Results tagged ‘ Oakland Athletics ’

St. Petersburg and Oakland Could be Sister Cities

 
 

Going into this weekend 4-game series between the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays, I decided to take a little look under the municipality covers of both locales and see if there is any similarities that would provide a common thread to mend these two communities together. My reasoning is simple here, both are not the largest cities within their regional boundaries, but yet they both currently support a Major League Baseball American League franchise within their own unique city limits.

With something like this in common, you know there has to be more than a few links and similarities that might have gone unnoticed to most people outside these two cities. Let first step into the cities themselves and provide a few interesting facts, then we will end with the two teams common bonds within the scope of Major League Baseball.

*** Both cities lie on the western most shorelines of their separate natural harbors or estuaries. St. Petersburg is located on the western edge of the Tampa Bay estuary, while Oakland is situated within the larger San Francisco Bay estuary.

*** Both cities are relatively close in size with Oakland encompassing 56.1 square miles of land, and St. Petersburg having 59.6 square miles of land.

*** Both cities were incorporated within 25 years of each other with Oakland being established on May 4,1852, and St. Petersburg being incorporated on Leap Day February 29,1876.

*** Both municipalities got their prominent starts thanks to the growing railroad industry with St. Petersburg being a main railroad terminus thanks to one of the city’s founders Russian railroad tycoon Peter Demens, and Oakland owes its debt to the Central Pacific Railroad.

 
St Pete Trolley Line

*** Both had little known trolley systems with Oakland’s system expanding into the modern day Key System while St. Petersburg’s trolley system, which ran from its most western point at Park Street down St Pete’s main road, Central Avenue to the eastern ending point at the end of the Million Dollar Pier.


*** Both cities boast a special place in aviation history as St. Petersburg was the site of the first known commercial airlines (1914) flight. Oakland was the starting point of Amelia Earhart’ s final flight on her World-wide flight plan. She had envisioned landing again in Oakland to conclude her journey.

*** Both cities primary newspapers started within 10 years of each other. The Oakland Tribune started in 1874, while the St. Petersburg Time started it first printing in 1884.

*** In both cities, local Major League Baseball support groups have been critical and instrumental in changes for the MLB’s team future homes. In Oakland, “Let’s Go Oakland” (Keep the A’s) has been a grassroots civic group trying to keep the team in Oakland. They even have a face book page to advertise their plight. While in St. Petersburg, POWW (Protect Our Wallets and Waterfront ) has been instrumental in blocking the formulation of plans for the Rays 2008 vision of a waterfront ballpark on the site of the team’s former Spring Training stadium.

*** Both Oakland and St. Petersburg are currently fighting to keep their MLB team’s within their city limits, with Oakland currently losing their battle to have team leaders consider a future home in O-town. St. Petersburg officials and Rays personnel will discuss more details following the 2010 Rays season as to their future plans.

 

*** Both have cities on the eastern coast of their estuaries fighting for recognition in the MLB team’s fight for a new state-of-the-art stadium. Oakland has the east shore communities of Freemont and San Jose fighting for the Athletics, while St. Petersburg has Tampa wanting the Rays to relocate in the downtown region of the city.


*** Both communities had team employees who went onto brilliant careers after serving as batboys for the teams. Tampa Bay had Jesse Litsch, who served as a Devil Rays batboy and worked as a team intern transform his baseball talents into becoming a member of the Toronto Blue Jays rotation. In Oakland, A’s owner Charlie Finley hired a local dancer, Stanley Burrell as his team’s batboy and also gave him an honorary title of Executive Vice President. Most of use know him by his stage name M C Hammer. Also interesting, both were locally born natives of the region’s where the teams are located.

***Oakland has long been known as the home of the “Moneyball” system of baseball talent evaluation set up by Athletics GM Billy Beane. Tampa Bay is home to the risk management style of players evaluation made famous by new MLB hotshot Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. Both are considered baseball wunderkinds for their new provocative ways of evaluating their farm system’s talent.

