Friday, August 29, 2003

Jimmy Watch

Its been a big week for Mecir, yesterday he got a entire 1/3rd of an inning. At least he avoided disaster
It must be a cult thing

Now that I am in pennant race mode, I frequently find myself flipping over to watch Mariners and Red Sox games on extra innings. I have one question for Mariners fans.

Whatever happens to the 10,000 freaking pictures that are taken every day of Shitegoshi Hasegawa and The Great Gazoo (kazu the great green charachter that was supposed to save the flintstones). Seriously, regardless of the time of game, situation (ie the mariners can have the bases loaded with Boone up and there are still 30 people fixated on taking pictures of these two in the bullpen) these people are going nuts taking pictures of these two guys, and ichiro as well.
Where do they end up, are they being sold on the black market to japan for thousands of dollars so every little japanese kid can have a pitcure of Kaz or Shit on his wall? Or is it a cult, like "One hour photo" are there people in Japan that have a wall of 10,000 pictures of these guys. When they leave the game at the end of the day do they say to themselves "That was a great game, Boone hit a walk off bomb, Soriano was dealing", or do they say "Kioke, looks like I take 432 pictures of Hasegawa in the bullpen today, Me very happy"

Its been a good week

I would have not imagined at the end of last week that seven days later we would be sitting on top of a 2 game lead in the Western Division. I would not have imagined the Devil Rays taking 2 out of 3 in Seattle. The game I was able to attend this week was Barry Zito's masterpiece on Wednesday, and I realized how far off he had been to that point. He had the look of a killer in his eye on the mound, as opposed to one of confusion he seems to have had in earlier starts I had seen him this year. That look is one of being in control of his destiny, which is critical to get batter out. Tim Worrel has said it many times this year, he doesnt have the greatest stuff but as long as he thinks he does and its in his eyes on a given night he notches up a save. When he has like slighest twinge in confidence, the batters know it and miserable results happen. This is very un baseball propectus type analysis, but it is what it is. The mental game of basebal is still a huge part of the results over the course of a season.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Boat Race

Midday and it seems Boston clobbered Seattle. If somehow Lilly can get a win tonight, we are setting up for one of the great final dashes to the finish line. With Seattle falling apart a bit, and Oakland pitching being depleted (we need to make it to to the Sept 1 call ups) and the fact both teams play exact mirror schedules from here on out, it will be great. I hope it comes down to how the teams play against each other. If the Mariners for some reason cant handle the D'rays and the A's can, that will be the difference. Scary to think how either team could win or loose it based on the DRays. I also get the impression that the West will become a win it or go home division. Boston plays some dogs the last 2 weeks of the season while we beat each other up.
Seattle's troubles
Interesting to see the Mariners falling apart on this trip. Have not had time to watch there games so I am not sure of what going on besides what I read over at he USSMariner. Only 1 game back now, although today is a Lilly start, so best case scenario is we are still there at the end of the day.

Rivercat Roadie

Figured it was time to one make more trips to Sacramento before the end of the season. Evidently in the minors you can claim your ticket sales for attendance, as there was no way in the world there was 10,233 people there last night, more around 4,000. Rivercats should probably start looking at a DP ticket window or a ticket relay, as it looks like the Season Ticket Holders are burned out on the season, and are to lazy to drive across town to give the tickets to there buddy.

As for baseball, I had a Jermaine Dye sighting, and it did not start out pretty. He was leading off as DH to maximize his at bats. Sure enough, against subpar AAA starter Mike Gosling he took a couple big hacks and missed by three inches at least, then took a third strike. He suffered the same fate in his 2nd at bat, but finally got enough wood on a blazing 83 mph fastball to go opposite field for a single in the 4th and get a RBI. Sacramento is the only team out there in triple AAA with an 11 million dollar DH for the last week of the season. ( JD ended 2-5 after the tough start, with 2 RBI’s)

On the shortstop front, Bobby Crosby looks like he owns triple AAA now which is the progress we expected over the course of the season. He blasted a 410 foot 2 run homer in the first, the Tucson walked him 2 times. He will probably finish over .300 this year, and will be ready to take over Tejadas position 6 weeks from now when Miggy leaves. Besides the fact he cannot go as deep in the hole like Miggy, he will work out there with Mark Ellis. And he looks like he will be a 7 or 8 hitter next year, much like how he started this year with the Cats. Hopefully he progresses at the major league level as he did against triple AAA, but I would venture to guess it will be a 2-3 year curve versus a 1-year progress curve.

John Rheinecker was pitching, which was my main curiosity to head up the freeway for 90 minutes to catch the game. Rheinecker sort of has that Barry Zito motion, but he is no Barry Zito yet. Much like Duchscherer the knock on this guy is he doesn’t throw hard enough. He was the buzz at Midland last year and had a solid year this year, before being called up to replace the holes left by Harang departure and Harden’s promotion. He is another lefty in the system, and he sports the 88-mph fastball, the 83-mph slider and the 71-mph changeup. Unlike Zito, he does not have the slow bender, rather goes to his slider when he needs a pitch with some movement. In the early innings he got himself into some jams including a bases loaded, no outs in the 2nd. He came back strong to get a couple of K’s and the final out. From that point he retired 17 out of the next 18 batters. I came away impressed, he will do well at triple AAA like Duchsherer, it’s just a matter of having the velocity for the show. Clearly he knows how to pitch and get himself out of jams. He ended up the night going 6 2/3 with no earned runs, 7 Ks and 3 walks. He did get up to 100 pitches as in this game; efficiency was not there. He ran the count full numerous times, getting behind batters, and then having the Tucson hitter’s foul off a ton of balls.

