Results tagged ‘ Billy Beane ’

Postcard #3 from the GM Winter Meetings

For many of you following
the A’s negotiations with agent
Don Nomura,
who represented Japanese All-Star pitcher
Hisashi Iwakuma, our announcement released late last night should not have come as much
of a surprise.  As our local media–as
well as dozens of reporters for national and Tokyo outlets in his homeland–had
chronicled during the exclusive 30-day negotiating period, prospects for
signing the Rakuten right-hander were in doubt from the early going.  


That said, I do believe both Mr. Nomura and
the A’s brain trust headed by
Billy Beane and David Forst,
made every effort to close the gap and reach an agreement.  I know this does not appease
many of you fans who are hoping Oakland becomes a player on the free agent or
trade market this winter.  My response to
you is this:  First, don’t forget we have
already upgraded ourselves with the acquisition of outfielder
David DeJesus, someone who was heavily pursued by several teams last
year prior to the trading deadline until a thumb injury ended his season.  Second, the A’s still have currency to invest
in new players, whether they come via the free agent market or trades.  Certainly, the mega deals struck by
Jason Werth and Adrian Gonzalez, both way north of $100
million, does not help the A’s or any small market team’s cause, but that’s not
to say there are not deals out there to be made for legitimate
middle-of-the-order hitters.  Third, let
me remind all of us that it is only Dec. 8. 
There’s a lot of territory to cover between now and the season, so let’s
try to be patient and see what develops in the coming months.  Clearly, Billy and David have identified
their needs, and I can attest from first-hand knowledge that they are burning
the midnight oil in attempts to add critical pieces to our 2011 team.

 

One of the warmer moments of
this year’s Winter Meetings happened this morning, when Commissioner
Bud Selig paid tribute to four legendary managers, who retired
after this past season. 
Joe Torre, Lou
Pinella
and Cito Gaston were present at the media conference here, but
Braves’ executive
John Schuerholz had to pinch-hit
for
Bobby
Cox
, who missed the festivities due to a
family medical emergency.  I was in the
audience, along with many other baseball people who wanted to pay their
respects to four men who have meant so much to this game.  It was truly a unique press conference,
really more of a coronation than an interrogation by the media corps.  I give credit to the Commissioner and League
PR man Pat Courtney for providing this platform for a newsworthy event.  


From my past years in the NFL, I always
marveled at how the late, great
Pete Rozelle
would always have news in his back pocket whenever needed at these annual media
events.  A former PR director himself,
Rozelle knew full well that you needed to “feed the beast” because if
journalists spend the money to cover the meetings, their bosses expect
news.  By adding these staged events, it
just helps media justify the expense whether there a many signings or trades
that happen to hit during the meetings or not. 
In listening to the three managers in attendance, it struck me how much
they had in common beyond career victories and championships.  


One of the common threads was their love for
the game.  Torre shared how to him,
“baseball is always brand new.  I still
get goose bumps when a game is played.” 
After spending some years in the sport, I think I understand what he’s
saying.  And of the great ones I’ve known
or observed, they all brought energy, passion and yes, love, for the game every
day of their lives. 
Rickey Henderson,
Willie Mays, Dennis Eckersley
, Reggie Jackson all had that same trait.

 

One of the trademark scenes
in our league PR Meetings each year is when you notice certain team’s PR staffs
absent during presentations.  Normally, I
can tell you which clubs are about to make news announcements based on who’s
missing at their seats.  This morning,
Jay Alves of the Colorado Rockies was absent.  I thought maybe he had just had a long night
celebrating after being named this year’s recipient of the Robert Fishel Award,
which honors a member of the MLB public relations fraternity for a lifetime of
exemplary service.  Jay once sat in my
seat with the Athletics during the Haas Family Era, and it was great to see him
get the award and even more impressive to see how humble Jay was and how he
thanked so many people in his life.  Some
had Oakland A’s connections, including current A’s Director of Team Travel
Mickey Morabito and former club mainstays, Hall of Fame broadcaster Lon Simmons and marketing executive Andy Dolich.  


