Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

FOR OUR YOUNG A’S, LEARNING TO WIN IS A PROCESS

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Much has been made about our
club’s record against bad teams vs. good teams this season.  Yes, as one of our beat writers mentioned in
today’s paper, we enter tonight’s game against Boston with a 24-10 record against opponents with
losing marks, compared to 22-36 vs. clubs with winning records.  In my past years in the business, I have
heard this refrain many times before.  To
some, it’s as though our overall record doesn’t really count.  Well, the last I checked,
the Team Standings section list teams in the order of winning percentage.  Period.  There is no column that says “victories over marshmallow
teams.” For what it’s worth, I’ve seen teams advance to the playoffs because they beat the team they were
supposed to.  It’s actually part of the
formula of becoming a winner. 

 

In fact, I think it’s quite
common that a team that is learning how to win first makes the postseason by
simply winning a high percentage of the games against sub .500 opponents.  And once they’ve done that, the next goal is
to hold their own against the league’s best teams.  It’s the same thing about home vs. road
record.   Teams that learn how to win,
learn how to win consistently at home.   Our
A’s are 26-20 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum this year, while 20-26 on
the road.  If we can continue to fashion
wins at home, then become more competitive on foreign soil, we’ll have
concocted the recipe for reaching the playoffs.

 

It may not sound like much,
but the Athletics have posted a 90-90 record over their last 180 games dating
back to last season.  This may be a half
full vs. half empty glass argument, but for me, this is a significant sample
size that represents progress.  Not only
have we played .500 baseball for longer than
a full season, we have done it with one of the youngest rosters in Major League
Baseball–a group of young players who are getting better every day.  The next step is to start posting a winning record, and to do that, we need
to start claiming more games against baseball’s elite.  Riding a five-game winning streak, we start a
six-game homestand against the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox.  Sheets vs. Dice K at 7:05 tonight in a pretty
good matchup.  Could there be a better
time to take the next step?

IF YOU’RE A BASEBALL FAN, HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE ADAM ROSALES?

Despite the prevalence of
red, while and blue over the holiday weekend, my

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focus today is on one player’s
green socks, worn the old school way with the bottom of his gray pants meeting
them just below the knee.   Of course,
the player is
Adam Rosales, the most “baseball
player” of baseball players I know.   To me, it makes perfect sense that our utility
man extraordinaire was in the starting lineup on the 4th of July.  Only more appropriate would have been if he
was starting on the day Abner Doubleday invented our national pastime.  Hot dogs, apple pie and Adam Rosales.  What’s more
American?

 

On this sunny day on the
banks of Lake Erie, Rosales had added incentive
to play well.  His girlfriend, parents
and family live in the area, and Adam wants to make them proud.  And as usual, he also wants to help Oakland win a ball
game.  Giving
Kevin Kouzmanoff a well-deserved rest at third base, Rosie seamlessly
fills in. After popping up to shortstop in the second inning, he laces a single
to left field to lead off the fifth. 
There’s hope he might lengthen the A’s 2-1 edge, but the inning ends on
a double play. 

 

Then in the seventh, Rosales
leads off again, and this time he decides to take things into his own
hands.  He barrels up on a 3-1
Fausto Carmona delivery and the ball soars high above the left
field fence into a wide concourse beyond, giving
Vin Mazzaro and the Athletics’ a pivotal two-run lead.  Of course, all the media in the Progressive
Field press box are thoroughly entertained by Rosales’ patented sprint around
the bases.  My colleague
Susan Slusser, the veteran beat writer of the San Francisco Chronicle, and I notice that Adam’s home run jaunt is
slightly slower than usual.  He’s not dogging it per se, he’s just not setting
a land speed record as usual.  We
speculate he might be slowing down a tad so his girlfriend and her family have
more “Photo Op” time.

 

Our Rosie, however, is a
full service Rosie.   He’s far from
through leaving his fingerprints on this 3-1 victory.  After his solo shot, he returns to the field
in the bottom of the seventh and promptly robs Anderson Hernandez by leaping high
to snare a sure two-out double down the third base line.  And then to provide the game’s final
exclamation point on victory, the A’s superman–I mean, utiltyman–bails closer
Andrew Bailey out of a potential ninth-inning jam by initiating a
game ending around-the-horn double play. 
Typical Rosales.

 

So, as we approach the 2010
All-Star Game in Anaheim,
I’ve got a suggestion for a new Major League promotion that would be a
guaranteed hit.  As baseball continues to
expand and refine All-Star team rosters each season, my question is this:  why not include a special fan voting category
for one utility player for each team in the future?  How much fun would that be?  Real baseball fans know that a great utility
man is a key ingredient to a winning team. 
And the really good ones fit Rosales’ profile:  Great hustler.  Unselfish. 
Skilled at many positions.  Does
all the little things well.  Fan
favorite.  Really, they’re usually the
underdog on a team.  And we all know, America
loves an underdog.  This brings us back to my first paragraph.  If anyone should have been playing on the 4th
of July, it should be Adam Rosales, noted underdog utiltyman and opponent
killer. 

