“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): Jarrod Parker, the A’s, and how baseball isn’t fair

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. Now, the Athletics.

Baseball is an unfair game. It’s a cruel game.

It’s financial structure is cruel: the biggest markets still have major advantages, both in exposure and in resources.

It’s success/failure ratio is cruel: the best hitters in the world are still failing to put a ball in play over half the time, and it’s best pitchers can still be expected to give up runs every and any time they were to pitch nine innings.

And it’s not fair to people like Jarrod Parker.

Jarrod Parker was- is a pitcher. Could have been a good one. May end up still being one. But it’s doubtful.

Because baseball isn’t fair, and Jarrod Parker is now facing his third Tommy John surgery. Not many people come back from that. As in… two people have.

It’s not because of anything wrong that Parker did. It just happened, the result of the human arm not being made to throw a spherical object that fast.

As Commissioner Giamatti once said: It breaks your heart. It’s designed to break your heart.

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): A’s eras, ranked

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, I rank the three eras of Athletics history- Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland.

The A’s are cool because they have kept their identity despite moving twice. I mean, yeah, the Braves have done it too and have the bonus of being the spiritual successor to the 1869-70 Cincinnati Red Stockings (many of the members of that team moved to Boston and formed the nucleus of the the Boston Red Stockings), but they haven’t always been the Braves. The Athletics have always been the Athletics.

So, today, I’m ranking the variation incarnations of them:

3. Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967)

Kind of a transitional piece between Philly and Oakland, but there were notable things. For the first few years, for example, the Athletics, who were owned and run by a close associate (Arnold Johnson) of the Yankees ownership of the time, traded Roger Maris, Bobby Shantz, Clete Boyer, Ralph Terry, Hector Lopez and Art Ditmar to the Bronx Bombers, leading to Hank Greenberg (a GM at the time) to say that the Yankees had a farm team playing in the American League.

After Johnson died, Charlie Finley took over. Now, nobody has ever matched Bill Veeck for wacky ownership, but Charlie O. came close. He bought a bus, pointed it towards New York, then burned it to symbolically show that the A’s would no longer be a farm club. He made uniforms more colorful. He made a mule the mascot. He built a shallower temporary fence to mock the short porch at Yankee Stadium. Hilarious.

Still, nowhere near as successful or long as the stints in Philadelphia and Oakland.

2. Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1954)

Yes, the Philadelphia A’s had more World Series titles and AL pennants than Oakland has had, and they were the club of Connie Mack, young Jimmie Foxx and young Lefty Grove, but what’s often forgotten is that when the Athletics weren’t good, they were really, really bad. They finished last 18 times while they were in Philadelphia. The only reason Connie Mack was never fired was because he owned the team. Three times, Athletics teams in Philadelphia had winning percentages below .300. Eight of the ten and 13 of the 15 worst seasons in A’s history came in Philadelphia.

Ugh.

1. Oakland Athletics (1968-Present)

The Oakland Athletics have been many things over the years. But they have almost never been boring. They have always had SOMETHING that demanded people pay attention to them. The A’s of the 70s were a dynasty. The A’s of the 80s and 90s brought forth the Bash Brothers. And the A’s of the aughts and the 2010s have had the whole Moneyball mystique about them.

Also, no Oakland team has had a sub-.300 winning percentage, so advantage Oakland.

Next time: Cleveland

Do you want to be a racing mascot? Well… GOOD NEWS!

There is good news for those of you who aim to win athletic glory while wearing a big-headed mascot uniform: the Oakland Athletics are hiring for just such a position! Yes, you can be a racing mascot, defeating your foes and amusing the masses while in a caricature version of somebody like Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson or Dennis Eckersley. Wait… no Connie Mack? No Jimmie Foxx? No Reggie Jackson?

Jeez, Athletics, are you even TRYING in this racing mascot thing? Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make due. Let’s see what this requires….

• Prior experience in promotions, performing in costume and customer service preferred.

Well, two out of three isn’t too bad, although one of those two I wasn’t a professi-… wait… preferred? Ha! That means it isn’t required! I’m good!

• Must be comfortable performing and interacting with fans in front of large crowds and on camera.

