I think this may turn into a series of funny umpire pictures.
From July 29, 2006.
I think this may turn into a series of funny umpire pictures.
From July 29, 2006.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
OK, now this time, bend over backwards, and say:
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?
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:
“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.”
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.
* * *
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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