CAHILL, ANDERSON OFFER TWO TALES OF BASEBALL’S ALWAYS UNPREDICTABLE JOURNEY

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Ah, to be so young and
talented.  As I watched cherub-like
Trevor Cahill tower over a group of reporters last night in the
visitor’s clubhouse at Camden Yards after his four-hit masterpiece, it all
seemed so routine for the 22-year-old ace of the A’s 2010 staff.  After polishing off the Orioles, he’s 8-2
with a 2.74 ERA, riding a personal seven-game winning streak, and making a
pretty compelling case for All-Star consideration.  We’ll know if he made the team Sunday at 9
a.m. PDT when Major League Baseball announces the teams.

 

Yet, when I look back to spring
training, nothing seemed routine for the pitcher his teammates good-naturedly
call “Teradactyl” for his hulking, dinosaur-like physique.    Despite leading last year’s club in starts
and innings pitched as a rookie, Trevor was in a battle just to stay in the
rotation.  With the offseason signings of
former All-Stars
Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer, the top two spots in the starting five were pretty
much preordained.  Then add lefthanders
Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson,
both poised for breakout 2010 campaigns, and by midway through our Phoenix camp
it was clear the rotation’s fifth spot would come down to either fast-emerging
southpaw
Gio Gonzalez or Cahill.  While Gio had been our most impressive
starter in camp, Cahill had a rather choppy spring.  In fact, he seemed to fade a bit as decision
time neared for
Billy Beane and David Forst.  And for good reason, as we learned during the
Bay Bridge exhibition series that the big righthander was suffering from a
stress fracture of left scapula (near the front of the left shoulder). 

 

I’ll never forget the scene
in the Coliseum clubhouse the day we announced our final 25-man roster for the
season.  Cahill and Anderson, who seemed
joined at the hip as rookie buddies and roommates last year, were headed
different directions.  Anderson
was penciled in to start the final game of the opening Seattle series.  Cahill, meanwhile, was headed for the 15-day
Disabled List for the first time of his young career.  It was a poignant scene in the clubhouse, as
Cahill and Anderson said their goodbyes. 
There was almost disbelief between them. 
This was supposed to be Year 2 of the Young Phenoms, starring at a Major
League ballpark near you.  I’m sure they
just assumed that was the way it was meant
to be.

 

As the season started, Trevor
rested his unusual injury, then was activated and pitched for Triple-A
Sacramento until the end of April.  During
that month in the minors, Cahill no doubt did some soul searching.  Meanwhile, the other half of Oakland’s extraordinary
22-year-old tandem was flourishing.  Anderson burst out of the gates with back-to-back
scoreless gems against Seattle
to christen the season, allowing only nine hits over 12 innings. But as April
began to wane, the fortunes of Oakland’s
pitching future changed
dramatically.  Three days after mowing
down Cleveland over six innings in a one-run,
three-hit performance, Anderson–and
his 2-1 record and 2.35 ERA–was placed on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow and
forearm on April 27. 

 

Ironically, his baseball soul
mate, Cahill, was recalled and flown to Toronto
three days later on April 30 for his first start of the season.  He flopped badly.  By the time Trevor was lifted after five
innings, he had been carved up for eight runs, including three Blue Jays home
runs.  Auspicious debuts, this was not.  However, before long, Cahill returned to
become the pitcher that showed flashes of greatness last year.  In fact, since that early pratfall across the
border, he’s almost made a mockery of big league hitters, posting an 8-1 record
and 2.22 ERA, parceling out only 47 hits in his last 77.0 innings of work.

 

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So as A’s fans, I suspect
your next question is, “When do Trevor and Brett reunite?”  While it’s been a long path for Anderson in his rehab
process, the good news is we hear he threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session
earlier this week and all went well.  His
next session may even involve hitters. 
If things progress according to plan, the A’s promising lefty-right
combo may be back intact soon after the All-Star Break.  In the meantime, Cahill carries the banner
with an uncommon panache for his young age. 
Enjoy every minute, because it sure seems like Trevor is and of course,
he and Anderson
both realize baseball is anything but routine. 
Adversity, they know from personal experience, can always be just around
the corner.

WHY HASN’T BLUE GOTTEN HALL CONSIDERATION?

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One of the highlights at our
Turn-Back-the-Clock Day was seeing my old friend
Vida Blue again.  “The
Blue Boy,” one of the more friendly and down-to-earth personalities among star
athletes, held court in the A’s dugout prior to Saturday’s game against the
Pirates, along with former teammates
Joe Rudi, Campy Campaneris and Mike Norris.  Sometimes, I think we forget just how
talented those A’s teams were in the 70s. 
In the case of Blue, I have always wondered why his name hasn’t gotten
more serious consideration for Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  The case can still be made.

 

For a younger generation who
has fussed and fawned over the early exploits of the Giants’ two-time Cy Young
Award winner
Tim Lincecum, they may not be
aware that a 21-year-old Vida Blue may have done a better impression of “The
Freak” than even the Freak does.  In 1971,
21-year-old Blue became a national sensation on the mound.  In leading the franchise to its first
postseason berth in 40 years, Vida
posted a 24-8 record and led the American League in ERA (1.82), complete games
(24), shutouts (8) and strikeouts (301). 
Barely drinking age, Blue won the Cy Young Award and also was voted the AL’s Most Valuable
Player.  In fact, he is just the 5th pitcher to win a league MVP
trophy in the last 39 years! 

