I had no misguided delusions of this team winning the division at the beginning of the 2021 season. The past few days I have read various comments comparing Sergio Romo to a white flag, but you’ll see that I wrote on this very blog some months ago that I saw the Romo and Elvis Andrus acquisitions as a white flag with no implications of competing before a single ball was hurled or a single bat was swung.
It was simply lipstick on a pig.
It’s not practical for a team that is tip-toeing the paper-thin line between “good” and “average” to lose two All-Star caliber players (Marcus Semien, Liam Hendricks) and supplant them with two decrepit, below average players who are barely ML caliber. Who was relegated to pick up the slack? Because no one on this roster did–or was even capable–and the numbers to be replaced were insurmountable. The fact that either player stepped on the field wearing pajamas with Oakland stitched on the front was a middle-finger to the fans. A ruse. The same tired and time-honored baseball front office hoax of getting the fans interested by virtue of a recognized player who “did it in the past” rather than the ability to put up numbers for your team today–and the uneducated, fringe fans fall for it…every…single….time.
We as fans are supposed to “trust the process,” but where does a team go with a 29th ranked minor league system and zero ability to sign high profile free agents? Are we as Oakland fans to forever wish upon a star with the likes of Skye Bolt or a myriad of AAAA players? To dig through the trash to find somewhat capable players with obvious flaws and then leave it to management to disguise said flaws? Make no mistake about it, the contention window has closed with this current team, and with the threat of a move to Las Vegas imminent these are times of high anxiety for fans of the green and gold. We are staring into the void of the baseball universe and having an existential crisis while the front office is trying to prove their craftiness by playing a glamorized version of Strat-O-Matic. Dare I say the Devil Rays have surpassed the A’s at their own game in this respect? A World Series appearance, the best record in the AL, and a stacked minor league system tells me…. hell yes.
Humbled and surpassed at our own Moneyball game as a billionaire con-man (John Fisher and his tasseled loafers can burn in hell) hiding behind the scenes uses the team, the city of Oakland and MLB in order to extort and develop hundreds of acres of publicly owned land posing as a “stadium project.” In the end, this team we root for is just an asset for real estate development–the franchise itself is entirely immaterial to the bottom line.
These are disparaging times with no foreseeable reprieve.
Gary Trujillo: I watched that Field Of Dreams game, and it was really cool from an aesthetic standpoint… and what an ending! I’m not a big fan of the movie though, it’s way too cheesy for my tastes. My favorite baseball movie would have to be Bull Durham because the writing is smart, funny, romantic, sexy and raunchy. And Susan Sarandon! Meow.
I met BD writer Ron Shelton at the Burbank Library in 2010 and he was a cool guy. Jim Bouton (RIP) was there that day too as was Greg Goossen (RIP)
Brian Kingman: Yes! Bull Durman is more realistic and my favorite too. When I watched the movie I was interested to see who wrote it because it combined a high level of understanding of what it was like to play the game professionally, as well as an awesome job of capturing the personal interaction between teammates (Mostly Costner & Robbins) as well as what it is like to be a naive rookie or a seasoned pro. My favorite scene is when Costner tells the hitter what’s coming and he hits the home run off the bull. It so accurately depicted the feeling and interaction between an experienced catcher and rookie pitcher who thinks he is invincible.
I think almost every young pitcher has been in that situation. I remember the first time I faced Reggie Jackson, it was 0-2, no one on base and I shook off a curveball twice! because I WANTED TO ANNOUNCE MY PRESENCE WITH AUTHORITY.…..with a fastball of course. Well, that ball ended up 30 rows deep in the right-field stands. If the Durham bull had been there it might have knocked its head off! Jim Essian, my catcher came out to the mound with a smile that said, I told you so and said, “Now there’s something to remember.”
Anyway, Ron Shelton should be in Baseball’s HOF for writing (and directing) that movie!
Field Of Dreams is different. Less realistic and requires the suspension of disbelief. It would be awesome if old-time players could emerge from a cornfield! Not sure how many would be available or where it might happen. Maybe in a parallel universe there is a schedule of old-timers games for everyone that ever played. Like (the novel) The Wax Pack you could catch up with your favorite players. Unlike Wax Pack it wouldn’t matter if they were still living …well at least not in the here and now.
