Posts Tagged ‘Oakland A’s’
THE ORIGNIAL FOUR ACES
Cliff Lee has yet to officially sign with the Philadelphia Phillies but already the “Four Aces” posters are being compiled. With a rotation of Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, many are touting Philly as having the best group of starting pitchers ever assembled.
However, the term “Four Aces” wasn’t coined for this particular group of pitchers. That distinction goes to the four first round picks of the Oakland A’s in the 1990 draft. Those four long-forgotten pitchers included Todd Van Poppel, Kirk Dressendorfer, Dave Zancanaro and Don Peters.
At the time, Oakland’s “Four Aces” were hailed as the greatest haul of pitchers in the history of the Major League Baseball Draft. Yeah,…not so much. Van Poppel, a career underachiever, pitched in 11 Major League seasons, winning a total of 40 games (18 of them with Oakland.) Dressendorfer won three career games. Zancanaro and Peters never threw a pitch in the big leagues.
One the Oakland A’s top prospects has retired from baseball to become a Catholic priest. Grant Desme was the A’s second round draft in 2007. He is 23-years-old.
Last season, Desme was the only 30-30 player in all of minor league baseball. He hit 31 homers and stole 40 bases while dividing his time between Class A Kane County and Stockton in the A’s system. Following that, Desme was named the Most Valuable Player of the Arizona Fall League where he hit 11 home runs in 27 games.
Desme will now begin his religious studies at a seminary in Orange County, California.
THE WHOLE “LET’S-GET-THE-BAND-BACK TOGETHER” THING DOESN’T WORK OUT FOR BILLY BEANE AND JASON GIAMBIAugust 8, 2009
JASON GIAMBI: PARTIED LIKE A ROCK STAR, HIT LIKE A LITTLE GIRL
First baseman/DH Jason Giambi was released Friday by the Oakland A’s. MLB.com described the parting as “exceedingly sour.”
Giambi had been stashed on the disabled list by Oakland. He was hitting just .193 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI.
As first pointed out by “Big League Stew,” those numbers were so disappointing that the A’s chose to blast Giambi in the club’s official press release announcing his departure:
“At the time he went on the DL, he had the lowest batting average in the majors and fourth lowest slugging percentage in the American League (.364).”
Giambi was the 2000 American League MVP for Oakland. He enjoyed a season in which he hit .333 with 43 homers and 137 RBI for a team that won the A.L. West and made the first of four straight playoff appearances. Giambi bolted the A’s for the big money of free agency the next season, signing a seven-year contract with the New York Yankees. His career may now be over. Giambi has 407 lifetime homers in 15 years. He was even more successful off the field making $129,058,996 playing baseball.
As bad of a season as 2009 was for Giambi, it’s been a worse one for A’s general manager Billy Beane. Although the “Moneyball” movie has yet to be made, it may be a moot point. Oakland currently has their worst record ever under Beane during his tenure as A’s GM. They are a last place team and headed for their third straight losing season. Every decision made by Beane this year has been a disaster. He may seriously want to consider bringing back Paul DePodesta and his laptop.
JASON GIAMBI: LOOKED OLD THE SECOND TIME AROUND FOR OAKLAND
As you’ve probably heard by now, Columbia Pictures pulled out of a proposed movie based on the baseball book “Moneyball” at the last minute this weekend. The movie, starring Brad Pitt, was supposed to begin shooting in Arizona this week.
Believe me, nobody was more skeptical about a “Moneyball” movie than I was. After all, how do you make a two hour movie about baseball sabermetrics? One that you have to pay $10 to see and that will appeal to twenty-somethings. Particularly, when the hero of the book “Moneyball” is A’s general manager Billy Beane who, in reality, is a smug, unlikeable, arrogant, self-serving, egomaniac.
The answer is you have to come up with a REALLY good script. Steve Zaillian did just that. His original script for “Moneyball” is brilliant. Read it. Any script that has Billy Beane commiting adultery 10 minutes into the movie has got my vote. GENIUS! Trust me, that wasn’t in the original Michael Lewis book. And that’s where Zaillian succeeds beyond the levels of Lewis’ original book.