 

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Yet, it was the way Blue smothered the opposition that
really resonated with baseball fans.  Not
only was he a fan favorite in Oakland,
he was a major gate attraction in every Major League ballpark he pitched
in.  He was so athletic on the mound and
truly a blend of pitchers from the previous decade.  His high leg kick was kind of a cross between
Juan
Marichal
and Warren Spahn, with a fastball that would consistently approach or
hit 100 MPH, he was reminiscent of another lefthander,
Sandy Koufax.  Like Koufax,
the “Blue Blazer” would start waist high to a batter, and then explode upwards
above the letters. 

 

Many veteran sportswriters,
like the San Francisco Chronicle’s
talented
Bruce Jenkins, have spoken about
players “passing the sight test” when it comes to being voted into the Hall of
Fame.  While statistics can tell a story,
you don’t need batting averages or career wins to find a real Hall of Famer.  It’s how they played the game. And that was Vida Blue.  When he took the mound, it was instant
excitement and like all worthy Hall of
Famers, he dominated during his
era.  In some ways, I think Vida has been
the victim of playing on teams with so much talent. It took
Orlando
Cepeda
many years to enter Cooperstown, as voters were reluctant to add another Hall
of Famer from those Giants teams that already featured HOFers
Willie Mays,
Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal
and Gaylord Perry or those Cardinal teams that were anchored by HOFers
Lou
Brock, Bob Gibson
and Steve Carlton.  Same for Tony Perez, who deserved enshrinement for years but was hurt by
the presence of
Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Pete Rose on those magnificent Big Red Machine clubs. 

 

Had Blue not become a
contract holdout prior to the 1972 season, who knows what kind of numbers he
might have recorded as a follow-up to his eye-popping 1971 MVP campaign?  As it was, his first start of 1972 did not
happen until May 28 and he struggled to a 6-10 mark.  That being said, Vida still went on to scroll
career statistics and honors that certainly should require closer Hall of Fame
examination, even at this late date. 
Consider this:

 

  • Blue was a 20-game winner three times over a
    five-year period, also boasting
    20-9 and 22-11 seasons in 1973 and 1975,
    respectively.

 

  • He was a six-time All-Star and finished in the
    Top 7 in ERA and Cy Young voting five times during his career.

 

  • Vida threw one no-hitter (1970), one combined
    no-hitter (1975), and three one-hitters (1970, 1971 and 1976) during his career.

 

  • He still leads
    the Oakland
    A’s in career shutouts (28), strikeouts (1,315), complete games (105) and
    innings pitched (1,946), and ranks second in career victories (124) to
    Hall of Famer
    Jim “Catfish” Hunter.

 

  • And, of course, he also was a key pitcher on
    three consecutive World Series championship teams in 1972-74.

 

But if that isn’t enough
proof that Vida may very well belong in Hall of Fame, take a look at his career
statistics as they compare to some other pitchers who already have plaques in Cooperstown.  Blue
compiled a 209-161 record and 3.27 ERA in his career.  The Dodgers’
Don Drysdale posted a 209-166 lifetime mark.  Jim Bunning
was 224-184 with an identical 3.27 ERA. 
Robin Roberts went 286-245 with a 3.41 ERA.  Even Catfish’s numbers, while slightly
better, are comparable:  224-166, 3.26
ERA.  And while Koufax’s career was sadly
cut short due to severe arthritis, Blue posted 44 more victories, six more
complete games and only three less shutouts than the Dodger southpaw.

 

Some critics of Blue’s
candidacy might point to his 1-5 record and 4.31 ERA in postseason play during
his career.  But to hold that against him
would be like dismissing others who had brilliant regular season showings but
yet-than-stellar playoff performances (Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Cepeda, to
name a few). And it should be noted that Blue only allowed 55 hits in 64.2
innings in those playoff games. 

 

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Others may  suggest, even if under their breath, that Vida
has not gotten serious Hall of Fame consideration due to his well-documented
battle with personal demons, during his 17-year career.  Perhaps, that theory has some validity.  Yet, if voters–even the Veterans Committee–are
dismissing Blue as a bona fide Hall of Famer because it’s “a character issue,”
I say this:  what really is
character?  Is it being human and making
mistakes, or is getting up off the ground and overcoming those mistakes?  Like all of us, Vida is not perfect.  He has made his share of miscues, both on and
off the field.  But I’ve know him for
nearly 20 years, and I am aware of the countless good deeds he has done in this
community.  He has served Northern
California’s youth well, visiting schools, hospitals and playgrounds, sharing
his powerful message that even a former Cy Young and MVP winner can make mistakes
which could have a profound impact on your life.  However, unlike some teachers or speakers,
when Vida talks to these teenagers, he bravely offers himself as a real-world
example.

 

So, when you see Vida Blue
at the Oakland Coliseum at an Old-Timers or Turn-Back-the-Clock day, don’t
forget just how great the kid from Mansfield,
La. was.  I was there back in 1971 and I witnessed it
first hand.  He was truly one of the
all-time greats.

BASEBALL RUNS THROUGH THE VEINS OF ST. LOUISANS

When I think of St. Louis, it reminds me of the old Texas football line.  “We have two sports here.  Football and Spring Football.”  Well, when
it comes to the Gateway
City, the only sport that
really matters is baseball. 

