Reaction to Japan trip, and an unusual A’s lineup to finish season

Bob Melvin had a surprise for his season-ending lineup, starting just four regulars and going outside-the-box with his batting order:

A’s — Crisp CF, Taylor LF, Weeks 2B, Willingham DH, Sizemore 3B, Carter 1B, Miller RF, Powell C, Rosales SS; Gonzalez LHP.

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Robinson CF, Ackley 2B, Smoak 1B, Carp LF, Kennedy DH, Liddi 3B, Seager SS, Gimenez C; Vasquez LHP.

–Overall, there’s plenty of excitement throughout the A’s clubhouse about the season-opening trip to Tokyo next season to play the Mariners. It’s a mixture of curiosity about experiencing a new culture (a great majority of the roster wasn’t around for the 2008 trip to Japan) and offering a goodwill gesture for a country still recovering from the deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit in March.

The plan would have the A’s and Mariners playing regular season games March 28-29 at the Tokyo Dome, with each team playing two exhibitions beforehand. The A’s would spend nine days in Japan according to a tentative itinerary, valuable time for them to get used to the time change before playing games that count.

The big question, of course, is whether Hideki Matsui will be back with the A’s, which would set up a showdown between him and Ichiro Suzuki in their native country. Matsui spoke with caution about the trip, acknowledging that he doesn’t know if he’ll be in an Oakland uniform in 2012. But he said: “There’s a lot of major league baseball fans over there, and with what happened in March with the earthquake, it’s even more encouraging (for people) to be able to watch games live in person.” Matsui played there in 2004 with the Yankees, and while he enjoyed the experience, he joked: “It was a bit more challenging off-field as far as being a tour guide.”

–Thanks for reading the blog all season long, and please continue to check back over the offseason. The A’s always manage to make news and stay in the rumor mill, and I’ll be updating here as the news and rumors develop.

Enjoy the winter! …


Pondering Jemile Weeks as Rookie of the Year candidate

The lineups for game 2 of A’s-Mariners:

Oak — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Willingham DH, DeJesus RF, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Allen 1B, Sogard SS; Cahill RHP.

Sea — Ichiro RF, Rodriguez SS, Ackley DH, Carp LF, Smoak 1B, Olivo C, Seager 2B, Liddi 3B, Saunders CF; Beavan RHP.

–Much to Bob Melvin’s surprise, David DeJesus (bruised hip) was feeling good enough to return to the lineup. Although Cliff Pennington said his oblique is feeling better, Melvin said the shortstop might be shut down for the final two games, though he didn’t rule out a pinch-hitting appearance. Melvin worries that Pennington could aggravate the injury going after a ball in the hole.

–Melvin said he believes Jemile Weeks is a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year candidate. I’ve batted this one around in my head a lot. And if it comes down to pure impact on a team, Weeks should be in the conversation. He was a huge factor in the A’s improved second-half offense, and he brought a spark to a team that needed it with his speed and enthusiasm. Weeks is second among AL rookies in stolen bases, and third in hits, doubles and multiple-hit games. He leads rookies in triples. But, this year’s AL Rookie of the Year class is very deep — Tampa Bay pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova and Los Angeles Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo are three leading candidates. And because of that depth, the fact that Weeks spent the first two months in the minors hurts him. A member of the A’s P.R. staff sent out a release earlier this week pushing Weeks’ candidacy. But Weeks’ abbreviated season, along with the fact that the A’s have such a low national profile, makes it an uphill battle for sure. Too bad, because the guy has had a terrific season.

What do you think of Weeks’ case to be ROY?


Roof is closed as A’s, Mariners begin season’s final series

What’s the mental image you get when you think of Seattle? Rainy, overcast, overall gloomy? That’s the type of afternoon we had today, so the roof is closed at Safeco Field for the opener of this season-closing series between the A’s and Mariners.

There’s an interesting look to Oakland’s lineup with Chris Carter and Michael Taylor batting back-to-back in the order. How often will we see these two bunched together next season, if at all, at the big league level? We might not get clarity on that until next spring, but the team’s offseason decisions (which free agents they decide to bring back, and which ones they pursue from other teams) will impact the futures of both Carter and Taylor.

–Shortstop Cliff Pennington is out with his oblique injury, but A’s manager Bob Melvin is hopeful of Pennington starting tomorrow. Right fielder David DeJesus remains out with a hip injury, and Melvin isn’t as optimistic about DeJesus for tomorrow.

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Carter 1B, Taylor RF, Rosales SS; McCarthy RHP.

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Rodriguez SS, Ackley 2B, Carp DH, Smoak 1B, Olivo C, Robinson LF, Liddi 3B, Saunders CF; Vargas LHP.


This weekend’s coverage

Just a heads-up that I won’t be in Anaheim to cover this weekend’s A’s-Angels series, but I’ll pick the team back up in Seattle for the season-ending games. This year has flown by, let me tell you …

I’ll be updating the blog if there’s any major news surrounding the team this weekend. If you missed it, here’s today’s story on Coco Crisp and the decision the A’s face on whether to re-sign him.


Lineups and notes for A’s-Rangers series finale

The lineups as the A’s try to avoid a sweep against the Rangers …

A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, DeJesus RF, Pennington SS, Allen 1B, Suzuki C, Sogard 3B; Cahill RHP.

Rangers — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Young 1B, Beltre 3B, Murphy RF, Cruz DH, Torrealba C, Gentry CF; Lewis RHP.

A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked an interesting question about Jemile Weeks, who enters today hitting .297. If Weeks was teetering at .300 on the season’s final day, would Melvin consider sitting the rookie to preserve that batting average? “That’s a good question,” Melvin said. “I think he’d fight me on it, to tell you the truth. He likes to play.”

