“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.

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(Blogathon ’16) Andrew Martin: A talk with Alex George

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

What would be tougher? Being good enough to play major league baseball but to only get in to five games? Or having all of those five games come before your 17th birthday? Only one person knows that answer for sure, and it’s former shortstop Alex George, who reached the pinnacle of his baseball career as a teenager in the autumn of 1955.

Growing up in Kansas City, George was a multi-sport star and after graduating in 1955 at the age of 16, he enrolled at Kansas University with a dual scholarship in baseball and basketball. Upon reaching campus that fall he was introduced to his basketball team—including fellow newcomer, Wilt Chamberlain.

George had hardly cracked the books when he heard from his father that his hometown Kansas City Athletics wanted to sign him and have him join the team for the remainder of the season. That proved to be an offer too sweet to pass up, so he left campus and donned his glove and spikes.

The Athletics finished at 63-91 and were already well out of the pennant chase. This gave them the luxury at being able to look at prospects like George. The left-handed hitter got in five games, collecting a single and a walk in 10 official at bats. His seven strikeouts showed how overmatched he was, but he did pick up his lone hit on September 20th against fellow rookie Duke Maas and the Detroit Tigers, leading off what would be a 7-3 loss. He is still the sixth-youngest player to appear in the majors since World War I.

George spent the next seven seasons in the minors, experiencing modest levels of success (.254 batting average and 81 home runs) but never got back to the big leagues. By the time he was 24, he had been slowed by injuries to the point that it resulted in the end of his career.

He ended up returning to Kansas after his playing days were over and went on to have a successful career in radio and television sales. Now 77 and retired, he answered a few questions about his career when I contacted him (a few years back).

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: When I signed, Lou Boudreau was the manager. I had read a lot about him playing shortstop. Harry Craft was one of the coaches and was very nice to me. He had managed the Yankees Triple-A affiliate in Kansas City; the Kansas City Blues, so he was familiar with me and my family.

What was the strangest thing you ever saw as a player?: Probably the strangest play is when two or more infielders are all calling for a pop fly and then they all stop and look at one another and the ball drops between them. It’s not that unusual of a play, but it always struck me as odd and strange that they would just let the ball drop.

Who was the toughest pitcher you ever faced?: I didn’t faze too many major league pitchers, but I’ll always remember facing Billy Pierce in Chicago. He was a lefty and I just couldn’t catch up with his fastball.

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I would probably wait until I was 18 to sign. At 16, I was really too young.

Andrew Martin writes The Baseball Historian blog. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter @historianandrew

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16!) Renaming Moved Teams

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

There are four teams in MLB who have kept their names despite moving to different cities (or at least parts of a town where it’s enough where they change the first words of the team): The Angels, the Dodgers, the Athletics, and the Giants. What, however, if they had had to change their names? And, no, I’m not letting them just take their old Pacific Coast League team-names.

Let’s go place by place:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, USA, North America, Northwestern Quadrant, Planet Earth, Sol System, Milky Way, Local Group, The Universe

There was a very good reason why the Angels were originally called the Angels when they started playing: they were actually in Los Angeles, playing at Chavez Ravine. In addition, the LA Angels had been one of the flagship franchises of the Pacific Coast League, so the name had history. But as they moved to Anaheim and went by “California Angels” and then “Anaheim Angels” and now “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”, they have become more and more detached from the name. So what if they had abandoned the “Angels” moniker as soon as they left Chavez Ravine? Assuming that they had adopted California as their “first name” after leaving the ravine, perhaps they would be California related, perhaps the “California Bears” or the “California Trout” (ha). Or maybe they’d be more Anaheim-focused, with a name like “Oranges”. Personally, I think they would have to go with “Anaheim Mice”. In addition to the obvious Disneyland connection, there is the fact that mice are said to scare elephants, which would be a nice little poke at the Athletics. Well… it would be if…

The Oakland Athletics

Kept their Elephant logo despite changing to a new name. I think it’d be cool if they still had an old-timey sort of name. How about the “Oakland Eurekas”, after the California State Motto? (For the curious, the Pacific Coast League Oakland team was called the Oaks.)

Los Angeles Dodgers

If the Dodger brand hadn’t been so firmly established in Brooklyn, it feels likely they would have been renamed when they headed west. After all, “Dodgers” has basically nothing to do with Los Angeles. But what would they have been called? I personally think that they would take advantage of Hollywood and go with the name “Los Angeles Stars”. Oh, yeah, that was the name of Hollywood’s PCL team, but, guess what, it wasn’t LA’s, so it counts. So, “Los Angeles Stars” it is.

San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Prospectors, or “Pros”. That was easy.

At 3 PM: MR. GO!

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

 

 

“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

FAMOUS FOR SOMETHING ELSE: Kevin Johnson, NBA Star and Sacramento Mayor

Kevin Johnson is the current mayor of Sacramento, and was also a three-time All-Star for the Phoenix Suns. But he also briefly had a baseball career of two games in 1986 in the Athletics organization:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
1986 20 -2.5 Modesto CALL A OAK 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
1 Season 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/17/2015.

And now you know!

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

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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.