It’s about damn time.
Yesterday morning at approximately 9am, the Oakland Athletics made the call for Barry Zito to reclaim his rightful position in the locker room of the green and gold. At 37-years of age, Zito spent the 2015 season with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, where he made 22 starts and two relief appearances, earning a respectable 3.46 ERA.
The reason for him not being called up for such an extended period of time was because there was simply no room for him in the rotation or bullpen. With so much young and unproven talent on the Triple-A roster and an opportunity for them to gain experience on the major league level, it was difficult to justify Zito taking a roster spot away from someone who might need it – despite all the fans wanting him in Oakland.
However with Jesse Chavez going down with a rib fracture that will end his season – along with a multitude of other injuries that have plagued the pitching staff – Zito will finally get his shot. Although he is slated to come out of the pen – per Assistant GM David Forst – I believe their could be a chance A’s fans could see the veteran left-hander take the hill one last time as a starter.
In fact, there might even be a chance he could be slotted for September 26th game against the San Francisco Giants, meaning a duel between his former teammate and soon-to-be-retiring Tim Hudson. It would be the perfect send off for the both of them and to put icing on the cake, ‘early 2000’s Big 3 member’ Mark Mulder will be in attendance. “I hope Zito gets to pitch in that game,” said Mulder per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. “That would be neat for him and Huddy. And the atmosphere will be great.”
The only reason that I could imagine Zito not starting that game would be because of the injury trouble he has sustained this season. He didn’t pitch much in August for the Sounds, although did come into relief in the final game and threw one inning, ending the game the only way one could imagine Zito doing it, with a curveball.
Even Beane, who was the one who stated multiple times that it didn’t look like Zito would be making his way up to Oakland due to the limited roster space said that he did fancy the idea of a Zito-Hudson matchup. “We originally made the decision not to call Barry up because he hasn’t thrown much in the last month,” he said via John Hickey’s blog Inside the A’s. “Very soon thereafter I heard that Huddy might be making his last start here. I’m not all that nostalgic, but I thought that might be a nice reunion, too.”
The good news is that even if Zito isn’t up for starting the game – due to injuries or other personal reasons – manager Bob Melvin I’m sure would understand the importance of the moment to get Zito into that September 26th game for at least an inning. Either way, this is something that NEEDS to happen and is something that would give A’s fans in 2015 something positive to remember.
In a year that hasn’t seen much of anything go right for the Athletics, allowing the fan base to relive the franchises most memorable years of the millennia by watching Zito climb the hill one last time against Hudson would make for a story book ending to two magnificent careers. For A’s fans, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson are more than names. They are representations of a great period for the franchise and they have an opportunity to ends their careers on the very mound they started on. It is these types of moments that you can’t script that make baseball such a timeless tradition.
Now all that’s left is for it to come to fruition.
While I will admit it’s been difficult lately to find much to get excited about with the Oakland Athletics, I would whole-heartedly suggest tuning into tonight’s matchup against the Houston Astros at 7:05 PM PT. Scott Kazmir is coming back to Oakland and hopefully to a standing ovation, while Sonny Gray will be on the bump for the green and gold. Getting to watch two good friends go after each other on the ball field is one of the all time greatest opportunities for a classic.
There isn’t anybody else you would rather beat more than your friend and the fiery arms on the mound tonight epitomize the true meaning of familiar competition. Having been together on the A’s in 2014 and half of 2015, the two grew close as a teacher and student. Last season was Gray’s first full one in the MLB and Kazmir being there from the beginning took Sonny under his wing – partially because I think he saw a lot of himself in him. They also were responsible – until Samardzija and Lester came – for leading the rotation as they also did the first half of this year.
Yet, since going to Houston, Kazmir has struggled a bit, which is to be expected going from a pitcher-happy O.Co Coliseum to a batter-friendly Minute Maid Park. In August, he had a 1-4 record over five starts with a 3.96 ERA and was only able to go 4.1 innings in his start last week against the Seattle Mariners. His buddy Gray also has had a tough couple of outings, culminating in his worst start of the season against the LA Angels on September 2nd. He gave up a season-high six earned runs through only five innings, getting tagged with his seventh loss of the year.
So with both pitchers having subpar performances recently, it should only intensify tonight’s matchup even more and here’s why. With neither having their best stuff as of late, tonight will be a game they will both look to lock in on and hopefully get each other back on track. While it can be difficult to break out of a rut – as both are looking too – there is no better way to reverse ones poor performance than to have a personal challenge.