With everyone theoretically available, my list would be very long. I would like, of course, to meet Dolf Luque. August 24th was the 99th anniversary of his 20th loss – the last pitcher before me to lose 20 for a winning team. Jack Nabors, who suffered through a 1-20 season and of course Pud Galvin. I’d want to get Babe Ruth’s opinion on today’s homerun glut, but more importantly the highlights of his nightlife. I’d ask Rube Wadell why he chased fire trucks, and I would ask Casey Stengel to tell me all he knows about Billy Martin. I’d like to meet Anthony Young to hear his frustrations of losing 27 consecutive decisions. I would hope that the power of walking through the corn isn’t limited to just the diamond. I want to meet these guys in a bar so we can sit down and talk for hours. I know Babe would feel right at home. I also know that Luque and Stengel don’t like each other, and as the night wears on a plastered Billly Martin should appear to make things even more interesting.
Although much of what I do here is the literary equivalent of digital fish wrap, I recently decided to go a different direction and did a cool and very interesting interview with Matt from Oakland A’s UK. I despise long intros, so I’ll let the interview do the talking…also, do yourself a favor and check out the link above if you get a chance! Enjoy.
1. Let’s start with the genesis of this love affair. How did you discover baseball in a football-obsessed country, and why did you choose the Oakland A’s as your favorite club?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s two MLB games per week were shown live on British TV in the early hours of the morning. As a big sports fan, I thought I would give baseball a shot and so I recorded a game and was hooked straight away, despite not having much of a clue what was going on at first. My first game was in mid-1998 so I lucked into the whole drama of the ‘Run for ‘61’ (slightly tarnished in retrospect!) that season and also quickly gained a healthy dislike of the Yankees due to them being annoyingly good in that period!
I thought it would be more fun to have a team to root for, but had no geographic or family reasons that might pick a team for me, other than not wanting to jump onto the bandwagon of the usual big-name teams. In the end, it came down to the colors. I come from a small city called Norwich and our soccer team plays in yellow and green, so when I saw the A’s green and gold caps that was as good a reason as any.
I’d say I’ve properly been following the A’s since 2005, as that was the first year when MLB.TV was really starting up and I was able to watch or listen to lots of games rather than just reading up about them online. 2005 really isn’t all that long ago, but the way MLB.TV has developed over the years since, and streaming in general, is pretty remarkable. Add on social media and wherever you are in the world you can now feel like part of the fan base. We’ve been incredibly lucky that so many A’s fans have been so welcoming towards us, both online and on visits to the Coliseum, and I think that speaks to the unique spirit that A’s fans have.
2. Considering the time change, you and your crew have to rise at ungodly hours to watch these games. How do you suffer through it?
We are 8 hours ahead of Pacific Time so day-games are our friend! A typical 12.37pm or 1.07pm start in Oakland is 8.37pm/9.07pm here in the UK, and that means most weeks there are at least 2 if not 3 games we can watch live at a convenient time.
The night-games are usually a 2.40am or 3.07am start for us. With the best will in the world, watching those live every day, combined with a full-time job and other commitments, often isn’t feasible. So we don’t tend to watch ‘working week’ night-games live and instead either just settle for watching the highlights or watch the game back ‘as live’ the following day. That’s been made easier over the past 18 months due to Covid lockdowns and the increase home-working where we can have it on in the background!
The other silver lining of the Covid period has been the wide adoption of Zoom calls as a way for us to watch games together despite living apart, in different parts of the UK and also friends out there in the States joining too. That helps to get us through late nights when the game is dragging on a bit.
3. Are you invested in the decision regarding the Oakland City Council and the A’s potentially leaving Oakland?
Definitely. We don’t come from a sporting culture of franchises and the very idea of picking up a team and moving it somewhere else is completely abhorrent to us whoever the team is, let alone the one we love. I know the A’s moved from Philadelphia and KC to get here, but the team has been in Oakland since 1968 so by now I think everyone has the right to consider the A’s as being Oakland’s team. I guess Fisher and Kaval see the Vegas flirting as standard business practice for US franchises, but it’s just the latest kick in the teeth for a fanbase that has been treated terribly for years and deserves so much better.
