Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:18 am
Edited on: February 26, 2012 2:39 pm
PHOENIX -- If they don't all gather around their television sets Sunday evening, the Oakland A's will nonetheless be keeping one eye toward Los Angeles as they root for Moneyball to win Best Picture and Billy Beane, er, Brad Pitt to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
"I think we need to pull for it," A's second baseman Jemile Weeks said Saturday morning. "The movie got some good feedback. There's some credit due, I guess."
"If [Pitt] brings Angelina Jolie up on stage, that would be cool," quipped Jonny Gomes. "If not, I think it's all for the birds."
On a serious note, Gomes said that "Billy and Brad are both way ahead of the curve in what they do."
Most of the Athletics attended the red carpet opening of Moneyball last September. Gomes, who played for the Reds last year, saw the movie on his own. Impressive thing is, a group who could be awfully critical about areas where the movie was exaggerated, corny or just plain wrong mostly loved it. Credit director Bennett Miller with getting so much of the baseball part right.
"I think it would be pretty cool to see a movie made about our organization and our GM win," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "You talk about the Oscars, you're definitely aware of what a prestigious award it is.
"It definitely would be cool if Moneyball won. It's a great movie. You've got Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, some front-line actors. It's pretty cool."
Beane is in Los Angeles this weekend to attend the Oscars.
Alas, he didn't bring any of the A's with him.
"No, I've got work to do," Suzuki said, chuckling.
"Apparently, he's a fan of Honorable Mention," Braden said in mock outrage. "I feel like I could have added to his chances, him and Brad Pitt.
"But it's exciting to see."
I've seen seven of the nine movies up for Best Picture, all but The Artist and War Horse (and it's my shortcoming that I failed to catch up with The Artist). My amateur film critic ranking of the seven I saw:
1. Hugo. Totally and unexpectedly charming. You feel like this is real, old-time movie-making. I normally am strongly anti 3-D, figuring it's just a scam to soak more money out of our pockets, but I even loved that aspect of this film.
2. The Help. Terrific acting and a meaningful story. I know it's taken a beating by some over sort of a sanitized racial story, but if it helps further the conversation in that area, it has value.
3. The Descendents. Some laughs, some moving moments and some really good acting. George Clooney is always good, though as a friend of mine says, he always seems to be playing George Clooney. But as the widowed father of two daughters who sometimes seems beleaguered and overmatched, he's perfect and the film really captures life's messy family relations and small moments.
4. Midnight in Paris. Wonderful time-travel of a film back to 1920s Paris. Though my pal Jim Caple is steamed that Corey Stoll did not get a Supporting Actor nomination for his outstanding work as Ernest Hemingway. And Jim is right.
5. Moneyball. Much better than I thought it would be. Really well done, and I don't mean to diss it by ranking it fifth. But enjoyable as it was, it's not a Best Picture. That said, Pitt really nails Beane, just a terrific job of acting. And one of the best, most underrated parts is Kerris Dorsey, the 13-year-old actress who plays Beane's daughter, singing Lenka's The Show -- "I'm just a little bit caught in the middle. ..." Absolutely perfect.
6. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Cannot believe I saw a movie tied to 9/11 and felt very little emotion. But I did. This was an absolute clunker, thoroughly mawkish and ham-handed. Embarrassing for the Oscars that it's anywhere near Best Picture category.
7. Tree of Life. Either I'm not smart enough to understand it, or it was utterly dreadful. I'll volunteer the former. Some people think it was brilliant and spiritual. I'm not an action-movie guy, I prefer quieter films that tell a story. But this lost me even before the dinosaurs appeared. And what was that about?
Sunblock Day? Great day, 79 degrees, got out for a much-needed long run. But the cooldown is coming to the desert. By Tuesday, the predicted high is only 61.
Likes: Friend Bill Chuck in his Billy-Ball blog notes that the only Oscar in the Hall of Fame is Oscar Charleston, who was inducted by the Negro League Committee in 1976. ... Also according to Chuck's research, infielder Oscar Grimes and pitcher Oscar Judd are the only two Oscar All-Stars in history. ... According to my own research, the greatest Oscar afro ever belonged to Oscar Gamble. ... The Jukebox of Dy-no-mite on the Sirius/XM '70s channel. Pure cheese, but fun. ... Thai Elephant in Tempe.