Oh, a little trash talk also helps too.
According to Kazmir on MLB.com, “With Sonny up there, he’s already been texting. Once we figured out exactly when he was going to pitch, that’s when the trash talking started.”
However, apparently it’s been going on since the trade as Kazmir told Oliver Macklin, “As soon as I got traded, [there] was trash talking,” he said. “It was, ‘I can’t wait ‘til you get back here.’”
Although neither is sure who really instigated the banter, both have still have some fun with it. “I don’t think you want to pitch on Tuesday,” Kazmir said he told Gray in a text message.
Well tonight is a chance for Gray and Kazmir to try and silence the other and I would recommend watching CSN Bay Area tonight in order to see it. There’s nothing like buddies duking it out, and with two of the best in the league out on the bump, it should be nothing but fun.
Mike Gallego was doomed. He’d been doomed since May 25th. That was the day the Oakland Athletics brought in former third base coach Ron Washington. It just didn’t feel right with the way the direction was headed all season and no matter when it happened, it seemed his ending was inevitable. No matter whether it was three days ago, three months ago, or even three months from now, he was going to get the boot. The justification was the tipping point. Basically, how would the A’s find a reason to fire him? They did so in the form of critiquing his base running decisions and manager Bob Melvin summed it up when he said, “We are at the top of the league in guys getting thrown out at home and we’ve had a lot of one-run games.” He went on to speak on the matter taking some of the blame off of Gags and putting it on himself in the only way a nice guy like Melvin could.
“But I think too, and this is my fault, it’s been a little uncomfortable as far as the infield dynamic — when you bring a guy in to do some things, and when you have a guy who’s been here a while. I just felt like it was a little bit uncomfortable to the point that this was a direction we were going to go at the end of the season anyway. And we came to that conclusion and therefore we made the decision at this time, as opposed to wait to end of the season.”
What that quote says to me is that his hand was forced by someone else *cough* Billy Beane *cough* and as the manager – technically having to make the final decision – he had to answer for it. Oakland’s General Manager has always had his hand in everything and this matter remains no different. Washington is Beane’s guy. Always has been since he ran the third base box from 1997-2006. Nothing can change that and once Beane brought him on earlier in the year to ‘purely help the defense’ he was bound to end up back there.
I do think this delves a little deeper into to the head honcho though. It shouldn’t be seen as he simply hates Gallego because I don’t think he does, but it does have something to do with Beane’s inability to deviate from ‘the path’ he has set the A’s down upon. When Billy traded for Marcus Semien this offseason, he immediately sent the message that Marcus would be his starting shortstop and no one could change his mind about it. No matter how poorly Semien has performed, he’s always remained the starter. Now while I don’t think that he should be replaced and in my opinion is the best option at the spot, it just proves how hell-bent Beane is on having things look the way he wants them to.
He wanted Semien to be the shortstop so badly that he brought in – essentially – a personal coach in Washington to help him with his defense. With Wash, Marcus has certainly made leaps and bounds and because of his ‘progress,’ this gave Beane the excuse to promote him to his former position of third base coach. All that was needed was an excuse to get Gags out and as Melvin told the press a few days ago, leading the league “in guys getting thrown out at home” was the perfect opportunity.
While Washington may be a better man for the job, Gallego didn’t deserve what he got, no matter the inevitability. Beane has a way he goes about his business and his ‘anyone is expendable’ motto has apparently spilled over to the base coach area – which by the way, I have never heard of in the middle of a season. Whether you think it was fair or not, all A’s fans can do is trust the motto will lead to eventual positive outcomes.
It’s not too often fans gets to witness their team partake in a historical ass kicking, which is precisely what the Oakland Athletics received yesterday in their season-worst 18-2 loss against the Baltimore Orioles. The 26 hits the Green and Gold staff surrendered were the most ever allowed since the team moved to Oakland, as well as the most in A’s franchise history since they gave up 29 back on April 23, 1955. It’s ironic considering that ’55 club went 63-91, which is about the pace this current team is looking to finish. I’m hoping that the 2015 squad won’t be remembered like their 50-year ago predecessors because as one of my friends mentioned last night, “weren’t they the Elephants back then?” Well no, but I could see why they might be a forgettable bunch. Besides that season being the first in Kansas City after moving from Philadelphia, I’d be highly surprised if anyone born after the Korean War years would be able to name any of the players. Vic Power? Gus Zernial? Tom Gorman? Enos Slaughter? Ring any bells? Didn’t think so (and those were their top players!). That flamboyant foursome sounds about as intimidating as “The Crickets,” which was a music group from the 50’s you’ve also probably never heard of.