Full disclosure: When I was like eight, I jumped on top of a dugout and danced on it. Everybody thought it was hilarious except for my parents and the security guards. Tough crowd. So… I’m good!

• Must be reliable, punctual, courteous, have good listening skills and ability to multi-task.

Standard stuff, I’m good!

• Must have high energy, enthusiasm and excitement to promote the A’s brand.

I wrote an article on how the A’s brand should survive even if they move to San Jose! That’s total promotion and excitement about the brand! I’m good!

• Must have strong ability to work well with all employees in a team environment.

Okay, this may be a problem, because I think of myself as something of a method actor. If I’m in the costume, I am the costume. So, it’s entirely possible that I’d start referring to myself in the third person or something, which would be weird. Still, I’m sure I’d be able to manage it, so I’m good!

• Must have ability to run a minimum of 250 yards in a 50 pound costume. Running skills will be tested.

It wouldn’t be graceful at all, but I’d probably be able to handle it. So I’m good!

• Must have ability to perform and entertain while wearing a 50 pound costume for extended periods of time.

See above.

• Must be able to lift and carry items up to 50lbs.

Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, hopefully.

• Must be available to work during all A’s home games and outside appearances as needed, including days, nights, weekends and holidays, throughout the 2015 baseball season.

Hey, if they are willing to get me to Oakland, I’m willing to…

• Must have reliable transportation and live in or close to the Oakland area.

CRAP.

 

Well, maybe one day I shall win glory as a racing mascot. Maybe one day….

 

 

 

 

Josh Donaldson is the best player most people aren’t familiar with

In case you missed it, Josh Donaldson was traded from the Athletics to the Blue Jays in exchange for Brett Lawrie and prospects Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Franklin Barreto. The wise among us immediately saw this as a great deal for the Blue Jays, at least in the short-term, and a puzzling one for the Athletics, at least in the short-term.

Then there were others who disagreed with these assessments. “Orioles Uncensored” perhaps had a good response to them:

While no doubt the people @OsUncensored was speaking to may have been Orioles fans who remember the Donaldson/Manny Machado spat of last year, the fact is that many people probably don’t truly understand how good a player Donaldson is. It’s not their fault, after all, Donaldson is a relative newcomer (he’s only played 405 career games) and has played his career in Oakland. His traditional stats aren’t too flashy (his career BA is .268), and last year was his first time as an All-Star.

So here’s a bit of a primer. Donaldson is a 28-year-old 3B (although he has played C in the past) from Florida, although he grew up and went to both High School and College (Auburn) in Alabama. He didn’t grab hold permanently in the majors until 2012, his age 26 season. He didn’t become the type of player who gets into headlines for being traded, though, until his sophomore season in 2013. He hit .301/.384/.499, and his WAR was second-best in the AL, behind only Mike Trout. While his averages were down in 2014, he still was the 2nd best in WAR in the AL, and he had the third best WAR overall across the past two seasons, behind only Trout and Andrew McCutchen. Why? Because WAR doesn’t just hitting- Donaldson is a spectacular fielder, winning the 2014 Fielding Bible Award (a more sabermetric version of the Gold Glove) while being credited with saving more than 30 runs since 2012. That, along with his hitting, make him one of the best 3B in the game.

And those offensive numbers that seem a bit low, by the way, will likely grow. He is now going from O.Co Coliseum- an infamous pitcher’s park- to Rogers Centre, where extra-base hits are plentiful and where the park factors are more favorable for the hitter.

So, that’s who Josh Donaldson is.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW (PART 4): Best Case/Worst Case for… the AL WEST (with Getty Images)

Today, we look at the AL West, and what could go right… and what could go wrong. Complete with Getty Images that may or may not have anything to do with the actual team.

Here we go:

Oakland Athletics

Best-Case Scenario: Billy Beane‘s @#$% finally works in October, the Athletics win the World Series, and their long-term stadium situation is finally solved.

Worst-Case Scenario: Billy Beane’s @#$% doesn’t work very well during the Regular season this year, the Athletics finish third, and finish the season as a barnstorming team when their stadium in Oakland disappears in a sinkhole of bad plumbing and a dark spell cast by Al Davis in the late 1990s.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: See above, but remove the barnstorming, the sinkhole and Al Davis’ dark spell.

