2015 All-Star Game AL & NL Final Vote Picks and Predictions

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The final vote is upon us ladies and gentleman. It’s another opportunity for the fans to decide a roster spot (fair or unfair) at this year’s All-Star Game. You have five players from both the American League and the National League to choose from, all deserving candidates. The unique aspect I’ve found about this years Final Vote is that the players reflect the strengths of each league. All players selected to the final ballot in the AL are hitters and all but one player for the NL are pitchers. While the NL does have some quality bats, the association with hitting is typically tagged to the AL and vice versa with conversation about the best pitching taking place mostly amongst NL teams. Nonetheless, here are your choices:

American League

200_593428Xander Bogaerts | BOS

AVG: .302 HR: 3 RBI: 37 SB: 4 AB: 295

a

200_493316Yoenis Cespedes | DET

AVG: .294 HR: 11 RBI: 45 SB: 3 AB: 320

a

200_572821Brian Dozier | MIN

AVG: .260 HR: 17 RBI: 42 SB: 7 AB: 323

a

200_458731Brett Gardner | NYY

AVG: .297 HR: 9 RBI: 39 SB: 15 AB: 293

a

200_519058Mike Moustakas | KC

AVG: .301 HR: 7 RBI: 31 SB: 1 AB: 289

a

National League

200_456501Johnny Cueto | CIN

W: 5 L: 5 SV: 0 ERA: 2.84 IP: 104.2 K: 100

a

200_544727Jeurys Familia | NYM

W: 2 L: 0 SV: 23 ERA: 1.13 IP: 39.2 K: 41

a

200_477132Clayton Kershaw | LA

W: 5 L: 6 SV: 0 ERA: 3.08 IP: 114.0 K: 147

a

200_593372Carlos Martinez | STL

W: 9 L: 3 SV: 0 ERA: 2.70 IP: 100.0 K: 105

a

200_453064Troy Tulowitzki | COL

AVG: .321 HR: 9 RBI: 44 SB: 0 AB: 274

a


Now as for my picks, I’m going to stray away from the typical stat-by-stat comparison and rationalize myself through a different perspective. Since each All-Star roster is extremely stacked and have essentially an equal amount of talent, I believe the final spot on the roster should be seen as an opportunity for the fans to vote for the player most likely to give their team an advantage. While the likeliness of these two ‘last guys on the bench’ actually seeing the field is slim, if they did, they should be able to have a positive impact.

My Pick

AL: Yoenis Cespedes | DET

You may have to forgive my slight ex-Athletic bias, but the fact of the matter is he’s the best hitter of the group. If you ask me to pick a pinch-hitter off the bench to provide an impact late in what will likely be a tight game, I’m not hesitating to tell ‘Yo’ to go grab a bat. Plus his skills are perfectly fit for an All-Star game because of his ‘wow factor.’ The midsummer classic is supposed to be a spectacle for the public to enjoy and for the last two years, America has been awed by his power in the derby (he did make the team last year as well). However, that shouldn’t be the only area he’s considered to be a ‘contributor,’ because he truly is one of the most complete players in the game.

NL: Jeurys Familia | NYM

This may be a little shocking, but hear me out. If it makes some of you feel better, I was torn between him and Troy Tulowitzki. Side note: I think Tulo should be starting over both Johnny Peralta and Brandon Crawford. However, my vote would go to Familia because he is perfect for this type of game (and I think in an All-Star Game, pitchers ultimately are more responsible for the outcome of the game). Most starting pitchers are not used to warming up for just one-inning of work and as a result, often struggle because they try to overthrow and can’t find a rhythm. Familia – who has been one of the most shutdown closers this season – wouldn’t have that issue and so would be my pick to contribute the most off the bench.

