Saturday, May 11, 2013

Shutting Down ... For Now?



As you may or may not have noticed, there has been a significant drop-off in my Athletics blogging since the offseason.  However, I thought it would pick back up at the start of this season, but I just have not had the ability to do so.  At the same time, I have actually missed at least a portion of many of the A's games to this point in the season and have been following them via online checking in vs. sitting in front of the TV and watching the games. 

Therefore, I've decided that I'm going to shut this blog down for the time being, if not permanently.  The one piece that I realize I did not complete was the last "A's Favorites" write-up on Rickey Henderson.  I was saving Rickey to the end, as he is/was my all-time favorite Athletic.  At some point, I would like to put that together, but I have no idea when it will happen.  When it does, I will likely post it over at Athletics Nation. 

Moving forward, if or when A's thoughts come to me, I will be leveraging Athletics Nation and Google+ as my writing space.  Naturally, immediate reactions will be on Twitter as I'm watching things unfold during a game or as news breaks. 

Hopefully this team can right the ship for the 2013 season.  Things are not going as planned.  Once again proving that any time my favorite team(s) has expectations put on it, things quickly unravel. 

Let's go Oakland!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Oakland A’s Are Back!



Finally!  The baseball season is upon us!  Tonight, the Oakland A’s kick off the regular season with a four game series against the Mariners at home.  Before we get there, let’s take a quick look back at the moves the club made in March to finalize the opening day roster – also covered below.
As you can imagine, there were a number of transactions in March, as the team looked to wind down the roster down to its final 25 men.  Many of these moves were simply optioning some of the farm talent back to the minors as the regular season drew near.  While some fans might like to argue for one player or another due to personal biases, there weren’t too many surprises. 
Those that were optioned to the minors included Grant Green, Michael Taylor, Jemile Weeks, and Shane Peterson.  The name most surprising (and disappointing) name on this list is Weeks.  I was expecting him to come into this spring with a lot of passion and win back the starting spot at second base.  He would bring a unique element of speed to the team – both in the lineup and on the field. 
Earlier this weekend, the team designated Daric Barton and Travis Blackley for assignment.  First, that will end Mr. Barton’s Athletics career and you won’t hear me complain about that whatsoever.  After a terrible spring, the team decided that it had to let Blackley go due to the performances of quite a number of others that were positioning themselves for a spot in the bullpen. 
Finally, the team claimed first baseman Nate Freiman from the Astros and RHP Josh Stinson from the Brewers within the past two weeks as well.  While Stinson was optioned to the minor leagues, Freiman will be with on the opening day roster. 
With all of that movement, here is what the 25 man roster looks like: 
Starting Pitchers:
Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, AJ Griffin, Dan Straily (who will be replaced by Bartolo Colon, once his PED suspension expires)
Relief Pitchers:
Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Pat Neshek, Chris Resop, and Evan Scribner
Catchers:
John Jaso, Derek Norris
Infielders:
Brandon Moss, Nate Freiman, Eric Sogard, Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson, and Scott Sizemore
Outfielders:
Josh Reddick, Chris Young, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith, and Yoenis Cespedes
Disabled list:
Hiroyuki Nakajima and Adam Rosales will begin the season on the DL.  It will be interesting to see who may struggle in the beginning of the season and who these two might wind up replacing when they are available to return.  It will also be interesting to see if Nakajima can in fact beat out a few of the guys playing the middle infield positions for the A’s over the next week or two. 
With all of that out of the way, here is tonight’s starting lineup:
  1. Crisp (CF)
  2. Jaso (C)
  3. Reddick (RF)
  4. Cespedes (LF)
  5. Lowrie (SS)
  6. Moss (1B)
  7. Donaldson (3B)
  8. Smith (DH)
  9. Sogard (2B)
  10. Anderson (SP)
The Oakland A’s are back!  It will be great to see the 2012 AL West Champions back in action!  Looking forward to tonight and the start of some meaningful baseball!  Let’s go Oakland!  (Complete overuse of the exclamation point!
 

