About a dozen bloggers assembled in the Ring of Champions at 3 on Friday, prior to the 7:05 A’s-O’s game. We were met by Adam Loberstein, who also set up our interview time at Fan Fest before the season. This being the first game of a series and homestand, media availability by various A’s was expected to be somewhat scattershot, but we were promised Bob Melvin, Farhan Zaidi, and a couple of players, so no one was complaining.
We had about 10 minutes with Melvin, during which several people peppered him with questions. There wasn’t much revealing in his 10 minutes with us, other than his thoughtful, yet noncommittal answer when asked to name the team MVP (hint: not Brian Fuentes or Daric Barton).
The team was heading on to the field for stretching before batting practice, so we were happily led down to the field to catch it. Melvin was about to do his daily pregame interview with the regular media in the dugout, so for a moment media outnumbered A’s on the field. Ray Fosse had just finished his pregame interview segment, and hung out on the field talking to players even though he didn’t have any other duties for the rest of the day. Eventually I found myself as part of a circle surrounding Fosse, and he regaled us for 25 minutes about the teams on which he played and broadcast for, championships, and changes in the game. He even took off his ’72 (thanks Ken Arneson) ’73 World Series ring and passed it around, which allowed several bloggers to take their pictures with it. He talked ballparks too, though that’s the subject of tomorrow’s post.
Towards the end of Fosse’s talk, batting practice started. Among the first to take BP was Chris Carter, who at one point hit four straight no-doubt home runs, including one to the plaza level and another that hit the luxury suites in left-center. (Trogdor, please burninate Mount Davis when you get the chance.) I also noticed that Carter and Jemile Weeks seemed pretty tight and frequently in conversation, which immediately brought to mind the image of Spike and Chester.
We left before we had the chance to see Yoenis Cespedes hit, which I suppose wasn’t a big deal since he entertained the masses later on that night. Loberstein brought us back to the interview room, and a few minutes later we met Farhan Zaidi, the A’s Director of Baseball Operations. Zaidi’s been interviewed numerous times by bloggers and reporters, but it was his first time in the interview room. He was asked about the career turnarounds of Carter and Josh Donaldson. I asked Zaidi if there was any “secret sauce” to how the A’s keep developing quality starting pitching. His response:
Don’t tell us we have too much depth, because we’re constantly in a state of panic about pitching… We talk about this every offseason. We don’t build a five-man rotation. We build a 162-game rotation. These days there are very few guys that you can assume are going to make 34 starts and pitch 200 innings. We you look at a lot of the projections systems out there, they usually project some regression for guys. They all sort of have guys for 170, 180 innings max – and those are workhorse guys. We have to take that view as well, that there’s really no guy that we can plug in there and say, ‘One out of five rotation spots is taken care of.’ We try to build a set of options – 8, 9, 10, 11-deep of starting pitchers that we think if go into a game with this guy starting we feel good about that game. Attrition takes care of more than you would ever wish it would… I think we do that and I don’t think that’s unique to us. I think a lot of teams think about it that way… Your AAA rotation has to be full of guys you think can come up and do the job, if need be, because it will happen.
Our interviews ended with Brett Anderson and A.J. Griffin sharing the table. Anderson was back to his laconic self after his off start on Thursday against the Angels. Griffin, being one of the newest rookies, is still emerging. I asked where his clubhouse nickname “Griffindor” came from. He said:
People like Evan Scribner, when I walk into the clubhouse, they’ll shout, “Griffindor!” Stuff like that. It’s a fun nickname, I guess, it keeps (the clubhouse) loose. I don’t mind it, so I can roll with it.
That must make Scribner the Sorting Hat. I’ve already challenged some our A’s fan T-shirt creators to make a fitting tribute. By the way, you’re welcome on the hard hitting journalism.
We were wrapped up at 5. Each blogger received two tickets the game, which I didn’t use, and some new Bernie-oriented swag. All in all it was a highly satisfying experience. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but years ago I worked with a freelance photographer who brought me along to type up postgame copy to accompany his pictures, which he frequently sold to international publications. I spent nearly two years during college working every major venue in the Bay Area, and came away from the experience somewhat jaded by the rampant cynicism in the press box – mostly from columnists. I was starting to dislike sports. I knew that sports journalism, at least the way it was traditionally practiced, was not in my future. I’m grateful that this particular form, blogging, allows to me to apply my skills without having to report on the daily grind of sports. It allows me to separate the off-field stuff from on-field, so that I can enjoy sports much the same way I did when I was 10 years old. It is a kids’ game, after all.
With any luck, we’ll be able to do another event in conjunction with FanFest next winter. Thanks to Adam Loberstein and the A’s Media Relations department for putting Blog Day together.