My Prediction

AL: Mike Moustakas | KC

Baseball fans everywhere saw how vicious the ‘Royal Blue Voting Attack’ was for the starters so I would find it hard to imagine them not finding a way to get their guy in. However, I think the guy that will give him a run for his money will be Brian Dozier who got snubbed again this year (last year was worse when he wasn’t even selected to play at his home Target Field). Plus, Dozier has been quietly one of the best hitting second-baseman this season (currently leads the AL in runs scored).

NL: Clayton Kershaw | LA

Kershaw hasn’t been bad this season; in fact by most pitchers standards he’s been very good (most K’s in the MLB). However, last-seasons MVP has his own standard, one that based off of his previous 4 years is un-worldly. At the same time, having an All-Star Game without Kershaw is just wrong. I compare it to this year’s NBA All-Star Game, where Kevin Durant had been hurt and not necessarily playing up to ‘KD’s standards,’ but in the end was justly named an All-Star.


No matter what happens, this years All-Star Game in Cincinnati is shaping up to one of the more exciting ones in recent memories.

Donaldson’s Accomplishments Should be Celebrated by A’s fans, not Denounced

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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.

Did Josh Reddick’s comments write his own ticket out of Oakland?

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In what’s seemed like a great last couple of weeks for the currently streaking A’s, Josh Reddick may have dampened it. He also very may well have written himself a ticket to another ball club.

Despite the team going 12-6 over their last 18 games, the Oakland right fielder expressed some frustration in a pregame interview with broadcaster Ray Fosse, concerning his playing time. In a surprisingly aggressive, but honest tone, Reddick hinted at the idea that Billy Beane specifically has been trying to keep him out of the lineup against left-handed pitchers.

022515-kgo-josh-reddick-imgWhen Fosse asked him what aspects of lefties keep him on the bench, he flipped the question and targeted the GM: “I have no idea [what keeps me out of the lineup]. It doesn’t come from anywhere in this clubhouse. Everybody knows what situations our general manager puts up there. I couldn’t tell you what the difference is between me starting against one guy and not starting against another guy. … There’s probably so many numbers they could dig into their computers with and try to find one just to keep me out of the lineup.”

He continued by defending his manager and instead focused on pointing out Billy’s possible ‘control freak’ approach to running the franchise. “I know Bob’s in there fighting for me,” Reddick said. “The other day I was supposed to play against De La Rosa, and Bob texts me at around 1:30 and told me he had been ‘trumped,’ was the word he used. I understood right away. I know it’s not Bob. He’s fighting for me to be in there every night. It still frustrates me beyond belief when I don’t play … I wanna be in there helping my team no matter if a guy’s throwing right-handed, left-handed or center-handed. Whatever you wanna call it, I just want to be in there, be able to compete and help my team win.”

This spawns the question, is Josh Reddick’s gripe valid?

Despite the right fielder hitting .330 in 209 at-bats against right-handers and just .152 in 66 at-bats against left-handers (supporting a statistic-like approach as to if he should be starting or not) it is good to see a player wanting to compete and be in the lineup every single day. Especially since the possible All-Star candidate is hitting .287 with 11 home runs, and his 49 RBI’s rank third among all American League outfielders. However, one could also argue it’s because of Beane’s preferred ‘platoon system’ that Reddick has kept his statistics so high this season. So there are a couple things to keep in mind as to whether or not Billy Beane will use this outburst as an excuse to trade him.


1) His Contract

As many of you know, the biggest reason that Reddick has not been traded so far – like many Athletics that have come and gone before him – is because of the amount of money he makes. He’s currently earning a little over $4 million and is arbitration eligible for next season. This means not only is he under team control, but he’s cheap, two things that Beane likes from his players.

635597812020140539-USP-MLB-Kansas-City-Royals-at-Oakland-Athletics2) His Value

Although Reddick has been putting up solid numbers this season, he is a career .250 hitter who has been healthy for a whole season just once in his six-year career. In the lone season (2012) when he was healthy – he hit 32 HR’s and won a Gold Glove – he only hit .242. Based off the A’s ‘buy low, sell high’ philosophy, it wouldn’t be outrageous to think Reddick could get traded considering his past trends, that all point to this year being a ‘fluke.’