Friday, March 1, 2013

A’s Offseason Summary & Thoughts thru February



Photo credit: ESPN.com

February got off to a smoking start for the A’s and their fans as Billy Beane pulled off a bit of a stunner in sending Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi to their new division rival, the Astros, for Jed Lowrie.  The A’s also picked up RP Fernando Rodriguez in the deal. 
I was pretty surprised to see Beane deal away Carter and several relatively prominent names from the farm system for a player that has been injured quite a bit and has played the majority of his time at SS in the past, given the Nakajima signing.  However, in four preseason games, Lowrie has been playing all over the infield, including SS twice and one game apiece at 2B and 3B.  We may see this happen quite a bit in the regular season as the A’s and Bob Melvin mix and match across the infield to try to the find the right combination of players and/or sticking with the “hot” player. 
Chris Carter has always been tough to figure out for A’s fans.  His career did not progress too far over the past two seasons and perhaps the team feels like he has plateaued a bit.  Perhaps Melvin wasn’t convinced in Carter’s ability to play more frequently and wasn’t comfortable with his limitations.  That certainly makes sense given the coach’s decision to use others in last year’s playoffs over Carter.  Also, I thought this story over at AN provided some strong rationale as to why Carter was no longer with the A’s. 
After this “blockbuster”, the month of February was very quiet.  In fact, the only other deal that the team announced was the signing of LHP Hideki Okajima to a minor league contract.  While the A’s have a good amount of depth in their bullpen, you can never have enough to cover for injuries, rest, etc.  Hideki has made two appearances thus far in spring training and has not given up a run yet, pitching 2 innings with 2 K’s and 2 BB’s. 
It is certainly nice to have baseball back in the mix, even if it is only spring training!  Now, on to the WBC, where zero A’s will be participating … thankfully!
Let’s go Oakland!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A's Baseball is Back! (Unofficially)






The Oakland Athletics Spring Training unofficially begins today with a 3pm (EST) game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Unfortunately, MLB.TV only has radio coverage of today's game. Those wishing to see Jesse Chavez opening up the Spring session for the A's will have to be there in person or live another day. 

The A's Twitter feed posted the lineup above and I thought it was interesting to see the middle of the infield (Weeks and Nakajima) at the top of the lineup.  I'm a big fan of Jemile and hope that he plays well enough to win the starting 2B job.  We need his speed on the roster, he will need to do a little bit of everything else however to prove he deserves the spot. 

Other notes from today's lineup - Cespedes and Crisp stay on the pine and Jaso gets the nod behind the plate. 

While today's game is virtually meaningless, it is great to have A's baseball back!  Let's go Oakland!

Photo credit: Oakland A's Tumblr Page

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A’s Favorites – Tim Hudson



Our next A’s Favorites piece continues from the early 2000’s era and my favorite pitcher from those teams, Tim Hudson.  Again, as a quick reminder, the genesis of this series is from a thread on Athletics Nation regarding who were some of each poster’s favorite players from the past.  My responses within that thread were grouped together by era:
80’s and early 90’s – Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, and Carney Lansford
Late 90’s and early 2000’s – Tim Hudson and Eric Chavez
Recent departures – Kurt Suzuki

Career Summary
Tim Hudson took quite a path to becoming one of the better pitches baseball has seen over the past decade and a half.  He was drafted by the Athletics in the 35th round but went to play at a Community College for two seasons before finally gaining recognition and landing at Auburn University.  Hudson pitched his final two years at Auburn.  He was also known as a good hitter in college and made the All-SEC team as both a pitcher and hitter.  Tim Hudson was drafted again by the Athletics in the sixth round of the 1997 draft. 

Small in stature but big in heart, Hudson quickly made his way to the pros in 1999.  He was a June call-up for the Athletics that year and proceeded to go 11-2 through the rest of the season with a 3.23 ERA.  In 2000, Hudson led the AL in wins posting a 20-6 record and helped lead the A’s back to the playoffs for the first time since 1992. 

Tim pitched for the A’s from 1999-2004 putting up gaudy stats. In 183 starts for the A’s, Hudson was 92-39, good for a 70% win percentage clip.  He posted a 3.30 ERA over that same timeframe, with 899 strikeouts and 16 complete games.  He made the All Star team in 2000 and 2004 with the A’s. 

As you are likely well aware, Hudson was part of Oakland’s ‘Big Three’ with Barry Zito and Mark Mulder.  These three were close to dominant in the regular season and helped the team make four straight playoff appearances from 2000-2003.  Unfortunately, once these A’s teams got to the playoffs, things crumbled for one reason or another. 

The team decided that they needed to restock the roster and farm system and couldn’t afford to keep the big three in the middle of the decade.  Hudson was traded to the Atlanta Braves for a package of players that never really became much for the A’s organization.  (Why are the Braves the one team that no opposing team ever seems to “win” a trade?) 

Hudson has posted similar numbers during his tenure in Atlanta and has come back Tommy John surgery during the 2008 season.  The surgery cost him most of the 2009 season as well, returning for September baseball for the Braves.  In 2010, Hudson returned to make 34 starts and win Comeback Player of the Year, with a 17-9 record and 2.83 ERA. 

Interesting enough, Hudson has never had a record at or below .500 in his major league career.  His career ERA is 3.42, which should be considered very impressive given the era that he is/was pitching in. 

