Mailbag: What's wrong with the A's?
Jim Molony answers fans' questions from ALCS Game 3
DETROIT -- Slow hooks and Sopranos, elephants and Eric Chavez, the fans of the Tigers and A's have kept the e-mails coming while awaiting the start of Game Three at Comerica Park Friday afternoon:
Congrats to Rich Harden! He's the first pitcher on the A's to pitch a quality start in the ALCS. I'm left to wonder why it is that the A's have cooled off significantly since the ALDS. Is there such a thing as too much rest? I know this Tiger team is good, but its obvious that the A's haven't hit. What do you think their problem is?
-- Mark, California
I think they've been outplayed certainly, but I also think they might have lost some of their edge they had in the ALDS. Bottom line, Detroit has simply outplayed them in all phases of the game.
I have a question about Joel Zumaya's MRI. Was it of his arm and wrist? They need him. I wish him a speedy recovery.
-- Lawrence, California
The injury is to his right wrist and his status for the rest of the series is uncertain.
I hate to blame the manager when a team is unsuccessful in the playoffs, but after seeing how inspired the Tigers have played against the Athletics, led by Jim Leyland, I have to ask, is Ken Macha too complacent? If the A's can't advance to the World Series, is a new manager a possibility for the the A's? Can someone like Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi or Lou Piniella inspire the Athletics to a championship?
-- Larry, California
Macha is laid back, but that's his style win or lose and he's done a lot more winning than losing in his career. A new manager is always a possibility and Macha has drawn interest from other teams in the past. The three managers you name have all had success, but I'm not sure if the A's will be making a change anytime soon.
Will we ever see replay review by umpires in baseball? We just witnessed an extremely close play in Game 3 at third base in the seventh inning and it might be helpful in the playoffs.
-- R. Hudson, Georgia
I doubt you will see it. Unlike other sports, baseball has been reluctant to go the replay route.
It seems that the A's will likely be swept by Detroit in the ALCS. This team was one of the worst offensive teams in baseball and were dead last in hitting with runners in scoring position. What does Billy Beane need to do in the offseason to improve in this area?
-- Hector, San Francisco
First, he'll have to decide whether to re-sign Barry Zito or let him walk via free agency. That decision will impact other roster decisions.
I'm trying to figure out why the A's haven't pulled it out yet. Yes, it's only been two games, but that's two games now and with 19 years of heart and soul in this club, I can't get my heart broken again. I think it's a matter of small ball. The A's need to produce runs straight up. Billy Beane ball (as much as I love him) isn't working and hasn't in the playoffs considering their most current postseason record. Hit-and-runs, stealing bases, bunting. Taking risks. Stepping it up. What do you think? Can the A's produce in their current condition or do you think it's time for something different?
-- Kelly, Pleasant Hill, Calif.
The problem is this team doesn't play small ball, and trying to learn on the fly now would just play right into Detroit's hands. I agree that would be a good way to manufacture runs, but these A's aren't built for that kind of game. I think they can produce simply because, up until the first two games of this series, the offense was producing. The A's are good at their style of play. It's just that Detroit has been better so far.
What does the logo on the arm mean? Or should I say: What does an elephant have to do with Athletics?
-- Tiger fans Tom & Reva
Back when the team was in Philadelphia, New York Giants manager John McGraw was quoted as saying A's owner Benjamin Shibe "had a white elephant on his hands." A's manager Connie Mack decided to make the white elephant the official team mascot. Former A's owner Charlie O. Finley dropped the symbol back in the 1960s, but it was brought back in the '80s.
Hey, doesn't Todd Jones look like the Johnny Cakes guy from the "Sopranos?"
-- Phillip, Bakersfield, Calif.
I'm not familiar with the "Sopranos" character, but a colleague of mine who is agrees with you, and says all he needs is a flannel shirt. I remember when Jones was a rookie and came to bat for the Houston Astros. Jones, who was clean-shaven in those days, actually made contact, hitting a grounder to third, and the loud voice of one of his teammates in the dugout could clearly be heard yelling "Run, Forrest, run!" But I didn't think Jones looked like Tom Hanks, then or now.
I love Jim Leyland and the success he's brought the Tigers. I don't question many moves he's made, but why does he insist on pitching Joel Zumaya every game this postseason? He's a dangerous tool, undoubtedly, a rare talent few teams possess. That will soon be a multi-million-dollar arm. Leyland has other strong options in the league's second-best bullpen. He had no business throwing in the bullpen in Game 2. After Zumaya returns, will Leyland begin to show restraint after shutting him down for the second time this season?