3) His Attitude

Reddick is the definition of a competitor and this was not the first time he has spoken out against management. When Josh Donaldson was traded (another sore subject), Reddick said publicly, “This doesn’t make sense to me. We just traded our best player the last 2 years.” He continued on saying he thought the trade was a sign the A’s were clearly in ‘rebuilding mode.’


The last point I made was really why Reddick’s comments yesterday were so perplexing to me. Winning cures everything and over the past two weeks, Oakland has been doing just that. Although the entirety of the season has been frustrating, the direction as of right now looks positive. Maybe he’s had enough, maybe not. Either way, here’s why I don’t think he will be traded before the trade deadline:

Beane won’t get a great enough return for him. At 28 years old and not having proved he can consistently stay on the field, no team is going to want to give up any impact players/prospects for him.

Jun 17, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Sam Fuld (23) and right fielder Josh Reddick (22) celebrate after scoring against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics won 16-2. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY SportsThat plus the fact his production has also been inconsistent, Reddick wont be a hot commodity. If he were, we would have already heard about it. Plus the idea that Oakland’s GM will get rid of him because he spoke out is unrealistic. Billy Beane doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about him (player or otherwise), that’s what makes him Billy Beane. The only time he has traded a player for their character flaws was because they were a hindrance to the team, on and off the field. So far in his illustrious green and gold career, Reddick hasn’t done that. I’m sure if you ask around the clubhouse, he’s one of the best teammates bar none. Whatever kind of dispute the two have – if it’s even a big deal – they’ll work it out and by my estimation Josh Reddick won’t be going anywhere.

Athletics Achilles Heel

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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)
BOS

CHW

SEA

1

0

1

5

3

5

21

12

31

24

18

28

.167

.000

.167

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.

Oakland’s Lost Mascot: Charlie O.

1c98ac870af012bb3d0b370bb2e28e31Back in 1965, to put it plainly, the Kansas City Athletics sucked. They finished the year with a 59-103 record, dead last in the American League. Then-GM Charlie O. Finley, a man committed to winning at all costs (a quality lost by recent green and gold ownership) was open to anything that would deliver a W. His philosophy led to a variety of ‘lucky charms,’ which for the previous four years had been a group of grazing sheep that stood out beyond the right field fence. According to the Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, Finley had thought, “The sheep would bring me luck. But they ain’t.”

So he brought in a mule.

His name would be Charlie O. and he was donated by the State of Missouri. Governor Warren E. Hearnes said, “I’d consider it an honor and a privilege for Missouri to donate this mule to the A’s.”

Couple of cool side notes:

  • The mule was reportedly born in Kansas to parents not of the same species.
  • Documentation of his birth was not available.
  • He was said to be three years old, while standing a little over 5-feet tall and weighing 1492 pounds.

So it was decided. Charlie O. would become a part of the team. In fact, Finley said on Feb. 8, 1965. “Charlie O. will come out of the A’s dugout on Opening Day, even if it takes the whole ball club to push him out. We will take Charlie O. with us on one trip to each of the nine cities in the American League – somehow.” Finley continued on about his newest addition stating the mule would receive, “a real good blanket with his name in green letters trimmed in white.” Finley, himself, panned to ride the mule on Opening Day out onto the field. Even for a brief period in the 1965 season, some Athletic relief pitchers rode him from the bullpen to the mound.

finley-2bFinley made sure to take great care of his mule, even to the point where he would never let him get lonely. The Washington Post’s Shirley Povich noted that Finley signed “a cageful of monkeys, a prized bird dog, a hutch of outsided checker rabbits and two peacocks.” It was in stories like this that Charlie O. performed admirably, turning many heads onto his enjoyable self and away from the A’s struggles. Over the Athletics 13-year tenure in Kansas City, they never finished first in the AL.

