Results tagged ‘ David DeJesus ’

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.

A Final Around-The-Horn Before Spring Training

Well, the countdown to
cactus continues.  In about another week,
the annual rituals will begin.  We’ll be
checking into the team hotel in Phoenix
and voila, Spring Training will commence
in earnest.  In case you hadn’t noticed I’ve put my blog on ice for a couple of
months since the Winter Meetings.  But
now I think it’s time to offer up a few notes and anecdotes I’ve been storing
up lately.  Hopefully you’ll find some of
interest.

107596670.jpg 

If there was any doubt that
baseball’s popularity is truly international, just add a slugging designated
hitter from Japan
and an Australian set-up man to your roster during the offseason.  In the world where we live–media
relations–the free agent signing of
Hideki Matsui
brings a lot more than home runs and RBI to the A’s.  It also brings about 50 additional Japanese
media to the scene.  Writers and
photographers from wire services like Kyodo
News
and Jiji Press or daily
newspapers such as the Yomiuri Shimbun,
Nikkan Sports
and Chunichi Shimnbun,
will join us in Spring Training and stay with us throughout the season.  So will broadcasters from the Toyko Broadcasting System, Fuji TV and NHK, with NHK also
televising about 40 of our games live during the 2011 season.  It will totally change the dynamics in the
clubhouse and pre-game on the field, as Bob Geren, the players and our Bay Area
media will have a lot of company this year. 
For Spring Training, we’ve already made plans to add additional seating
and risers in the press box at Phoenix Muni. 
My prediction:  it’s going to be a
tight fit. 

 

85405654.jpgThen you add veteran
reliever Grant Balfour, who hails from Sydney, and Australian
journalists have also jumped on board.  I
just spoke with a U.S.
correspondent from Channel Nine, one
of Australia’s
leading TV networks, who plans to cover camp later this month.  I anticipate many other media from “down
under” will be calling soon.  As far as
we’re concerned, the more the merrier!

 

Did you notice the mention
of
Dallas
Braden
in the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated?  It appeared in a feature story about Giants’
closer
Brian
Wilson
. 
It’s been well documented that Braden and Wilson are good friends and
off-season travel mates.  Two years ago,
it was Europe. 
This past offseason, the eccentric duo decided to explore Thailand.  There was mention that they were regularly
found jogging in the jungle, which of course, made me wonder what local Thai
residents–not to mention the wildlife–thought about those peculiar numbers tattooed
on Braden’s torso….2 0 9, indeed!

 

I’m really fortunate to have
two remarkable researchers and number crunchers on my media relations
staff. 
Mike Selleck has been our long-time baseball information person and
he’s respected throughout baseball for his game notes, especially his obscure
or unknown nuggets.  One fact he
unearthed that very few Bay Area fans were aware of is this:  not only did the 2010 Oakland starting
rotation post the best ERA (3.47) in the majors, but that figure represented
the best turned in by a rotation in the American League in 20 years (Boston,
3.32 in 1990)!  And it was accomplished
with a rotation that averaged only 23 years of age for much of the season. 

 

Another crack PR staffer is
our newly-hired
Adam Loberstein, who did some
rather interesting research of his own recently.  He decided to add the 2010 statistics of our
new offseason additions, then subtract the stats of last year’s A’s who are no
longer on the roster, and see where we would place in the league rankings.  What he found with the additions and
subtractions was the Oakland bullpen improved
its Opponents Batting Average figure from .248 to .217, which would have elevated
them from fourth best in the AL
to first in all the majors.  What’s more, last  year’s 3.75 ERA would improve to 2.94, moving
the A’s relievers from a No. 6 ranking in the American League to first in the AL and second in the majors. Offensively, our new additions (most notably Matsui,
Josh
Willingham
and David DeJesus) would have improved our 2010 on-base percentage
from .324 to .339, a swing from being ranked ninth to tied for third best in
the AL.  So, clearly we’re better on paper than last
year.  Now the trick is transferring it
from paper to the playing field.

 

 

A'sbilly1.jpgThis year marks the 30th
anniversary of the zenith of Billyball, as it was Billy Martin’s 1981 A’s club that shocked the baseball world by
winning the American League West with a 64-45 record during a strike-shortened
season.  That ’81 club of misfits started
the season by posting an 18-3 record in April, still the best April in Oakland franchise
history.  They opened the season with a
Major League-record 11 straight victories, including eight on the road.  And in that 11-game period, A’s pitchers
threw 10 complete games and compiled an overall 1.27 team ERA.  Martin’s no names roared into the playoffs,
where they swept Kansas City
in three games, outscoring the Royals, 10-2, in the AL Divisional Series.  But Cinderella’s run ended soon thereafter
when Martin’s old team, the Yankees, returned the favor by sweeping the A’s in
the AL Championship Series in three games.

 

 

This year’s Cactus League
schedule will start with a bang for A’s fans, as Oakland hosts 2010 NL Central
champion Cincinnati (March 1) and last year’s World Series participants Texas
(March 4) and San Francisco (March 5) during the first week at Phoenix
Municipal Stadium.

 

Word has it that Scott Hatteberg, the man whose walk-off home run clinched the
Athletics’ American League-setting 20th straight victory in 2002, will be
spending some time in A’s Spring Training as a special instructor this
year.  He’ll join Hall of Famer
Rickey Henderson in that capacity.

 

The 2011 A’s Media Guide is
due off the presses by the end of this month.  
On the cover?   The Big Four: 
Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden.

 

There’s been much
commotion–understandably so–about the Giants taking their 2010 World Series
trophy on tour in Northern California this offseason, giving their fans an
opportunity to pose with the cherished piece of hardware.  Recently, 
a Bay Area sportswriter called me about a column he was writing which
would cite how local pro sports franchises have chosen to display any past
World Championship trophies.  He wanted
to confirm that we still keep our 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989 trophies in our
office reception area, available to the general public.  I confirmed that we did.  And I also could not restrain myself from
adding one final comment:  “There is one
difference for our fans compared to Giants fans.  When our fans pose for their photo, it’s a horizontal shot.”

 

 

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.  

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