Anyways, back to the lesson at hand. Sometimes you have to appreciate the suffering ad hardship every team endures from time to time. Now while Oakland this year has seemed to wallow in poor performance more often than fans may care to remember, you have to be able to see past just the outcome of the game. Whether its knowing that the only way is up or even at times finding A’s games comical, fans can still find the light within the beatings like the one Oakland sustained yesterday. Specifically watching the 9-run, 5th inning, I saw the symbolic “rock-bottom” of 2015, but I also found some entertainment value.
Amongst the flurry of follies and foolishness that took place in one inning at Camden Yards, I found myself still enjoying the game. It was like watching the “Major League” Cleveland Indians at the beginning of their season, where nobody could get an out if they tried. Coco Crisp served the role of “Willie Mays” Hays, colliding with shortstop Marcus Semien out in left field on an easy pop up. Kendall Graveman and Dan Otero co-played the early version of Rick Vaughn, giving up the combined nine runs – along with 10 hits – and failing to really command the strike zone. Even Bob Melvin got in on the “fun” – of course – filling the managerial position of Lou Brown, and giving his ball club a stern talking to after their worst defeat since he took over the reigns in 2012.
Being a punching bag for a day can serve as a lesson, however it’s seemed like this lesson has been delivered over and over throughout the 2015 season. My hope is that the reiterated exercise of losing sparks a fire underneath this young club for the near future because it is easy to see the considerable collection of talent and potential for greatness. “S*** happens,” but its just unfortunate that motto has essentially been the slogan for this 2015 season and especially yesterday afternoon.
All they need to do now is flush it.
We all know the feeling of fixing/cleaning/building something that requires long hours of commitment and preparation. Whether it’s pulling pounds of weeds from your backyard, pulling an all-nighter to finish a project due the next morning, or doing pushups day after day hoping to see a difference. No matter how long the rigorous task took, it always seems like someone would just take one look at the finished product and not give it the attention it deserves. Now they may compliment you, even tell you they’re highly impressed, but deep down you can sense they just don’t quite get it. Then after get a few brief moments of glory, poof, it’s gone.
This has been the A’s ‘modus operandi’ (model of operation) for essentially the past 20 years. Unfortunately, whichever player they’ve seemed to develop right in front of our eyes has eventually found success and stardom elsewhere.
This year’s green and gold commodity: Josh Donaldson.
Yesterday, he was announced as the leading vote getter at the 2015 All-Star Game. 14,090,188 different ballots were sent in favor of Donaldson receiving the starting nod at third base, a record number. This display of national affection has truly marked the rise of the once-snubbed catcher who was converted into a corner infielder. In only his third full season in the bigs, it seems like Donaldson is now blooming in the eyes of the media with his image steadily climbing. And it’s well deserved, this was a supposed bust-of-a First Round Pick who fought and clawed his way into the spotlight before taking his play to another level this season. In his first year with the Blue Jays after the blockbuster offseason deal which brought him over, he’s the leader among third basemen with an .879 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), 62 runs scored and 56 RBI, while co-leading with 19 home runs. He’s also 4th in the AL in WAR (wins above replacement).
It’s something all A’s fans hate bring up: the what-if, why me scenarios. Would Donaldson have been to do this in order to prevent the currently not-so-great A’s season? Especially since this particular trade was so difficult to swallow and honestly made the least sense of the Oakland fire sail.
But we shouldn’t use this as a typical feel-bad situation that has followed the franchise for years. I used to hate seeing former Oakland farmhands such as Nelson Cruz, Andre Ethier, and (the worst of all) Carlos Gonzalez get prematurely traded and flourish as All-Stars with other clubs. However, the fans never really got to see those three players for an extended period of time, making the relationship easier to forget about.
With Donaldson it’s different.
