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Is Mark Ellis Underrated?

May 5, 2011

The CSNAthletic twitter account posed the question yesterday afternoon asking who is the A’s most underrated player.  I responded with my vote for Kurt Suzuki because he catches great games for the league’s best pitching staff, plays tremendous defense, and occasionally puts the ball over the fence.  Most A’s fans know he’s a hell of a catcher, but he doesn’t get much love from the rest of the league.

A few other responses were for Connor Jackson, Deric Barton (overrated?), and Trevor Cahill among others.  The one that really surprised me, which it actually shouldn’t have, was the amount of people tweeting their love for Mark Ellis as the most underrated player on the Oakland Athletics. I completely disagree.

The big argument in favor of Mark Ellis is that he plays “Gold Glove” caliber defense.  Forget that his offense is average at the very best, just for the fact that he plays a good second base.  I will admit that he has a nice glove, but there is a reason that he has not won the award. Ellis doesn’t make a lot of errors, but he also doesn’t rob a lot hits either.  Gold Glove players do more than just make the plays on the balls that are hit directly at them.  They turn the plays into outs that end being hits for rest of the guys that play the position in Major League Baseball. Mark Ellis is a very solid defensive 2nd baseman, but I’ve never thought that he really separated himself from the elite defensive 2nd basemen in the league.

Mark Ellis is a fine defensive 2nd baseman, but my main problem with him is his offense.  Now I know he did lead the Athletics in batting average last year, but that was mostly due to the fact that Ellis had an unbelievable September when the A’s were playing for little more than pride. Furthermore, the fact that he lead a below average offense in batting average says more to the point of how bad the A’s offense was in 2010 than how good of a hitter Ellis was.

We have to now look past 2010 and into the present.  Ellis is by far the worst hitter on the team through the first month of the season. His batting average of .176 and OPS of .481 are pathetic and he’s showing very few signs of snapping out of his skid. In one at-bat on Tuesday night, I watched him swing and foul off three straight pitches that were clearly balls, and then stand there and take a fastball over the plate for strike three. He went 0-3 last night, but did manage to score in 8th when he reached on a throwing error. I just do not understand how A’s fans can call a player underrated when he is by far the worst hitter on a team that struggles to score runs every single game.

I know most A’s fans love Mark Ellis for his good defense, but I think it’s more for the fact that he is the last holdover from the “Moneyball” A’s teams of the early 2000’s. He has spent his entire career with the A’s, and most A’s fans respect him for sticking around while everyone else has bolted for greener pastures. He’s an all-around good guy, and he is the type of guy that most fathers out there would probably be happy to have marry their daughter. I respect these things about Mark Ellis too, but I want the A’s to win baseball games as well.

I would love to see Mark Ellis turn things around and have a successful season, but I don’t think he is going to have the type of season that is going to justify his $6 million team option that was picked up by Billy Beane this past offseason.  Beane was almost forced to pick up his option because he didn’t really have very many other options at 2nd to begin with.  Jemile Weeks is the heir apparent to Mark Ellis’ job at 2nd in Oakland, but Billy knew that he wasn’t going to be ready for the job full time to start the 2011 season. $6 million is still a relative bargain for a productive second baseman, which brings us to where we are right now.

Jemile Weeks is off to a good start in AAA Sacramento this season, but I don’t think Billy Beane is going to give up on Mark Ellis quite yet in 2011. The situation could get interesting by the end of May if Ellis continues to struggle and Weeks continues to thrive in AAA. After all, this is more than likely Ellis’ last season in the green and gold unless something really remarkable happens from here until the end of the season.  It’s going to be Jemile Weeks’ job to lose next spring, so I don’t think it could hurt to bring him up and give him a taste of the big leagues if Ellis continues his offensive woes.  I’m sure Weeks could at the very least hit .200, which would still be an improvement over Ellis thus far.

Like I said before, I hope that Mark Ellis can turn it around this season, but you’re not going to see me calling him and underrated player anytime soon.


This One Is On Geren

May 4, 2011


It’s so easy to constantly blame the manager for a team’s lack of success, but last nights 4-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians is all on Bob Geren. His first big mistake was sending Tyson Ross back out for the 7th inning after throwing 79 pitches without anyone getting ready in the bullpen in case he got into trouble.  Ross had been pitching well through the first 6 innings, but he was allowing quite a few hitters to reach base.  Ross is still in the process of being stretched out into a starter after starting the season in the bullpen.  Geren didn’t even have Wuertz start warming until Ross was already in a big time jam.  Geren was fortunate that Wuertz’s stuff was filthy and he was able to get out of the inning without surrendering another run.

