Monday, August 19, 2019

Oakland A’s Shake Off Injuries, Buck Odds to join Playoff Hunt

Despite a long list of injuries and an underachieving bullpen, Oakland again is leaning on a few young stars and no-name role players to nab a playoff spot.

by Chris De Benedetti
Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 2:14 PM

As the 2019 season winds down, the Coliseum will be the site of yet another pennant race.
  • As the 2019 season winds down, the Coliseum will be the site of yet another pennant race.

Buckle up, A’s fans. The final six weeks of the 2019 pennant race is going to be a wild, bumpy ride.

Then again, you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

These are intriguing days for Oakland baseball. A.J. Puk, one of the franchise’s most heralded prospects, was called up to the majors for the first time on Monday, bolstering an inconsistent bullpen and giving fans a tantalizing glimpse at the future.

News of the young hurler’s promotion was a jolt of energy for the A’s, which just won a thrilling series from the Houston Astros. The Green and Gold flexed their biceps at the plate and displayed a bottomless well of mettle all weekend, taking three of four games from one of MLB’s best teams. Two of the contests were tense, one-run A’s victories that felt like playoff baseball and must have done wonders to boost the young team’s confidence.

That there is a pennant race at all in which the A’s can compete is something of a miracle. Consider that Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino, last year’s stalwart relievers, have struggled mightily this season, while injuries have forced the A’s to play long stretches without Matt Olson, Ramon Laureano, and a few other key contributors. Also, several injuries have marred Khris Davis’ season, sending the powerful slugger into a tailspin at the plate.

Infielder Jurickson Profar also has disappointed with an anemic batting average (.204) and on-base percentage (.269), as well as a throwing “yips” problem that’s turned every ground ball into a scary adventure. Lastly, various ailments have placed five different A’s catchers behind the plate, robbing the pitching staff of some much-needed stability.

If I had known in March that the team would face all of those challenges this summer, my only reply would have been: “Will the A’s lose 100 games or just 95?”

Instead, the squad led by Manager Bob Melvin is right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Even though they were under .500 as late as June 10, they’ve played .667 ball since then to boost their record to a strong 71-53 record. After the dust cleared Sunday night, the A’s were right on the heels of the second wild card spot, with just 38 games left in the season.

In fact, they’re almost matching the pace of last year’s wildly successful campaign, in which the A’s earned 97 wins and a Wild Card Game appearance. Given the growing pile of bad breaks in 2019, how have the A’s stayed in contention?

Well, having some all-star talent helps.

And the A’s clearly have a number of young studs in Olson, Laureano, shortstop Marcus Semien, and All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman. Liam Hendriks has ably filled the closer role that Treinen’s struggles left vacant. Brett Anderson and Chris Bassitt have been unspectacular but effective as part of a patchwork rotation anchored by Mike Fiers, whose 11-3 record includes a May 7 no-hitter.

Some wonderful, albeit head-scratching, success stories have emerged, too. The recent arrival of 30-year-old second baseman Corban Joseph has been an unlikely godsend. Before joining the A’s a week ago, Joseph had just five career hits in a total of 16 major league games dating back to 2013. He matched that offensive output in just five games this past week in Oakland, knocking a homer and two RBIs and claiming the squad’s second-base job for the foreseeable future.

Now Puk, 24, is set to join a pitching staff that on Tuesday will begin a three-game set against the big, bad New York Yankees, possessors of MLB’s best record.

Is it reasonable to lean on inexperienced players like Joseph and Puk right as pennant-race pressure gets red hot? Um … sure, why not?

This is the Oakland A’s we’re talking about. It’s a clubhouse filled mostly with unheralded players who are as fascinating as they are flawed.

With this franchise, the unexpected is the only thing expected. Which might be the only explanation for if the A’s’ long, hot summer transitions into an unforgettable autumn in Oakland.

Chris De Benedetti, a co-founding member of Baseball Oakland, writes a regular sports column for the Express.

Monday’s Briefing: Bay Area rental prices are showing signs of cooling; BART board director wants to ban busking, panhandling at stations

Noted Oakland civil rights attorney allegedly gave jailed clients contraband phones

by Steven Tavares
Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 4:00 AM

BART Board Director Debora Allen. - BART
  • BART
  • BART Board Director Debora Allen.

News you don’t want to miss for Aug. 19:

1. “California’s job growth is now in its 113th month, tying the expansion of the 1960s as the longest on record as the world’s fifth largest economy continues its recovery from the Great Recession,” the Associated Press reports. In addition, unemployment in the state dropped to a record-tying 4.1 percent. Since 2010, California’s job creation accounts for 15 percent of all new jobs in the country.

