Results tagged ‘ Rickey Henderson ’

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.”

 

 

IT’S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: ANOTHER IMPROBABLE A’S CLOSER

When he snuck into camp last
spring,
Andrew Bailey (below) wasn’t even Andrew
Bailey.  Say what?  We inadvertently listed him as “Drew” Bailey
in the

86224333.jpg

Non-Roster Invitees section of our 2009 media guide.  Weeks went by in the desert.  Bailey kept hanging goose eggs in exhibition
games.  But he was too shy to approach
the PR department and correct his first name. 
Finally, the old sage veteran
Russ Springer
came up to me and said, “Hey, Bailey’s first name is Andrew, not Drew!  I remember when I started out with the
Yankees.  They listed me as Russell
Springer, and damn, it took years to reclaim my name!”  Well, we quickly corrected it, and as you all
know, there’s no mistaking our rookie All-Star closer now (although there’s a
grassroots movement to, yet again, change his first name, this time to one of
affection:  Boom Boom Bailey).  


Bailey, perhaps the most humble professional
athlete I’ve ever met, is one of those success stories you’ve got to love.  A non-descript starting pitcher with a 12-22
career record in the minors, he’s converted to a reliever in the middle of the
2008 season with Double-A Midland.  Then
he just dominates in Spring Training with the A’s and lands a spot on the
25-man roster.  By late May, he’s our
closer and finishes the season by reeling off 21 straight saves. 


Whether his 6-3 record, 26 saves and 1.84 ERA
were enough to convince voters he’s worthy of the American League Rookie of the
Year Award will be announced this Monday, Nov. 16, at 11 a.m. PST by the Baseball
Writers Association of American (BBWAA).  The one person who’s probably most amused by Bailey’s improbable ascent–besides
Bailey himself–is fellow reliever
Brad Ziegler. 

It was Ziggy’s turn the previous year to rise
from obscurity into big league prominence. 
A’s fans are well aware of his sordid past when he bounced around with
six different minor league teams over six seasons, only to emerge with a new
submarine delivery that led him to a major league record 39.0 scoreless innings
streak in becoming the A’s closer last year. 
It was fun to watch both of these unassuming guys just take it all in
and enjoy the ride. 


While both figure
prominently in Oakland’s
2010 plans, you almost have to wonder what’s in store at the closer position
next season.  Does
Joey Devine return miraculously early from his Tommy John
surgery and become the next big story out of the bullpen?  Or does another anonymous pitcher come out of
nowhere to join Ziggy and Bailey as the newest member in the Good Luck
Club?  Your guess is as good as
mine.  As they say, “That’s why they play
the game.”

 

BEEP BEEP:  THE ROAD RUNNER IS
RECOGNIZED BY BASHOF

It was good to read a recent
Mychael
Urban
MLB.com story about last year’s
Hall of Fame inductee
Rickey Henderson, who is working
with the A’s 2008 first-round draft pick
Jemile Weeks (below) on
the finer points of

85305088.jpg

hitting and base stealing at the Papago Park Complex this
fall.  It must have been mind boggling
for Weeks to receive such personal treatment from the greatest leadoff man and
stolen base artist of all-time.  That Henderson story also made
me think of another great A’s leadoff hitter of the past. 


I’d like to give a loud shout-out to Bert “Campy”
Campaneris
, (below) who recently was voted into
the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.   Arguably the A’s first star player to wear anOakland uniform, “The Road Runner” played 13 seasons with the Athletics and
still ranks first in career games played, at-bats and hits among all Oakland
A’s players.  The Cuban native was a
six-time All-Star who led the American League in steals four straight years and
six times in an eight-season stretch (’65, 66, 67, 68, 70 and 72).  Of course, he was the leadoff hitter on three
straight World Championship teams (1972-73-74), too. 

Thumbnail image for 50812368.jpg


But what some people may not know is that
Campy–despite his small stature–had a penchant for hitting big home runs in big
games  In fact, he launched three of the
most memorable home runs in Oakland history during the 1973 postseason.  In Game 2 of the ALCS against Baltimore, he led off the
game with a home run.  Then in Game 3 of
that series, Campy opened the 11th inning with a game-winning home
run against the Orioles.  And in the 1973
World Series against the Mets, he laced a two-run home run in Game 7 that was
one of the key blows of that title-clinching game. 


I asked my friend Ron Bergman, the former long-time A’s beatwriter, if Campy belongs
in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and he said unequivocally yes.  I also spoke with
Lyle Spencer, the Angels’ respected beatwriter for MLB.com and a
veteran baseball writer who also worked in New York. 
He agreed with Bergie’s assessment. 
Unfortunately, Campaneris received very little support from the national
writers when he became eligible for Cooperstown.  This,
despite the fact that of the 22 shortstops enshrined in the Hall, Campy would right
now rank second in stolen bases, seventh in games played, eighth in fielding
percentage, ninth in assists, and 13th in both hits and
putouts. 


For those Bay Area fans who may
want to pay homage to the Road Runner, you will have an opportunity to do so on
Monday, March 22, when Campaneris is enshrined in the Bay Area Sports Hall of
Fame.  Tickets are on sale at www.bashof.org for the event, which will be
held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel at Union Square in San Francisco.  Joining Campy in the BASHOF Class of 2010 are
Olympic Gold Medal skater
Brian Boitano,
Oakland Raiders’ owner
Al Davis,
former University of San Francisco soccer coach
Steve Negoesco and ex-San Francisco 49ers great R.C. Owens.

