Tagged: Oakland A’s

Carlos Beltran and Other MLB Playoff Thoughts

Sorry for being away for so long.  I was writing for another blog, gradingonthecurve.com previewing the Arizona Fall League players for the ten Western Division teams.  The playoffs are in full swing and we are already down to the final four teams.  Here are some of my observations of what we have seen so far.

Carlos Beltran should go to the Hall of Fame.  Image:  espn.com

Carlos Beltran should go to the Hall of Fame. Image: espn.com

-Last week I had posted on Facebook that Carlos Beltran was on his way to the Hall of Fame. This was before Game 1 of the NLCS in which he drove in all three runs and gunned down A.J. Ellis in the Cardinals’ 3-2, 13 inning victory over the Dodgers.  Including this year’s playoffs, Beltran has 156 postseason at-bats with 16 HR’s, 34 RBI’s 11 steals and a slash line of .327/.442/.712.  But does that guarantee a ticket to Cooperstown?

For his career, Beltran was the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year with the Royals.  He is an eight-time All Star with only one top five finish in the MVP race (2006 with the Mets).  100 RBI seasons are usually a good indicator of production; Beltran has eight of them, the last coming in 2008 although he drove in 97 in 2012.  His career numbers after 16 seasons read like this:  358 HR’s, 1,327 RBI’s, 308 stolen bases and a line of .283/.359/.496.

Personally, I think Beltran deserves to get in.  He has had eight dominant seasons even if the results didn’t show up in the MVP race.  Although his career was cut short due to an injury, the reason why Kirby Puckett is in the Hall of Fame is because he has two World series rings and was the best player on those teams.  Beltran has better overall numbers with no title.  If Beltran gets to the Fall Classic, he knocks on the door; if the Cardinals win, the door swings open.

-Since Billy Beane became the general manager in 1998, the Oakland A’s have made six playoff appearances (five division titles and one wild card) and have gotten to the ALCS only once.   Some may consider this a knock on his record.  I do not.  Getting to the playoffs in baseball is the hardest road to travel in any professional sport.  They should be celebrated for their tremendous success over 162 games not maligned for a failure to advance after five games.   What has made the last two seasons hurt is having the Tigers win the decisive Game 5 in both years at Oakland.  They can thank Justin Verlander for shutting them out two straight seasons in the clinchers.

-Speaking of Verlander and the Tigers, there was no way I would have taken him out after eight innings with a 3-0 lead.  He had allowed only two hits and one walk with ten strikeouts on 111 pitches.  That is domination and to me, you allow your star pitcher to finish the game.  It worked out for Jim Leyland but one could only imagine if the A’s rallied.  I am a firm believer of letting your best starting pitcher close out a tight series, like the Cards did with Adam Wainwright in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Pirates.

-I really don’t have too much of a rooting interest but if I had to pick a team, it would be the Dodgers.  Don Mattingly was my favorite player and I want to see him do well after being almost fired earlier this season.  It is hard to root for them given how I write a blog about the Diamondbacks.   However, I can put personal feelings aside in the hopes that Donnie Baseball, who just missed out on a title as player with the Yankees, can get one as a manager.

-Had Torii Hunter made this catch, he would have become a legend.

So Much Good is Going on In Major League Baseball

The big story surrounding Major League Baseball is the impending suspensions of several players regarding their involvement with Biogenesis, the infamous lab located in South Florida.   The biggest name involved, of course is Alex Rodriguez and anytime A-Rod’s name is brought up, particularly “juicy” story such as this, everything else around the game takes a back seat, even the just-concluded trading deadline.   Well, as you know, I have had it with all of the negative press about baseball lately.  So I figured now is about the time to look at all of the GOOD things that are happening ON THE FIELD, you know where the actual games are being played.  All of you need to stop listening to the drama and the angst and all that is wrong with the game and focus on some wonderful things that are taking place as the calendar shifts to August.  There are a ton of great things and frankly I could probably write about something positive about all 30 teams.   Here are some items that will make you feel good as a fan even  if it doesn’t involve your team.