Oakland’s attraction was welcomed in whichever city he ventured to, with his trip to New York drawing the biggest buzz. Charlie O., ridden by Finley, began the trip welcomed at the Americana Hotel by an eight-piece band. The New York Times accounts indicated that “Charlie O. clopped through the lobby, past startled guests and turned into a restaurant. There he paused at the bar long enough to consume a heaping portion of oats in a silver bowl. In his suite (okay it was a corner of the garage), Charlie O. also found a dresser in which to store his green and gold attire.” Being the focal point of the road trip, reporters just had to have them some of the mule. Ross Newhan of the Independent Press Telegram wrote, “Charlie O. is the hottest thing to hit the (American league) circuit since Mickey Mantle, and he has sounder legs. Charlie’s van is equipped with a stereo unit, but Charles has a one track mind when it comes to music. His selection is always the same: ‘Mule Train.’” Newhan observed that the mule’s ‘hotel room’ consisted of green and gold drapes, a desk featuring Finley’s picture, a TV set, and white-gloved attendants serving oats on silver trays.”

charlie-o-1965-yearbookOne of the more comical Charlie O. stories involved catcher Doc Edwards, who on occasion, was given the burdensome task of riding the big fella. While the team was on the road in Cleveland, Edwards fell off Charlie O. and was immediately traded to the Yankees. On another road trip in May of 1965, the White Sox GM Ed Short refused to allow Charlie O. inside the White Sox ballpark because he said, “we don’t issue passes to mules.” Finley responded by parading his mule around a leased parking lot across the street from White Sox Park and hired six models to hoist picket signs, accompanied by a six-piece band.

Four years later, the A’s along with their mule moved to Oakland and reversed their fortunes…

Praise Charlie O.


Chass, Murray. “Finley’s Follies Boasts Mule, Pigeons, Pheasants.” The New York Times, April 13, 1965.

Newhan, Ross. “Charlie O . . . A Mule, No Fool”, Independent Press Telegram (Long Beach, CA), May 2, 1965. D-2

Povich, Shirley. “Zoo in KC”, The Washington Post, March 30, 1965.

Jim Van Valkenburg. “Mule Replaces Sheep in Kansas City’s Park.” Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, February 9, 1965, 14.

Swanson, Don. “Kansas City Fans to Get New Kick.” Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette, March 26, 1965, 50.

2015 Trade Talk: Should the A’s sell high Scott Kazmir?

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Scott Kazmir throws against the Seattle Mariners in the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 13, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

This is the question circulating around the office of GM Billy Beane and is likely what nearly every call coming to Oakland’s “Gepetto” revolves around. With the former All-Star posting a 2.70 ERA in over 83 innings of work with 79 strikeouts, he is one of the most sought after starting pitchers for contenders this season. A part from Cole Hamels, (whose services have been swirling around trade circles for months now) Kazmir is really the only other solid left-handed starter in the trade market.

Not to say Kazmir is of Cole Hamels star-caliber, or even that he’s been a better pitcher, but as of right now one could make a legitimate argument that Oakland’s lefty is more valuable. The primary reason is because of his upcoming contract situation. Although he is going to become a free agent at the end of this season, he will likely cost less than the $23.5 million that Hamels is currently earning. The argument for why Hamels is a more valuable trade asset is because he’s under control for the next three years with a team option for a fourth, and more importantly, he has little history of injury. So as far as Scott’s future in Oakland, unless there is an overwhelming offer that comes out of left field for the southpaw’s services, I think it would be wise of Billy Beane not to trade Kazmir.

Now I’ve read a couple of articles about the reasons for trading Kazmir and I get it. With his past-injuries and second-half struggles last season, one could be concerned with his production falling off. Here were his 2014 splits:

1st half: 2.38 ERA, 4.0 K/BB, 6+ ip/g (in 19 starts)

2nd half: 5.42 ERA, 2.4 K/BB, 5.2 ip/g (in 13 starts)

However, having now finally pitched a full season since returning to the bigs in 2013, I believe he will be able to his put inconsistent past behind him. From what I’ve read, he specifically used this past offseason to build up his arm strength in order to pitch effectively deep into the summer. If that’s the case, the A’s will be in a situation to maintain a top-tier starting rotation that currently is tied for the best starting pitching ERA in the American League.

