by Charlie O. Mallonee
OAKLAND–This is not just your usual end of spring training lets get ready for the regular season story. This year is really a new beginning for the Oakland Athletics and their fans for multiple, positive reasons.
Change of ownership and new upper management
John Fisher was always the majority owner of the Oakland Athletics for the past 11 years but no one really knew that fact. Mr. Fisher – who resides in San Francisco – preferred to stay in the background. Lew Wolff – a minority owner – was the managing partner.
During the Wolff era, the main emphasis was building a new stadium for the A’s that would allow them to better compete for the Bay Sports dollars with the Giants and their AT&T complex. There were several attempts and failures:
- First came the plan to build a baseball park, shopping complex and residential area in Fremont on the west-side of I-880. That plan died a quiet death.
- Then came the plan to move to San Jose. City officials were behind the plan and had the land ready across from the SAP Arena. The Giants jumped in and said “over out dead bodies – San Jose is our territory!” In its typical avoid confrontation at any cost fashion, MLB asked the A’s to back off. The City of San Jose filed a law suit but lost in court.
- The City of Oakland then tried to get Wolff excited about building a waterfront ballpark in the Howard Terminal area near Jack London Square. Wolff never seemed too excited about that location.
- Finally, Wolff put together a plan to build a new ballpark, business center, shopping and residential complex on the current Coliseum site. That idea never caught traction as Oakland was still trying court the Raiders and Warriors to stay in the East Bay.
It became evident that Mr. Wolff was not going to get the job done. That combined with his age which he said was causing him to slow down made it apparent a change was coming. Many feared it meant a sale and move of the team to another market.
Mr. Fisher bought out Wolff’s stake in the team and them began to remake the front office. Michael Crowley – who had been president of the team for 20 years – moved into a consultants role. Dave Kaval – president of Fisher’s San Jose Earthquakes – assumed the team’s top spot in addition to his job with the soccer team.
Kaval has been through the stadium building process as he oversaw the construction of Avaya Stadium for the Earthquakes. The $100-million complex was completely privately funded.
Kaval has brought a new sense of enthusiasm to the organization. He is accessible to the fans, press and government officials. He has an openness to new ideas and what seems to be “can do” attitude. For the first in a long time, people are believing the Oakland Athletics are going to get a new place to play.
The A’s are now the only game in town (or soon will be)
Now that the NFL has told Oakland Raiders “to go pound sand” for the second time in 25 years by giving their OK to the team to move to Las Vegas, the A’s are or will soon be the lone occupants of the Coliseum.
As I sit in the press box and look out at “Mt. Davis” – the ugly monster third deck that was built to entice the Raiders back from Los Angeles – I want to vomit. That view out to center field used to be of the beautiful East Bay hills and BART trains zipping by every few minutes. The stadium felt open and spacious. Now, it feels closed in and crowded by too much concrete.
By the way, the Raiders do not use “Mt. Davis” because they cannot sell enough tickets to fill the seats. It is covered with large tarps baring Raiders logos. When the Raiders move to “Sin City”, the people of the City of Oakland will still be paying off the bonds for that ill-fated stadium alteration. Las Vegas – you might want to keep that in the back of your mind.
The Warriors are headed to San Francisco and a new home just south of the Giants’ AT&T Park.
Guess who that leaves in Oakland? “Holy Toledo!” (that’s for you Mr. King) its the A’s.
Now the A’s have two potential stadium sites. The Howard Terminal/Jack London Square site with the waterfront appeal is still available. The current Coliseum site with its great transportation infrastructure and unlimited development possibilities is now back in play.
Wow! The Oakland Athletics have choices for stadium sites. Who would have predicted that last Fall?
Finally – there is the beginning of a new season and the hope it brings
The MLB season gets underway on Sunday with three games including the Giants at Arizona. (That just chaps my hide. Baseball is supposed to begin of Monday with one day game in Cincinnati – the first professional baseball team – then the rest of baseball begins play on Tuesday).
The Athletics open the regular season on Monday at home with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It will be a four-game series that concludes with a day game on Thursday.
RHP Kendall Graveman (10-11, 4.11 in 2016) gets the call for the A’s and RHP Ricky Nolasco (8-14, 4.42 in 2016) taking the hill for LAA.
The A’s still have some personnel decisions to make. They still have 36 players on the roster as of Saturday. Five of those players (Bassitt, Gray, Mengden, Smolinski and Wendle) are expected to start the season on the Disabled List. So, that means six players remain who have to be sent to the minors or released. These are never easy hours for front office personnel and coaches as they have to decide the fates of players.
Eight relievers in the “pen” to start the season
A’s manager Bob Melvin announced on Saturday the team will start the season with eight pitchers in the bullpen. Melvin said that will be the case until of the starting pitchers have made at least two starts. The “skipper” is anticipating shorter outings until his starters have a little more game experience under their belt.
Another reason for the expanded relief corps is the performance of RHP Frankie Montas. Montas came to the A’s from the Dodgers last season in the Reddick/Hill trade. He was on DL recovering from rib surgery last year. The 100-mph throwing pitcher is on a limited pitch count so the “pen” is a great spot for him right now.
When Sonny Gray returns, Montas is expected to go Nashville and return to working as a starting pitcher. A starting pitcher that throws 100-mph – whew.
Giants win the final Spring Training game 6-3 over the A’s in Oakland
The Giants used the long ball to beat the A’s on Saturday. Nick Hundley crushed a grand slam home run in the 4th inning off A’s starter Andrew Triggs. Hundley ended up with four RBIs in the game to improve his total to 12 for the spring.
Justin Ruggiano hit a two-run homer in the top of seventh inning with Raul Alcantara on the hill for the A’s. All of the San Francisco runs came via the long ball.
Giants RHP Tyler Beede (2-0, 2.03) started the game and picked up the win. He pitched 4.0-innings giving up two runs on five hits. Both runs were earned. He struck out five and walked none. Ironically, Beede did not make the Giants major league roster.
RHP Andrew Triggs (1-3, 8.10) took the loss for the Athletics. Triggs allowed four runs (all earned) on six hits including the Hundley grand slam. He struck four and walked one. Triggs will be on the A’s roster on Monday night when they open the season with the Angels.