Wise up, forget A-Rod and pay attention to guys like Jason  Donaldson.  Image:  sfgate.com

Wise up, forget A-Rod and pay attention to guys like Jason Donaldson. Image: sfgate.com

The Oakland A’s are proving last season was no fluke.   Oakland has the second-largest lead of any division leader as they are up 4 1/2 games over the Texas Rangers.  On the mound, Bartolo Colon will garner serious Cy Young Award consideration with a 14-3 record and a 2.50 ERA.  Grant Balfour has 28 saves and has blown only one opportunity since last August.  Third baseman Jason Donaldson is showing All Star voters the folly of their ways by leading the club in hitting at .297 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI’s.  First baseman Brandon Moss has picked up for other struggling hitters leading the A’s with 17 homers and has driven in 49 runs.  July and August is usually the time Oakland’s teams under GM Billy Beane are at their best so I see no reason why the A’s won’t repeat as American League West Champions.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will REALLY finish over .500 this season…….and make the playoffs.  The last two seasons have been unkind to the Bucs down the stretch.  It will be much different finish for Pittsburgh this season.  This week saw the Pirates face the St. Louis Cardinals in a crucial showdown to determine who enters the next month leading the National League Central.  The Pirates won the first four games, sweeping a doubleheader on Tuesday, and are now up 2 1/2 games on the Cards.  Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is one of the game’s true power hitters as his 27 dingers proves.  Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has thrust himself into the MVP race as perhaps the game’s premier up-the-middle outfielder.  The bullpen has been simply dominant and Francisco Liriano has been the free agent signing of the year with an 11-4 record  and a 2.16 ERA.   All of those losing seasons resulting in high draft picks combined with  shrewd free agent signings and trades have made the Bucs the feel-god story of the season.

The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are legitimate division threats.  Most people, including me, figured the American League Central would be won easily by the Detroit TigersAfter a rough month of May by both KC and the Tribe, that seemed to be the case.  However, Cleveland at 3 games out and the Royals at 7 1/2 games behind, are not going away.  Cleveland obviously stands the better chance at the moment.  When you have the ageless Jason Giambi ending a game with a home run for you,  anything is possible.  Second Baseman Jason Kipnis is having the best season no one has heard from with 15 homers, 68  RBI’s , a .295 average and 21 steals.  Justin Masterson is pitching like a true ace with 12 wins and a 3,42 ERA.   The Royals are still probably a year away but they are providing their fans with some hope that the corner has been turned.  Ervin Santana and James Shields have provided everything management was looking for when they were both acquired this past Winter.  They both have ERA’s less than 3.10 and are on track to throw close to 200 innings.  If they somehow get one more bat before August 31st, they could throw a real scare into the Tigers.

Yadier Molina is having a wonderful season.  It seems as though Yadi has been around forever, gunning out baserunner after baserunner and getting clutch hits for the Cardinals.  For a while, Molina was leading the National League in hitting; right now he is third at .330.  He has eight home runs and his 54 RBI’s is on pace to surpass last season’s career high of 76.  As usual, his work behind the plate has been stellar, working with a cast of veterans and newcomers, all of whom swear by Yadi’s game-calling abilities.  Molina just landed on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury, a rotten time for St. Louis as they fight to keep pace with the Pirates and ahead of the  Cincinnati Reds in the standings.  Molina will be a leading MVP candidate by season’s end but the Cards woudl just settle for him to be back healthy for September.

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Former First Baseman/Designated Hitter George Scott passed away on July 28th at the age of 69.  Big George had some serious power in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s, slugging a total of 271 home runs.  He played on the pennant winning Boston Red Sox in 1967 and is a member of the Sox Hall of Fame.  While with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975, Scott led the American League in home runs with 36 and RBI’s with 109. 

I always knew Scott was a big power hitter but I did not realize what a great fielder he was.  He won eight Gold Gloves at first and Nick Carfado of the Boston Globe wrote that he had never seen  a better fielding first baseman.  From what I have been reading about his life, he was a big, gentle man with a tremendous heart.  It is another sad passing of someone being taken before his time.

Rest in Peace, Boomer.

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Brian Wilson is backIt was a long, hard road for the fireballing reliever, one of the true characters of the game.  He underwent arm surgery and has not pitched in a Major League game in almost 18 months. Even though it was the Los Angeles Dodgers  who signed him, I am very glad that we will get a chance to see him pitch again.

Wilson has some tremendous seasons with the San Francisco Giants, topped off by a spectacular 2010 that saw the Giants capture their first World Series Championship in the Bay Area.  Wilson was tremendous, recording an NL-leading 48 saves and a sparkling 1,81 ERA.   For his career, Wilson owns 171 saves and a 3,21 ERA.  He will appear in a few Minor League rehab games until being called up to LA probably sometime before September 1st.

I wish nothing but the best for Brian Wilson, a good player, a great personality and a seemingly tremendous person.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

Home of the Oakland A’s Has Seen Its Share of Greatness

Quick, out of the ten teams that entered the Major League Baseball playoffs, which one plays in the stadium with the most history?  Certainly not the teams in New York and St. Louis, baseball hotbeds who have built new facilities within the decade.  The answer would be the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland A’s.  This venerable field, home also to the Raiders, has seen six World Series and over twenty other playoff rounds.  Legends such as Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers and Catfish Hunter have called this place home and have had some of the finest moments of their careers in that building.