 

*** Both team’s primarily use their farm system to restock their MLB 25-man rosters with limited outside Free Agent signing. Free Agents are brought in to fill holes, not institute major roles within the team’s core, which keeps both team’s payrolls within some of the smallest payrolls in the Major Leagues.


***Oakland closed their Third Deck seating areas to fans in 2006, including the famous “Mount Davis” sections built by Oakland Raider’s owner Al Davis to push his NFL football capacity to over 60,000. This effectively lower the A’s potential sellout capacity to 34,077, the smallest current MLB stadium capacity.
Tampa Bay covered up a higher section of their Upper Deck or 300 sections with blue tarps to lower their usual game attendance to 36,048 ( not counting Standing Room Only tickets). During the Playoffs, the Rays can remove the tarps and increase their stadium overall attendance to over 41,810 seats.

*** According to their 2010 Opening Day payrolls, the Tampa Bay Rays are ranked 25th ($ 63,313,035) and the Oakland Athletics are ranked 26th ($ 62,310,00 ) respectfully in Major League Baseball.

***
Both teams are also ranked in the lower third in attendance with Tampa Bay currently ranked 22nd and Oakland holding onto the 28th spot within the MLB’s 30 teams. Surprisingly, the Rays hold the bottom spot at number 30 in 2010 road attendance with a 22,780 road attendance average, while Oakland sits at the 20th spot with an average of 29,416 fans in the stands at away games.

 

As you can see these two communities definitely have a few things in common beside their future fighting and wrangling about their stadium situations. But what is amazing that even with this uneven playing field in front of them, both teams are above the .500 mark in 2010. One team (Tampa Bay) has a chance to secure their second AL title, while the Oakland will just have to be happy to play the spoiler role in 2010.

But both teams have one of the best baseball talent evaluators in their front offices, and one of the best stocked farm systems with young talent to keep their payrolls under control for many years. Maybe one day, both these communities could become “Sister Cities”, or would that just feel too darn weird?

 
 
 
 
 
 

Braden’s Gift on Mother’s Day is just….Perfect

 
 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty
Yogi Berra would have been very proud to watch this Mother’s Day baseball game today. In fact his classic line of “Déjà vu happening all over again” would have been the “perfect” ending to the conclusion of the game. All week long there have been numerous National media members and broadcasters  who have been saying that your team had to be almost perfect to beat the surging Tampa Bay Rays right now.
 
And for one Sunday afternoon, the level of perfection by Oakland A’s starting pitcher Dallas Braden proved to be the right and exclamation point answer to finally trumping the Rays, and securing the first road series victory by an opposing home team from the Rays this season. Coming into today’s game, the Rays boasted an unheard of 13-2 road record, and were 4-1 on their present road trip. 

With an overflowing sea of pink Mother’s Day MLB merchandise scattered across the assorted tables in the Oakland A’s clubhouse, you have to think that primary on Braden’s mind coming into this start was his departed mother, and the maternal grandmother who stood by him in rough times and turned the rebel youth into a prototype model for left-handed perfection. His Grandmother did not teach him to pitch, but she did teach him how to be his own man. And after today, no one will ever remember the “mound” spat with Yankees Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez earlier the 2010 season when absent-minded A-Rod stepped on Braden’s mound during one of his starts.

Now the world will remember Barden for his articulate off-speed pitching that seemed to dazed and confused the Rays. All day long the Rays were caught looking or guessing at the combination of change-ups, sub-90’s mph fastball and a stifling curves thrown at them over the nine innings. Barden never seemed to sweat, or seem remotely nervous in this Mother’s Day start and was still throwing in the ninth inning for the first time of his short MLB career. Along with the “Perfecto”, Braden threw his first complete game of his career on a day that MLB used to celebrate all of our mothers.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

And firmly planted within Braden’s mind during his pitching performance on Sunday afternoon was the many sacrifices and the pain and suffering shared by his two “Mother-figures” in his life. For Barden’s life might have taken a different path if not for the hardnosed approach by his mother, Jody Atwood during his high school years.  And the light bulb finally came on for Braden during a high school trip to Mexico, he began to see the constant path through his mother’s guidance and talks and made an immediate 180 degree turn in his life choices.