Geren’s next act of gross negligence was sending Fuentes out to pitch the bottom on the 9th inning with the game tied at 1-1. I just have no idea what Geren was thinking with this move. This was Fuentes’ third straight appearance dating back to Sunday and his fourth in the last five games. You just cannot send out a 35 year-old pitcher (or a pitcher of any age for that matter)  for that much work and expect him to succeed.  Geren set his closer up to fail. Of course, Fuentes was obviously out of gas from the start of the inning, and Geren didn’t get him out of the game until Fuentes gave up 3 runs and only retired one batter.

The offense wasn’t good last night, but the pitching gave the team a chance to win. I’m not sure why Geren left two of his hottest hitters in Josh Willingham and Connor Jackson out of the lineup, but I assume it had something to do with the fact the A’s were facing a right handed starter.  I know statistic do show the lefty vs. righty match-ups are important to consider, but I think you have to put your hottest hitters in the lineup every night.  The A’s offense is not good enough to sit two of your best hitters and still expect to win.

Bob Geren is never going to win manager of the year, but I do expect him to make moves that most reasonably intelligent baseball fans are capable of making.  I think most A’s fans have a problem that we’re stuck with Bob Geren when the guy we passed up on in Ron Washington took the Texas Rangers to the World Series last year. I guarantee you the Oakland Athletics, at the very least, would not be leading Major League Baseball in errors this season with Ron Washington at the helm.

The A’s have their ace Trevor Cahill on the hill tonight in the second game of the series with Indians.  Let’s hope Geren can keep it together tonight.

A’s Take 3 of 4 From The Texas Rangers

May 4, 2011

It was great to see the A’s take 3 of 4 from the Rangers over the weekend, with the exclamation point being Hideki Matsui’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning of the Monday’s series finally. It was unfortunate that the only game I could make it to was Saturday’s Ricky Henerdson Bobblehead Day game, which the A’s lost 11-2.

Monday’s game was particularly impressive because McCarthy was never able to have a shut down inning after the A’s took a lead. It showed the offense has some fortitude to pick up their usually stellar pitching staff from time to time.

It was good to see home runs from Suzuki, Willingham, and Matsui.  All three of these guys are off to slow starts and it’s nice to see them contributing to a big team win. It is important to emphasize that Monday’s win was a “team win” because those types of games help teams come together as a whole.  It’s also wonderful to have the game capped off by the entire team mobbing Matsui and home plate.

The Indians come into town tonight to open up a three game set with the A’s. The Indians are hot right now, but I doubt their success is going to be sustained throughout the entire regular season. The A’s need to win this series to really get some momentum moving in the right direction and to start putting some positive distance between them and the .500 mark.  For some reason, Geren has given Willingham the night off, which I consider a dumb move with Willingham swinging a hot bat right now. I know guys need a day off here and there, but Geren seems to like to rest his hitters who are just starting to find their strokes. Geren has, however, started LaRoche at 3rd base again tonight, which I like because Kouz has been nothing short of awful both offensively and defensively so far this season.  He has shown very few signs of life either with and 0-3 with 3 K’s on Saturday before being lifted in the 9th for a pinch hitter (no golden sombrero).

Tyson Ross takes the hill tonight for the A’s looking to follow up the success of his last start in Anaheim where he pitched 7 solid innings of baseball by scattering 4 hits with 3 strikeouts and only 1 walk.  Tyson Ross has the potential to be a hell of a major league pitcher, which is why I was not as concerned as other A’s fans when Braden went down. Let’s hope he can keep the A’s moving in the right direction tonight.

A’s Shutout the Red Sox and Sharks Win In Historic Comeback

April 20, 2011

I was happy to finally get home from work last night and sit down on the couch to watch my Oakland Athletics take on the Boston Red Sox in the first game of a short two game series. Also, a half hour after the start of the A’s game, the puck dropped in Los Angeles for a crucial game three Stanley Cup opening round playoff matchup between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings.  Neither game disappointed.