A view from above of the historic Oakland Coliseum. Image: http://www.ballparks.com

Now as I watch the Tigers play the A’s in this year’s playoffs, I catch myself gazing at the screen wondering what it was like in the mid-70’s with those great Oakland clubs winning championship after championship.  It could be Sal Bando making another diving stop at third, a Joe Rudi leap at the wall taking away a home run and  Vida Blue missing yet another bat.   I was lucky enough to catch the 1987-1992 version which saw Oakland capture three American League pennants and one World Championship.  I think of the Dave Stewart glare, Dennis Eckersley recording another save on less than ten pitches and a monster home run from either Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire.  Of course, how could I forget the Man of Steal, Rickey Henderson?  Earlier this decade, we were able to witness one of the most formidable pitching trios that made half their starts in the Coliseum:  Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder.  Although this group never reached the World Series, they nonetheless were one of the most successful organizations from 2000-2006.

Now it is 2012 and by this time tomorrow, the Oakland Coliseum may be hosting yet another American League Championship Series.  The A’s want a new stadium just like everyone else.  It will be a sad day for us all when the inevitable moving trucks show up and that the Oakland Coliseum, like many other historic baseball venues, goes into the dustbin of history.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Josh Reddick: The Best Player You Are Not Following

It sure has been a long time since I have been on here.  And boy does it feel good to be back.  I did take a nice long vacation but came back last Sunday.  From there, I contended with a stomach bug, my wife’s birthday, a Big Time Rush concert and 100 miles of driving on both Saturday and Sunday.  It began to feel as though this blog was being overlooked.

Sort of like Josh Reddick is on the national scene. 

Yes, he is a nightly fixture on MLB Network because of his spectacular plays in the field and at bat.  But did you realize has belted 25 home runs, the same number as Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano?  Probably not.  Now I understand he plays in a loaded division with the two-time defending AL champion Rangers and the Angels who count Pujols and story of the year candidate Mike Trout.  Heck, more people attribute the suprise of Reddick’s team, the A’s, to its great pitching.  All of this is true.  However, people need to realize that Reddick is a special player.  The average is a not-so-hot .253 but then again, he doesn’t have a stacked lineup like the Rangers, Angels and Yankees.   Plus, he plays his hoem games in the Oakland Coliseum, which is a pitcher’s paradise.    In the field, Reddick’s defense is nothing short of electric.  He has made numerous catches and throws that shoudl enable him to win a Gold Glove this season.  In fact, let us check out one of those plays right now.  The victim?  Trout himself.

If Oakland is to make its first playoff appearance since 2006,  Josh Reddick will have to be the offensive catalyst.  Although he will not win the league MVP,  there is no doubt that he is the A’s team MVP right now.  Maybe if Oakland does sneak in as a Wild Card, the nation will appreciate the talents of its future All-Star Right Fielder.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

Dealing Astros Stockpiling for the Future

Jose Altuve Image: http://www.mlb.com

Well, we are right in the midst of the craziness that surrounds the July 31st MLB trading deadline.  You have your share of teams making moves to increase their chances of winning (you go Pittsburgh Pirates).  You have teams that are sellers because of an utterly disappointing season (that’s you, Miami Marlins).  There is one team that is wheeling and dealing now in the hopes of contending in two or three years.  I am fascinated by all of the moves being made by the Houston Astros.

Over the last four weeks, the ‘Stros have parted with Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brett MyersBrandon Lyon  and Wandy Rodriguez.  In return, Houston received a total of  15 players, most of them prospects.  Even if only five of them become regular players for the Astros,  2012 will be known as the Summer the team built their foundation for success.  In addition to all of the action on the big league level, Houston drafted Shortstop Carlos Correa with the first pick in this year’s draft.  Correa at age 17 already has had 95 at bats in the Gulf Coast League.   First year General Manager Jeff Luhnow has an excellent background having spent nine seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The organization seems to be in capable hands with Luhnow in charge.  Houston already has budding stars in Jose Altuve and Lucas Harrell.  The drafting of Correra and the stockpiling of prospects indicates that this team is feeling giddy about its short and long-term future. 

In 2013, the Astros move into the rugged American League West.  The well-regarded organization of the Rangers and the young superstars of the A’s and Angels will pose problems for the newcomers.  However, I expect Houston to contend very shortly and give those guys a run for the money at this time next season. 