Also, Oakland can offer Kazmir a qualifying offer at the end of the year.

A qualifying offer enables teams to become eligible for draft pick compensation if a free agent leaves for free agency. The value of the qualifying offer changes from year to year and is determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous season. Much like a franchise tag in football, teams only extend these offers to top players. The return if the player rejects the offers, is one compensatory selection at the end of the first round of the MLB draft.

So in the case of Scott Kazmir, I would suggest keeping him through the end of the season so that his free agency situation becomes a win-win for the A’s. Based off of recent trends, the value of the qualifying offer for the 2016 offseason will be a little over $16 million. While this may seem like a ton of money for a frugal (that’s an overly nice way to put it) franchise, Kazmir is currently making $13 million, so it isn’t that much of a pay raise. So if he signs, Oakland gets another year of quality left-handed pitching and if he chooses to decline the offer – to pursue a more lucrative contract – then the A’s will receive, essentially, another 1st Round Pick. Plus, it gives the currently streaking 2015 squad more of an opportunity to compete and hopefully scrap their way into the playoff race.

Either way, the green and gold come out on top.

Cheater… Liar… Crook… Rogue… Hall of Famer…

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As many of you know in 2004, the all-time hits leader Pete Rose admitted after 15 long and dismissing years, that he did in fact bet on baseball, but he insisted it was only as a manager. Earlier this week, information revealed by Outside the Lines showed that Rose bet repeatedly on baseball towards the end of his career as a player-manager for the Cincinnati Reds. The reports specifically revealed that Rose placed bets on 30 different days regarding MLB games, 21 of those being placed on his Cincinnati Reds.

Caught red-handed, after constantly denying he bet on games as a player for the past 26 years, many believe that Rose should never be allowed into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. As John Dowd, the former federal prosecutor who led MLB’s investigation said, “This does it. This closes the door.”

I would argue differently.

To me, what Pete Rose did off the field should hold no consequence in terms of his induction into the ‘Baseball Hall of Fame,’ the reason being the first word there, ‘Baseball.’ The voters who decide which members of our National Pastime enter the halls of Cooperstown need to address their misguided sense of moral obligation. Who deserves to be a Hall of Famer? This is the question proposed, rather than the question I feel is similar, but more appropriate. Who should be a Hall of Famer? Differentiating deserves and should separates a players character flaws (which let’s be honest, everyone has) from their actual ability to play the game of baseball. Sure, Pete Rose off the field may not have brought much positive attention to himself, but in between the chalk, you’d be insane to think he’s anything but great. Not just the fact that he has more hits than anyone else – a record I personally don’t think will ever be broken – but he embodied the way one should play the game: Hard.

You cannot argue that he is one of the greatest players to ever put on cleats and that is where his Hall of Fame argument should end. This idea that Hall of Fame voters are only trying to put ‘clean’ guys in Cooperstown is simply unreasonable. In fact, the Hall already has ‘unclean’ guys inside, especially by today’s standards. Besides Ty Cobb, who always gets mentioned in this argument because of his sociopath-like attitude, there’s also a more glaring one. How about the long-time Red Sox and Indians Centerfielder, Tris Speaker who was implicated in a game-fixing scheme, which nowadays is more than a good enough reason to keep him out. Not to mention the rumor that both Cobb and Speaker were members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Plus, I can tell you right now that if Pete Rose put money down on the 1972 World Series when they played the Athletics, I wouldn’t blame him. That ’72 Reds offense was stacked and if not for an A’s pitching staff that held a cumulative 2.58 ERA to stifle Cincinnati’s firepower, they probably would’ve won. I get it’s about the deceit and dishonesty of his actions, but that had nothing to do with his approach to the game. If he ever threw a game, I would see him as guilty, but Rose was the toughest type of competitor. He would never give in on or off the field, which to me is an admirable quality.

