Posted on: February 27, 2010 3:37 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2010 6:34 pm

Rickey meets Moneyball

PHOENIX -- He's the ultimate base stealer. They're the original Moneyball team.

Rickey Henderson and the A's?

It hardly seems a match, even if he is one of the most famous players in club history. But there Rickey was this morning, teaching basestealing -- and predicting that A's outfielder Rajai Davis could steal 75-80 bases in a season.

And there Billy Beane was, watching and approving.

Beane would remind you that for all the Moneyball reputation, the A's were fourth in baseball in steals last year, and that they stole more bases after the All-Star break than any team in the game.

"You've got to use what you have," he said. "[Speed was] the one bright spot of our offense last year."

That doesn't mean it's time to rewrite the Moneyball philosophy. Beane points out that for all the success stealing bases, the A's still were near the bottom of the pack in runs scored in the American League in 2009 (thanks to commenter rw1 for pointing out that they weren't dead last).

"I wish all nine guys in the lineup would hit 40 home runs, to be honest," Beane said. "That's my first choice. I wish we had Babe Ruth 1 through 9."

Rickey's wish is that running would become a bigger part of baseball everywhere.

"I'm glad [the A's] are showing an interest in basestealing and baserunning," he said. "I'm thinking the whole of the major leagues is getting back to that. I think it's good for baseball to go out and create runs."

And yes, he thinks Davis, who had 41 steals in 125 games last year, could steal 75-80 bases in a season.

"To me, he has the heart that he wants to be a basestealer," Henderson said. "I believe he could do it, with the determination to not be afraid of being thrown out."

And since the A's might not have any 40-homer hitters, let alone nine of them, Beane approves.

In fact, the A's general manager said, he could think of only one negative of having Henderson in camp as a special instructor.

"The reason not to keep him out here too long is that he looks better in a uniform than everyone else," Beane said.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 26, 2010 12:46 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2010 1:26 pm

A's sign Ben Sheets

Free agent right-hander Ben Sheets has signed with the A's, CBSSports.com has learned.

Sheets agreed to terms on a one-year deal for $10 million, plus incentives. He passed a physical today, and the deal is expected to be announced this afternoon.

Sheets, who started the All-Star Game in 2008, didn't pitch at all in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery. He made a complete recovery, and was very impressive when he threw for teams last week in Louisiana.

The Cubs, Mets, Rangers and Mariners were also pursuing Sheets, but it's believed that the A's came in with the strongest offer. Sheets joins a young rotation that also includes Brett Anderson, one of the most impressive rookie pitchers in the American League last year.

The 31-year-old Sheets was 86-83 in eight seasons with the Brewers, including a 25-14 record in his final two years. He has dealt with injuries through much of his career, and has started 30 games only once since 2004.

Category: MLB
Tags: A's, Ben Sheets
Posted on: May 1, 2009 12:16 pm

Another A-Rod allegation (not in the book)

This one's interesting.

Jeff Brantley, who was an Alex Rodriguez teammate on the 2001 Rangers, went on the Chris "Mad Dog" Russo show on Sirius XM radio and said he doesn't believe A-Rod tipped off opposing hitters about pitches. But he also said that Rangers teammate Randy Velarde tipped off A-Rod on pitches.

Here's what Brantley said, according to a transcript first posted on Neil Best's excellent Watchdog blog on the Newsday website:

“I played with A-Rod during that time. I was at Texas. The old Randy Velarde trick. Randy Velarde would get on first base. Of course, Velarde played for the Oakland Athletics [in 1999 and 2000] so he knew everything (sign) that was given behind home plate. Of course, [Ramon] Hernandez was back there at the time and had a little problem of leaving that front knee open and Velarde would get out there just enough to where he could give the pitch to A-Rod. And bada-bing, bada-bang, two, three[-run home run], sometimes grand slam. It happened a lot. There was a week, and you’ll recall this, early in the season of 2001 where A-Rod kind of burst on to the scene where he hit, I think he was the ‘Player of the Week’ and had about nine or ten home runs right out of the chute. Everybody was just marveling at what he was able to do. He didn’t get the call on every pitch but he got most of them. He knew the pitch was coming.”
True? Well, the numbers sure are interesting. According to research through baseball-reference.com , there were 14 times in 2001 that A-Rod batted with Velarde on first base for the Rangers and Hernandez catching for the A's.