The final bit of the game I saw was Bert Snow, who is one of those players in the organization who holds an in-auspicious honor. He holds the Midland all time saves record, i.e. he played at that level way to long. He came in and shut down Rheineckers final jam in the 7th and pitched a scoreless inning afterward giving up 1 hit. He does sport the Rod Beck mullet circa 1995. He definitely looks like he played in Texas for the past couple of years if you know what I mean. In certain parts of Sacramento that works well to with the ladies

Final Side Note: Bobby Crosby’s intro music is the Beastie Boys 1987 classic “Girls”. I am not sure If I want to know what that is all about, but I sure hope he has the nerve to use that when he gets up to the show later in September. The left field Bleacher females are going to love this guy, Eric Byrnes is a dead duck. Of course they will probably still have to use Brandon Buckley and Robert Buan to get access to Bobby, but who knows, I am guessing he likes the attention.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Regressing to the Mean

Well, In Oakland its tough to have it go perfectly every year, and while I have felt all year things just were not going as well as usual, Mulders freak injury cemented it. We have not had a key pitching injury all year (I dont count Jimmy, more on that on going saga in a minute). I will say this, I am not for Billy doing a desperate trade to get somebody who can only clear waivers due to a contract that is to expensive. So I think we are going to have to do with this and see what happens

1. Huddy
2. Zito
3. Rich
4. Lilly
5. Wood

Thats right, I want to keep Halama in the pen as he is better suited there anyway. The Young Kids have started all year so why reinvent the wheel. Keep them as starters and keep Halama where he is more comfortable. It also avoids situations like the other night where you are bringing rookies in with the bases jammed in a hostile enviornment. Keep it as simple as possible and let the kids at least start innings with clean slates.

Keys : Lilly HAS to step it up, Harden has to pitch like he can. It is a great deal to ask of them, but it has to be done. This assumes Zito and Hudson are nails the rest of the season, which remains to be seen

Mecir Update : First of all , yes I know Jim pitched one good inning in Boston the other night in the midst of a blowout. So all the Mecir Maniacs will use that against me for the next month while "forgetting" about the previous 3 outings. In a continuation of the theater of the absurd, Mecir was doing the pre-game with Fosse yesterday. Three times Mecir himself said "he didnt consider himself part of the bullpen anymore (in a self denegrating way)" and to top it off, when asked how he gets through all his problems, he said "Its tough, because I am in so much pain out there my body just doesnt want to do what it needs in order to make my pitches effective, so I have to force myself on each pitch through the pain and remember what I have to do"..So here we have a guy who has no confidence in himself, and admits he has to do unnatural things (forcing pain upon himself) just to have the opportunity to throw correctly.

Jim, please Jaha yourself as soon as possible, this roster spot that you yourself claim is useless is killing the team.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Post Season Tickets.

Derek writes a good piece on one of my pet peaves, post season ticket strips at BP today. I am not able to link to it as its premium and that would be innapropriate (and it probably wouldn't work). He listed the costs associated with the strip, including the convenience fees, etc...He left off the best part, the actual cost of these items so you can see the 90% profit margin

What is the difference between a convenience fee and a handling fee...A handling fee a joke because I guarantee you tickets are cut and inserted into an envelope by a machine. Since when are machines collecting commission? Better yet, say handling fee is to pay for a slug (how come I envision Barney from the simpsons) to insert tickets into an envelope. Say this slug gets maybe $8 an hour, and each transaction they charge you $2 handling fee, you telling me this slug can only do 4 transactions an hour, that is 15 minutes for each 2 tickets to be put into an envelope. Well I guess there is a 5 minute bathroom break per transaction, and 5 minute smoking break and 2 minutes to get chips out of the vending machine, but still he has 3 minutes to rip tickets apart and insert into the envelope.

When are teams going to realize emotionally fans would much rather just pay an extra $3 a ticket instead of getting nickel and dimed with 20 other items on the ticketmaster invoice. Concert venues finally figured that out for collecting parking money, its just part of the ticket now.

Baseball in Portland

I was reading Rob Neyer’s column about the possibility, and I would have to say at this point he has made more sense out of the situation than anyone else has. I believe Rob lives there, or nearby so he probably has a bias and would not mind having a team in town. I myself have a bias as I lived in Oregon during my black hole years (the twenties) and I would love to have a team there. In fact, I used to live above the right field wall at Civic Stadium in Portland towers next to the Multnomah Athletic Club. I was able to look down every night and watch games from my apartment in the previous incarnation (The Buzas Days) of the Portland Beavers. I use to attend games there all the time in 1993, which was the final year of the Beavs in the old stadium. Civic Stadium had style, and it seems to have picked up a great deal more since its expensive renovation. Back in the day there was a very short porch in leftfield, which sort of was like a mini Fenway. Now they cut the bleachers out and its normal MLB dismensions.

