to a lot of short term success, but if you want to endure, you have to learn to be true to yourself. Like Salming, I will play this game my way, with my own style, on my own terms, and with my own definition of success.

Back in the late 80’s, during the peak of the graffiti fad, I lived in Stockholm. Like most big cities in those days, graffiti was everywhere. The most common graffiti you’d see spray painted around town were two words: “Salming lever”.

Salming lives.

Lists Without Explanations

1.  Thomas       1  1  3 =   5
2.  Zito         3  3  1 =   7
3.  Haren        4  5  2 =  11
4.  Swisher      5  4  4 =  13
5.  Duchscherer  2 10  7 =  19
6.  Street       9  7  6 =  22
7.  Bradley      6  7 10 =  23
8.  Blanton     14 10  5 =  29
9.  Gaudin      11 10  8 =  29
10. Calero       8 14  9 =  31
11. Chavez      13  5 15 =  33
12. Payton       7  9 18 =  34
13. Kennedy     12 14 12 =  38
14. Kielty      10 14 23 =  47
15. Kendall     35  2 14 =  51
16. Harden      16 18 19 =  53
17. Halsey      15 22 17 =  54
18. Saarloos    30 18 13 =  61
19. Scutaro     38 14 11 =  63
20. Komine      19 24 25 =  68
21. Flores      27 22 20 =  69
22. Loaiza      37 18 15 =  70
23. Ellis       39 10 22 =  71
24. Kotsay      32 18 21 =  71
25. Sauerbeck   18 24 29 =  71
26. Karsay      20 24 29 =  73
27. Keisler     25 24 24 =  73
28. Rouse       25 24 26 =  75
29. Brown       24 24 28 =  76
30. Casilla     21 24 33 =  78
31. Clark       22 24 32 =  78
32. Roney       31 24 27 =  82
33. Bocachica   29 24 31 =  84
34. Witasick    17 35 35 =  87
35. Crosby      34 24 38 =  96
36. Jimenez     27 35 34 =  96
37. Johnson     23 35 39 =  97
38. Windsor     33 35 36 = 106
39. Melhuse     40 35 37 = 112
40. Perez       36 40 40 = 116
1.  Stomach punch
2.  JC Chasez
3.  Stop casting porosity
4.  Things that come in threes
5.  Charlie Rose
6.  Midnight zone
7.  Orson Welles rant
8.  Justin Timberlake
9.  Computer Associates
10. Dairy Queen Toronto
1.  Rickey Henderson    338    24.1
2.  Reggie Jackson      238    23.8
3.  Jason Giambi        166    23.7
4.  Sal Bando           231    21.0
5.  Mark McGwire        233    19.4
6.  Jose Canseco        172    19.1
7.  Bert Campaneris     247    19.0
8.  Miguel Tejada       133    19.0
9.  Eric Chavez         160    17.8
10. Tim Hudson          106    17.7
11. Dwayne Murphy       162    16.2
12. Barry Zito          112    16.0
13. Rick Monday          96    16.0
14. Gene Tenace         127    15.9
15. Carney Lansford     157    15.7
16. Dave Henderson       94    15.7
17. Catfish Hunter      149    14.9
18. Vida Blue           128    14.2
19. Terry Steinbach     144    13.1
20. Dennis Eckersley    113    12.6
21. Joe Rudi            135    12.3
22. Rollie Fingers       98    10.9
23. Dave Stewart         94    11.8
24. Tony Phillips        94    10.4
25. Dick Green          117     9.8
1.  Paul Lindblad
2.  Barry Zito
3.  Huston Street
4.  Frank Thomas
5.  Matt Kemp
6.  Bill King
7.  Rich Harden
8.  John Gibbons
9.  Eric Chavez
10. Kris Benson
11. Nick Swisher
12. Ken Macha
13. Vince Cotroneo
14. Jason Kendall
15. Mark Mulder
16. Esteban Loaiza
17. Anna Benson
18. Billy Beane
19. Brad Halsey
20. Javier Herrera