Dislikes: Arizona not having a helmet law for motorcyclists. I don't ride a bike, but I do not exactly want to see some biker's head explode like a pumpkin on the freeway, either. I was driving the other day for a time next to a bald-headed biker, and just imagining what could happen gave me the chills.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
"Life is a maze and love is a riddle
"I don't know where to go, can't do it alone
"I've tried and I don't know why
"I'm just a little girl lost in the moment
"I'm so scared but I don't show it
"I can't figure it out, it's bringing me down
"I know I've got to let it go and just enjoy the show"
-- Lenka, The Show
Posted on: February 25, 2012 4:14 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 6:13 pm
PHOENIX -- Athletics left-hander Brett Anderson was not joking when he fired off this tweet Friday evening: "Manny just asked if I was the video coordinator ... our relationship can only go up from here."
Anderson was dead serious ... and the result was gut-bustingly funny.
Starter Dallas Braden, between belly laughs, confirmed the exchange between Anderson and Manny Ramirez on Saturday morning.
"I was in the room when Manny asked Brett if he could get him some video," Braden said. "I died laughing."
Braden thought it was so funny that he ran toward the clubhouse to tell the rest of the Athletics, taking a short cut through the trainer's room so he could break the news. But he said Anderson still beat him to it.
"It was funny," Braden said. "It was hilarious. You always wonder when you get a new teammate what the interaction will be.
"Not only is Brett Anderson a pretty decent left-handed pitcher, now he's Manny's video guy."
Anderson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected to rejoin Oakland's rotation before August, is 21-23 with a 3.66 ERA in 62 career starts.
"We left a baseball card of Brett in Manny's locker today," Braden said. "To remind him that while Brett may be queuing up video for Manny, he'll also be pitching every fifth day."
Posted on: March 23, 2011 11:06 am
PHOENIX -- It seems like, at 27, Oakland lefty Dallas Braden is just coming into his own. But on this talented and young -- emphasis on young -- staff, Braden is the graybeard.
There's All-Star Trevor Cahill (23), who was 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA over 30 starts last year.
There's Brett Anderson (23), who was 7-6 with a 2.80 ERA over 19 starts last year.
There's Gio Gonzalez (25), who was 15-9 with a 3.23 ERA over 33 starts last year.
"I love watching these dudes," Braden says. "I'm excited to be a part of this staff.
"I'm the first guy Cahill ran into in his professional career. I've been taping his shoes together and putting baby powder in his pants [for years], and now look at him."
Braden and Cahill first bumped into each other in 2006, when Braden was rehabbing following shoulder surgery and Cahill had just signed after the Athletics had picked him second in the '06 draft.
"He was all of 18," Braden says.
So of course Braden messed with him.
"Tied his shoes together, baby powder in his pants, eyeblack in his hat, Icy Hot in his sliding pants and shoes," Braden says. "You name it, he wore it.
"Now look at him. He's an All Star, and damn near a Cy Young winner. You talk about people high ceilings ... you tune in three out of every five days to watch the A's playing because when those three guys take the mound [Cahill, Anderson, Gonzalez], they may do something special."
Sunblock Day? The rain has moved on, but temps early Tuesday were in the low 50s. You'll need the sunblock by Wednesday, though, when we're supposed to climb back into the 70s in the Phoenix area.
Likes: Go Butler. ... Old Town Scottsdale. ... The predicted return of the sun to the desert valley. ... Home in a couple of days. ... Home in time for my daughter's play this weekend. ... NCAA tourney games back on Thursday for four more days. ... Opening day next week. ... Final roster decisions starting to arrive. ... www.Segerfile.com for all your Bob Seger news as his new tour lifts off Saturday.
Dislikes: I've loved Bob Seger forever, and I'm thrilled he and the Silver Bullet Band are going back on tour (opening March 26 in Toledo, Ohio). But I'm sorry, I'm not thrilled with the first song I've heard from a new disc coming out this summer. Look, Tom Waits' Downtown Train is a great song, but Rod Stewart did it 20 years ago. Seger always has had an affinity for a well-chosen cover, but he could have been far more creative here. Plus, that's the second song he's covered off of Waits' Rain Dogs, following New Coat of Paint. Bob, at least choose from a different Waits album. ... Aw, my Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central boys' hoops team was bounced in the quarterfinals of the Michigan tournament Tuesday night, 48-45 by Schoolcraft. But the Falcons still made it further in the state tourney than they ever have. Well done, fellas.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Working all day for a mean little guy
-- Fountains of Wayne, Hey Julie
Posted on: May 13, 2010 8:14 pm
When Dallas Braden takes the mound Friday night in Anaheim in the latest attempt to become the only pitcher since Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer (1938) to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts, he says he will not feel any different than he did in his last start despite. ...