When I first heard of the plan to put MLB in Civic I rolled in laughter, but I admit it was because I had not done research into how well thought out the Civic Stadium expansion was. I just remember the old days, trying to find parking anywhere within about 20 blocks of the ballpark. It seems the city now has a very draconian policy towards parking near the games which enables the neighbors (Civic Stadium is like plopping down a stadium on a Chestnut St in San Francisco, or even Pacific Heights to some extent) the ability to still live a normal life and have the team as well. Bottom line is you either know someone in Northwest Portland with a driveway or take the MAX to the games. The stadium itself would be adequate in the short term for MLB and it certainly would be unique. In Rob’s column he mentioned Rob Nelson says Portland would require a strange unique stadium to be accepted, much like a Fenway. I would agree with this completely, and I would argue that if Portland had MLB now, Civic Stadium would as close to Fenway Park as anything in the league. Since they have done so much to the area to make it work for MAX (the Portland subway) it might be the best place to put a new stadium for the team that would hold about 35,000. It would allow the stadium to be in a GREAT neighborhood (the Northwest Portland district is a weird cross of yuppie heaven and UofO fraternity lifestyle continued), and it seems people are already adept at dealing with the issue of there being no parking whatsoever next to the stadium.

Let’s face it, a Portland stadium needs to be downtown. If you have never been to Portland it has not just one, but two rivers bisecting it. That means bridges, and bridges mean traffic. You want to minimize the amount of bridges people have to cross to get to the park; therefore a central location is important. The area around the old train station downtown might not be a bad spot either. If you put a Portland Area stadium in Gresham, the flock of suburbia from Beaverton, Hillsboro area is not going to deal with the traffic to get out that way. Same problem if you build a stadium in Beaverton, you can forget the 205 crowd going to a game on a consistent basis. If you put the stadium up by Portland Meadows, it will a colossal mess to get to the games from Lake Oswego (um where the money is anyway), Newburg, Oregon City areas as you will have to cross bridges in downtown (one of the two) and then fight Vancouver, Washington traffic on I5 just to get to the stadium.

One factor that many people do not understand about the Northwest is the passion for their teams. People always speak about how good chowd and Yankee fans are, but Seattle fans have made the best stride of any team in the past ten years. Ten years ago Mariner fans didn’t exist, or they were a small weird cult bunch that went into the worlds largest air conditioner to watch other teams blast there M’s. I would argue now that they are some of the best in the game, last year when I went to attend Derek’s wedding in mid April the fans around town watched every game as if it was the World Series. In the bay area I have to argue with the guy at the local brewery simply to turn the Giants game on in the second week of the season. Yet every place my wife and I went in Seattle, if the game was on, everybody was watching it. The entire northwest has adopted that team, and Safeco field does not hurt either. When I am in Oregon for a football game, Oregon itself is watching Mariners games as if it’s the World Series. It is a regional team that has captured the hearts of everyone in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska.

I also remember Blazer mania from the mid 1990s. The entire state bled Black and Red and Clyde Drexler was a local hero. (sidenote : Didn’t Terry Porter just get an NBA head coaching gig, why doesn’t the NBA do a “common sense” deal and bump mo cheeks over to philly, and put portland hero Terry Porter in Portland). I was a Warriors fan back then but ended up a Blazer season ticket holder in the Rose Garden. This all gets to the point I have no question that the makeup of the Oregon fan will support its baseball team, its just a matter of how many of them there are and how many can afford to go the games 81 times a year. Do Oregonians make enough to drop $10,000 a year in season tickets for baseball? Like Rob stated in his piece, it is not going to be New York or Los Angeles. Portland will be a better market than some of the other markets in baseball. It will do better than Detroit, Tampa, Miami.

I would like to see the Portland scenario roll out as well to see how the Mariners take it. Will MLB see the lawsuits coming in advance and work out some deal to siphon money off to Seattle for awhile as reparation and allow for a smooth transition. Will the Mariners gum up the deal in courts for years claiming its their territory as they have cultivated over time. (Sidenote : I just pulled out my Current Copy of Major League Rules published by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues and it lists solely King County as Mariners territory)

And the final point, is if Portland does get the team, need to change the name to something beside the Expos…Maybe the Beavers might not be a bad name as its historical in the area. That will not happen because the only man in the state wealthy enough to buy a sports team and still have it be 1% of his total net worth sure isn’t going to name the team the Beavers, rather the Ducks.

So there we go, the Portland Ducks, sign me up to work in the front office, since Portland is one of the 4 cities my wife has given us clearance to move once I finish my masters program in Sports Management. We can put a little Haas; Rivercats (the way a team SHOULD be run) spin on it and make it a great franchise. I promise I will not run the front office like PGE Park was run the first year.