While his regular season numbers are strong, his postseason results are mixed.  He pitched well for the A’s in their two series against the Yankees, but was hammered by the Twins in his two starts in their 2002 series.  He didn’t get a decision in either of his starts when the A’s played Boston in 2003.  Hudson’s time with the Braves has been met with limited success as well, as those teams have been unable to move past the NLDS in either effort (2005 and 2010). 
What drew me to … Tim Hudson
Hudson was my clear favorite from the “Big Three”.  He had a fiery attitude and wasn’t willing to back down from anyone when on the mound.  He also liked to talk a little trash out there too.  While completely ridiculous, Hudson wore #15 which happened to be the number I wore in Little League and another reason that he drew my attention/fandom. 

Hudson used multiple pitches to get batters out and was consistently seen as a Cy Young candidate during his tenure with the A’s.  I wish that those teams from the early 2000’s were able to move along at least once to get into the longer, seven game series, where they would have held an advantage over any other pitching staff. 
Where is Tim Hudson now?
‘Huddy’ is entering the final year of his current contract with the Braves, as the team picked up his option for the forthcoming season at $9 million.  Hudson has stated that he would like to resign with the team beyond the 2013 season, so it doesn’t look like retirement is in his foreseeable future. 

Best of luck to Hudson this upcoming season, unless of course he is facing the Athletics in the World Series!
 

(Photo credit: San Francisco Chronicle Photo: Jim Merithew)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grant Balfour Has Surgery on Knee – Out 4-6 Weeks



On Thursday, the A’s announced that Grant Balfour, their first option at Closer, was to go under the knife for a minor surgery on his knee.  This is by no means good news for the A’s but it certainly isn’t tragic either.  While Balfour may be ready to go for the start of the regular season, the A’s – and Balfour – would be wise to take this slow and let his leg fully recover from the surgery.  The team has two more than capable arms to fill the role for the time being in Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. 
As I say that, Balfour has already reported to camp today to begin rehabbing his leg.  Look, Grant has been my favorite player on the roster the past two seasons, but please do not rush back and please let the leg recover fully!  The 2013 A’s have the chance to do some magical things and need to weather the storms in the earlier parts of the season to prepare for September baseball and hopefully well beyond that!
I really hope that this does not become an omen for the 2013 club.  (Crosses fingers … please do the same!)
(Note that this plea comes from a Timberwolves fan, who has seen their current season turn into an unmitigated disaster because of injuries.)
 

(Photo credit: Daniel Gluskoter/Icon SMI)

Monday, February 4, 2013

A’s Offseason Summary & Thoughts thru January



January came and went with a few more moves from Beane and company to tinker with the regular lineup for the A’s this coming season and sure up the bullpen. 
The team avoided arbitration and reached an agreement with several players before the deadline – including Chris Resop, Seth Smith, Brandon Moss, and Jerry Blevins.  Resop was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh earlier in the offseason and will compete for a spot in the bullpen.  After struggling earlier in his career, Jerry Blevins had a phenomenal 2012 season and really turned me into a believer.  While it will be interesting to see what happens with Seth Smith and his playing time – given the team’s depth in the OF positions – this was a no-brainer signing for the team.  Brandon Moss will be playing 1B for the A’s a lot more frequently in 2013 (given today’s move to send Chris Carter packing for Jed Lowrie … we’ll cover this deal in a separate entry later in the week).   
The big news for January came when the team announced it had acquired John Jaso from the Seattle Mariners, who immediately became the A’s starting catcher in 2013 and provides Derek Norris with a little bit of breathing room in his development and takes some pressure off the kid for having to be the everyday man behind the plate.  This was an interesting deal that came out of nowhere, particularly since just days earlier, the team had resigned George Kottaras to a one year contract.  After announcing the deal for Jaso, Kottaras was designated for assignment and later claimed off waivers by the Royals.   
Looking at Jaso’s career numbers the move itself screams “minor upgrade” for the roster and the everyday lineup.  The team has gotten rid of the black holes that were seen towards the bottom of the lineup on most nights over the past few seasons and continue to show signs that they are fully committed to putting a winner on the field in 2013 and are “going for it”.  Yes!
The only reason you may not love the deal for Jaso is if you had huge hopes for AJ Cole in the A’s organization.  The A’s acquired Cole in the deal last offseason involving Gio Gonzalez, but he struggled mightily in Stockton.  While he is only 21 years old, there are no guarantees here and I absolutely agree with the idea of “going for it” when you have the chance.   
The one other piece of news that came from the clubhouse in January was that the A’s locked up Bob Melvin through 2016, agreeing on a contract extension for the skipper.  I don’t think we need to go into too much more depth of what Melvin has brought to this team when he replaced Bob Geren.  I think a simple “thank you” is sufficient here.  That “thank you” is to both Melvin for what he has done as the manager and to Beane for getting this deal done.