In those 14 plate appearances, A-Rod went 6-for-11 with four home runs, with two walks, a sacrifice fly and 12 RBIs. In his other plate appearances in those same games (without Velarde on first), A-Rod was 2-for-7 with one home run.

Conclusive evidence? No. But still interesting.

Of course, it's not against baseball rules for a teammate to steal a sign and tip the batter off to a pitch.
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 3, 2009 11:40 am
Edited on: March 3, 2009 4:00 pm

Duchscherer to see doctor

PHOENIX -- The A's have a new shortstop, but also a renewed concern.

Manager Bob Geren said this morning that No. 1 starter Justin Duchscherer was having his sore right elbow looked at by a doctor. Duchscherer is the only A's starter with a full year in the big leagues. He hasn't yet appeared in a spring training game, but has been throwing bullpens.

"It's precautionary," Geren said.

Also, with the A's signing Orlando Cabrera to be their shortstop, incumbent Bobby Crosby said he wants to be traded.

"I feel I'm a shortstop," Crosby said. "I want to be a shortstop somewhere."

The problem, of course, is that the A's owe Crosby $5.25 million this year, on the final year of a five-year, $12.75 million deal signed in April 2005. That's one problem, anyway. The other is that Crosby has hit .229, .226 and .237 the last three seasons, and after hitting 22 home runs as a rookie, he has hit 33 the last four seasons combined.



Posted on: November 24, 2008 12:55 pm

Furcal says A's offered four years

Rafael Furcal's agent was telling teams last week that he had a four-year offer, but Paul Kinzer wouldn't say from which team.

Sunday, Furcal told the Dominican newspaper El Caribe that the team was the A's and that the offer was for $48 million.

The Dodgers are interested in keeping Furcal, but haven't been willing to offer him four years. With many young players on the verge of qualifying for arbitration, the Dodgers have been trying to limit their long-term commitments.

The Giants have also shown interest in Furcal. The Braves would be interested, but only if they trade Yunel Escobar as part of a package for Jake Peavy, something that's unlikely to happen quickly. Furcal told the newspaper that the Mets are also interested, but that's very unlikely.

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 11, 2008 3:51 pm

Rays showed interest in Holliday

Before agreeing to trade Matt Holliday to the A's, the Rockies discussed Holliday with the Cardinals, the Phillies . . . and the Rays.

Colorado officials were surprised (and perhaps disappointed) that they could never get the Mets, Yankees or Red Sox interested in Holliday, but they did have at least preliminary talks with Tampa Bay, according to sources.

And even though those talks didn't result in a trade, they serve as a reminder that the Rays have a need in the outfield and may be williing to spend significant money to fill it.

Asked Tuesday if the Rays could be a player for a big-name position player this winter, club president Matt Silverman said Tuesday: "For next year, it's unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility."

Silverman wouldn't confirm the Rays' previous interest in Holliday. But he did say that the Rays won't shy away from a player who is due as much as $13.5 million, which Holliday will make in 2009.

"A price tag isn't necessarily a deterrent," Silverman said. "It's just a little harder to make the math work."

The Rays had a $43.7 million opening day payroll in 2008, up from $24 million in 2007. They have 10 players signed for $39 million for 2009.


As CBSSports.com reported Monday, the Rockies are prepared to spin Huston Street to a third team, after acquiring him in their Holliday deal with the A's. While there's still a chance the Rockies will keep Street, it seems more likely that he'll be dealt, possibly to the Indians.