Monday, August 18, 2003

One step forward, and now 18 backwards

Good lord, just when I started being able to go to Golden State Warriors games this season, we loose Gilbert Arenas. Then we don’t draft my boy Luke Ridnour out of Oregon, and let him get away to Seattle. Now we trade a quarter of our roster for the worst quarter of Dallas Roster. Its not that I had a great affection for any of the players we lost, but to get Popeye Jones, Avery Johnson (I swore he was already in the 3rd year of TNT in studio casting, not still playing), somebody else I cannot remember and Nick Van Excel, who implodes on loosing teams. What a bunch of miserable pickups to get rid of the Fortson's and Jamison's contracts. In June if the Warriors drafted Rid, even lost Arenas I was still thinking of buying a mini plan. At this point, I cannot see myself attending a game at this point. Such a sad situation because there are many basketball fans in the Bay Area, that any reasonable effort made to be good and convince fans your trying to win and we will fill the building. As one of our columnists said this weekend, chances are this offseason fiasco probably has not put a feeling team commitment in Eric Musslemans mind. E-muss is the epitomy of mr. positive, driving around listening to his positive affirmation and sales technique tapes. He is a motivator, and did a great job of getting players to believe in the Warriors. All this to have the air let out of the balloon by everything that went on this summer.

A’s Weekend

Well, if you would have told me last Monday that we would beat both Pedro and Halliday, I would have said “we took 6 out of 7”….Yet we only took 4-3 at home from the Sox and the Jays, and we are basically at the same point we were a week ago. So another 7 less home games, and essentially no better (well, I know were tied with the Sox, but still). Zito continues to grind it out, and at one point I believe he has set down 8 batters in a row.

Like many A’s fans, there was some moments of stress listening to the reports of Tim Hudson getting hit in the back of the hand. As Rick Peterson put it when Ken Korach asked for a detailed explanation on what happened “Oh, he just got smoked in the hand.”. Probably not the answer Ken was looking for, yet the correct answer. For 15 minutes all I could think of was : Hiljus, Wood or Duchscherer? Who would we bring up, Wood has pitched exceptionally well lately, Duchscherer has 12 wins and Hiljus has major league experience. Would they start whomever vs. Pedro at Fenway, this could be a life scarring event. I even forced myself to listen to young Oakland left field bleacher groupie, Robert Buan’s painful post game show just to get updates which luckily yielded the response we wanted, no break. Stop worrying about who will have to fill his shoes.

And I hate to bludgeon this point home, but on Saturday, another fine line from Jimmy Mecir

IP 0
Hit 1
Runs 2
BB 1

He has pitched a total of 2 complete innings since the All Start Break and he has the following stats

IP 2
Hits 5
Runs 7!!
BB 6

Friday, August 15, 2003


I had heard recently of one major league team who had realized its revenue goals for the season, or that it would be impossible to miss them at this point. Given this, the team shifted their strategy from simply selling tickets at normal prices to mainly trying to do all but give them away in order to fill the stadium up. There is some logic to this point, because when studying how teams make money, one of the big numbers is there per cap number which basically is a combination of concession, souvenir money that each fan spends at the park. Empty seats produce no per cap number, one could also say empty seats create bad public image. If you are a team in the stretch drive you do not want to have thousands of empty seats, as it validates there is little demand for your product, even when the product is good.

Doing some research on per cap numbers, in many cases it almost approaches the average ticket price. The per cap number is not something that is often put out by teams, its one of those figures that is paramount to them but they do not want to reveal. I will say this, it is lower than the goofy fan cost index which calculates in people buying hats every time they go to the game with there kid and a program. Nobody buys a hat every time, and there are usually only 3-4 programs over the course of a season, so its not something that also is in heavy demand. It should be said that this per cap number approaching ticket cost mainly happens in the 75% of the house that is NOT premium seating. Someone who spends $80 on a club seat does not spend $80 on food himself, although I bet the number is higher than you think. (I could easily see $40 as you have 2 food items at $8 a piece and three premium beers also around $8 a pop).

For every “free” ticket you give away, or $1 ticket, or “group ticket” you sell for $1.50 you might still do an additional $20 in revenue by having those people in the stadium. If they are dumb enough to park you might extra $15 per car out of them as well which could extrapolate between $3-$7 a person. Now this is where it gets interesting. The team in question is not one where I have concession breakout numbers, so who knows exactly how much of the revenue generated gets back to the team. In essence the product existing generates revenue, but revenue that is split amongst other entities where it does not go to their central number reported for revenue sharing purposes.

The revenue sharing is not a punitive tax. If they made more than projected revenue from ticket sales, if that pushes them from being a revenue sharing receiver to payer, its still only on a percentage basis so it makes sense to sell the extra tickets outright at normal prices. I only wonder if there is something going on here, and I have seen other small things that also support the fact that maybe the money is going somewhere else here, where it is not exposed to the other owners. Remember though, that under the revenue sharing system, everyone HAS to do these things to keep up with the other guy. In the words of Rome “If your not cheating, your not trying. And it is not cheating until you get caught”. In my mind, there is nothing wrong with this, I am not a big fan of revenue sharing and love the unintended consequences it brings to the business of the game. The amount of capital and energy wasted by teams creating these schemes could probably be better put to use, say to promote the team or try to sell more tickets. It is interesting to try to evaluate why a team that’s going to hit its numbers, decides instead of racing past projections, they would rather just slog along and push tickets for nothing and pass up the window for a month of much higher profitability. (as the overhead is accounted for, now its just variable costs)

Fear (of Mecir)

Did I not just bring this up a few days ago. Jim Mecir comes in with his usual M.O., come in give up a lead off single up the middle, is bunted on (I am sure later today we will hear about how he cant pitch for 2 days now), then gives up a whopper to loose the game. It is true this game was lost by Menechino (who could not get around on fastball and fouled off about 8 pitches before grounding out) and Byrnes (who at this point you can only feel sorry for) scrubbed and could not get runners in from 2nd and 3rd with nobody out! This games hurts, we go into this weekend a game out of any playoff spot as opposed to a game up. The part that kills me is Halama was ready to go in, and I was okay with that considering his relief appearances haven’t been that bad lately and if this thing went an extra 2-3 innings he could go that long. Jimmy’s best case scenario was that one inning anyway.