Lewis’ book was a treatise. Like Zaillian, parts of Lewis’ book are brilliant. After all, he’s the guy who spotted the entire “Moneyball” trend and wrote about it. The premise is simple. How does a small team (the Oakland A’s) with a tiny payroll compete with teams (like the New York Yankees) who can spend $120 million a year on players and have basically unlimited resources? The answer is they do it by being smarter. Unfortunately, Lewis’ book conveys this with all the warmth and hilarity you would expect from a Wall Street Journal business reporter writing about baseball statistics. Though insightful, Lewis’ book drags at times and is difficult to get through.
Zaillian’s script cuts through the clutter. Trust me, Chad Bradford is more interesting as a 15 second caricature than as a chapter. I don’t want to write a spoiler, but there’s a scene in Zaillian’s script between Beane and Scott Hatteberg’s wife that visually says something more profound and deeper in a moment than anything that was in Michael Lewis’ book.
That’s the brilliance of Zaillian’s work. The best baseball movies are never about baseball. They simply use the sport as a backdrop. “Bull Durham” was about the differences between men and women. It also had clearly defined characters-the wise older player at the end of his career mentoring the empty-headed but brilliantly talented youngster. “Major League” featured a universal theme-the underdog, who hates his boss, striving against impossible odds. Anybody who thinks “Field of Dreams” was a baseball movie wasn’t paying attention.
Zaillians script has a theme. It’s the same one as the book’s. It emphasizes the A’s roles as underdogs. Since the movie is set seven years ago, it picks up on a trend that twenty-somethings can relate to. The movie puts us right on the dawn of baseball clubs actually using the Internet and statistics as a tool. Paul DePodesta appears as a guy in his early 20’s fresh out of college. He and his laptop end up displacing an entire building full of scouts and a manager who won 102 games the previous season. This happened in real life.
Finally, the thing that makes Zaillian’s script ultimately successful is it EMBRACES Billy Beane’s dickishness. Make no mistake. Lewis’ “Moneyball” book is really “The Billy Beane Story.” Virtually every scene in Zaillian’s original script has Beane in it. Now I know why Brad Pitt took this part. He would be onscreen more in this one movie than his last 10 film roles combined. The movie has Billy Beane in bed with no less than four extremely young women. It also has him bawling out DePodesta, his young protege, and demanding him to go tell a player he has been cut. Beane orders DePodesta to be a man and, “Go shoot Old Yeller.” That also wasn’t in the original book but is a true story and happens to be hilarious.
Unfortunately, as Variety describes, director Steven Soderbergh rolled in and screwed up the entire movie. He basically junked Zaillian’s script and wanted to insert a bunch of documentary-style sit down interviews he shot with basball players. What’s the point? For the first time ever I’m going to side with a studio executive over a director. I’m not saying the movie should have been halted, but Soderbergh should have stuck to the original script, which is brilliant. Still, somebody must still want this movie to be made. That’s why Zaillian’s original script was leaked and put up on the Internet. Hopefully, “Moneyball” does get made as layed out by Zaillian’s original vision. Not as a documentary featury more Scott Hatteberg.
Tuesday’s edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal had a report that Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff met with Las Vegas city officials on Sunday about the possibility of eventually moving his baseball franchise to Sin City. The story was followed up on by the San Francisco media and independently confirmed by Yahoo! However, even Norm Clarke’s original story mentioned that the A’s and MLB may be using Las Vegas as a “bargaining chip.”
That appears to be unlikely. First, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has vowed never to put himself in that position. Goodman has turned down the opportunity to talk to other Major League Baseball teams in the past (for example the Florida Marlins) when he felt the city was simply being used as a bargaining chip. If indeed there were talks between the A’s and Las Vegas officials, those talks were likely serious about really moving the team here. Any such plan would require a new stadium being built in Las Vegas.
Goodman might view bringing Major League Baseball to Vegas as his legacy. He has always wanted to be the person to bring major league sports to Las Vegas. Bringing the A’s to Vegas (especially an economically dilapidated downtown) would be a real coup for Goodman. The mayor has always envisioned a stadium built with private funds partnering with the city as a means of inducing MLB to come to Las Vegas. That’s exactly the type of plan Wolff thought he had worked out in California before his proposed deal blew up (a deal he lost a reported $14 million on without throwing a shovel full of dirt in the air, by the way.) Goodman had always thought one of the mega casino groups would be a perfect partner, but they’re all broke now. Enter Wolff, who made his fortune in hotels and resorts and would probably salivate at the chance to get a foothold in Las Vegas, especially on the cheap.