 

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Never did I realize it more
than when I took the PR job with the NFL St. Louis Cardinals in 1986.  A quick glance at the St. Louis Post Dispatch said it all.  It was the middle of December, we’re
playing the Philadelphia Eagles at the old Busch Stadium, and smack dab at the
top of the sports page, there’s an offseason story about the baseball Cardinals’ manager Whitey
Herzog and the lineup he’s contemplating for Opening Day, which by the way, is
still four months away!

 

And why not?  When you’ve won 10 World Series titles in
your history and paraded the likes of Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Dizzy Dean,
Rogers Hornsby, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and Bob Gibson in Cardinal uniforms
through the years, it’s no wonder an entire region of the Midwest becomes
baseball crazy. And like the Bay Area, Cardinals fans have been blessed with
some classic broadcast voices over the past century…..Harry Caray, Dizzy Dean,
Joe Garagiola, Milo Hamilton, Red Rush, and of course, the voice of Redbird baseball, booming over the powerful airwaves
of KMOX Radio, the late, great Jack Buck. 

 

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So, for those of you A’s
fans attending this weekend’s games at the new Busch Stadium–or even those
watching on Comcast SportsNet California–the atmosphere will feel more like a
college football game than a typical major league contest.  The fans, who flock from as far away as Louisville, Indianapolis or
Memphis, will
all be wearing red gear, head to toe.  These
red-clad faithful literally take over downtown St. Louis several hours before a game.  Teams used to stay at the Marriott across the
street from the stadium, but the hotel lobby was insane.  Fans everywhere, waiting for players to sign
autographs or merely passing the time by sipping a lager brewed blocks away by
the town’s legendary beer company.  No
question, Cardinal fans are as knowledgeable as any in the country.  But there’s almost a time warp feeling about
a game in St. Louis,
a kind of navet really.  It could just
as easily be the 1950s and Stan the Man is stepping to the plate.

 

Thank goodness the days of
that awful Astroturf at the old Busch Stadium are gone, however.  As a visiting team, there was nothing more
maddening than watching Willie McGee hit a soft single to right center that
just picked up speed and rolled itself into a standup triple.  Or your pitcher, nursing a one-run lead in
the ninth, jamming Ken Reitz with a fastball, yet somehow his routine grounder
sprouted eyes and found a hole to the outfield for a game-tying single.  Of course, now visiting teams only have to
contend with three-time MVP Albert Pujols, former A’s slugger Matt Holiday and
perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter. 
Good luck!

A’S VISIT TWO BASEBALL MECCAS THIS WEEK

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If you bring up the merits
of interleague baseball, you’re likely to be bombarded by many divergent
views.  There are those who love the unique
matchups and rare appearances, yet there are those who believe the AL vs. NL concept–DH or
no DH–has run its course and may not be worth compromising the integrity of a
schedule.  I’m not here today to fuel the
debate either way.  I’m here today to
revel in one of the A’s best road trips of the season, or any season.  

 

Starting with tonight’s game
in “the friendly confines” of Wrigley Field, Oakland visits two of baseball’s
greatest bastions in Chicago and St. Louis–cities where baseball is king.  In my past years in the game, I have had the
pleasure of working many games in each city. 
For A’s fans attending their first games at Wrigley, you’re in for a
real treat.  Yes, there is the brick and
the ivy and the organ music, but there’s a lot more.  It starts outside the park.  The pre-game vibe spills out onto the streets
surrounding Wrigley.   Stops at the famed
Cubby Bear Lounge on Addison
Street or Bernie’s Tavern on Clark
are mandatory. 

 

In fact, when I was working
for another major league team, an unnamed broadcaster and I actually left the
premises during a fourth-inning rain delay and sampled a fine local ale at
Bernie’s while engaging with die-hard Cubs

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fans in a heated conversation about
whether Mark Grace was a future Hall of Famer. And, of course, there are
Chicago-style hot dog places everywhere you look.  The name escapes me, but my favorite was
located on a strand of property right next to Wrigley.  Beyond the onions, peppers and pickles, what
I remember most was this bright relish that was a cross between nuclear and
neon green.  My buddy knew the joint’s
owner and he would buy a five gallon jug of the stuff every time he visited to
take back home to the Bay Area. 

 

Of course, one of the
privileges of being a PR man is your experience carries over to the press box,
and the view of Wrigley from on top is spectacular.  You see the ivy walls, the high-rise
buildings and Lake Michigan beyond, and in my
case, it also gave me a chance to say hello to an old friend, the long-time
radio voice of the Cubbies, Pat Hughes.  We
both laugh when recalling our early days, when I was Stanford’s Sports Information
Director and he was a skinny, wet-behind-the-ears young broadcaster doing college
baseball and volleyball on San Jose-based Gill Cable TV, a forerunner of Fox
Sports and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. 

 

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Besides working with the
ever excitable Ron Santo in the booth, Hughes has earned his own place in the
hearts of Cubs’ fans with his professional yet somewhat folksy style of
announcing.  I’ve had so many memories of
Wrigley Field over the years:

 

  • Meeting Bill Murray in the press
    box as he was warming up for his “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” extravaganza in
    the seventh inning, that wonderful Cubs’ tribute to the late, great Harry Caray
  • Watching Chicago fans on Mitch Williams Poster Day
    shower the field with a poster of his likeness after he blew a ninth-inning
    save
  • The love affair Cubs fans
    once had for Sammy Sosa as he repeatedly launched home runs onto Waveland Avenue. 