Also, even NFL has a gambler amongst their Hall of Fame ranks. Former-MVP Paul Hornung was suspended from football in the early 60’s after he was found betting on NFL games. This was a guy who played for the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers who epitomized excellence and he tainted it. However, once he served his penance – a one-year ban – he came back and was eventually voted into the Hall of Fame in the class of 1986. If the NFL can get over it, why not the MLB?

Finally, the intention of the Hall of Fame voting committee to keep Rose out of his rightful place is, in essence, futile. The reason being The National Baseball Museum that rests side by side with the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. This museum is given the responsibility of holding the entire history of baseball, originally founded in 1869. Inside are memorabilia, murals, and most importantly, records. Pete Rose’s impact on the game lays within the Museum through his contribution to The Big Red Machine that tore up the 70’s along with his iconic #14 jersey. So to refuse Pete Rose admission to the Hall of Fame is just the voters denying the history of baseball one of its largest pieces.

My First Day of Summer

IMG_2311Some 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.

IMG_2291Once 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.

2218602259_41f6c8ceedOnce 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.

90f26211ea252cf5a99de9b288715ecc8cbd2368Oakland 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 9yAkYREthe 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.IMG_2316

You just can’t beat ‘The Town’

The Sad Truth About “The Towns” First Championship in 25 Years

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 16:  Golden State Warriors fans celebrate their team's 2015 NBA Finals win outside of Oakland City Hall on June 16, 2015 in Oakland, California. This is the first championship win for the Warriors since 1975.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Last night the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title in 40 years, making them the first team from Oakland to win a championship since 1989.

The Dubs were a perfect reflection of their passionate and devoted city. Hard working, team-oriented, flashy, determined, prideful, aggressive, poised, and so much more. And in true Oakland fashion, the best fans in the country celebrated by taking to the very streets that showed the most love towards their beloved band of nobodies. From Draymond Green, who came, “From people telling me I could never play in the NBA… to World Champion” to Shaun Livingston, who in 2007 nearly lost his leg to a traumatic knee injury; this team persevered. From Stephen Curry, who was told by scouts he was too small to effectively compete at any level beyond High School, to Andre Iguodala, who sacrificed his starting position before stepping up at the most crucial moment of his team’s season and deservedly winning the Finals MVP; this team flourished.

They had the best record. They had the best offensive and defensive efficiency. They were the best show on hardwood. They truly were the best team this season.

kings1That’s the thing; the best team in basketball typically wins the championship. How many times have their been true upsets in the NBA Finals? Think about it. I’ll give you 1970 Knicks over Lakers and I guess in recent years one could consider 2011 Mavs over Heat, but besides that there just aren’t that many. The best argument I could find would be good teams losing in the Conference Finals, such as the ’73 Celtics, ’86 Lakers, ’02 Kings (probably the best because refs rigged Game Six), or even the ’07 Suns. Yet, these teams except for the ’86 Lakers (who were dominated 4-1) all lost to the eventual champs.

This is why it pained me when I overheard some local East Bay Area-ins last night talking about how – not this year, but in the near future – it’s the A’s turn. Unfortunately for all of you reading I have some bad news, winning the World Series is more difficult than winning the NBA Finals, even if you’re the ‘best team. Some may think I’m a little biased and that’s probably correct, but for good reason. Statistically, only 10 teams (essentially 8 because of the Wild Card play-in game) make the playoffs in the MLB as opposed to 16 in the NBA, so one is already at a disadvantage there. A part from the numerical, I have three reasons why baseball is tougher to win in the postseason.

