Just a bit outside

Oakland demotes $10 million RP Johnson, will go by committee

   This is how $10 million starts going to waste. 

   After five games and three blown saves, A’s relief pitcher Jim Johnson has been demoted. 

   Oakland won 7-5 Wednesday in extra-innings, but not before Johnson recorded one out, a pair of hits and a pair of walks, raising his early season slashes to an 18.90 ERA / 4.500 WHIP with four strikeouts, a hit batter and six walks. 

   The news was somewhat alarming. 

   The A’s spent $10 million on a low-strikeout, ground ball artist, making the one-inning, ninth inning specialist the frugal team’s second highest paid player. All Star OF Yoenis Cespedes, 28, is in the third year of a back loaded four-year $36 million pact that pays him an average of $10.5 million in ‘14 and ‘15. 

   The entire starting infielders, including 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Jed Lowrie, 2B Eric Sogard, 1B Daric Barton and C John Jaso make about $2 million less than Johnson, combined. 

   Minus free agent acquisition Scott Kazmir (two years, $22 million), the four pitchers who’ve made starts — a list that includes Sonny Gray, veteran journeyman Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and converted reliever Josh Lindblom — make about $7.25 million, combined. If you add Kazmir’s $7 million contract for ‘14, Johnson would still be more than half a million richer than the entire rotation. 

   The regrets somewhat end there. 

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The A’s are selling hot dogs literally cooked in kitchen toilets. 

Whither thou goest Angels? On keeping a baseball god, service time and forecasting the near future of the LA Angels of Anaheim

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   The Detroit Tigers shocked everyone Thursday when it committed 10 years and $292 million to 1B Miguel Cabrera. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim countered with a shaker of its own after agreeing to a six-year $144.5 million extension that bought out three years of CF Mike Trout’s free agency. 

   The Tigers acted prematurely. The Angels acted preemptively. You don’t need me to tell you which team made the right move, and which one didn’t.

   But first thing’s first. Let’s not get too silly, here. OK, for old time’s sake — SUCK IT YANKEES.

   The Angels didn’t get a full on, raging mega-boner of a discount. Trout signed for about the same terms Tigers SP Max Scherzer reportedly rejected. But because MLB operates in direct contrast to the tenets of cold hard capitalism, Trout is coming out ahead. Way ahead. 

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The Curse of Ian Kinsler, and the Texas Rangers’ somber health report

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   Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler is a wizard. 

   OK, maybe a Mage. Which is still pretty damning for his ex-team, the Texas Rangers, especially in light of the recent days’ events. 

   Kinsler cast a curse, through ESPN, that stole headlines in early spring. 

   ”I hope they go 0-162,” Kinsler told ESPN reporter Robert Sanchez in a story that appeared on the magazine’s Conspiracy Issue. 

   Kinsler has since backtracked, went with the ol’ I was misquoted moonwalk. That was that. 

   It was a ludicrous wish. The Rangers were a few games short of making the postseason for the fourth season in a row in 2013. At its core was a strong team, built for the long haul. 

   They have Yu Darvish, give or take a Top Three pitcher in the American League West. 1B Prince Fielder, acquired for Kinsler, will get a power boost a season away from pitcher-friendly Detroit. The mental stress of family issues that plagued him last year is far and away. Kinsler’s replacement is either the second coming of Alex Rodriguez. If Jurickson Profar plays like the next Tony Fernandez, that’s not so bad either. On base and HBP machine Shin Soo Choo broke records as the highest paid non-all star. This time he’ll play left instead of center field. 

   The point is no team has gone 0-162. It’s more impossible than beating Warren Buffett’s Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. If you really wanted to make that bet, Texas isn’t anywhere close to an improbable short list that currently has, I dunno, the Astros. And at its worse the Astros won 51 games and completely owned the Angels. 

   Kinsler’s wish, however, is looking more like powerful curse as baseball closes in on Opening Day.

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A Short History of Oakland’s Opening Day Starters and what it reveals about Billy Beane’s methods

   Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin chose his opening day starter Sunday, tapping 24-year-old Sonny Gray to start against the Cleveland Indians. 

   Gray becomes the ninth opening day starter for Oakland in nine years.

   This wasn’t by design, but it could be for the best, after Jarrod Parker went down for the year after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery and A.J. Griffin sidelined with a muscle strain in his throwing arm. 