 

In fact, speaking of Sosa,
I’ll share a little anecdote that ESPN’s Chris Berman once shared with me.  As Sammy was posting cartoonish offensive
numbers in 1998, there were some who thought Sosa would not only exceed Roger
Maris’ home run mark of 61 but also had a legitimate shot at reaching Hack
Wilson’s RBI mark of 191.  Wilson, a fireplug (5-6,
195) of a man, was with the Cubs when all games at Wrigley were played during
the day.  While it was baseball in its
purest form, those day games posed a problem for many a Cub player.  The notorious nightlife of Chicago cheated some major leaguers of not
only hours of sleep but perhaps years off their careers.   Although
some night baseball had been introduced at Wrigley by 1998, Berman assured Sosa
that Wilson’s
record was safe:  “Sammy, you will never
accomplish what Hack did.”    “No, no, Boomer, I really think I can do it,”
Sosa pleaded.  Berman, shaking his head
for effect, responded, “No you can’t Sammy. 
Hack didn’t just drive in 191 runs in a season.  His record is driving in 191 runs with a
hangover!”

 

Later this week, I’ll share
with you some thoughts and memories about the A’s next stop, the Gateway City
of St. Louis.

THE HIDDEN WEAPON OF YOUR 2010 A’S

Even though our road trip
finale at Fenway Park may have resembled pinball more than baseball–a combined 17
runs and 32 hits spewed off the bats of the A’s and Red Sox–I’m here today to
discuss the most unsung facet of our team: 
d-e-f-e-n-s-e.

 

In this new age of baseball,
where power hitting is declining and there’s a resurgence of dominant pitching,
it would appear that general managers like Billy
Beane are placing a higher premium on speed and defense.  You may not see a remix of the Los Angeles
Dodgers, circa 1963, or the St. Louis Cardinals, circa 1985.  However, over the course of a 162-game
schedule, we should not underestimate the value of great glove work. 

It can and will make a profound impact on the final
standings.  As I mentioned in an early
offseason blog, the acquisitions of Kevin Kouzmanoff and Coco Crisp signaled a
clear sign that Billy was making every effort to fortify our defense.  And, judging by our current team fielding
percentage, not to mention the improved range of many of our fielders, this new
emphasis is paying big dividends and, perhaps, helps explain how we’re flying
home tonight tied for first place in the AL West.

 

After all, look around the
infield–Kouz has reeled off 24 consecutive errorless games and seems to make all the tough plays at third base,
especially with runners in scoring position and the game on the line.  Cliff Pennington is a fielding machine at SS,
ranking third in the AL
in fielding percentage in his first full season with the team.  Mark Ellis owns one of the best career
fielding percentages for a second baseman in major league history, and when he
was on the DL this year, Adam Rosales was nothing short of brilliant as his
replacement, joining Dustin Pedroia as the only two second basemen in the
majors yet to make an error this season. 
And while Daric Barton has seven errors pinned to his name, that does
not tell the whole story.  He’s made
spectacular plays daily–he may turn the 3-6-3 double play as well as anyone in
baseball–and has also been an ironman in starting every game this year.  Then you look behind the plate and see
Suzuki.  Enough said. 

 

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And while we would be exceptional
if Crisp was healthy and patrolling center field, manager Bob Geren still runs out one of the league’s better
defensive outfields in Rajai Davis in center, Ryan Sweeney in right, and Gabe
Gross in left.  Sweeney was a human
highlight reel last year, and while he hasn’t been quite as spectacular this
season, he’s been every bit as effective with his polished play and rifle arm
in right.  Davis simply outruns the baseball in center. 
He also sports a very underrated throwing arm, not only in strength but
also in accuracy.  And Gross has been a
revelation in left during the road trip. 
His leaping over-the-fence robbery of a certain home run by Gerald Laird
in Detroit Saturday, and then his on-the-money throw that cut down Brennan
Boesch in the Tigers’ finale were both defensive gems.  And when he replaced a woozy Sweeney midway
through yesterday’s finale, Gabe uncorked another beauty that cut down Darnell
McDonald trying to score from second on a single. In fact, he became only the 4th
outfielder in last 20 years to have an assist from two different OF positions in the
same game!

 

Add this kind of stellar
defense to an emerging young pitching staff that, despite a few bumps on the
road trip, must be considered one of the AL’s
best, and timely hitting may be all required for this club to stay in playoff
contention.  Yes, playoff contention.

 

Stay tuned.

WINS THAT GALVANIZE A TEAM

 

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        The rain we dodged during
the game last night at Camden Yards is now pounding our charter plane as we get
ready to take off for Detroit.  As I peer out the window from Row 4, Seat A,
I become a little reflective in reliving the rather miraculous five-run rally
we mounted in the seventh inning against the Orioles which snatched victory
from the jaws of defeat.  Yes, it was
only one win, but I’ve learned over the years that this is the type of stirring
comeback that can galvanize a team. 