-- Becoming only the 19th man in baseball history to throw a perfect game last Sunday against Tampa Bay.
-- Reading the Top Ten list on David Letterman's show on Tuesday.
-- Appearing with his grandmother on the CBS Early Show on Thursday.
-- Watching his Q rating shoot through the roof.
"I don't get too wrapped up in all that stuff," Braden was saying in a conference call Thursday, his last public words before facing the Angels' Joe Saunders in his next chance for greatness. "I take some of it for what it's worth.
"I almost relinquish to a higher power, my mother having had a hand in what went on. I don't even know that I had a choice."
Braden's mother, Jodie, died of melanoma when he was a senior in high school, and his grandmother who helped him after that -- Peggy Lindsey -- was in the stands in Oakland on Sunday.
She also was at his side for postgame interviews and, now something of a cult figure (especially after her memorable "Stick it, A-Rod" line), Lindsey joined her grandson in Texas this week for a spot on Thursday morning's CBS Early Show.
"Believe you me, she's enjoyed it," Braden said of his grandmother and the limelight. "We did the morning show here in Texas, and the CBS folks were so nice to fly her out and take care of her. And I treated her to a spa day.
"I'm going to have to grease the walls to get her into her house when we get home, because she's loving life right now."
With just 17 career victories before Sunday's perfecto, the key for Braden, 26, is a changeup that tantalizes hitters. His fastball sits between 84 and 88 miles an hour, nothing special. Tampa Bay hitters swung and missed a total of only five times.
Because of that, the self-deprecating Braden doesn't think opponents will view him much differently from here on out, either.
"I don't think so," Braden said. "Because of how rare the feat is. I think everybody understands I'm not going to rattle off four or five in a row. I don't think there will be any fear of that.
"I think there will be fights at the bat rack to get to my fastball."
This will be his second start in Anaheim of the 2010 season. On April 11, he allowed three earned runs and five hits over six innings in a game Oakland won 9-4. Bobby Abreu drilled a first-inning homer against him, then Braden settled down.
"Good changeup," Abreu said this week. "He's got command in and out, and he's not afraid to throw it in, and then throw the fastball away. He comes right at you."
The key to facing Braden?
"Sometimes he gets a little wild," Abreu said. "Make him throw strikes. See how it's going to be in your first at-bat, then after that you decide."
Likes: Ken Griffey snoozing in the clubhouse? Check out the Seattle Times' Larry Stone, whose wildly twisted mind immediately came up with The Boys of Slumber: My All-Sleep Team. Included: Nap Lajoie, Robby Hammock and Andy Sheets, and Stone went deep on Clarence Pillow and James Yawn. Love it. ... And speaking of twisted minds, you know what else is a good read? Former infielder Morgan Ensberg's blog. Check it out here. ... The Detroit Free Press did a very nice job on a three-part series from an extended interview with the late Ernie Harwell last fall, during which the Free Press acceded to Harwell's request that it be held until after his passing. ... Finished Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked. Very good read. Not as good as About a Boy or High Fidelity, but it would be nearly impossible to hit that bar again -- for anybody.
Dislikes: Lenny Dysktra needs money. So badly that he's selling crap on Craig's List.
Now close your eyes and imagine new Royals skipper Ned Yost singing:
"I'll be standing on the corner
-- Fats Domino, Kansas City
Posted on: May 11, 2010 12:52 am
Perfect games follow the Tampa Bay Rays around the way stray dogs hang near the meat market.
Rays' outfielder Gabe Kapler on Sunday became the only man in baseball history to bat in the ninth inning twice with his team facing a perfect game.
Kapler bounced to shortstop to end Dallas Braden's grab at history in Oakland on Sunday.
And in Chicago last July, he was Mark Buehrle's first out in the ninth inning.
You might recall that one: Kapler was the guy who smoked the fly ball to the wall that Chicago outfielder DeWayne Wise majestically chased down in a highlight reel play for the ages.
"And if you want to take it one step further. ..." Kapler said Monday in Anaheim as the Rays prepared to open a series with the Angels.