IT’S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: ANOTHER IMPROBABLE A’S CLOSER

When he snuck into camp last
spring,
Andrew Bailey (below) wasn’t even Andrew
Bailey.  Say what?  We inadvertently listed him as “Drew” Bailey
in the

86224333.jpg

Non-Roster Invitees section of our 2009 media guide.  Weeks went by in the desert.  Bailey kept hanging goose eggs in exhibition
games.  But he was too shy to approach
the PR department and correct his first name. 
Finally, the old sage veteran
Russ Springer
came up to me and said, “Hey, Bailey’s first name is Andrew, not Drew!  I remember when I started out with the
Yankees.  They listed me as Russell
Springer, and damn, it took years to reclaim my name!”  Well, we quickly corrected it, and as you all
know, there’s no mistaking our rookie All-Star closer now (although there’s a
grassroots movement to, yet again, change his first name, this time to one of
affection:  Boom Boom Bailey).  


Bailey, perhaps the most humble professional
athlete I’ve ever met, is one of those success stories you’ve got to love.  A non-descript starting pitcher with a 12-22
career record in the minors, he’s converted to a reliever in the middle of the
2008 season with Double-A Midland.  Then
he just dominates in Spring Training with the A’s and lands a spot on the
25-man roster.  By late May, he’s our
closer and finishes the season by reeling off 21 straight saves. 


Whether his 6-3 record, 26 saves and 1.84 ERA
were enough to convince voters he’s worthy of the American League Rookie of the
Year Award will be announced this Monday, Nov. 16, at 11 a.m. PST by the Baseball
Writers Association of American (BBWAA).  The one person who’s probably most amused by Bailey’s improbable ascent–besides
Bailey himself–is fellow reliever
Brad Ziegler. 

It was Ziggy’s turn the previous year to rise
from obscurity into big league prominence. 
A’s fans are well aware of his sordid past when he bounced around with
six different minor league teams over six seasons, only to emerge with a new
submarine delivery that led him to a major league record 39.0 scoreless innings
streak in becoming the A’s closer last year. 
It was fun to watch both of these unassuming guys just take it all in
and enjoy the ride. 


While both figure
prominently in Oakland’s
2010 plans, you almost have to wonder what’s in store at the closer position
next season.  Does
Joey Devine return miraculously early from his Tommy John
surgery and become the next big story out of the bullpen?  Or does another anonymous pitcher come out of
nowhere to join Ziggy and Bailey as the newest member in the Good Luck
Club?  Your guess is as good as
mine.  As they say, “That’s why they play
the game.”

 

BEEP BEEP:  THE ROAD RUNNER IS
RECOGNIZED BY BASHOF

It was good to read a recent
Mychael
Urban
MLB.com story about last year’s
Hall of Fame inductee
Rickey Henderson, who is working
with the A’s 2008 first-round draft pick
Jemile Weeks (below) on
the finer points of

85305088.jpg

hitting and base stealing at the Papago Park Complex this
fall.  It must have been mind boggling
for Weeks to receive such personal treatment from the greatest leadoff man and
stolen base artist of all-time.  That Henderson story also made
me think of another great A’s leadoff hitter of the past. 


I’d like to give a loud shout-out to Bert “Campy”
Campaneris
, (below) who recently was voted into
the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.   Arguably the A’s first star player to wear anOakland uniform, “The Road Runner” played 13 seasons with the Athletics and
still ranks first in career games played, at-bats and hits among all Oakland
A’s players.  The Cuban native was a
six-time All-Star who led the American League in steals four straight years and
six times in an eight-season stretch (’65, 66, 67, 68, 70 and 72).  Of course, he was the leadoff hitter on three
straight World Championship teams (1972-73-74), too. 

Thumbnail image for 50812368.jpg


But what some people may not know is that
Campy–despite his small stature–had a penchant for hitting big home runs in big
games  In fact, he launched three of the
most memorable home runs in Oakland history during the 1973 postseason.  In Game 2 of the ALCS against Baltimore, he led off the
game with a home run.  Then in Game 3 of
that series, Campy opened the 11th inning with a game-winning home
run against the Orioles.  And in the 1973
World Series against the Mets, he laced a two-run home run in Game 7 that was
one of the key blows of that title-clinching game. 


I asked my friend Ron Bergman, the former long-time A’s beatwriter, if Campy belongs
in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and he said unequivocally yes.  I also spoke with
Lyle Spencer, the Angels’ respected beatwriter for MLB.com and a
veteran baseball writer who also worked in New York. 
He agreed with Bergie’s assessment. 
Unfortunately, Campaneris received very little support from the national
writers when he became eligible for Cooperstown.  This,
despite the fact that of the 22 shortstops enshrined in the Hall, Campy would right
now rank second in stolen bases, seventh in games played, eighth in fielding
percentage, ninth in assists, and 13th in both hits and
putouts. 


For those Bay Area fans who may
want to pay homage to the Road Runner, you will have an opportunity to do so on
Monday, March 22, when Campaneris is enshrined in the Bay Area Sports Hall of
Fame.  Tickets are on sale at www.bashof.org for the event, which will be
held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel at Union Square in San Francisco.  Joining Campy in the BASHOF Class of 2010 are
Olympic Gold Medal skater
Brian Boitano,
Oakland Raiders’ owner
Al Davis,
former University of San Francisco soccer coach
Steve Negoesco and ex-San Francisco 49ers great R.C. Owens.

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