Mecir needs to be Jaha’ed

Definition of Jaha’ed (as in John Jaha, A’s dh till mid 2001) : To be called in by Management mid season and told your roster spot is to valuable, and the constant wondering if your ever going to get it back together is killing us. Your medical problems have become to serious. Therefore we will pay you your contract, get your stuff and get out of here. We will put a positive spin on it

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Ichiro Night

Mythical Marketing Idea 101 - In the line of Charlie Finley promotions from the past, I think the A's should run "Ichiro" Night the next time the Mariners come in this year. Everything that night will be referred to on a first name basis and the uniforms will go with Ichiros first name only. Roy Steele will also handle everything that night on a first name basis as well, so the A's infield will not be "Chavez","Tejada","Ellis","Hatteberg"...Rather it will be "Eric","Miggy","Mark" and "Scott".."Mark" will also be pitching, and "Eric" will also be playing centerfield.

If the umpires have a problem with this, then everyone will have to change their jerserys, and I mean everyone..So we might finally see the first official "Suzuki" jersey ever worn.

In addition that night we will also host the "cannon challenge" before the game by having a best of ten between Jose Guillen and Ichiro to see how many times they can nail a runner at home trying to score from 2nd. (I know lots of variables we would have to make constant to do this properly)..Ichiro would probably win, but I bet both would nail at least 50%.

Ok, stupid ideas, Just trying to recover from watching Damon, Bill Moooler (thats how it sounds) and Manny "disco shoes" Ramierz light up Mark Mulder last night.
Derek does MSNBC
Derek Zumstegs report on Pete Rose had him on national television (MSNBC Abrahams Report) last night representing himself and Baseball Prospectus in fine style. In typical media fashion they stated if he is wrong they will have him back on the show to explain it, but made no mention of having him back if he is correct. I agree with what Will Carrol said, bottom line is MLB was waiting for a different time to spin this. That is the risk you take when you sit on news. It is almost as rediculous as when music companies sit on bands recordings that are finished in april until december for the xmas rush, and in the meantime send out advance copies in June or August to magazines in order to get a review done, only to find out one of the 500 promo copies ends up on the internet. When things are ready to go, there ready to go, if your sitting on something that is in demand, you are taking the risk. If you do not want it out, whether its music or news, you better evaluate the risk of that happening and minimize them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Zito gets the W

I was at school last night, so could not catch the game, except furiously hitting the refresh button on the PDA. Zito finally got his 9th win of the season, and no question about the fact we will need Zito to make the playoffs. Zito has not pitched all that bad, he should have won in Anaheim 4 starts ago, and he should have won in Detroit last week. The only time he was really pounded was by the Yankees at the Coliseum a couple weeks ago. Good to see Barry back, better to see a 5 run outburst in the 1st inning. We should not ask when Barry will pitch better, rather when we will get more first inning outbursts like that.
A Scary thought about the Raiders

Everybody knows Jerry Porter is blossoming into a super star. This guy has put in a tremendous amount of work and strives to learn from the best in the business, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. Porter’s strength and size on the field is overwhelming for defensive backs and he made some amazing plays last year. Now the scary part, the Raiders 2nd round steal out of Stanford,Teyo Johnson, makes Jerry Porter look small. Having a chance to watch practice yesterday, it was amazing to see how big and physical Teyo is. If he matches up against smaller DB’s, and Gannon puts the ball up in the air and on the money, look out. This might be the first Stanford athlete I have ever been excited about. He is in position to be a dominant player for the future as he has all the physical attributes one could dream of, and he will be learning from three of the best recievers in the game for the next couple of years. As much as I never want to see Rice and Brown leave, put Johnson and Porter out on the field in a couple years and we might have 2 more pro bowl receivers.

Stirring the pot

Over at BaseballProspectus cousin Derek has broken the Pete Rose story, and I heard about it on ESPN. Baseball officially denied the report, but what do you expect them to say “Um, Derek and Will you got us..Your right."

Monday, August 11, 2003

WOW...Now that was the best pitching performance I have seen all year by an Athletic. Hudson's stuff was nasty, and the two hits Boston had struggled to get out of the infield. And typical Hudson, only 2 Fly Balls, Only one batter past the minimum in this game and not even 100 pitches. Watching Hudson come back to the dugout after inning, he was fired up (I sit in the second row behind dugout so we can hear him). The defense played crisply, some solid plays by Mark Ellis at 2nd, and a fantastic bear handed job by Tejada. Besides that, it was dribblers and ground balls all night long that did not present to much difficulty. The fans were into the game as well, and Seattle took a header to Toronto at home, so we are tied for the wild card and only 3 back on the M's. Still three more games in this series though, and we need the same fire for Zito tommorrow night. I know nothing brilliant here that you didnt already know.
Justin Duchscherer set one of those in-auspicious records in Sacramento, the single season wins record with 12. In any other organization, you don’t make it to 12 wins without being called up. I have seen him pitch a couple times with Sacramento, and he is one of the most efficient pitchers I have seen all year be it in the majors or the minors. He has only 15 walks in 20 games started while posting 103 K’s in 138 innings pitched. He has even a lower ERA than Rich Harden when he was called up, at 3.12 vs 3.15 for Harden.