Clearly the Howard Terminal plan is complicated, but it feels like it has got further along the line than any other plan for a new ballpark in Oakland, so I view it all with cautious optimism. All of us in the AUK group would struggle to follow the team to a new location, especially one out of the Bay Area, so we all desperately hope that everything works out and Fisher and Kaval actually come good on their ‘Rooted In Oakland’ talk.
4. Who are your favorite players and most hated? (Any Jim Johnson hate would be appreciated)
Jim Johnson certainly is on the bad list, with Billy Butler being the other name that comes up most in our discussions of recent flops.
In terms of favorites, I think I loved everything about Coco Crisp, from his name to his batting stance, and he was a rare player who stuck around for quite a while. Cespedes was like a comet who shone with us briefly, but he felt like a star player when he was here, and one who genuinely seemed to enjoy being in Oakland.
Most recently, Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks were players you had to love because we saw their struggles and how hard they worked to become excellent players, and again both had a lot of respect for the A’s fan base. That made the past off-season really hard, but there are always new players to emerge or existing ones to step up. Right now, my vote would be for ‘the starting rotation’! I love the way that they clearly enjoy being in each other’s company and drive each other on. Here’s hoping they can keep performing as well as they have up to this point.
Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s, my childhood interests waned and became passé–as they tend to do–and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated, dangerous and engaging in an era that offered no safe landings. My interests in music and punk rock in general were blossoming into a near obsession as I decided to join a garage band, and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds: doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out” with a speculating, cynical and sometimes critical mind. And as much as I loved to scan the box scores and catch a game or two, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention while I was learning how to piss standing up.
F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.” I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game)
So after reading a tiny smattering of the classics: Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Didion, Auster (yes, and even that Post-Burroughs/Warhol/Patti Smith deluge we all overdosed on in our late teens/twenties) –I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that I had flushed 3 years earlier, finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun. It was a catharsis that I hadn’t needed before.
This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.
As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and a mystifying yet comfortably unorthodox visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine, offering the viewer roller-coaster emotions, knee-jerk reactions, blissful states and unadulterated anger in the vile pits of hell. This cruel game can also make an atheist recite prayer and a logical individual superstitious without apology or regret. Time seems to stand still and then speeds up again, with the changing of the seasons in the forefront amidst implied mortality–and shaping a world in which play seems vital.
“My, my, my, my Corona.” –sang in the vocal stylings of the Knack’s “My Sharona.”
These are fantastical times. This Corona virus has run the full gamut and has completely taken over my life. I’ve been washing my hands upwards of 30 times a day, and like everything else that becomes an obsession in my life, it is imperative that I know every single detail about the origins and life of this villain. Listening to NPR and reading the NY Times has been vital in comprehensive avoidance and genuine insight to this fiend. This is a time of high anxiety.
All of the major sports have been cancelled and college and high school students have been sent home. I went to the library today and it was all but deserted, the only homeless person within eye-shot was wearing a mask. I went to the grocery store to stock up on food as to not leave the house for at least a few days. We are all pariahs, avoiding each other at all costs and giving anyone a side glance if they so much as come within 3 feet of you.
Whatever you do…don’t. touch. your. face. Donald Trump, notoriously obsessed with germs refuses to shake anyone’s hand, as does anyone in this time of trial. I listened to Trump’s presidential briefing (for the first time in his term) and his bravado and positivity seemed like more posturing even though he called for a national emergency in what can be seen as a hushed tone. After a carousel of “geniuses” were paraded on the mic (each one talking an average of 45 seconds, and included a representative from CVS) VP Mike Pence didn’t hesitate to put Trump on a pedestal in an embarrassing display of window dressing obviously written by someone who understands the President’s psyche. There were many hollow slogans of strength, patriotism and resilience in a fairly standardized ending.