1) Momentum is more difficult to build and easier to take away in baseball

So we’ve already discussed the fact that the best team in the NBA generally gets a ring, whereas with MLB teams that doesn’t apply. One of the reasons why is because it takes time to build up momentum in basketball. Besides a basket late in the game (via buzzer-beater or not), a single play before the fourth quarter really doesn’t change the outcome of a playoff game.

flip-play-game-3-alds-01-siIn baseball I would argue it’s just the opposite. The early innings make all the difference. A’s fans remember well plenty of instances where a game was lost before the clock struck midnight. One that sticks out in my mind was in Game Five of the 2013 ALDS when Verlander struck out the first two batters of the game. Seemingly insignificant at the time, he ended up going 8 shutout innings, only giving up 2 hits, with 10 K’s. A more memorable one might have came the year before when Coco Crisp dropped a fly ball with two outs in the 7th inning of Game Two of the 2012 ALDS to give the Tigers two unearned runs and a lead they never gave up. The worst however would without a doubt have to go to Mr. Giambi. Not Jason, but his little stripper-loving brother Jeremy who never learned how to slide. Thanks Jeter.

2) Good defense doesn’t stop a good offense in basketball

Even NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley has admitted while talking about Allen Iverson’s 2001 NBA Finals 48-point outburst, “This ain’t baseball where good pitching stop good hitting.” Now normally I’d have to take a second to think about how much legitimate thought went into a Barkley comment, but in this case he’s correct. How many NBA playoff games have you seen AI, Kobe, LeBron, KD, Dirk, KG, Shaq, and many others completely take over and win a game or series with their offensive playmaking abilities? Answer: A ton. How many MLB playoff games can you remember a slugger stepping to the plate a single handedly swinging his team to victory? Answer: very few. But how many times can you remember a dominant pitching performance in which a pitcher carves through the heart of a stacked lineup? Answer: A ton.

Sonny-GrayIn fact it’s these types of playoff outings from starting pitching that allows a pitcher to make their mark in the league. Two postseasons ago, it was A’s Sonny Gray’s coming out party when he went toe-to-toe with Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and the hot-hitting Tigers and shut them down. That’s why the World Series has had many pitchers (offensive stoppers) who have won the MVP, unlike the NBA Finals in which Iguodala was the first player since Magic Johnson in ’82 to average less than 17 points and still win it. While that’s dope and he definitely deserved it, his ‘defensive effort’ (which factored heavily into the award) limited LeBron to 36 points per game. That’s essentially equivalent to a pitcher giving up six runs a game, but going 3-0 in the World Series. By the way that pitcher would not be given the MVP, I can guarantee it.

3) Home Field Advantage doesn’t matter in baseball

oracle-arena-1434288420-800This is probably the biggest reason. In basketball, home court advantage can make all the difference. Look at the Oracle Arena for instance, Monty Williams (ex-Head Coach of the Pelicans) petitioned for the volume in Oakland to be legally lowered. “I’m not so sure that the decibel level is legal there, and I’m serious … There’s got to be something to that because it does get a little out of hand.” That was only in the first round, so imagine the sound level for a Finals matchup. One of my friends who attended Game One said there were many points in the game where he couldn’t hear himself it was so loud. If you’re an opponent, there’s very few players that wouldn’t get rattled in a situation like that and that’s why its called an ‘advantage.’

Yet, in baseball that just isn’t the case. From 2003 to 2012, there were 70 postseason series and two wild-card games in which the team with home-field advantage won only 37 of those matchups, which translates to 51 percent overall. So statistically, home field holds no advantage, and that’s the overarching reason baseball sees so many upsets in the postseason. In 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, and 2013 the A’s held home field advantage and only won one series (’06). While the atmosphere of playoff baseball may seem different from a fans perspective, it is evident (especially if you happen to be a fan of the Athletics) that you have essentially zero impact on the game, whereas in hoops, fans can make a difference.

I would like to end this by saying thank you to the Golden State Warriors for finally bringing a Championship to the city of OAKLAND. ‘The Town’ is finally on top.