This was a guy whose ascendance came exclusively in the confines of O.Co Coliseum. His stellar defense and majestic swing exponentially improved hand-in-hand, all in front of our eyes. In just the span of one year, he went from being Brandon Inge’s back up to an MVP candidate; the season after solidifying himself as the best third baseman in the game. And then just like that, he was gone.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t still appreciate what he’s doing now. In a season where the A’s haven’t picked up as many W’s as hoped for, Donaldson’s performance this season should be celebrated as a victory, not an ignored as a defeat. While the many memories he makes in Toronto will always constantly remind Oakland fans about the fantastic ones he made in the Bay Area, our reaction should be nostalgic.
We all know it wasn’t his fault he got traded, but seeing him have success isn’t a reason to feel poorly towards our franchise. Instead, focus on appreciating the times we got to see him play every day because those were the days representing the hard work. 158 games, two years in a row, Donaldson gave his all on the left side of the infield. Now he’s gone and you can’t alter history, but don’t let your final memory of him be the one where he changed jerseys.
Because that’s how too many A’s are remembered…
And I think that’s what needs to change.
After this weekend’s tough three-game sweep by the Kansas City Royals, some A’s fans may be thinking that Oakland will not be able to get back into the playoff race because they can’t compete with good teams. Yes, they were a bit exposed by an experienced group with the best record in the American League, taking advantage of every little mistake.
Game One: Ike Davis’ throwing error in the third inning cost Oakland two runs
Game Two: Unable to score with two runners on and no outs in the eighth inning
Game Three: Max Muncy overthrew Stephen Vogt on a play at the plate in the third inning, allowing a run to score and essentially giftwrapping two more.
While the mistakes in Game Two were more collective than the others, all three of these very may well have been the difference between a Green and Gold sweep instead of a Royal Blue one. However, just being a couple of plays away – three days in a row – to defeating the defending American League champions is also a sign that Oakland can hang with the best of them.
However the real problem, as the Athletics approach the end of June, is they just haven’t been able to hang with the worst of them.
Oakland is 5-14 against teams below .500, second worst in the majors. If you discount the recent 3-1 interleague series against the San Diego Padres, it gets even uglier. Here are the A’s head-to-head splits against the Boston Red Sox (35-43), Chicago White Sox (32-42), and Seattle Mariners (34-42):
|TEAM||W||L||RS||RA||WP (According to Baseball-Reference.com)|
These are the games that should make your heart sink, (especially the L’s to a Mariners team who Oakland has outscored) not the close losses to ‘top-tier’ ball clubs. In fact, the Athletics are 29-30 against teams over .500, which is above the MLB average and a better mark than 40-win squads such as the Pittsburg Pirates (13-17) or the Los Angeles Dodgers (8-19).
You may have also noticed that both of these playoff-caliber clubs haven’t played nearly as many games against .500+ teams as the green and gold have. Well, that’s because no one has – the closest team being the New York Yankees (30-26). This means the A’s schedule through the first half of the season was extremely frontloaded and thus, will likely normalize to lesser competition in the second half.
However, in order take advantage in the hopes of a late playoff push, Oakland MUST reverse their poor play against the bottom feeders.
It’s go hard or go home the rest of the way.
Some may remember my piece about my Giants experience, so I figured it was only right I do one about Oakland. Especially since two nights ago was the single most dominant performance the A’s have had all season … and your boy was there!
Thanks to my boss at 95.7 The Game I was able to take my Dad to both of our first A’s game of the summer, which was a bit sentimental considering my family heavily considered boycotting the Coliseum after Billy Beane traded everyone and their mom off last years squad. Although not all is forgiven, I think the 16-2 rout helped ease a bit of my old man’s pain.
Once we landed via BART, both of the side entrances closest to the train were packed to the brim so we ventured down into the parking lot, which of course is where all the quality pre gaming occurs. As I looked across the blacktop, there was plenty of drinking, grilling, laughing, and overall good vibes. Then I looked at my phone and realized it was 6:56pm (meaning we were about to miss first pitch) and so I kind of wondered why so many fans were still outside. I understand it happens at every sporting event, you just want to finish that last burger or more importantly, that last brew, but then something jumped out to me. There was more orange and black than I’ve seen – being a non Bay Bridge series – in the parking lot and walking into the Coliseum. Then I remembered a schedule packet I had been looking at earlier in the day to see what kind of giveaway or theme was on for that night and of course, it was LGBTQ Pride Night. That explains everything.