    Barry Zito was the last Oakland starter to make opening day starts in back-to-back years, doing it in 2005 and 2006. Zito foreshadowed the trend. From 2003 to 2004 Tim Hudson pitched on opening day. He would have made four straight, but MarK Mulder got in the way 2002. 

   Man was Oakland rich in big-name pitchers. Prior to the advent of the Big Three of Zito, Hudson and Mulder, imposing right hander Dave Stewart made five consecutive starts, from 1988 to 1992. I believe there was a World Series tucked in there somewhere.

   And then the bottom fell on the franchise’s value, and GM Billy Beane has had to work his numbers magic to keep the low revenue club relevant.

   Beane eventually had to trade Mulder and Hudson. Zito walked in free agency after receiving a now ridiculous looking seven-year $126 million deal with the San Francisco Giants.

   But everyone else got smart.  Beane had to change tact. If he wanted maximum value for his stud young pitchers, he had to trade them early. It was unlikely to get a prospect like Dan Haren for a starter who’s about to hit free agency in a year. 

   He started trading them early. 

   After Zito, here’s the list of Oakland’s opening day starters:

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Fine china.

Fine china.

St. Patrick’s Day Massacre — The scourge of Tommy John strikes young pitchers, claims A’s SP Parker, Dbacks SP Corbin

I thought I woke up in hell, facing the prospects of a work-filled, broke and sober St. Patrick Day. 

Fuck me. 

It was pathetic enough to have good baseball news from saving the day. Like, I dunno, Kendrys Morales agreeing to a two-year $20 million deal to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Or Stephen Drew agreeing to a $15 million, one-year deal with the Tigers. 

Shit like that kind of brightens up your day. The picture is looking complete. 

And then this. 

Jarrod Parker will miss the entire season and will undergo elbow reconstruction surgery, a dread that’s been building up all weekend. A.J. Griffin might be in trouble, too, and could be headed Parker’s way as I type these words. 

Shit. Fuck. Cock and balls. 

The A’s announcement on Parker’s near future came the day after the Arizona Diamondbacks confirmed that starting pitcher Patrick Corbin will have the Tommy John procedure. 

Just do it to me sideways. 

The best and brightest young pitchers, future Cy Young types or close to it — have gone down. 

They’re calling it an epidemic, thought I’m not sure I’d agree to it or not. Give me time to process that. Lots of data, but I’ll go over the skeptic’s check list — anomalies happen and this could be it; normalizing the data to reflect a couple of points — is the procedure common for the ages of 21 to 26, and is there currently more ages 21- to 26-year-olds logging close to 200 big league innings while keeping their ERAs below 4.00. 

We talk about a Golden Age of pitching, and it’s easy to process that when you’ve got Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Michael Wacha et. al. blowing up just one league. It’s like Verlander and King Felix multiplied like gremlins. Well, they’re dying like Gremlins, too. En masse, like lemmings do. 

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Josh Reddick’s spring training catch turned robbed Michael Morse into a Salty Senorita. 

Josh Reddick’s spring training catch turned robbed Michael Morse into a Salty Senorita. 

I think everyone just pretended not to hear me. It just wasn’t a story they were ready to hear.

Ex-big league player Glenn Burke tried to be the first openly gay man in professional sports. 

He played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s between 1976 to 1979. 

Burke’s teammates and friends within the league already knew of his sexual orientation. Apparently, so did the sportswriters, who self-censored themselves. In his autobiography, Burke claims that the Dodgers offered him $75,000 to participate in a sham marriage, to quell the league-wide knowledge of his sexual preference. He refused. Tommy Lasorda, one of the Dodgers personnel to encourage Burke to get married to a woman, lost his son Tommy Jr. to complications from AIDS in 1991, reported Allen Barra of The Atlantic. 

Burke found a forum when his playing days ended, coming out to Inside Sports in 1982, and then on the Today Show with Bryant Gumble shortly after.

Burke died from AIDS-related causes in 1995. 