But Atwood was not in the stands today to see the mature and well poised Braden throw his first professional pitching gem as she had succumbed to melanoma cancer while Braden was still in his late teens and turned the ball to her mother Peggy Lindsay. So it was only fitting that Braden was so emotionally charged and focused on the mound today as he wore the pink ribbon over his heart on his A’s jersey. But even more important today was that at no moment in the game did we ever see a crack in his armor, either in his facial expressions or his pinpoint pitching accuracy.

Some will say that he might have been channeling former Athletics southpaw Jim “Catfish” Hunter who only 15,331 days earlier had thrown a similar Perfect game for the Athletics back on May 8, 1968. And this is not to suggest that Braden will transform into the second coming of Hunter, but to even be within  a small piece of that shadow of a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee will do wonders to Braden’s inner confidence as a pitcher, and as a man. And amazingly enough, the final score of that 1968 game was 4-0, the same as today’s final score.

But then some others will say that the always rightious Baseball Gods might have rewarded Braden for his stern discipline of safeguarding the “Unwritten Rules” of the game by his argument with A-Rod today. But the conclusion I  have come up with is divine guidance through physical integrity. This is a guy who was so cool, calm and relatively collected after throwing his last pitch of the game in which Rays Rightfielder Gabe Kapler hit a ball towards A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington who threw to Daric Barton at First Base to secure the perfect game for the left-hander.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

How ironic is it that within the last year, the Rays have been victims of two different Perfect Games by two outstanding left-handed pitchers. In their July 23,2009 game against Chicago White Sox starter Buehrle, the Rays struck out 6 times in their 27 times to the plate. Interestingly enough, they also struck out 6 times today against Braden. Buehrle threw 116 pitches while Braden only needed 106 to complete the Perfecto. Both pitchers earlky on seemed to be “in the moment” but today, Braden did not need a “big play” to secure his Perfect Game. The closest he got to that was a hard hit line drive by Evan Longoria down the Third Base line that A’s Third Baseman Kevin Kousmanoff took in easily early in the game.


Braden got his own personal revenge on these same Rays who took advantage of his early wildness the last time he faced the Rays on April 28,2010 in Tropicana Field.  On that day Braden also opposed Rays starter James Shields on the mound, but the Rays got to Braden early and chased him from the game after only 88 pitches. The loss he suffered that day ended Braden’s personal three game winning streak. You got to think he mentally put it in the back of his mind for some redemption today to end Shield’s own 4-game winning streak when he took the mound against the Rays today.

It was simply amazing to watch the top of the 9th inning as all 12,228 fans in attendance stood for the entire Rays at bat, then remained standing and becoming more emotionally attached with every single pitch thrown during that final half an inning. For they instantly knew of the impossibility of this moment when Braden came back out to the mound in the top of the ninth inning, and knew the immediate importance of this win that would snap the Rays early season dominance on the road.


Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

It truly did take a tremendous effort on the mound today against the Rays for Braden to eventually have his name mentioned along with Hunters in that elusive collection of Athletic’s outstanding pitching performances and capture this memorable Perfect Game. And if I was in attendance at Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum today, even if I was head-to-toe in Rays gear, I would have stood and cheered along side the huge amount of A’s fans after the conclusion of this sparkling pitching gem.

It is the thought of achieving such levels of perfection that drives some athletes to sweat more, and work increasingly harder within the sport of baseball. And  for an athlete to even have a chance to finally fulfill that destiny, the momentum of the moment and final gasp of breath after achieving that moment is unexplainable. On a Sunday when the entire MLB community is showering the stadiums with support for those special women in our lives, perfection was in Braden’s heart today.
 
And  Braden’s transformation on the mound today was remarkable and makes me want to stand up and cheer loud and proud for him today. Baseball immortality is now shining long and bright on Braden today, or maybe  a few of thowe past motherly influences finally coame to fruition to lighten up this memorable Mother’s Day. 