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

MLB Highlights (In Case You Missed Them)

It has been a while since this blog has featured some of the best defensive plays Major League Baseball has to offer.  I say defense because most offensive highlights these days are home runs, guys staring at their home runs or end of game moments that range from a walk to a grand slam and all finish with a sea of home team players streaming onto the field.  Then again, maybe we can get a 450 foot blast in here once in a while, can’t we?

On to the clips.

Josh ReddickReddick was plucked by Oakland in a trade that sent the now injured Andrew Bailey to Boston.   He has been the A’s best offensive player so far which resulted in his being selected to this season’s All Star Game.  However, the one play that stood out for me was this laser he fired during a game in April that reminded me of Ichiro’s throw in 2001 that is still shown today.  Click here and watch this cannon. 

Mike Baxter-MLB Network recently ran the Top 75  Plays in the First Half as voted on by Facebook users.  I watched the last 35 minutes of this program and it is incomprehensible that this catch to preserve Johan Santana’s  no-hitter did not make the top 44.  Baxter literally sacrificed his body on this play as he was taken off the field and hasn’t been seen since then.  If you haven’t seen it, please watch it now. 

Brandon PhillipsDouble plays are fun to watch.  Watching Brandon Phillips play defense is fun.  So why not combine the two?  Phillips is a magician in the field and a pretty fine offensive player as well and is a major reason why the Reds are in first place at the moment.  Here is one of the many plays that make the 2nd baseman a nightly highlight reel.

Cameron Maybin-Like Phillips, Maybin is a bet to make the highlight reel every night.  He is the perfect guy to play in the vast outfield of Petco Park.  His glove and now his bat are showing people why the Marlins wanted him when they traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers.  What follows is one of the best catches that will be made in 2012.  Click here and enjoy the play calling of the great Dick Enberg

I hope you enjoyed the videos.  There are countless others out there but these are the ones that stick out for now.  I’ll get some more to you soon.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

The Midnight Massacre and Other June 15th Trading Deadline Stuff

My buddy Doug reminded me not too long ago that the Major League Baseball trading deadline used to be June 15th.  He figured that would make for an interesting post.  Guess what?  He is absolutely correct.   With the date only two days away, now would be a perfect time to reflect on some major happenings that took place at the old deadline. 

The biggest June 15th deal took place in 1977 and it became known as the Midnight Massacre, considered by many Met fans to be the darkest day in the history of the franchise.  Tom Seaver  had been in a feud with Met management over the issue of (what else?) money.  Seaver had been critical in the press of ownership not spending the dollars necessary to keep the Mets from sliding toward mediocrity.  Dick Young was a writer with the New York Daily News who continually took the side of the organization even calling Seaver “greedy”.   It is worth pointing out that Young’s son-in-law worked in the organization.  Things came to a head in the June 15th edition of the Daily News  in which Young stated that Seaver was jealous of the contract of  Nolan Ryan  received from the California Angels, even dragging Seaver’s wife and Ryan’s wife into fray.  That night, Tom Terrific demanded to be traded and the Mets obliged sending him to the Reds  for Steve Henderson, Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn and Dan Norman.  Not only that but slugger Dave Kingman was dealt to the Padres, also over a contract dispute. The Mets lost their two best players on the same day, June 15th, 1977.  Check out Bill Madden’s column  for even more background on this historic deal.

June 15th is also a date Cubs’ fans would like to forget as a trade was made that has gone down as one of the most lopsided deals of all time.  In 1964 the Cubbies dealt Lou Brock  to the Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio.  At the time, it didn’t look so bad as Broglio was 18-8 the prior year and in 1960 led the National League in wins with 21.  Other than his .315 batting average in 1963, the speedster Brock was basically a .255 hitter.  Who knew that Brock would go on to the Hall of Fame while Broglio would post seven wins in his two and a half seasons in Chicago, retiring after the 1966 season? 

In 1976, Charlie Finley, having already lost Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, decided to sell off more players who were instrumental in the A’s three consecutive World Championships.  On June 15th, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were sent to the Red Sox while Vida Blue was sent to the Yankees all for cash.  Commissioner Bowie Kuhn rejected the deals, citing “the best interest of baseball clause”.  Finley tried suing Major League Baseball as well as Kuhn but ultimately lost.  Fingers and Rudi left after the season and Blue was traded before the 1978 season.

Since we started with a depressing story about the Mets, how about a good one for the Amazins?  It was June 15th, 1983 when the Cards traded Keith Hernandez to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.  The two pitchers combined for a 21-22 record for St. Louis while  Hernadez trade helped restore some badly needed credibility.  His arrival set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the team’s second title three years later.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com