Oakland announces two-year deal with OF Coco Crisp
Coco Crisp will die as an Oakland Atheltic. It’s not a saying anymore. It’s a possibility. 
The A’s agreed to a two-year $22.75 million extension with a vesting option that will at least pay him into his age-37 season. Crisp’s $7.25 million option was naturally picked up after 2013, as part of the original two-year $13 million deal he signed with the A’s in 2012. Prior to that, Crisp was picked up for a one-year $5 million guaranteed deal that, don’t hold your breath, included a vesting option that was picked up. 
All told Crisp will make $52 million, excluding the vesting option, after costing Oakland just $31 million over five seasons. Crisp is the kind of player you want to invest long-term all along. In his age 33 season he slugged a career high 23 home runs, while stealing 21 bases (he was caught five times). His glove hasn’t deteriorated, and he’s transitioned from a slappy contact hitter into a 20-20 center fielder who’s about as valuable at the position as any right now.
These lines, Crisp going 20/20 with a 119 adjusted OPS from a position typically devoid of such offensive production, have helped push Beane’s A’s into playoff territory and regular season success two years in a row. 
Trust me, judging by the reactions of my Oakland readers, Crisp isn’t unsung in the Bayside Area. In his first four seasons in Oakland, Crisp has been generally around league average at the plate, and above average on the base paths and with his glove. 
When you combine his legs and quickness with passable skills to get on base, you end up with a net plus, especially since his bat also has 20 doubles pop. 
Crisp sacrificed his legs a bit in 2013, and with that expense doubled his previous career high 11 home runs. The switch hitter is equally adept at hitting from both sides through his career, though much of his home run power came batting from the left side against right handed pitchers last year. 
The thing is, Crisp got paid, and at an average of a little more than $10 million, is worth twice that the last time professional baseball was played. Vernon Wells literally had his money in 2013. 
That was also a career high, and aging speedsters don’t age well. There is precedent — fellow ex-Red Sox Johnny Damon shifted his speed into his bat, got 20 or so home runs a year and played left field passably well enough. If Crisp does that this year and then next year, then the A’s are in the clear. The A’s are securing the next two years of Crisp, and paid a third year to do so. 
Crisp could have gotten at least $13 million a year on a two-year deal had he been a free agent today, but he’s one of those rare birds who want to stay in Oakland. They found enough money to make it happen. 

Oakland announces two-year deal with OF Coco Crisp

Coco Crisp will die as an Oakland Atheltic. It’s not a saying anymore. It’s a possibility. 

The A’s agreed to a two-year $22.75 million extension with a vesting option that will at least pay him into his age-37 season. Crisp’s $7.25 million option was naturally picked up after 2013, as part of the original two-year $13 million deal he signed with the A’s in 2012. Prior to that, Crisp was picked up for a one-year $5 million guaranteed deal that, don’t hold your breath, included a vesting option that was picked up. 

All told Crisp will make $52 million, excluding the vesting option, after costing Oakland just $31 million over five seasons. Crisp is the kind of player you want to invest long-term all along. In his age 33 season he slugged a career high 23 home runs, while stealing 21 bases (he was caught five times). His glove hasn’t deteriorated, and he’s transitioned from a slappy contact hitter into a 20-20 center fielder who’s about as valuable at the position as any right now.

These lines, Crisp going 20/20 with a 119 adjusted OPS from a position typically devoid of such offensive production, have helped push Beane’s A’s into playoff territory and regular season success two years in a row. 

Trust me, judging by the reactions of my Oakland readers, Crisp isn’t unsung in the Bayside Area. In his first four seasons in Oakland, Crisp has been generally around league average at the plate, and above average on the base paths and with his glove. 

When you combine his legs and quickness with passable skills to get on base, you end up with a net plus, especially since his bat also has 20 doubles pop. 

Crisp sacrificed his legs a bit in 2013, and with that expense doubled his previous career high 11 home runs. The switch hitter is equally adept at hitting from both sides through his career, though much of his home run power came batting from the left side against right handed pitchers last year. 

The thing is, Crisp got paid, and at an average of a little more than $10 million, is worth twice that the last time professional baseball was played. Vernon Wells literally had his money in 2013. 

That was also a career high, and aging speedsters don’t age well. There is precedent — fellow ex-Red Sox Johnny Damon shifted his speed into his bat, got 20 or so home runs a year and played left field passably well enough. If Crisp does that this year and then next year, then the A’s are in the clear. The A’s are securing the next two years of Crisp, and paid a third year to do so. 

Crisp could have gotten at least $13 million a year on a two-year deal had he been a free agent today, but he’s one of those rare birds who want to stay in Oakland. They found enough money to make it happen.