The Rockies are also willing to talk about outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, but sources said they didn't acquire Gonzalez with the idea of trading him. Rival scouts called Gonzalez the key player in the Holliday trade, and some raved about his ability.

"He's a five-tool player, a real stud," one scout said. "And he's got a 70 arm (on an 20-80 scouting system)."

Official announcement of the Holliday trade remains on hold, until all players pass physicals. That's not a formality in the case of Street, who spent part of 2008 on the disabled list, or in the case of left-hander Greg Smith, who had an operation to remove bone chips from his elbow just last month. But even if the Rockies turn down Smith and/or Street, it's expected that they would be able to agree on other players and still send Holliday to Oakland.

Posted on: November 10, 2008 3:57 pm

The unbuilding of the Rockies has begun

In Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, Willy Taveras led off for the Rockies, with Matt Holliday batting third and Garrett Atkins hitting fifth.

Now, not even 13 months later, Holliday is being traded to the A's, and the Rockies are making plans to have Taveras and Atkins follow him out the door. Add in closer Brian Fuentes' departure via free agency, and you can see that the Rockies of 2009 will look nothing like the team that went to the World Series in 2007.

Given the payroll restrictions that Rockies ownership has imposed on the Colorado front office, it will be hard for general manager Dan O'Dowd to put together a team that can return to the postseason anytime soon. But it may not be his problem for long, because O'Dowd has told people that if the Rockies aren't any better in 2009 than they were in 2008, he expects to lose his job.

The Rockies never had a chance to sign Holliday long-term, and their negotiations with Fuentes went nowhere.

The Rockies will get some major-league players back from Oakland as part of the Holliday trade, but sources said that reliever Huston Street will be traded to another team. Meanwhile, the Rockies are shopping Atkins (the Twins are among the interested teams), Taveras and backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba.


Posted on: July 22, 2008 5:13 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2008 5:38 pm

Could Pena pitch? It sure looked like it

One scout who watched Kansas City shortstop Tony Pena Jr. pitch the ninth inning Monday night against Detroit joked about trying to trade for him as a reliever.

At least I think the guy was joking.

Seriously, though, you have to wonder whether Pena should be pitching rather than playing shortstop. There's a shortstop shortage in baseball, but there's not much demand for guys who hit .152 with no power.

There is demand for guys who can throw the ball over the plate with some velocity, especially when they can also throw 75 mph breaking balls over the plate.

"He was throwing 91, with sink," the scout who watched Pena said. "I guarantee you someone is thinking about (a position change)."

Pena told the Kansas City Star that he pitched as an amateur, and that some teams that scouted him wanted to sign him as a pitcher.

"I liked playing short more," he said.

If it means staying in the big leagues, maybe he'll change his mind.


On the one hand, it's no shock to see the Astros trade for Randy Wolf, because owner Drayton McLane has been demanding that his team approach the July 31 deadline as buyers rather than as sellers. On the other hand, are you kidding?

The Astros are 12 games out of first place, and as one National League scout said today, they'll have a hard time finishing ahead of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, let alone the Cubs or Brewers.

But McLane refuses to give up. At last week's baseball dinner at the White House, McLane apparently told President Bush that the Astros will win the National League Central.


Speaking of the Brewers, they seem serious in their pursuit of Oakland closer Huston Street. Milwaukee scout Dick Groch followed Oakland from New York to Tampa Bay.

"If they get a closer, that would put them ahead of the Cubs, in my opinion," said one scout familiar with both teams.

But that same scout expressed concerns about Street's velocity, which has been down this year.


The Dodgers are still looking all over for a shortstop, but they don't seem nearly as concerned about replacing injured closer Takashi Saito. Jonathan Broxton has always been seen as Saito's eventual successor, and the Dodgers were very impressed with Broxton's first two outings in Saito's absence.

One good sign: Broxton, who never threw above 97 mph, threw his first two pitches at 99 and 101 the other day in Arizona.


Condolences to the family of longtime Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman, who was definitely one of the legends of our business.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com