Also, ever since local wack jobs torpedoed Wolff’s attempt to locate the A’s to the northern California city of Fremont, the A’s owner has made it clear that he will not remain in Oakland. Period. Not under any circumstances. Plan A involves moving the A’s to San Jose. However, that city remains officially in the “territorial” rights of the San Francisco Giants. The same day Clarke’s story broke about A’s and Las Vegas officials meeting, the San Francisco Chronicle was reporting that baseball commissioner Bud Selig was leaning towards siding with the Giants and their claim that San Jose belongs to them.
Selig may not let Wolff move his team to San Jose, but that doesn’t mean he is going to screw over his buddy. Selig and Wolff have been friends for over 50 years. They met in college at the University of Wisconsin. In fact, they were fraternity brothers. It’s the sole qualification Wolff has for being a big league owner. In the current economy, with his crappy Oakland stadium deal, Wolff stands to lose millions and millions of dollars. That won’t happen. Not on Selig’s watch. If Wolff can get a new state-of-the-art stadium built in Las Vegas so much the better.
Finally, if there were no other way to do it, and it came down to a case of using taxpayer money to build a stadium, Goodman and the city council have the ability to pass a construction bill in Vegas that DOES NOT require voter approval. Even if such a move would be politically unpopular. Goodman and many council members have expiring terms and wouldn’t be running for election ever again. They can finance a new stadium by raising taxes on tourists NOT locals (although Nevada gaming officials, already being pounded by recession, aren’t going to be happy about that.)That scenario though remains a longshot even in a city built on gambling. Goodman was always reluctantant to use taxpayer money to build a stadium or arena to attract professional sports even when times were good. And, economically, times are definitely NOT good in Nevada right now.
DRINKS ARE ON LAS VEGAS MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN IF HE CAN BRING THE A’S TO TOWN
We’ve posted about THIS on multiple occassions. Get ready for “Moneyball” the movie. DailyVariety is reporting that Steven Sorderbergh is in serious talks with with Columbia Pictures to direct a film based on the Michael Lewis book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.”
The movie would focus on the book’s subtitle-how the Oakland A’s compete every year with a much smaller payroll than clubs like the New York Yankees. It is scheduled to feature actor Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.
TROY NEEL: CHAMPION DEADBEAT DAD
Former Major League Baseball outfielder and first baseman Troy Neel was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport recently as he attempted to return to the United States. Neel reportedly owes $724,325 in back child support. The Texas Attorney General’s office had named Neel as “Texas’ Most Heinous Child Support Evader.”
Neel, who played for the Oakland A’s from 1992-94, moved to the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu in 2000 specifically to avoid paying $5,000 a month in child support payments. Neel, living with his new wife and family, BOUGHT HIS OWN ISLAND. They lived in a 21-room resort overlooking the lagoon of their own private tropical island.
Neel’s passport expired in 2008 and he was kicked out of Vanuatu. He was arrested on child support charges while trying to re-enter the U.S.
JONATHAN JOHNSON: OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN
Oakland A’s minor league catcher Jonathan Johnson is upset, confused, and bewildered. Despite being recently decorated for his actions as a Navy officer fighting in the Gulf of Aden, Johnson wants to go home. Yahoo! Sports has a great story today about Johnson and his battles with both Somali pirates and the Navy. He was ripped away from his professional baseball career earlier this summer. Johnson had his career interrupted (maybe permanently) by a memo.
Johnson was playing professional baseball for the Class A Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League. He had a deal with the Navy that other professional athletes had with their service academies: Serve two years and double your commitment to the reserves and you’re free to pursue a professional sports career.
One man, with one stroke of his pen made liars out of the Navy. Navy Secretary Donald Winter signed a memo in November of 2007 rescinding all of the previous agreements. It ordered all Naval Academy midshipmen back to their original five-year commitments. Immediately and retroactively. No exceptions. Johnson was shipped off to sea despite his previous agreement.
Johnson isn’t the only professional athlete ordered back into service. Earlier this year the Army forced Caleb Campbell to leave the Detroit Lions training camp and return to active duty.