 

Ron Romanick,
our personable bullpen coach, said as much while we were chatting on the bus to
the airport.  “These are the kind of games
that can make a team closer,” he said, looking a little wilted from the Maryland humidity. Our
guys knew this was a big opening series to the road trip, with Detroit
and Boston
looming, it was critical that we won this series.  With the team trailing 5-2 after seven
innings in the rubber match tonight, the script wasn’t exactly going as
planned. 

 

There
had been some good signs surface in the game, though, as two hitting droughts came
to a merciful end. 
Gabe Gross snapped a personal 52-game homerless streak with a
two-run bomb to straight away center field and
Mark Ellis drilled a sharp single to center to halt a 0-for-16
dry spell.  Yet, things turned south in the
seventh when
Tyson Ross was summoned in relief
of
Gio
Gonzalez
.  Ross, who has been a revelation in his rookie
campaign, hit the inevitable skid that affects every reliever at some point
during the season; he faced four batters and all reached base. 

 

Kouz.jpg

He
might have been the goat of the game, had it not been for his A’s teammates who
picked him up by puncturing the Orioles’ bubble in the eighth with a five-run
explosion keyed by
Kevin Kouzmanoff’s bases-loaded
double.  Again, it was a team win, and beyond
Gross, Ellis and Kouz,
Adam Rosales
continued to shine in his “Where’s Waldo” utility role, making some difficult
plays at shortstop. 
Kurt Suzuki gunned out a would-be base stealer and then
contributed an infield single just prior to Kouzmanoff’s 3-RBI blast.  The bullpen stalwarts,
Craig Breslow and closer Andrew Bailey
made like old times, preserving the win with some stifling relief pitching in
the final two innings.  

 

So
on the short term, we depart for a challenging four-game set in the Motor City,
having won five of our last six and perched two games over the .500 mark.  But on the long term, this is the kind of
dramatic win that could propel us to better times ahead.  If we’re still in the playoff hunt come
September–certainly a worthy goal for this still young and developing team–I
suspect we will look back to May 27 and the night we dodged thunderstorms and certain
defeat by coming off the deck to win like champions.  Perhaps it was an early sign that the tide is
turning for Oakland
A’s baseball and our young boys are becoming men.  Of course, as the old baseball adage goes, I
can’t get too high after wins or too low after losses.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

BRADEN LATEST IN LONG LIST OF COLORFUL CHARACTERS (part 2 of 2)

Today we continue with part 2 of this two-part blog:

Thumbnail image for Sid.jpg6) Sid Gillman,
LA Express Coach–
Gillman was a
football legend before he ever arrived in the USFL late in his coaching
career.  Called “The Father of
Passing Offense” dating back to his early AFL years with the San Diego
Chargers and Houston Oilers, Gillman’s brilliant mind was only matched by
his impatience.  When
John Hadl, his former QB pupil, was named head coach of
the Express, he soon hired Gillman as an offensive consultant.  After watching film of current LA
players, he soon informed Hadl that the team was lacking speed at the wide
receiver position.  The next week,
the team flies in two fleet-footed receivers from the Philadelphia area upon Gilman’s
request.  He lines them up at the
Express’ practice facilities in Manhattan
Beach and blows his whistle to signal the start
of a 40-yard test.  Twenty yards
into the sprint, Gilman is not pleased by the time he sees on his
stopwatch.  He abruptly swirls
around and walks back towards his office, leaving the two hopeful
receivers with 20 yards left to their test.  “Get ‘em on the next flight back to
Philly.  They’re not fast
enough.”

7) Greg Fields,
LA Express Sack Leader–
Another
entertaining chapter from my LA Express tenure involved former Grambling
defensive end Greg Fields.  The 6-6,
275-pound lineman had led the Express in sacks in its 1983 charter season,
yet many former USC players on LA’s defensive unit were getting more local
media coverage due to their college affiliation in the local market.  Fields, an imposing figure, always came
up to me on the practice field or in my office to complain about his lack
of coverage.  “Hey Pub Man, get me
some pub.  That’s all he would ever say.  I’m not sure he ever knew my real
name.  However, as LA’s second
season rolled around, the team had vastly improved by winning
several battles with the NFL in luring some of the nation’s top collegians
to the Express.  On the Wednesday
leading up to the 1984 opener, it was decided that the one-dimensional
Fields no longer deserved a spot on the roster.  Coach Hadl called him into his office to
break the news.  Fields, while
holding a carton of chocolate milk, sucker punched the head coach.  Hadl fell to the floor, then got up
swinging.  His black eye
unavoidable, the Los Angeles Times and
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
reported the story in their next day’s editions.  All I could think was, “Hey Fields, I
guess the Pub Man finally got you some pub.”