Yes, if you want to do that, Kapler now has had three brushes with perfect games in three years: In 2008, San Diego's Chris Young spun a perfect game for 7 2/3 innings on Sept. 7 in Milwaukee when Kapler, then a Brewers outfielder, broke it up by smashing a home run.
Understandably so, Kapler says he felt "very connected to" Buehrle's moment, given how close he came to breaking up and Wise's spectacular play.
As for Braden's perfecto on Sunday, Kapler said, "I think in the order of the universe, there are reasons why it would have been nice for us to break it up. But after the game, I read about how Braden's mom had died of cancer, and it was poetic [to have it happen on Mother's Day]. It was his day. He needed to make pitches, and he made them."
Meantime, Kapler's wild perfect game history isn't all in this crazy Tampa Bay connection.
Manager Joe Maddon?
He's now been involved with three perfect games (plus another no-hitter) -- all on the wrong side.
While his Rays now have been victimized by two perfect games in their past 96 (Braden on Sunday, the White Sox's Mark Buehrle last July 23), Maddon also was the Angels' bullpen coach when Texas' Kenny Rogers was perfect against them back in 1994.
He also was the Angels' interim manager when Minnesota's Eric Milton no-hit them in 1999.
"I'm your guy for a perfect game," Maddon joked. "I'm on the bad side of history once again. Kind of amazing, but it happened."
Wait, there's more: Including the Braden and Buehrle games, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and third-base coach Tom Foley each have been involved with three perfect games.
Unlike with Maddon and Kapler, though, the Rays finally have a winner with Foley and Martinez: Each was on the 1991 Montreal club when Pedro Martinez tossed a perfect game against the Dodgers on July 28, 1991.
The Rays join the Dodgers and Twins as the only three teams to have two perfect games thrown against them.
Likes: Do yourself a favor and watch this absolutely hilarious recent rant by a disgusted Cleveland television guy doing a postgame show. And it was on the Indians' flagship station, no less. ... Terrific analysis encapsulating the mess that is the Kansas City Royals here. ... Classy tribute to the late Ernie Harwell before Monday's Tigers game in Detroit. A sad, sad thing, but the Tigers really deserve credit for the first-class manner in which they've handled everything. ... Really superb Drive-By Truckers show last Thursday at the House of Blues in San Diego. Those guys can play and, boy, do they rock. The new disc, The Big To-Do, is very good. Of course, it's no Decoration Day -- the Truckers set the bar with that (or maybe with Southern Rock Opera) -- but it's good. Love Birthday Boy, Daddy Learned to Fly, Santa Fe and (It's Gonna Be) I Told You So. ...
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"There was that whole weird thing with the horses
-- The Hold Steady, The Weekenders
Posted on: May 9, 2010 7:33 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2010 11:01 pm
Dallas Braden's exquisite perfect game for Oakland on Sunday notwithstanding, no division in baseball has been as disappointing as this motley crew (though the NL Central should not be overlooked, what with the Cubs, Brewers and Astros).
The AL West this year is Conan O'Brien in his last few days on The Tonight Show. Not nearly as funny, but every bit as beleaguered.
How rough is it out there? They nearly had to delay the first pitch of Friday night's Angels-Mariners game because both clubs held meetings to discuss, they were scuffling so badly.
The weekend started with the Angels dragging a seven-game losing streak to Seattle, where the Mariners greeted them with a six-game losing streak of their own. Seattle skipper Don Wakamatsu closed the doors to address his team before the series started while the Angels held a players-only meeting.
For the Angels, who normally under manager Mike Scioscia only hold team meetings to divide up playoff shares, it was their second meeting in less than 24 hours. Scioscia had briefly closed the doors to address the troops the night before in Boston, where Los Angeles had been swept in a four-game series for the first time since 1967 which, for the Red Sox, goes all the way back to the Impossible Dream and Jim Lonborg pre-skiing injury.
Already, the Angels, who miss Chone Figgins and John Lackey more than they acknowledge, are closing in on a club record for meetings in a season. They don't need another alternate jersey so much as they need an appointment book.
Last time the Angels and Mariners met with each club at least six games under .500? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was way back in 1994.
By Sunday, that had changed because the Angels, behind Jered Weaver's 7 1/3 shutout innings Friday and Joe Saunders righting himself Saturday, took the first two games of this pillow-fight to climb to within four games of .500 -- and push Seattle's losing streak to eight in a row.