Best guess is to why Justin has not made the majors is his arm speed. I never have been one to be critical of arm strength, and if you can get people out so be it. Usually his fastball tops out at 88-89 and he works all the way down 68 on the slow curve. The times I have seen him pitch, every time I look at the scoreboard he is control of the situation, getting first strikes, and finishing batters off on 0-1,1-2 counts frequently. You look up at the board in the 7th inning, and he has 68-75 pitches thrown. Batters don’t seem to be able to hit him hard either, most hits find the holes as opposed to being line shots. Bottom line is, Justin is a pitcher, not just a thrower.

Justin did one have one start back in the Rangers organization, and he was lit up pretty good that one time. Sometime in the next year, be it with the A’s or another organization we trade him to, I will be curious to see how well he does as a starter. It will be interesting to see if you can “bring up” a Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer type pitcher who is effective out of triple A, or if those type of pitchers always have to be pitchers re-defining their game in their later years.

Nervous About Jimmy
Its no secret that I am not a big Jim Mecir fan, and I am extremely concerned about what we are going to do with him in the stretch drive. Roster spots are so valuable in the post season that unless Mecir is completely recovered , can we really afford to have him out there. If we do get to the playoffs, and Mecir enters a game 1 or 2, it’s a given the first batter out of the box will attempt to bunt off him (Even if its Frank Thomas, Jorge Posada, or some other slug). Jim will roll off the mound, re-injur the knee and we will be without a valuable pitcher for the remainder of that series. Can we afford this? Rincon has had a tough year as it seems he is not hitting the black like last year, and having to throw more balls over the middle of the plate. We do have rubber armed Chadford, Foulke is our man for the ninth and Harville is starting to show he can be a contributor in the bullpen. I just am concerned that Mecir will injur himself and throw the bullpen into trouble. After Harville, the A’s system does not have a K-rod in the wings to bring up. I guess were just going to have to live with whatever happens, and we may not make it to the playoffs to have to worry about this anyway.

Maybe with the September call ups we can find one of our Sacramento Aces that comes up can get an out here and there. We should probably experiment with this in those Tampa and Baltimore series and if we discover something interesting I am sure we can find some DL combo that would work much like Anaheim did last year and get that guy on the roster. Just have a feeling someone who is not even on the Roster is going to play big in the post season run, just dont know who it is.
The Big Series (version I..Hopefully there will be more)
Being out of town a few days, I was unable to watch the A’s series with the White Sox this weekend, although it seemed to go as figured. In none of the past years playoff runs have I been so nervous about our offense. Throw any good pitcher in there and they go dormant. This weekend it was Buehrle and Loaiza the notched wins against good pitching performances from Mulder and Harden (although this was Richs most inefficient start). Hidden in there was that Ted Lilly must have pitched ok on Saturday, which is encouraging as we could use a stable Lilly for the final 7 weeks.

Tonight starts what typically has been “the run” to the playoffs. Two years ago the Red Sox arrived in town and we wiped them out, sending them on a downward spiral they never pulled out of, firing their manager with a month to go and the team was in general chaos. Last year are late season series with the Red Sox was at Fenway, and people still say “the catch” by Terrence Long about 2 feet into the Boston bullpen was one of those events that made the A’s of 2002 believe in themselves.

So what awaits us? Not often during the regular season are you fired up for a game like tonight. Pedro vs. Huddy, in what should be a 2 hour masterpiece that will end up with the same score as some epic euro soccer battle (1-0). Hudson is our best bulldog, and with any run support this year would have to be a Cy young Candidate. Of any of our four, he will give Pedro the best run for his money.

Pedro has not given up more than 3 runs in a game since May, the only team to get those three runs was the New York Yankees. Something strange is going to have to happen for us to get more than 2-3 runs ourselves. I know what will not happen though, I know we will not get a leadoff single, steal a base, sacrifice the guy to 3rd with only one out and score him on a fly ball. The A’s don’t play that way.

I hope it’s a good week at the ballpark, and we really need 3 out of 4, unless were planning some spectacular sweep in Boston later in the month. I still think New England used all there karma against Oakland on one winter evening in Foxboro two years ago.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Unintended Consequences

One subject that will occasionally come up here is unintended consequences, which simply refers to how the best intentions sometimes lead to bad results. This is an important topic in sports because revenue sharing has introduced us to a treasure trove of unintended consequences. As one fellow student asked at the end of our sports econ class last week when discussing the 8 million ways teams divert revenue, “If everyone cheats then what good is revenue sharing”….EXACTLY

My favorite example of an unintended consequence lately are the countdown crosswalk clocks being installed in California. What they do is tell the pedestrians how long they have before the light turns Red. What they really do is tell the driver, from sometimes 200 yards away that they have 6 seconds to accelerate to 80 mph and beat the light. Somehow, I do not think that is what AAA intended when they sponsored the program

Great Sales Technique
Being a masters student at the University of San Francisco Sport Management Program, we study many interesting techniques in attracting fans out to the ballpark. I wanted to share one of the sales techniques I received from a local team that I felt was so bad I thought it was a joke.