I feel better already. (eyeroll) Let us not forget that Trump once downsized this virus comparing it to the flu and even went so far as to call it a “democratic hoax.” It seems to me that we as the people are going to have to fight this together by learning as much as we can about this virus with our elected officials having very little credibility or competence. Good luck to the readers of this blog and to us all, and as Tom Hanks famously said, “There is no crying in baseball.”
I didn’t even shell out the six bucks for a copy of Baseball Prospectus.
It’s not important that I bring to task a Spring Training update; personally I find them to be tedious, but I suppose I must write something considering that this humble dissemination has over 2,500 followers and people actually read the thing for crissakes.
After last years embarrassing one game playoff loss to the Devil Rays, the following remarks swirled in my mind: pointless, not again, now what?, same old shit…who in the hell is Yandy Diaz? The ever graceful and future ace Sean Manaea blamed himself for the loss although it was a team effort as the offense was anemic and made to look bush-league. Watching the game was every bit the “Babylonian” experience. This squad, however, isn’t a “soft reboot” as the youngsters have aged a year and have playoff experience with the following players expected to have a breakout year: Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano. Little was added or subtracted this off-season because of the aforementioned. The template for most prospective playoff teams is a daily set lineup, (depending on L/R matchups, of course) and this team doesn’t have many question marks. Bob Melvin should only have to do a bit of airbrushing here and there.
No Spring Training review is complete without a contrarian view and the second base/bullpen situation must be addressed here. Second base: Franklin Barreto has proven to be impotent, still can’t lay off the slider, and has spent more time in Nashville than Johnny Cash. He has two things going for him: he is young and the A’s front office refuses to get fleeced in the Josh Donaldson trade. Sheldon Neuse should get a look at the position as well because of the big season he had in the desert for Las Vegas. Bullpen: This was definitely a weakest spot as the ‘pen blew more than 25 saves last year with most of the guys being question marks except for Petit and Hendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of non-roster guys made the team. Melvin will be working with patchwork and will be criticized many times this year for how he handled it whether it be his fault or not.
I see no reason why this team can’t pull together, win a roll of the dice in the playoffs and haul the “piece of metal” as Ron Manfred so elegantly called the WS trophy. I think the Nats of 2019 proved that miracles can still happen when you have strong pitching and a lineup that works together without one self-absorbed prick mucking up the works.
I woke up late Sunday morning to gallop on down to the local coffee shop when I found a rolled-up cocaine-laden ten dollar bill on the ground. My lucky day, I thought. The neck bearded hipster behind the counter was talking to what I previously thought to be a homeless person about “simulated reality” before the conversation segued into Brad Pitt’s 1999 vehicle Fight Club. I love this violent and political story-(although I find the characters to be juvenile, simplistic and self-serving)-of disenfranchised middle-class masculinity but this wasn’t the time or moment for a conference and debate.
“I highly recommend the movie in addition to the novel. It’s worth the time and it helps put the book into perspective,” said the espresso expert, and moments before I was about to disconnect his head from his flannel wearing body he takes my order of a medium black coffee with a splash of half and half. It was about 1 o’ clock so I headed over to my “baseball buddy” Manny’s house to watch Super Bowl LIV. We decided to play a game of Madden 2019 to kill time and he proceeded to “shart” on himself moments before halftime. Gross. After showering he eventually beat me 27-25. (Did you expect this blog entry to reek of any sort of profundity? The joke’s on you.)
The game itself was a pretty well played, entertaining enterprise and this may be America’s first look at a future super star in Patrick Mahomes. There was laughter at the mostly contrived commercials, debate on the attractiveness and booty mass of J-Lo and Shakira, beer drankin’ and pizza eatin’. Need I say more? The Chiefs eventually pull it out in the 4th quarter in a exciting affair, 31-20. Manny fell asleep and I walked home in a semi-drunken state pondering the game and thinking about the upcoming baseball season with a sort of mild euphoria.
The following was taken from Mike Piazza’s autobiography, “Long Shot.”
