September at last

Had the privilege to share a post-game table with A’s second baseman Mark Ellis and clubhouse man Steve Vucinich at the team’s hotel during the visit to Seattle last week. It’s a lost art among the print media, and it really can give you insight, even if the bulk of it may never see the public light of day.

Anyway, I mentioned that the A’s were probably going to be trailed by a one-man media crew during this next trip, at least as far as the local beat writers. The reason for this is many-layered, and the reasons are all good ones.

But the exchange between Vucinich and Ellis was hysterical.

“Why is that?” Vucinich, the A’s longtime clubhouse attendant, asked.

“Lack of interest,” Ellis replied sarcastically, obviously referring to the fans and not the reporter who shall be absent.

So tell me A’s fans, how many of you are still paying really close attention? And if you are, good for you. That means you’re officially a die-hard, and that’s also an all-too-rare thing in these days of instant gratification.

Anyway, three quick thoughts on the final month.

1) Please shut down Greg Smith: Now look, I think this kid is going to be a good pitcher. But does the final month of his first season have to be an exercise in getting  hammered as he gets used to pitching in the middle of the pitching rubber? Better to let him work on it during workouts over the winter and then in spring training. No good comes from having it happen now, and he’s already pushed past his professional career-high in innings. Pitchers never think that matters, and yet more times than not, it also seems to turn out that way. And if I’m an organization that can’t keep guys healthy, I’m extra cautious.

2) So long Hurt: Sad to say, I think we’ve seen the last we’re ever going to see of Frank Thomas. No one player in my career as a baseball writer singularly changed my opinion of a guy more than Thomas did. Heard horrible things about him when he was in Chicago. In two stints in Oakland, he’s been as professional and as cooperative as any guy I dealt with. He had a huge ego, but hey, the grea ones all do (it’s a job requirement). But he was definitely not a selfish malcontent.

3) Aaron Cunningham: Looked up Wikipedia today to see if Aaron was the missing Cunningham kid. In the meantime, keep anything he does in perspective. Remember, Daric Barton tore it up last September, too.


  • I was bummed to see Thomas go. We went to the game Sunday with the kids to get the backpacks, and then he goes away. It’s a sad day to be sure. But in 5 years? He’ll be up on that stage in Cooperstown.
    And the A’s will be trying to move to Fremont still, or San Jose, or Santa Clara, or maybe Portland will be in the mix then.

    It’s too bad that interest has waned so much. My dedication to following them this year has brought more pain than joy to be sure, but seeing these new kids starting out is exciting. Hopefully there are more Tejadas, and Jason Giambis in this group than Ben Grieves and Todd Van Poppels.

  • Bee

    I would consider myself a die-hard A’s fan, and I agree with Danny that it has sometimes been painful this year. But it is exciting to watch the young guys most of the time. They are the future.

    By all means shut Greg Smith down. It is a big transition to go from playing 142 or so games a season to 162. It takes its toll on the young guys, especially starting pitchers. I certainly wouldn’t want him to get discouraged.

    We will all miss Frank Thomas, but I think it is time for him to retire. His body is letting him down and it’s time to say good bye. Maybe he can become a coach in the A’s minor league system. Hmmm, I wonder what team he will go into the Hall of Fame with, since he left the White Sox on sour terms, and he loves the A’s who have him two chances to make a comeback. Too bad only the first one really worked.

    Even though I am a die-hard, I don’t like what is happening to Major League Baseball in general. It has priced itself out of the market for the average fan who is now relegated to watching their team on TV. And then there are the ridiculous salaries, the big egos usually associated with a lack of integrity, and the fan-unfriendly, cost-cutting moves that make the game and the players much less accessible to the fans.

    I think this is largely responsible for the surge of interest in the minor leagues and independent baseball. I went to a Sacramento River Cats last Saturday and had a blast. My ticket was less than half the cost of a comparable A’s ticket. The players were accessible before the games and the mood was much more festive and friendly. Unfortunately, Lenny DiNardo gave up 7 runs in the 4th inning, and 8 runs in the 6th inning, all earned, resulting in a 15-0 shutout, but the Cats have won their division so they were perhaps not as “up” as they might have been otherwise.

    Notwithstanding all of the above, I am loyal to the A’s and am looking forward to next season already. I think it will be something special.

  • Oakland Si

    As a diehard fan and season ticket holder, I’d like to ask Ellis about any lack of interest on the part of the players…

    you’re absolutely right about Greg Smith. I dob’t see the point of trotting him out there any more this season, he looks gassed.