In a text based email, I was alerted by this team that the “time is now” and that “Reasonable Packages Exist”. Then the email went on to describe how “for only $32,000 dollars I could get two premium Diamond Level seats a year” or better yet “for $64,000 I could get four”. You know what, you bet, off a text based email spam I think I am just going to open up my wallet, pull out $64,000 dollars (in twenties, that’s all I have) and grab 4 seats.

I am thinking the target market for the seats might be better evaluated, and no I am not talking about a cold call at the office either.

From the NFL to Enterprise Rent A Car
It is that time of the year where I start making frequent stops to Educk as we get ready for another Oregon Football Season. I am a season ticket holder who treks up to Eugene 5-6 times a year to watch the alma-matter Ducks in action. This year we return back to earth after a horrible collapse at the end of last year. Remember we started 6-0, finished 7-6. We started with Jason Fife at Quarterback as the heir to Joey Harrington, we ended with Kellen Clemens. Now the question is Fife is a senior, Clemens a sophomore, and what do we do? I am definitely in the Clemens camp, as he seems to bring more energy and life into the game, and he seems to emotionally handle the game better than Fife. Yet I do not blame Fife for the fate the fell upon him and how everything un-raveled.

Oregon was coming off a #2 Ranking last year at the start of the season, Jason Fife was the new starting quarterback for a school now considered “A Program”. He knows decent success, and if Oregon can stay ranked and compete for the Pac10 Title again, Pro Football is around the corner,( as he will be drafted in 18 months). Then we get off to a 6-0 start beating a SEC team in the opener (although MSU proves to be mediocre at best over the season), roll some weaker opponents and then win 2 road games in the Pac 10 to start the season. At this point Fife is 6-0, probably thinking about how nice it will be to be a backup NFL quarterback, the rather nice minimum NFL salary and all that comes with it. Then we suffer the aerial assault of Arizona State at home, a place we are not supposed to loose. Then we get drubbed by USC the next week. Fife starts to become ineffective as he looses confidence as the team looses games. Clemens starts to make appearances in games as he has matured and Fife looses his confidence. Then the brain lock started setting in, where six weeks ago he was thinking about his future as a college and pro quarterback, now he is realizing he could loose his job as starter to a red shirt Freshman, never get it back as a senior and instead of being drafted by the NFL in 24 months, he will be working in the Management Trainee Program at Enterprise Rent A Car (where every college grad ends up in a slow economy) for $20,000 a year and working 70 hours a week. With this on your brain, how could it get any better? In the end it didn’t, we were blasted by WSU, Arch Rival Huskies and then the Beavers. 6-0 turned into 7-5 very quickly. This culminated in Fife starting the nobody cared bowl in Seattle, having a couple dreadful series and being replaced by Clemens.

To much mental disaster has gone on in my mind to roll him out there again. His comments publicly early warn us “he is approaching everything the same as last year” which is disturbing, because that did not work out to well. One loss spiraled into a disaster, and I really do not want to see that happen again. In addition to Clemens athletic ability, the reason I want him in there is the fact I think he can shake off disappointment better. Let us face it , nobody could have handled it any worse than Fife.

Thanks Derek!
Thanks to cousin Derek who posted my existence on the USS Mariner blog, so if some of you dropped by due to that, thanks for stopping by. I will probaby have some Mariners comments from time to time, such as thanks for doing the Benitez trade. I have to believe that is worth 1-2 games somewhere in the next 50 days for the A's in the standings. Gillicks first trade mid season in years it seems, and it was interesting to say the least.
How can someone like both teams?
Some housekeeping duties, for those who have stumbled onto this site. A question that comes up time after time is “How in the world can you root for the Giants and the A’s”. If I lived in New York or Chicago this would not be tolerated. If I lived in Southern California (wait nobody down there cares either way). There are primarily two answers to this question.

First of all, it is important to remember I worked on commission as a vendor for both teams at the stadiums. Therefore, the better the teams played, the bigger the crowds they drew, the more money I made. It is also critical to realize I am a good little capitalist, and enjoy earning money. When I began with the Giants, they were terrible and drawing 3,000 a game. In order to make any money, the team needed to get better and I desperately rooted for that. It could be said that my first walkman, initial tape collection and first members only jacket was due to the fact that Will Clark and Robby Thompson emerged, brining crowds out to Candlestick park. When the Giants did well, I did well, and then when I started working for the A’s I had the same phenomena. I started working in Oakland the year after the Giants, when they were rolling out players like Canseco, McGwire which brought the crowds flocking to the once gorgeous Coliseum.