…I wouldn’t have felt (my age) at all if the music in the clubhouse weren’t hurting my ears the way it did. When it comes to music I feel like I’m as open-minded as anybody out there, but (the A’s) had a young roster and, well, man. I like rap just fine–hell, I was wearing gold chains back when Olivia Newton-John was getting physical–if it’s classic rap, or even the new stuff when there’s a strong rhythm to it. As a thrash-metal guy from way back, I feel like I can handle some rough language and graphic lyrics; but some of the more contemporary rap is so blatantly hard-core that even an old Slayer and Anthrax man like me has a tough time dealing with it. I guess it’s a matter of age and tradition both. You have to understand, I came up with the Dodgers when the stadium music consisted exclusively of Nancy Bea Hefley at the organ. When that was cutback to modernize the atmosphere–to make the ballpark sound like every other ballpark–they turned to entrance music, with each player picking a theme song. With the Mets, I recall Tony Tarasco coming to the plate to an X–rated, in your face rap number that had the whole stadium sounding like a bad-ass clubhouse.
“You better get your head and your ass together or I will take a giant shit on you.” –Full Metal Jacket (1987) or Rob Manfred to the Astros (2020)
The scandal involving the Houston Astros has been disputed and pondered more than all the John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories combined and I’m just about to put it to bed with a lullaby and an Ambien. The waltz of the heart and mind just wont let me contemplate ostentatious behavior for too long before the disappointment of the inevitable keeps me looking elsewhere for a more positive spin on things. Baseball, with its cult of the masculine hero-worship all but cold and lifeless should think about robot players…never mind the umpires. We will cease to worry about self-centered, money hungry, skin-sack douche-bags–at least until the robots rise up and destroy humanity a la The Terminator.
Where’s Kyle Reese when you need him?
Alas, no one really cares about baseball too much until football season is over and it looks like (at this point in time) former baseballer and pitcher Pat Mahomes’ son is going to showcase his unique skills in the Super Bowl. This is the time of year to huddle inside, watch some gridiron, avoid the cold, crush a few man-sodas and eat pounds of meat off the party tray after expertly picking around the gherkins and radishes. A friend of mine laughs at the new Budweiser “hard seltzer” commercial and compares it to Zima. He has no idea that these things are all the rage with college kids. Ok, Boomer.
That’s all I got for now…I’m off like a dirty shirt!
Had one hell of an ending to 1985, which may or may not be remembered.
Mike Norris awoke on New Year’s Day 1986, in bed with a 300-pound woman he did not immediately recognize. He staggered to the Oakland dive where he had spent New Year’s Eve and the bartender was the only person there. The wall behind the bar was mirrored. Norris saw his reflection and it horrified him. Usually a proud dresser, he was wearing the previous night’s clothes. They hung on his thinning frame as sad as sails on a windless day. “Major league ballplayer, my fucking ass,” he snarled at his reflection. Norris was yet another regretful New Year’s casualty of cocktails and carousal.
People fall into two camps when it comes to New Year’s Eve: they either love the celebration and dish out 100 dollars on a ticket to a party where they proceed to get smashed, or they do something totally low-key – because what’s all the fuss about?
Whether you’ll be celebrating in style this year or snuggling up on the sofa at home (and perhaps even falling asleep before midnight), you’ve no doubt had some shockers of a New Year’s Eve before. Haven’t we all? Here’s one of many horror stories:
New Years 2010. I was the sober driver for some friends until around 11 pm before I headed off to a midnight party in Silver Lake at some sort of McMansion that was supposedly alt-rocker, Beck‘s house. At the soiree, realizing I needed to catch up, I immediately began pounding Red Bull vodkas. My friend immediately told me to “drink this”, which I did. Pretty quickly. Only later did I discover “this” was a pint of 50/50 Jack Daniels and coke. (The legal kind, although the illegal kind was being passed around in the open by dicey “Hollywood types” and hanger-ons.) By the time 12AM rolled around I was spinning and tanked. As the clock struck midnight, I grabbed a girl next to me (who was a beautiful brunette and a local celebrity on some sort of news program) and we had our midnight kiss – which swiftly turned into the two of us fighting to reach the toilet as we both projectile vomited all over the bathroom. She wanted to make out afterwards and I politely declined. I always wonder if Beck woke up the next morning to find the collaborative technicolor yawn that he no doubt had his maid clean up.