Results tagged ‘ Bob Geren ’

Role Players Pivotal To A’s Success This Year

My first observation following yesterday’s 2-1 win in Toronto:   Trevor Cahill (left) looks like the same guy who won 18 last year and earned All-Star honors—if not better. His ball still darts downward with a bite almost unfair to hitters.  And this, from a 23-year-old kid who still sports peach fuzz on his cheeks.

It took some courage from Bob Geren to remove him from a 3-hit masterpiece after eight innings and a 105-pitch count, but in the long run, I think they felt it was time for Brian Fuentes to notch his first save.  We don’t make a serious run at the AL West crown unless we’re clicking on all cylinders, and that means Fuentes,   Bailey and Balfour providing the final touches on A’s wins.  Same goes for sitting down David DeJesus in favor of Conor Jackson (left, below) and plugging in Andy LaRoche to rest the ear-infected EllisJackson and LaRoche will play vital roles on this team if we want to join the 90-win echelon of other playoff contenders.  This means specialists and backup players will need to step up and flourish when they’re asked to perform, whether it is an occasional start, a pinch-hitting appearance, or a summon from the bullpen.

The good news is they’re passing the early tests.  After a bout with a finger blister, Fuentes looked like his old self at the Rogers Centre, whipping that cross-body heater that can tie hitters up in knots.  Jackson has been nothing but sensational in his two starts this season.  Not only has he wielded a hot bat, he’s also more than held his own in the field.  His shoestring catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Adam Lind in the sixth inning today may have been even more impactful than his game-deciding RBI single was in the eighth.  And LaRoche, thrust into the unaccustomed role of utilityman, may have emerged as our most consistent hitter in the early season while starting at shortstop, third base and second base in consecutive games.

Yes realists, we are only 2-4 as we enter the frigid confines of Target Field.  But as I mentioned in my previous blog, this is a work in progress.  While expectations are high, and the early season schedule presents challenges, those wearing green and gold uniforms are focusing merely at the task at hand.  With 156 games left to the finish line, there will be many revelations in store as the season unfolds.  Today, the Twins christen their home season.  Brett Anderson will take the mound for the Athletics, aiming to spoil another team’s Opening Day in the same fashion King Felix did in Oakland last week.  As always, time will tell.


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
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
meets the media
later today in the formal press conference room, so you can expect coverage
from our writers, as well as 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
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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