Once walking through the all-familiar Gate D with the best-looking baseball mural I’ve ever seen, I was set for the next three hours. I had my Costco turkey jerky, chili-lime spitz sunflower seeds, and MVP infield level ticket placed perfectly in the brim of my EBay bartered 7 ¼ A’s fitted cap. Next step was getting through to the seats down in section 122, meaning we had to go through two guest services members. Now normally I’m not a fan of them because as a younger fellow, they look at me like there’s no way in hell I could afford a ticket in their section, but these guys were approachable. The first guy let me through without hesitation the moment I went for my ticket and the second guy I got to give a shout out to. If you’re every in Section 122, holler at the guest service guy Charles for me (I don’t actually know him), who set the tone for the game. Apparently, Charles just got back from Hawaii while the A’s were on the road and he said that whenever he comes back from vacations he brings good juju with him.
At first I thought it was just a fans typical talk, but after the first inning I couldn’t doubt Charles. Burns led off with a double on the first pitch of the game and then after he came around on a Zobrist, Billy “Big Country Breakfast” Butler went deep to essentially put the game away with a 4-0 first inning lead.
Anybody worth talking on the Padres about from Justin Upton to Matt Kemp was made absolutely irrelevant by the career-high 11-strikeout performance from my favorite A’s pitcher, Jesse Chavez (I pronounce it Hesé). If you want to learn more about him, check it out here. You could tell he was poised for a great night after he fanned the side in the first inning, all looking. A part from a solo shot he gave up in the sixth, he was flawless, primarily due his changeup. That thing would dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge all over the place and Chavez said after the game he, “felt it down in the bullpen.” If that’s the case Jesse, I would suggest keep on ‘feeling it,’ meaning grab a gallon a lube before your next start and make sure you rub up each and every baseball you can find. While that may be a little extreme you get the point.
I’ll tell you what has become extreme at the O.Co: The new $10 million video screen.
Oakland has finally taken one step into this millennia (only took 20 years) and I think it showed the most in their new racetrack for the time-honored tradition of dot racing. I don’t have much else to say about it besides always pick the white dot. No, but seriously I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone to a game and white hasn’t won. Also, the new screens give a great visual to the Hall-Of-Fame race, which features big ass Rickie Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, and Rollie Fingers mascots sprinting from one foul pole to the other. I was kind of pissed because Ricky couldn’t participate due to a bummed hammy – that’s what they wanted us to believe – although I personally thought it was because Ricky knows he’s too damn good for this race. Rollie won, but Eck wasn’t a bad sport about it, in fact he went and celebrated his Silver Medal with the die-hards out in the right field bleachers. Don’t see that too often.
As for the game, it was truly the definition of an ass kicking, I mean it was so bad that in the 8th inning after the A’s had scored 7 runs, the Padres had to bring in their shortstop Alexei Amarista to finish the inning. By the way, I felt bad for the Cory Mazzoni who they brought Amarista in for because he probably had his worst experience ever on a baseball field. The dude gave up 8 hits and couldn’t have prayed for an out. This guy must’ve thrown the slowest 95mph fastball I’ve ever seen, but he was getting beat like a drum. It was like watching ‘Major League II’ when everything Rick Vaughn throws gets sent everywhere but a glove.
Literally anyone – pinch hitters included – who stepped to the plate for Oakland recorded a hit. Even Sogard was peppering the ball. Now I like Sogard and he’s actually a pretty good hitter, plus my dad has a soft spot for anyone whose ever played second base for the A’s. But I’m going to be honest, I cannot take this dude seriously. Maybe it’s the glasses. Maybe it’s the fact that I feel like I’m watching the 9-hole hitter on any Little League team and because everyone in the ballpark thinks he can’t hit, the pitcher just grooves one right down the pipe. Then the kid shocks even the Lord himself by spraying one down the line and pigeon-toes his way to second base after ignoring the first base coach screaming at him to stop, topping it all off with an atrocious headfirst slide like Ian Kinser’s (Look Here) —> But hey, he almost won the ‘Face of the MLB’ competition two years ago; so he’s got to be pretty cool.
To top off the night, your boy had his very first IPA at the ballpark and after the game, in support of the hard-working BART track entrepreneurs, purchased my very own Warriors 2015 Championship T-Shirt. And for only a hefty sum of $10, looks real right?! … doubt it.
You just can’t beat ‘The Town’