Results tagged ‘ Grant Balfour ’
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 Ellis. Jackson 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.
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
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
Then 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
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
Braden in the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated? It appeared in a feature story about Giants’
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,
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.
This 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
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.”