Obvious answer to the light-hitting Mariners' woes, of course, was to fire hitting coach Alan Cockrell, which Seattle did before Sunday's game. It's not Cockrell's fault that a single can of Mountain Dew contains more pop than the Mariners' lineup, which was last in the majors with a hard-to-believe paltry sum of 10 home runs.
The White Sox's Paul Konerko has more than that by himself (13), while five other big leaguers have equaled the M's total by themselves: Toronto's Alex Gonzalez, Baltimore's Ty Wigginton, the Dodgers' Andre Ethier and Arizona's Mark Reynolds and Kelly Johnson.
While the power outage cannot be blamed on Cockrell -- he didn't construct a lineup that has Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez and Casey Kotchman in the middle -- the M's figured they had enough other evidence to sack him: Last in the AL in team batting average (.225), on-base percentage (.302), slugging percentage (.315) and runs scored (94).
Wretched? Eight Mariners in the regular lineup are hitting worse than .220.
Ugh -- and it's no picnic elsewhere in the division.
Texas is in first place, but every day "owner" Tom Hicks fails to pay his bills leaves the creditors barking more savagely, demanding that major-league baseball seize the franchise from Hicks and facilitate a sale. The Rangers franchise was supposed to have been sold by early April, and baseball taking control is a very real possibility. Turns out, whether or not the Rangers can afford a summer's worth of baseballs might be the least of their issues.
Oakland? In the muck of the AL West, the A's have been the most pleasant story going. Their only crime so far is guilt-by-association in this haggard division. That, and having nine players on the disabled list, their most since May, 2008. Which pretty much makes running in place a goal, not a detriment.
Ah well, what the AL West lacks in looks, it should make up for in sheer competitiveness this summer. At one point last week, the four clubs were separated by a mere half-game. And right now, looking through the one-way glass at the perp walk, it doesn't look like anybody here will be running away anytime soon.
Posted on: April 23, 2010 9:35 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- What's the big deal with this Alex Rodriguez-Dallas Braden dustup?
Why, I thought A-Rod was quite restrained while crossing the mound and stepping on the pitching rubber while returning to first base on Thursday.
It's not as if he planted the Yankees' flag atop the mound or anything.
Seriously, after talking with several baseball people about the incident Friday, here's the big deal: Common sense and respect for an opponent should preclude someone from using the mound as a shortcut. Pure and simple.
Nobody I spoke with Friday brushed it off as A-Rod being wronged. His closest defender, of course, was Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who called the whole thing "boys being boys."
To review: With one out in the sixth inning, Rodriguez went from first to third on what turned out to be a foul fly ball. Instead of retracing his steps back to first, he cut across the mound.
"Everybody has a point of view," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Friday night's series opener here against the Angels. "That's the beauty of our country. That's the beauty of the human mind.
"I don't think Alex was doing anything malicious."
Braden started the controversy when he hollered at Rodriguez on the field during the game, but really ignited it afterward.
"He should probably take a note from his captain [Derek Jeter] over there and realize you don't cross the pitcher's mound in between an inning or during the game," Braden told reporters. "I was just dumbfounded that he would let that slip his mind, being someone of such status."
Said Girardi on Friday: "As far as what Dallas said, I'm concerned with how my player reacts. I'm not concerned with other players."
I talked to several people in the game about the incident on Friday, none of whom were eager to step into the latest A-Rod controversy. The consensus: Rodriguez should have avoided the mound. Or, failing that, he should have simply cut across the very back part of the dirt, or the very front part.
Just as the plate is the hitter's piece of real estate, one player told me, the mound is the pitcher's.
"I wouldn't like a pitcher running through the batter's box and messing up my dirt if he was coming back from behind the plate," the player said.
The only person I spoke with who was prepared to defend A-Rod first wanted to know where Braden was at the moment. If Braden was not on the mound, the person said, then it is no big deal. But if Braden was standing on the rubber or in the vicinity of it at the time, then it's confrontation time.
Answer to that last question: Braden was returning to the mound himself, and was a step or two onto the third-base side of the mound when A-Rod jogged directly in front of him, easily brushing within a couple of steps of him.
You can see the video for yourself here.
My take: It's not as if A-Rod committed a felony. But it's another in his long list of stupid and uncecessary moments.