Jay opened
his acceptance speech at the PR reception last night by illustrating the wide
range of experiences and responsibilities that go with his job as a baseball PR
man.  First, he comically recalled the
time when the team brought a real elephant
on the Coliseum field as a pre-game promotion. 
“Before long, I noticed that the elephant was taking his trunk and
sucking up huge grass divots.  The media
wanted to know why there were so many extra ‘on-deck circles’ near the A’s
dugout!”  Then Jay, on a more somber
note, told us how the family of
Keli McGregor
asked him to write his eulogy when the Rockies’ president suddenly died in a Salt Lake City hotel room
last April.  The obvious disparity between
these light and heavy moments did demonstrate, however, just how wide
the scope of our jobs is.  


So, when I saw
Jay absent this morning, I thought either he was out late last night, or like
many PR people, he was back in his hotel room preparing a press release to
announce a trade or free agent signing. 
Then when I went on line during our meeting break, I read on MLB.com
that Alves’ manager
Jim Tracy had collapsed near
hotel elevators around 1 a.m. this morning, and was now resting comfortable at
a nearby Orlando
hospital.  Jay, along with former A’s
star infielder (and now Rockies’ coach)
Carney Lansford, had been with Tracy
when it occurred.  And it was Jay who
would serve the normal PR function hours later when he served as a spokesperson
about the incident.  Thankfully, it
appears Tracy
will be okay.  And for Alves, he can mark
it up as yet another unique experience in this crazy profession.  

DEFENSE COULD BE TRADEMARK OF 2010 A’S

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When the A’s consummated the
Kevin
K
ouzmanoff (right) trade with the San Diego
Padres last week, most pundits nodded
and offered the obvious analysis.  Oakland
had, indeed, found a much n
eeded middle-of-the-order hitter for their 2010
lineup.  Afterall, the 6-1, 210-pound
slugger has averaged 20 home runs, 31 doubles and 82 RBI over the last three

seasons despite playing home games at San Diego’s
pitcher-friendly Petco
Park. 


But what may have gone unnoticed is GM Billy
Beane
has acquired yet
another key defensive piece to the roster. 
Kouzmanoff, admittedly an inconsistent fielder in his early days, has
blossomed into one of baseball’s best defensive players at the hot corner.  Last year, he set a National League record
for fielding percentage (.990) by a third baseman, committing only three errors all season long.  Think about that for minute.  Playing one of the toughest positions on the
diamond, he was charged with only three
errors!  Remarkable. 


Yet, the Kouzmanoff acquisition signals more
than the addition of a good, all-around player. 
It represents another step in Beane’s rather unheralded plan to build an
outstanding defensive team in 2010.  Consider
this:  the A’s infield now features two
deserving Gold Glove candidates in Kouzmanoff and second baseman
Mark Ellis–not to mention an on-the-mend Eric Chavez, who has already won six Gold Gloves–plus speedy
shortstop
Cliff Pennington, who reeled off
an errorless streak of 35 consecutive games last year in earning the starting
job, and
Daric Barton, who was a
revelation at first base last season with a .998 fielding mark.  Meanwhile, the starting outfield, as its
constituted today, features two spectacular speed burners in
Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp
in left and center (or vice versa), and
Ryan Sweeney, the human highlight reel who tied for fourth in the
American League in outfield assists (11) last year, in right.  Then add team leader
Kurt Suzuki behind the plate–he led all 2009 AL catchers in
games played and game started, and ranked second in assists–and there’s every
reason to believe Oakland will field one of the better defensive units in the
league. 


Perhaps that fact won’t resonate
with everyone since defense is clearly the least
sexy aspect of baseball.  But if that
underappreciated side of the game leads to the A’s shaving half a run off our
pitching staff’s ERA, don’t be surprised if that change in run differential
results in more victories this season.  
So as you watch the remaining NFL playoff games this month leading to
February’s Super Bowl, maybe you should take that age-old football cheer to
heart, and adopt it at the Coliseum this summer…..Let’s hear it:  “Defense! 
Defense!  Defense”!