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

Cherish the moment.

“Guess-timations for Jason Grilli for 2010

 


@Grillcheese49/Twitter.com


I am not a true fan of crossword puzzles or games like Chess. But I got to tell you, I am so psyched right now to try and figure out this word puzzle/mystery. You see, Jason Grilli aka Grillcheese49 on Twitter has been leaving small clues and a few hints recently about his pitching destination for 2010.  And I have to admit it here, but trolling the web looking for answers can get my endorphines  kicking it at about 120 mph right now. I forgot how much fun it used to be following a lead, or just a simple photo and finding an aswer within it all.

I have a lot of respect for the insider job that ESPN’s Buster Onley does every day right now during the Hot Stove season. I honestly have not worked this hard to nail down a team or a possible player’s new location since college. And I am not working with a safety net right now, and could basically get it all wrong with a flick of the fingers upon this keyboard. 

I do not possess the savvy insider sources that people like Peter Gammons or Onley have at their disposal daily. I do most of my work down here in the darkest recesses of light, and ever so often a beam shines down and I grab ahold of it tightly. Right now I am going by what Grilli has tweeted to all of us over the last week and using them as definite clues to piece this puzzle with more clarity. But the reality of this dark situation is that this new form of social interweaving like Twitter and Facebook can also work in deflecting people and organizations far away from the truth.

 @Grillcheese49:There were 8 teams interested. One clear choice. Details coming soon. Hope to share by Monday. ( 4:57 PM Nov 27,2009 from UberTwitter)

Well Jason, it is now early Monday, and only a few hours before you “officially” tell the cyber-world of your playing intentions for 2010. I am going to try and piece together some of the previous information given out by you,and try and make an educated guess on where you are going to be playing in 2010. Hope you do not mind, but I might have a lead on your future employer by reading through the lines a bit, and hope

I am at least within the ballpark when you announce it sometime during today. I may end up being totally wrong, and that is okay too because I am a blogger with no real connections who is just using his mind for more than a hatrack right now.

@Grillcheese49: The answer is coming people this week. I promise. Let’s play the Feud. There are 30 teams in MLB. The top 5 answers are on the board.
(9:27 AM Nov 27,2009 from UberTwitter)

I have to admit, I did not take all 30  MLB teams when I was trying to figure out which team you might have scooped you up come Monday. I  did however remove your prior teams like the Colorado Rockies,Texas Rangers,Chicago White Sox,Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers. It was a bit hard to rule out the Marlins completely at first because you still have a home in Florida. But,I figure that  for the most part, when a player leaves the Marlins, they are not too anxious to get back into the aqua blue uniforms.

@Grillcheese49: Longest drum roll ever…..I know. If it were up to me I would tell ya. Don’t want to be banned from Twitter like the NFL players do. Haha
( 3 hours ago from UberTwitter)


Do not worry Grilli, I am pretty sure there is nothing within the MLBPA union contract about social networks  yet, but they probably will add it into the talks in 2011 when the MLBPA  Union contract is up for renewal. I really wish I did have someone within a the MLB front offices that I could bounce this  guess-timate off of at 1 AM on a Monday morning…..But I do not.

So I am out here in “Blog-ville” after 1 AM trying to piece the puzzle together considering you gave me an awesome clue with the Twitpic posted late on Sunday. And the wildest part of it all is going to be my  own personal opinion on if you are seeking to play for a potential playoff team,or just a great opportunity to stay with a team’s Bullpen for a few years. That at first almost lead me to make the mistake of thinking you might be wearing a Tampa Bay Rays jersey in 2010, but something on your Twitpic tonight led me away from that conclusion quickly.

 Someone trying to piece together puzzles like this need to have a keen eye for unobvious observations to sometimes notice things other leave behind as clues or even honest mistakes in their posts or comments. When you posted the picture tonight of your signature already on your 2010 contract, you left the biggest clue of them all. As most people can see now, the MLB authorized Club Representative signature might be the key to this entire puzzle.