Brett Anderson took the mound for the Athletics against John Lackey for the Red Sox.  Both pitchers were sharp, but Anderson proved to be more dominant scattering 4 hits over 8 inninga while striking out 8 and only allowing one free pass.  The A’s broke the 1-0 game open in the 8th by adding four more runs which was capped by a two-run double off the bat of Hideki Matsui. Overall, it was a great 5-0 shutout victory for the Athletics over the Red Sox.

The Sharks looked to be getting boat raced again in game three of their opening round playoff match-up against the LA Kings.  The Kings got off to hot start and appeared to have put the Sharks away early by taking a 4-0 advantage early in the second period.  The Sharks came storming back later in the second period with five goals to take a 5-5 tie into the third.  Both teams had chances to score in the 3rd period, but both remained scoreless headed into overtime. Devin Setoguchi’s wrist shot at 3:09 into overtime made it past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to cap off the historic comeback with an improbably 6-5 victory.

Even though I had to stay up a little later than I would have preferred, it was well worth it to see the Sharks pull off the amazing upset. I always seem to sleep a little sounder after both my teams conclude their nightly games with victories. This is a fun time of year with Stanley Cup playoff hockey just getting underway, and with Major League Baseball baseball opening up their marathon of a season. I love getting home every night and being able to sit down and watch one (or both) of my favorite teams on TV.

I’m not a big hockey guy, but it is hard to dispute that playoff hockey is some of the best sports entertainment you’re ever going to witness. The intensity of the regular season is ratcheted up about 10 levels and these guys really lay it all on the line at a chance to win the Stanley Cup. San Jose Sharks fans are so desperate at chance to win the Stanley Cup. After making the playoffs each of the past seven seasons and still not making it to the Stanley Cup finals, this might be the year the Sharks lose their playoff jinx and win it all.  Let’s hope I’m right.

What’s Up With 95.7 SportRadio

April 19, 2011

I was thrilled to learn on Friday that the A’s new flagship station 95.7 The Wolf was flipping format from a country station to an all sports talk station.  A’s, Sharks, and Raiders fans have largely been ignored by the only other sports talk station in the Bay Area market KNBR 680/1050.  The new SportsRadio 95.7 was being touted over the weekend as a new rival to KNBR and as an outlet for Sharks and A’s fans to talk about their teams.  As someone who spends roughly two hours of every weekday commuting in the car, I was actually looking forward to Monday morning so I could tune-in to my new sports station. Boy, was I ever disappointed.

The new flagship station of the Oakland As and San Jose Sharks.

I’m not going to sit here and critique every show I listened to, but my overall impression from the first day was not good. The A’s finalized a trade during the 10am-1pm show and the hosts failed to even mention the trade for over an hour. That is absolutely unacceptable when you’re host a show on the A’s flagship station. When the hosts did finally mention it, they went into very little detail largely in part because they had no idea who the trade involved or why it was significant.  They clearly lacked any real preparation.

There was far too much of a focus on the Giants and not enough on the A’s and Sharks.  If that station plans to market itself to A’s and Sharks fans who lack a voice on KNBR, they sure didn’t do a very good job of showing it today.  Chris Townsend is the only host who “get’s it”.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a station that completely ignores teams other than the A’s and Sharks, but the A’s and Sharks need to be the featured teams on the station in order for it to succeed.  If you’re going to give the Giants and A’s equal airtime on the station, the station stand little chance of gaining any real following.

I listened to a monologue this morning on the way to work where the host went on for 20 minutes about how he thinks the Giants need to send Brandon Belt down to AAA and trade Mark DeRosa.  The A’s haven’t gotten 20 minutes of airtime on KNBR combine in the past year!  Talk about the topics your target market wants to listen to. The Giants are not it.

I am hopeful that the station can work out a scenario where Rick Tittle would get a few hours on the air every day.  I have become a religious listener to the Rick Tittle Show on Sports Byline in the past year and he would fit perfectly into the stations regular programming.  He’s a guy who was born and raised in the East Bay and is a die hard fan of the Raiders and A’s.  He’s not some transplant from the east coast who pretends to  really car about the A’s and Raiders because his bosses pay him to do it.  Tittle fans (including me) have been all over the SportsRadio 95.7 Facebook page calling for the popular host to get a spot in the daily schedule.

A’s fans have waited for years to have an outlet on the dial where they can call up and talk about their team. I hope this station can succeed because I would hate to have the Bay Area sports talk market go back to the KNBR monopoly.  I’m going to cut them some slack for now because it was their first full day of programming, and I sure hope their final daily line-up is a lot more impressive that what was on the air today.