Colin.jpg8) Colin Scotts,
St. Louis Football Cardinals’ Defensive End –
Colin Scotts was a publicist’s dream.  Born in Sydney, Australia,
the son of an owner of silver mines and a national Aussie Football
schoolboy star, the 6-5, 260-pound Scots became the first player from Down
Under to play in the National Football League.  When the Cardinals drafted him and I saw
footage of some of his games at the University of Hawaii,
I almost flipped.  Not only had he
applied his rugby skills to American football by becoming one of the
NCAA’s sack leaders, but Scotts had perfected his post-sack celebrations
like few before him.  As he
described to the St. Louis
media upon arriving at training camp, “Yes mates, I like to have a good
time and celebrate my sacks.” 
Primarily, he had three distinct maneuvers after his sacks.  As he sat with the writers watching some
of his Hawaii highlights, he said, “This is called my kangaroo hop,” as he placed his hands together, wrist down,
chest high in front of him like a kangaroo, while he took a little hop
with his feet close to each other.  “This next one, I call the crocodile yawn,” a move that
required him to stand erect over the fallen quarterback, both arms
together extended straight out, then separating the arms as if opening a
crocodile’s mouth before quickly snapping the arms–or mouth–shut
again.  “And the last one here I
call the koala bear cuddle,” as
the film showed him mockingly put a hug around an imaginary
QB.  Safe to say, I will never
forget
Colin Scotts. (For more info on Scotts check out this YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58v5xnChzEM)


Beck.jpg9) Rod Beck,
Giants Closer–
Bay Area baseball
fans are well aware of the scraggly-haired mustachioed closer of the
Giants they called “Shooter.”  The
late, great
Rod Beck did a better
impression of “The Wild Thing” than
Charlie Sheen did in playing the famed character in the movie, Major League,
years later.  The right arm,
dangling back and forth on the mound. 
The cold stare from the mound. 
And that nasty split-fingered fastball that seemed to fall off the
proverbial table whenever Shooter needed a key strikeout.  After the game, win or lose, save or
blown save, you could always count on Beck to be at his locker, beer in
one hand, a cig in the other, available for quotes for the media no matter
what the situation.  Yet while Beck exuded
that every-common-man persona, as well as a Mr. Tough Guy image, what I
remember most about Rod was how sensitive and kind-hearted he was.  When I co-founded “Until There’s A Cure
Day,” an event where the Giants became the first professional sports team
to become associated with the AIDS epidemic, we had real concerns about
whether any players would support the cause.  I remember Rod Beck and his wife,
Stacey, never hesitating, which cleared the way for other Giants players
to shed their macho image and lend a hand. 
One afternoon, I took Beck and young shortstop
Royce Clayton to a San
Francisco high school to address a student
assembly about the dangers of HIV. 
Rod finished his short, heart-felt speech by saying, “Last year at
the first Until There’s A Cure Day” I volunteered to read the names on the
AIDS Quilt of people who had lost their lives to AIDS.  It was so sad.”  Then he paused for a minute, trying to
gather himself while fighting back a tear from his eye.  Still choked up, he finished by pointing
his finger at the teenagers in the crowd. 
“I don’t ever want to
read your names on a quilt.”  With
that, the Shooter returned to the Stick to close out another game.


Braden.jpg10) Dallas Braden,
A’s Starter
– To understand Dallas’
character, charms and uniqueness read my previous blog entry “FEEDING THE
MEDIA BEAST IS A FULL-TIME JOB” or read some of the 1000s of words which
have been written about him since his Perfect Game on May 9th!

 

(Blogger’s
Note:  I hope you enjoyed some of
the colorful characters of my past and didn’t feel I was a wee bit overindulgent.  It was not my intent.  I must admit, though, it was fun rekindling
past memories with this exercise!)

BRADEN LATEST IN LONG LIST OF COLORFUL CHARACTERS

As the nation was formally
introduced to our beloved
Dallas Braden
during the Perfect Game Media Tour these past weeks, it got me thinking about
all the colorful characters I’ve had the privilege to work with during my career
in sports PR.  While Dallas is truly one of the most unique
athletes I have ever encountered–(Do you know
anyone else who has a mustache tattoo
imprinted on their index finger!?)–the one common thread to all the sports
teams and leagues I’ve worked for is each has featured charismatic
personalities.  It’s why you’ll never get
bored in this industry.  So in tribute to
Braden’s recent appearance on Late Night
with David Letterman
, here’s my all-time Top 10 List of colorful characters
I’ve worked with over the years (including Braden). Today we’re going to
discuss the first 5, and tomorrow we’ll bring you 6-10.

 

  1. tex.jpgTex Schramm,
    World League President–
    Tex, who
    launched the NFL’s international league after building a legacy as the
    architect of “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, was kind of the
    John Wayne of pro sports. 
    A PR and marketing genius, Schramm was oblivious that there was a
    world outside of football.  As his
    PR man, I once accompanied him on a trip to Milan
    where he was attempting to establish a World League franchise in Italy.  We drove out to the small town of Monza one day to inspect a possible playing venue and
    Tex’s
    frustrations bubbled to the surface. 
    He started grumbling for no apparent reason.  Same thing later that evening as he was
    perusing a menu at a Milan
    restaurant.  I finally asked him,
    “What’s wrong.  You’ve been in a
    fowl mood all day.”  Schramm, still visibly
    disgruntled, responded, “Gee, Rose, everything
    here is in Italian!  Traffic signs, menus, everything!”  After digesting what I had just heard, I
    just kind of blurted it out…..”Tex, we’re
    in Italy!”