                     
                     
Grillcheese49/Twitpic


So if I take that position of “Director of Baseball Administration” as a clue under the Club Reps signature, then I can quickly narrow it down to  a total of six teams that have that position currently listed within their MLB front office. We have 3 clubs each in both the American League and the National League that employ a person in that present job title. But then again,it could just be an ambiguous  job title that is printed on a standardized MLB/MLBPA contract for all I know. But  a gut reaction has me really doubting that.

I could be wrong even about the title of the Club Representative, but I am going to roll the dice here on this one and hope Lady Luck is in my corner tonight/today.  And for that simple reason, I  am putting the following six MLB clubs could be your final destination for the 2010  MLB season:

Oakland Athletics:  The A’s currently have Pam Pitts as the Director of Baseball administration for their club. I think you have more of a inclination right now to be looking for a team that is going to be fighting for a potential playoff spot in 2010. For that reason, I am eliminating the A’s from contention for your services. (75-1 chance)

Kansas City Royals: Jin Wong is posted as the active Director of Baseball Administration for the Royals on their MLB website. This is a team that I feel is more in the rebuilding stage than ready to take center stage right now. They could probably make some no
ise,but might not have the overall staying power in 2010 to get you closer towards a playoff chance. (50-1 chance)


Cleveland Indians:
The Director of Baseball Administration for the Indians is Wendy Hoppel. For some reason I think this is the AL club that might make you salivate the most right now. With the young talent they have accumulated the last two seasons with trades involving CC Sabathia,Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee, the Indians could be a nice dark horse contender in the AL Central as early as 2010. (4-3 chance)


Out of the National League, I am considering these three clubs as your possible destination for the 2010 season:

Chicago Cubs:  The Cubs, even if they are going through a ownership transition,still currently list Scott Nelson as their Director of Baseball Administration. But even with the dust settling in the front office after the final sale approval by MLB owners just recently, this club is a bit more fragile within their 25-man roster. Might not be a great fit, but could be a  dark horse player for your services. (12-1 chance)


Atlanta Braves:
  This is the closest MLB team to your home now in Florida that has a person with the title of Director of Baseball Administration in their club’s front office. John Coppolella currently holds that post. Might be a location favorite, but also has a division you have pitched in before with the Marlins. ( 15-1 chance)

Philadelphia Phillies: This club is the last one to have a club representative with the title of Director of Baseball Administration  in the MLB. With Susan Ingersoll Papaneri at the controls. I am going to go with a wild hunch  that you are seeking a solid position on a team that could grow into an extended contract. With the Phillies, you  may have a spot in their Bullpen renovation. If you do seek a good chance for a possible 2010 playoff scenario, then this just might be a great destination on a possible playoff team. ( 5-1 chance)

This is where the whole shebang of guessing can get a little more difficult for me. I think you can strive for more in both Cleveland and Philly without a major problem. And even if your 2009 salary was only $ 800,000, I can see you going maybe over $1 million with incentives without a real contract problem. Put that all together with the photo above and look at the possible first name lower loop in the signature, and I have to say the name seems to point towards Cleveland (Wendy Hoppel).

But that is the fun with guessing right? I think the perfect 2010 scenario might be with the Phillies to expand your career and get into a possible playoff situation in 2010. But it might also  could be beneficial as a veteran on a young club to be with a team like Cleveland who could shock the AL like the Rays did in 2008 with their developing players leading the way coupled with experienced pitching behind them.

So I am going to guess that the Chief Wahoo will be proud you are with the Cleveland Indians in 2010.  And even if I am wrong about all of this, I think it has been a great chance for me to practice some skills I have not used in a long, long time. It has been  a lot of fun Jason.

I truly wish you the best of luck and hope you stay injury free in 2010. If you play for a team that does head into Tropicana Field, I will look for number 49 and introduce myself to you. And if you do become an Indian on Monday, get your player uniform number negotiation skills ready, because leftie pitcher Tony Sipp currently hold your number 49 on the Indians active roster. But then again, no one on the Phillies 40-man roster currently sports a “49” on their back.

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