I have to admit one thing here, being a baseball nut since 1974 when I went to my first game at the Met in Minnesota on Rod Carew jersey day, the A’s gave me something the Giants could not. They were the first team to ever win a division that I followed. In 1981, even though it was a weird precursor to today’s playoffs, I was able to turn on the TV in October, and see a local team playing (A’s vs Royals, then the Yankees). It was the crazy A’s, the “Billyball” generation of Armas, Henderson, Murphy, Gross, Langford, Norris, McCatty, Babbit, Heath etc. That carried a great deal of weight for me. The A’s were the first team I liked that went to a playoffs, and also won a world series (Giants, I’m still waiting on that one, and the “Car ride of Death” will be future post). I will never forget the A’s for giving me two great firsts.

I said earlier there was a second reason to why I like both teams. I really do not understand how a true baseball junkie, who lives in a two team market, can deprive himself completely of seeing the other league play. In1985 did hard core Yankee fans truly never once venture over to Shea Stadium to catch an emerging Dwight Gooden. If we did not have interleague, would a hardcore A’s fan NEVER go across the bay to watch Barry Bonds. If I had taken my early A’s affection and taken an A’s or nothing approach, I would have never owned my Giants season tickets which allowed me to witness Barry breaking McGwires record. There are so many cities in the major leagues where fans are not able to see the other league play, and miss out on many of the games stars. I lived in a single market team when I was little, and I remember how great it would be to able to see Willie Stargel, Steve Garvey, and some of the NL Stars play. Once I moved to a place where I could see everyone in baseball, I was going to take advantage of it. There it is, I am a fan of the Giants and the A’s as crazy as it sounds, but I do not wear one of those stupid muti-color hats.

Rick Ponson or Sidney Reuschel?
I know many have said the Sidney Ponson deal reminds them of the Jason Schmidt deal, picking up a pitcher still before his prime with electric stuff. Ponson made his debut last night at PacBell, and looked fantastic. Unfortunately, Josh Fogg looked as good (how appropriate a player named “Fogg” in San Francisco blankets the Giants offensive attack) and the Pirates won 2-0. As I am watching Ponson on the mound, this deal doesn’t remind of Jason Schmidt, rather I will take Giants fans back to the summer of 1987 when halfway through the year the Giants picked up “Big Daddy” Rich Reuschel from the Pirates for the stretch drive in a critical year for the Giants. That was a critical year because it was the first time the Giants showed signs of life since 1982 when they chased the hated so-cals. Ponson’s mannerisms and build brought back those memories.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The Infamous Candlestick Hot Dog Scam
Have you every sat there at a game and tried to rationalize a $3.50 hot dog when you know the components might cost 80 cents if you bought them from a grocery store? This does not even figure in the fact of how much money the team saves from ordering 1 million hot dogs a year! Back in the mid 80s not only did the fans wonder this, but some vendor friends of mine did. Candlestick Park and Harry M. Stevens were also proud of the fact they had sterno hot dog cans that cooked the dog in boiling water as you would walk around the stadium. This lead to what was known as the infamous “Hot Dog Scam” during Giants games from 1987 to the early 1990s. There was one designated ‘Master’ of this, who would actually go to grocery store a couple times of week, load up on hot dogs and buns and smuggle them into a stadium in a backpack. Then once he received his tickets for the day, and grabbed his sterno mounted can, would go back to his locker and load up his can full of about 30-40 hot dogs and buns in the bottom compartments (which nobody saw). He figured he was spending roughly 20 cents a hotdog and would sell 30-40 of these at the stadium cost of $2, netting out about an additional 65$-80$ a day in cash. This was in addition to the hot dogs the stadium supplied him with and he kept 20% commission on. An average day for him at the Giants would bring in $150-$175 a day, not bad for a 17 year old working 2 ½ hours. The illicit portion was never taxed either, further inflating his after tax earnings.

This was not an easy task; he had to be a good vendor so that he could sell as much as everyone else, and sneak in an extra 30-40 hot dogs. The other funny thing was he sold higher quality hot dogs than the ones the Concession Company bought. If you received one of the ‘illicit’ hot dogs (that looked very slightly different) you were actually eating a better dog. And no this was not me, I was always to afraid of getting caught, and yes the ‘Master’ of the scam has long since retired from the trade.

But somewhere this scam is still going on, because the margins are so good they are worth the risk!

Coliseum Food Hike
I admit, even this one caught me by surprise. It is a given that every year when I go to Pacbell or the Coliseum for the first time I will notice my favorite ballpark food will be more expensive. The parking goes up $2, The Saag’s Sausages by usually a quarter or 50 cents, and the soda has moved up another quarter. It is typical ballpark inflation, which seems to outpace CPI rather well. This past weekend I was able to get out to the Coliseum for the Cleveland and New York series, and the food prices were raised inter-season. It seems everything slid up a quarter or 50 cents since the before the All Star break. Only us fans that attend quite a few games would even notice this, because you get to the point where you know exactly what your favorite combo costs for the year. These are the types of things that irritate your fan base, constantly being nickel or dimed. Call your shot at the beginning of the year and live with the pricing
It is always pleasant to watch another stellar Rich Harden outing last night, although it was against the lowly Tigers. Coming off 2 of 3 from New York, these are the series you need to get off to a good start, to ensure you take the series. And it was nice to see Ted Lilly in the bullpen, this was the man who said "I felt really comfortable out there after I gave up those runs in the first couple innings" after his Minnesota start.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

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