 

  1. Eddie “Meat
    Cleaver” Weaver, LA Express Defensive Tackle–
    Eddie was the type of character that a new
    football league attracts.  He had a
    decent college pedigree, having starred at Georgia on the Bulldog teams
    that featured Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.  But it wasn’t his football playing that
    left the strongest impression.  It
    was his uncanny resemblance to Laurence Tureaud,
     better known as “Mr. T” in mid-80’s hit TV
    series, “The A-Team.”  Of course,
    underneath that tough guy exterior was a real teddy bear.  But he did love to intimidate when the
    opportunity presented itself.  One
    afternoon at our weekly luncheon with the Los Angeles area media, Weaver was a featured
    guest.  A rather inexperienced
    female correspondent for ABC Radio posed an innocent question to Meat
    Cleaver when he took the podium. 
    “Eddie, with skill position players like
    Steve Young getting all the media attention, do you ever
    feel someone like you is under appreciated?” 
    Mr. Weaver, in his best Mr. T impression, cast a stare at her,
    penetrating her very soul.  Then,
    retaining his fearsome scowl, responded, “What do you mean, skeeeeeeeel position?”  At this point, the reporter was shaking
    in her shoes.  Eddie, knowing he had
    her right where he wanted her, then cracked a big smile and the entire
    room burst into laughter.

 

  1. Zuber.jpegBob Zuber,
    Pepperdine Baseball Coach–
    While
    this may not be an obvious choice on the Rose character list, the more I
    think back to my early college days, the more “Zube” deserves to make the
    cut.  He arrived at Pepperdine as an
    assistant coach after a long stint at USC under legendary Trojan head
    coach
    Rod Dedeaux.  What set Zuber apart from any other
    coach was he was the absolute best
    bench jockey I had ever seen. 
    Normally, it would be players who traded barbs with the opposing
    players or hurled barbs at the team’s pitcher.  Not Zuber.  As far as he was concerned, baseball was
    mental warfare, and there was nothing off limits.  Over the course of a game, he would work
    himself into a real frenzy, almost in a scary kind of way. “Hey meat, you
    know everyone’s watching you so don’t
    stare
    in this dugout!” he would shout as a visiting batter would step
    into the box.  Then it would really
    get good.  “What’s it gonna be?  Fastball?  Curve? Change-up?  I
    don’t know….fastball, curve, changeup! 
    I don’t know!” 
    This
    would go all game long, and he’d get louder and louder.  Zube was a classic.

 

  1. Straw.jpgDarryl
    Strawberry, Giants Outfielder–
    One
    of the nicest guys I have ever met in sports, Strawberry had just returned
    from a drug rehab stint and seemed to be finally getting his life back in
    order.  He joined the Giants in
    mid-season and I asked his old PR director, the Mets’
    Jay Horwitz, what kind of guy he was.  I still remember Jay’s response, “Darryl
    is a real sweetheart.  Not a bad bone
    in his body.  He wants to please
    everybody.”  How true those words
    were.  As we tried to manage his
    media exposure during this recovery period as he tried to reestablish his
    baseball career, we told him we would have a full-blown, ask-anything
    media conference at Candlestick Park when he arrived, then we would limit
    media access to only post-game interviews about baseball and nothing
    else.  Everything seemed to go well
    for a few weeks, but I spoke to Darryl just prior to our Mets series in New York.  I told him that it was really important
    that he stick to our policy and not do any pre-game interviews, because if
    he did, then all bets would be off and it would be open season by the New York
    writers.  Straw assured me he would
    follow our instructions.  Then the
    first day at Shea Stadium, I arrive about four hours before the game,
    anticipating there might be a crowd that would gather at Darryl’s
    locker.  Well, as soon as I step foot inside the visitors’
    clubhouse, there’s
    Steve Serby, the Post’s veteran columnist,
    notebook in hand and holding an animated conversation with the former
    Mets’ superstar.  I politely
    interrupted the two of them and pulled Darryl aside.  “Darryl, what are you doing?  Didn’t we agree that you wouldn’t do any
    pre-game interviews?”  Shaking his
    head sheepishly, he said, “Hey man, I’m sorry.  It’s just that I’ve known Steve a long
    time and didn’t want to hurt his feelings.” 

 

  1. Thumbnail image for Margerum.jpgKen Margerum,
    Stanford All-American–
    On the other
    end of those majestic
    John Elway passes, Margerum was one of the greatest wide receivers in
    Stanford history.  And much like
    Braden, he was one of the greatest free spirits I ever publicized.  Sharing an upstairs’ quarters in a
    dilapidated house at the campus track with classmate
    Ivan Maisel, who would go on to Sports Illustrated and ESPN fame, Margerum was equally known
    for his adventuresome spirit. 
    Probably one of the first-ever wind surfers in American history,
    Kenny used to drive head football coach
    Paul Wiggin nuts by deciding it was safe to wind surf under
    the Bay Bridge while San Francisco gusts of wind would reach 30 or 40
    MPH.  And while Stanford is known
    for churning out fine student-athletes, Margerum was a category unto
    himself.  He was the first Stanford
    student-teacher-athlete, as he
    was the university’s first windsurfing instructor.  In a rare flash of genius, I pitched his
    windsurfing story to the Boston
    Globe
    when Stanford visiting Boston College one season and can
    honestly say, I remain the only PR guy to score a photo of an All-American
    football player gliding along Lake Laquinitas on a surfboard in a major
    national newspaper!

Tomorrow, in the Clubhouse Confidential, we’ll return with numbers 6-10, so check back in!

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