POSTCARD #3 FROM THE BASEBALL WINTER MEETINGS

As promised–or was that predicted?–all was quiet on the
Athletics’ front during the first full day of the Winter Meetings.  Last night the media met with
Billy
Beane
for their
initial Q&A  session with our GM.  The A’s suite is always full of baseball
personnel, from assistant GM
David Forst
and director of baseball operations
Farhan Zaidi, to director of player personnel Billy Owens and director of scouting Eric Kubota.  Head
athletic trainer
Steve (Soupy) Sayles also stopped
by during our session, sporting a new mustache and goatee, prompting Billy to
quip, “Hey, it’s Fu Man Soup!” 

 

In observing Billy at Winter
Meetings since I joined the A’s, I find him to be highly entertaining and
accommodating to the media even when he really has no hard news to offer
them.  That, to me, is an art form.  At the same time, Billy is incredibly honest
with his intentions.  He told the writers
that we most likely would spend most of our efforts talking with player agents
here who represent free agents, as we are more likely to fill a need taking
this route than via a trade.  He admitted
that he is fielding phone calls from other GMs who are inquiring about our
young talent, but he said we really have no intentions of parting with the
lifeblood of our future.  Billy also
admitted that he does not see one player putting us over the top, that we have
a number of voids to fill and that he hoped most of those voids will disappear
in time due to the emergence of our young prospects.

 

Incidentally, you can tune
into MLB Network and Comcast Sports Net Bay Area tonight to see more A’s
coverage, as Billy will join
Victor Rojas, Dan Plesac and Tom Verducci
on the MLB TV set in the hotel some time after their coverage starts at 3 p.m.
PT (6 p.m. ET), while Billy will also appear on Comcast’s Chronicle Live show at 5 p.m. PT tonight.  In addition, manager
Bob
Geren
meets the media
later today in the formal press conference room, so you can expect coverage
from our writers, as well as MLB.com television coverage.

 

Perhaps the most emotional
part of today came this morning during the MLB PR Meetings when the Baseball
Assistance Team (B.A.T.) made a presentation. 
The organization, which was founded in 1986 by a group of former big
league players and is now primarily funded by the MLB players’ payroll
deduction program and an annual banquet in New York City, featured one of our
own–the A’s long-time director of minor league operations,
Ted Polakowski. 

 

For those of us within the
“A’s Family,” we are well aware and have felt tremendous anguish over the
personal ordeal he and his family endured last year.  Ted’s wife Cheryl, who served as the team’s
administrative assistant at the Papago
Park minor league
complex, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer during 2009 spring
training.  You can only imagine how
devastating the news was, particularly since the Polakowski’s have four
children.  Ted showed tremendous courage
today in addressing the league’s PR people, sharing his story about running up
medical bills of $200,000 or more while Cheryl was receiving experimental
treatments in Mexico.  During this nightmarish time, B.A.T. came to
their assistance with much-needed funding support.  Sadly, Cheryl passed away, but you could see
in Ted’s eyes and voice that he truly felt grateful that Major League Baseball
is, indeed, a “family.”  That term can
sound trite sometimes, but for the Polakowski’s, it had a very deep meaning
that they’ll never forget.  Ted said he
merely wanted to repay the debt by making sure others connected with Major
League Baseball–not just uniform personnel but also front office employees–were
aware that this assistance is available to everyone in baseball. 

 

New sightings in the hotel lobby:  I saw an old
friend,
Larry Reynolds, who represents
many Major League players as president of Reynolds Sports Management.  He’s the brother of MLB Network studio
analyst Harold Reynolds, and we go back to our Stanford days when Larry was a
speedy centerfielder and leadoff hitter for
Mark Marquess‘ Cardinal team and I was a young sports information
director there.  Of course, when we
bumped into each other, the discussion was not about player deals, it was about
whether Stanford might lose
Jim Harbaugh
to Notre Dame….also a priceless sight for old-school baseball people was
watching Cubs’ manager
Lou Pinella
holding court with some writers for a good hour, and the irrepressible
Tommy Lasorda and Jack McKeon
doing same….meanwhile, Bay Area resident
Tony LaRussa
almost runs me over coming out of the elevator this afternoon, asking “where do
I go for the media session?”  I was happy
to point him to the room, thinking to myself, “how can someone who just turned
65 look in such great shape?”  Must be
either his vegetarian diet or his work with animal shelters.  Or perhaps the fact he can scroll
Albert Pujols onto his lineup card most days….

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