With the A’s 17 games under .500, such individual milestones are more interesting to ponder than what’s going on from a team perspective, that’s for sure …


Lineups on a busy day of A’s news

Greetings from the Coliseum … Here’s a brief story on the three-year contract extension that Bob Melvin signed as A’s manager.

A bigger story with quotes will be posted later tonight.

Here are the lineups as the A’s try to break their bad mojo against the Rangers.

A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Sizemore 3B, Pennington SS, Suzuki C, Allen 1B, Taylor RF; McCarthy RHP.

Rangers — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Young 1B, Beltre 3B, Napoli C, Murphy RF, Cruz DH, Chavez CF; Wilson LHP.


Carter, Taylor both in lineup for A’s vs. Rangers

It’s a youthful lineup for the A’s, with Chris Carter playing first base and Michael Taylor in right field. With Texas throwing lefty Derek Holland, A’s manager Bob Melvin took the opportunity to get a couple of right-handed bats in there.

–Melvin said if Ryan Sweeney returns in any capacity, it’s likely to be in a pinch-hitting role.

Here’s the full lineups for the A’s and Rangers, whose magic number to clinch the AL West is five. The earliest that can happen is Thursday, the final game of this series. You can bet the A’s don’t want to see a second team celebrate on their field within a week, after Detroit clinched here Friday.

A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Willingham DH, Sizemore 3B, Carter 1B, Suzuki C, Pennington SS, Taylor RF; Harden RHP.

Rangers — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Young 1B, Beltre 3B, Napoli C, Murphy RF, Cruz DH, Chavez CF; Holland LHP.


Thumbs up for “Moneyball” — mostly

The A’s are the center of attention in baseball today — at least as far as Hollywood is concerned. The premiere of “Moneyball” took place in Oakland tonight, and a large number of us media types got to see an advance screening last night.

Overall thoughts? I give it a thumbs up. It was a very well-made movie and Brad Pitt, not surprisingly, gives a strong performance as Billy Beane. Thinking back, I’m astonished at how much camera time the guy logs. It seemed he was in nearly every scene. Pitt isn’t a dead-ringer for Beane, but he pulled the role off nicely, combining Beane’s charisma, humor and sometimes volatile temper. The movie does a slick job of taking viewers through the 2002 season while breaking it up with flashback scenes to Beane’s own failed playing career. I’d rate the actual baseball scenes as top-notch compared to other baseball movies I’ve seen. Another authentic touch: While many scenes from the 20-game winning streak were re-created, they were accompanied by the real audio play-by-play of those games. It’s really cool hearing the late Bill King (and others) taking you back to that time.

I was engrossed in this movie because I cover the team on a daily basis and grew up watching the A’s. But I have my doubts how much “Moneyball” will grasp the non-baseball fan, or even the baseball fan who’s not up to speed on A’s history. It’s a well-done movie, but you can’t get around the fact that there’s no fist-pumping finish to the story. The A’s don’t win the World Series — or even make it to the Series. So I’m not sure how much people will get swept up in the emotion of it all.

The portrayal of Art Howe (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) was an eyebrow-raiser. I can’t imagine that Howe was quite as confrontational and aggressive with Beane as he’s made out to be (it’s almost a “bad guy” role). Jonah Hill? He’s entertaining as Peter Brand (a.k.a Paul DePodesta, Beane’s assistant GM back then). Solid job by him.

I plan to watch the movie again and see if my perspective changes. If you go see it, share your opinions on the blog. I’m curious …


Carter draws a start at DH vs. Verlander

Here’s the lineups for the A’s-Tigers series finale:

A’s — Weeks 2B, Sizemore 3B, Crisp CF, Willingham LF, DeJesus RF, Carter DH, Allen 1B, Suzuki C, Sogard SS; Moscoso RHP.

Tigers — Jackson CF, Kelly 3B, Young LF, Cabrera 1B, Martinez DH, Avila C, Guillen 2B, Dirks RF, Santiago SS; Verlander RHP.

–Just regular days off for Hideki Matsui and Cliff Pennington, as Bob Melvin said he wanted to use Monday’s off-day as a chance to get those guys two days of rest. So Chris Carter draws a start against Justin Verlander. Not the easiest assignment, but Melvin wanted to get him in the lineup sooner rather than later. Melvin had said previously he’d wait to play Carter against a lefty.

That’s all for now …


Chris Carter, Graham Godfrey join A’s

We had a little A’s news this morning with the promotion of first baseman Chris Carter and right-hander Graham Godfrey from Triple-A. In talking to manager Bob Melvin this morning, it doesn’t sound like Carter is slated for much playing time. Melvin says he would like to get Carter a start against a right-handed pitcher, whether it’s at first base or DH. But Brandon Allen remains the regular guy at first base.

The bigger issue is how Carter fits into the grand scheme looking ahead to 2012. Though Allen has been racking up strikeouts in bunches, he’s shown enough to definitely be considered for the everyday job going into next spring. Do the A’s view Carter as a candidate to be the regular DH next season? That will certainly impact whether the A’s consider re-signing Hideki Matsui. Melvin acknowledged that there’s not enough time this season to evaluate Carter and get a good read on where he fits into the team’s picture looking ahead to spring training. Melvin was asked how he sees Carter fitting into the 2012 plans. “I think a lot would have to do with some of the free agents we have and whether they sign back or not,” he said.

Understand that it’s hard for Melvin to look too far into the future because he’s still wearing the “interim manager” label. Certainly he has some thoughts on the makeup of next year’s squad, but he’s not going to share too much right now …

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, DeJesus RF, Pennington SS, Allen 1B, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B; Gonzalez LHP.

Tigers — Jackson CF, Ordonez RF, Raburn LF, Cabrera 1B, Martinez DH, Peralta SS, Inge 3B, Worth 2B, Santos C; Porcello RHP.