-- Johnny, Lansing, Mich.
Leyland won't do anything that would jeopardize Zumaya's or any other players' career.
I know that Ken Macha's been a terrific manager this year, but why does he always let his starting pitchers struggle and not take them out when they're in trouble? That's the question everybody wants to know. I know that it's a good thing to let your pitchers work out of their own jams, but it's the ALCS. He let his starting pitchers give up five runs and that's what killed the A's. Why let your pitchers put your team in the hole, then take him out?
-- James, Oakland
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Why is Macha leaving his starters in so long? Is there some unwritten rule that the starter must pitch through five innings? Anyone watching these two games could see that Barry Zito didn't have it and though Esteban Loaiza came back strong after giving up some runs, he can not start the sixth inning. Where is Kirk Saarloos or Justin Duchscherer, heck even Joe Blanton for long relief? It just doesn't make sense. Does Macha need to be reminded if they lose this series your season is over? If you don't believe your bullpen guys can pitch more than one inning at this point in the season, then you are in major trouble. As far as I'm concerned, if the A's lose the series, I'll point the finger at Macha for his decisions with the pitching staff in these first two home games. If you have the arms you must use them.
-- Dave, Wisconsin
Many e-mails contained similar sentiments to the two above. Macha stands behind his players, and of course they are the reason the team got this far. That's admirable, but I agree he stayed too long with Zito and Loaiza, and obviously didn't want to go to his bullpen that early.
I'm a long-time A's fan and I usually don't write in to the A's organization or call in to radio shows, but I had to get this off my chest, so please hear me out. I love the A's, but I can't stand Eric Chavez. I could not believe several years ago they signed him for $10-11 million per year and not reserving that money for Miguel Tejada or Tim Hudson -- who I thought would be and have proven to be much better signings. Chavez is basically a .260-ish hitter, is very streaky offensively, hasn't hit that many home runs, and the worst thing about him is that he's the absolute worst clutch hitter I've seen for a player of his salary. I've seen him in previous years just turn into a different type of player -- just flailing at bad pitches and choking in so many situations. I know he's great on defense. But is this worth $11M per year especially when he can't consistently produce on offense?
-- Peter, Oakland
I don't think there's any question Chavez is still one of the best defensive third baseman in the game, but I agree the A's have spent an awful lot of money for a player whose offensive production has gone downhill in recent years. Chavez hit a career-low .241 in 2006, the third consecutive year his average has dropped, and his 72 RBIs were his lowest total since 1999. But he won't be going anywhere, as he still has four more years to run on his current contract (not counting the team option for 2011) worth a whopping $46 million and has a limited no-trade clause.
Why did the A's designate Mike Rouse for assignment? He played well when called up and he would have been a better fit for the postseason than Mark Kiger.
-- Pat, Santa Fe, N.M.
Rouse hit .292 in eight games, but at the time both Antonio Perez and Mark Ellis were still healthy and it was felt he wouldn't be needed in the postseason. The A's did need a spot for a pitcher on the 40-man roster, so they gambled that Rouse had a better chance of clearing waivers than some of the other options. Rouse, however, was claimed by the Cleveland Indians.
Reflecting on Game 2, Macha's decision to leave Loaiza in the sixth after giving up a double to Craig Monroe baffles me. Why wouldn't Macha pull Loaiza: A) after the four-run fifth and B) after giving up a double to Monroe? Was Macha trying to save the bullpen (which seems ludicrous when on the verge of going down 0-2 and being swept at home)? Leaving Loaiza in for the sixth made whatever comeback attempt the A's put together futile. Had Macha gone to the bullpen (which was outstanding last night as well) the game would have been tied after Milton Bradley's shot.
-- Paolo, Oakland
I believe with Duchscherer unavailable, Macha was reluctant to go to the bullpen earlier, but he had confidence in Loaiza.
After the season is said and done, what changes do you see the Tigers making? Should they do anything? And would winning the World Series make changes more or less likely?
-- Nathan, Michigan
Many of the regulars are already under contract (Ivan Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers, Justin Verlander, Todd Jones, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco, Mike Maroth, Andrew Miller) for 2007 or under club control. The Tigers will have to decide whether to re-sign Sean Casey, who will be a free agent at season's end, as well as Jamie Walker. I expect the Tigers will definitely re-sign Walker and pursue Casey, assuming he gets a clean bill of health. I don't expect the Tigers to make a lot of moves this winter as their payroll will certainly increase and they won't have a lot of needs anyway.