Texas Rangers

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Best-Case Scenario: It finally happens, and the Rangers win the World Series with the help of a resurgent Prince Fielder, the ever-underrated Shin-Soo Choo, a breakout year from Jurickson Profar and a Cy Young year from Yu Darvish.

Worst-Case Scenario: Ian Kinsler is a wizard, and his wish for the Rangers to go 0-162 comes true.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: It all falls apart: Fielder continues to decline, Choo has an off-year, Adrian Beltre shows his age, Darvish gets hurt, Profar muddles and the Rangers have their worst year in years. Ron Washington is fired despite his recent extension.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, West Coast, United States of America, North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Sol System, Milky Way

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Best-Case Scenario: Mike Trout wins Triple Crown, MVP, All-Star Game MVP, the Home Run Derby title, Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsman of the Year, the AP Male Athlete of the Year, an EGOT, the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom as he single-handedly straps the team on his back and brings them to the World Series. Or something like that. In reality, the Angels probably need Trout to keep on Trouting while having both Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton show their old selves and the pitching staff stepping up.

Worst-Case Scenario: Mike Trout gets hurt. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: To be honest, Trout getting hurt is arguably the worst-case scenario, as I find it highly unlikely that both the rest of the lineup can take up the slack AND the pitching takes a step forward.

Seattle Mariners

Best-Case Scenario: Felix Hernandez is still awesome, Hisashi Iwakuma gets better (health-wise), Taijuan Walker gets better physically and on the field, and Robinson Cano… just keeps doing what’s he’s doing.

Worst-Case Scenario: Robinson Cano gets hurt in a money-counting incident, misses rest of the season.

Worst-Case Scenario that could actually happen: Felix actually starts to show that he may be human, Iwakuma and Walker struggle with health problems all year, and Cano has problems playing in Safeco Field all year around.

Houston Astros

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Best-Case Scenario: Ha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Are you kidding me? Even their best-case scenario sees them, at the absolute very best, in fourth place. In some ways, their best case scenario may actually be for them to have one of the worst records in league, as it’ll let them get better draft picks.

Worst-Case Scenario: 1898 Cleveland Spiders.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: 1962 New York Mets.

Wherever they end up, the Athletics better keep their name

For seemingly the last decade or so, the Athletics have tried to escape from Oakland (home of the infamous Oakland Coliseum, where the crowds are small and the foul territory is the size of the Titanic) and find their way to San Jose (BTW, the way is available on Google Maps). The Giants, who own the territorial rights to there, have basically told the Athletics to take a hike. And so, some have begun to wonder if the Athletics will move out of the Bay Area entirely… Selig has said that MLB would approve the move, depending on where it was (i.e. so long as it didn’t annoy any of the other 29 teams, like San Jose would the Giants).

Wherever the A’s end up though (Las Vegas? San Antonio? Charlotte? Mexico or Puerto Rico?), there is one thing that should happen: They should remain the Athletics. It is too old a name with too rich a history to be abandoned. The A’s nickname has been with that franchise since 1901, and dates back to previous clubs that go back all the way to 1860! Philadelphia, Kansas City or Oakland, they have remained the Athletics. Very few other names in sports have survived so two or more moves: the Boston-Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves (which, contrary to popular belief, was not derived directly from Native Americans, but rather on the notorious Tammany Hall political machine, which had used chiefs as a symbol. Not like that matters) are the only ones from the MLB.  The NFL has had the Oakland-LA Raiders (who don’t really count, since the second move was back to Oakland), the Chicago-St. Louis-Arizona Cardinals and the Cleveland-Los Angeles-St. Louis Rams. The NBA has had the New York-New Jersey-Brooklyn Nets, the Milwaukee-St. Louis-Atlanta Hawks and the Philadelphia-San Francisco-Golden State (i.e. Oakland) Warriors. The NHL hasn’t had one.

And, in honor of the long tradition, the Athletics should keep that name. No matter where they end up.Same for most of the other above teams.