Why is it that the Oakland Coliseum upper tier deck was shut off for Thursday's game in the ALCS? Doesn't make any sense to me, unless I'm missing something. How about the Athletics letting the fans of Oakland vote with their wallets?
-- Mark, Washington, D.C.
The A's have had the upper tier closed all year, but it will be open if Oakland reaches the World Series.
WAKE UP A's! Is everyone on this team asleep, except Milton Bradley? Their pitching was terrible. Loaiza's seven earned runs are not acceptable. Zito's Game 1 start was bad, but it was obvious he didn't have it. It's Macha's fault for not pulling him.
The offense is asleep also. Frank Thomas, Nick Swisher, and Chavez need to wake up and start hitting like they did in the second half and in the ALDS. Now the A's have dug themselves into a deep hole going into Detroit and Rich Harden's got to deal with the pressure. The team needs some clutch hitting and less double plays! Jason Kendall, sorry buddy, but can you do anything but hit a ground ball? Please, this team is playing like the third-place team in April. They need to wake up and start hitting and pitch better enough to keep the team in the game. Do I speak for everybody?
-- Mark, California
No, but you said plenty all by yourself.
Now that Ellis is out for the rest of the postseason, would it be possible to place Swisher at second base and Dan Johnson at first base? It would seem that Swisher might do better defensively than D'Angelo Jimenez.
-- Marisa, California
That won't happen. Swisher hasn't played second base, just first and the outfield.
I am a Detroit Tigers fan and I am behind them all the way. They will win this ALCS and also the World Series. If the Tigers and New York Mets meet in the World Series, I and my friends may come to New York and watch one of their games. My goal will be to take pictures with the Detroit team. Would that be a possible thing to do?
-- Labtak, Marshall Islands
You can take pictures of the players from the stands if you have a ticket.
I noticed the Oakland A's fans stopped waving Tiger Tails and switched to the White Hankies! Are they giving up already?
-- Gregory, Troy, Mich.
Not at all, though obviously they're frustrated based on the e-mails I've read.
I really want to get a message to the A's from a huge group of guys here in Oakland that love the A's: The A's can take this series. So far, the breaks have gone the Tigers' way, but we could very easily be up two games to none. I think the A's have the better team and we just have to hope things click for them in Detroit. If they do, the A's can absolutely crush this Tigers team. I know the players believe, I just want to get a message out there that the fans do to! Go A's!
-- Douglas, Oakland
Douglas, consider it delivered.
There seems to be two unstoppable forces heading for a classic and semi-unexpected collision. Those Tigers are riding out the momentum sparked by that fiery Jim Leyland and fed by the straight up "gas" those inspired Tigers pitchers are bringin' to the plate. How did they go into Oakland and take two from a hot Athletics team? Those players from Detroit are playing every inning hard and they believe they can win this thing. Wouldn't you, if you rolled through that beast of a Yankees team and then wiped the floor with the American League West Champs in their house for the first two games?
Then also we have the Mets, and I'm a fan, personally. After all, they've got a great group of talented guys who enjoy playing together under the watchful eyes of Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya. Besides creating a balanced team, Randolph and Minaya have more importantly given attention to team chemistry, balancing veteran leadership with youthful enthusiasm to create a fun team to watch that seems to be maturing before our eyes. Unfortunately, this seems to be the ironic problem for the crosstown Yanks, who are busting at the seams with talent but are lacking in chemistry. The Mets may in fact show us not to underestimate these National League Champs, but the reality seems to be that they'll fall to the Tigers in six.
-- Mike, Corona, N.Y.
I should point out the Tigers and Mets are not league champions yet, but if it turns out that way, it should be an interesting matchup.
Are there any different rules in the playoffs than in the regular season?
-- Taylor, California
Same game rules, but there are some differences in roster regulations. For instance, teams can't call up players from the Minor Leagues as they can during the regular season.
I am a huge A's fan that is mystified with the selection of Jimenez as the replacement for Ellis. His regular season's four errors in 18 games with the A's and the unspeakable batting average have me anxious about his presence in the ALCS. Whatever happened to Keith Ginter and why wasn't he brought up from Sacto?
-- Aly, California
Ginter was one of the players considered when Kiger was brought up. Ginter finished the season in a slump, hitting .205 in his last 10 games at Triple-A Sacramento and has struggled against right-handers in the past, so it was felt Kiger was the better option to back up Jimenez, who has had more success at the Major League level.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.