2. Meanwhile, there are signs the red-hot Bay Area economy is beginning to cool. One indicator is rent prices. Just three of 44 Bay Area cities reported increases greater than one percent in average month-to-month rents, the East Bay Times reports. They include Oakland, Pleasant Hill, and surprisingly, San Leandro. $$

3. Anne Weills, the Oakland civil rights attorney who once led opposition to solitary confinement in California has been banned from visiting correctional facilities for allegedly communicating with clients via contraband cell phones, the East Bay Times reports. Weills is married to civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, who ran for Oakland mayor in 2014. $$

4. Lafayette Councilmember Susan Candell, in a reversal, said she will not recuse herself from discussion of a proposed 315-unit apartment project in the notably NIMBY Lamorinda enclave, the East Bay Times reports. Candell ran successfully for the city council on opposition to the project. Last spring, the project’s developer repeatedly called for Candell to recuse herself because of prior advocacy against the development. $$

5. BART Board Director Deborah Allen is proposing an ordinance to ban all panhandling and busking, the ubiquitous side shows that both entertain and annoy weary daily BART riders, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

6. Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo and Assemblymember Rob Bonta spoke at a rally Saturday in support of a citizens-driven, perhaps legally dubious, lawsuit against the NFL in hopes of keeping the Raiders logo and colors in Oakland. Meanwhile, Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown might offer his support for the lawsuit if it means keeping his old helmet. Raiders management questioned Brown’s commitment to the team after he missed practice Sunday because of the continuing helmet controversy, Yahoo! Sports reports.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Bassett Hounds the Astros, A's Rough em Up

Look Ma, No Homers!

by Kibby Kleiman
Sat, Aug 17, 2019 at 6:40 PM

The Oakland A's are playing their most exciting baseball of the year. There have been longer winning streaks, there has been more sustained stat padding, but winning three straight against their first place rivals means that we have arrived at a peak, on our way perhaps to higher peaks? Starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, on the mound today, has got to be the most anonymous looking of a pretty anonymous crew. I kept getting him confused with other A's pitcher, Daniel Gossett and for a fan who watches 60% of 80% of their games still would not recognize Bassitt if he walked past me wearing an A's hat and tossing a baseball. (Needing to ensure that we spelled his name correctly (we didn't) the first online reference was to a Pit Master Bar-B-Que chef) Bassitt was the pits in the first inning, loading the bases, then leaving a runner in scoring position in the second inning, then giving up two runs in the third and very lucky to not be much further behind. And then he slammed the door, throwing a career high 116 pitches and cruising until it was bullpen time. Meanwhile, the A's using their patented small ball offense (patented early this morning) to score eight and win going away. This means that Oakland is now 6 1/2 games out of first place, inches away from wild card ownership and confident as hell heading into Sunday's season finale against another Astro All Star. The A's won with homers on Thursday, with endurance on Friday, and with singles on Saturday. Hard to imagine what exotic method it will take to complete the sweep but thus far this whole series belongs to the believers.

Can The A's catch the Astros?

What is this Wild Card you speak of?

Sat, Aug 17, 2019 at 12:15 PM

If Robbie Grossman driving in Corban Joseph with a seeing eye single in the 13th inning is how you drew it up, then perhaps you can imagine that a 7 1/2 game deficit to the Houston Astros is doable as well. We're starting to believe too.

The A's are figuring out a way to beat a team they can't beat and outlast Justin Verlander, a pitcher they haven't solved for over a decade. This is all being done without the ace of the staff, Frankie Montas who is suspended until the last week of the season and for Khris Davis, whose bat is hibernating until next Spring. Our hottest hitter, Ramon Laureano is injured and we found Joseph, a 30-year old never-was and handed him the keys to second base just this week. The win yesterday was eye-squinting viewing; willing our scattered bullpen to keep the Astro in scoring position from scoring and trying to get our guys another 90 feet closer to victory. As soon as we turned off the TV after twelve unresolved innings, we heard the finish on the radio, suggesting we owe Athletics nation an apology for not thinking of this solution until 11:00 p.m. It is now proven we can beat the Astros in the night time, so we suggest Saturday and Sunday day gamers to keep battling until the 18th innings so we can get them twice more where they are most vulnerable, under the lights. Not sure if that will work, but we didn't think the 2019 line up August edition would be working either.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday's Briefing: BART wants $2.4 million in damages for Downtown Berkeley renovation delays; Beer now on tap at Cal football games

Alameda councilmember drops claim with the city for $90,000 in legal fees

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Aug 16, 2019 at 4:00 AM

Downtown Berkeley BART station. - BART
  • BART
  • Downtown Berkeley BART station.

News you don’t want to miss for Aug. 16-18:

1. BART is seeking $2.4 million in damages from the contractor behind the recent renovation of the Downtown Berkeley station, Berkeleyside reports. The station opened last October, 455 days late.

2. The FBI agent who had a gun, ammunition, and official jacket stolen from a vehicle parked at the Hegenberger Shopping Center was cited by Oakland Police, Bay City News reports. The firearm, however, has recently recovered.

3. Hot weather in the East Bay is expected to cool this weekend, but not before 94 degree temperatures at the Oakland Airport Thursday tied a record last set in 1950, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

4. Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie said he will no longer seek reimbursement for more than $90,000 in legal costs he incurred while defending himself against allegations of political interference made by the city’s former city manager, the East Bay Citizen reports.

5. A complaint was filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and AC Transit alleging they illegally coordinated public resources to support last summer’s Regional Measure 3 toll increase ballot initiative, the Marin Independent Journal reports. $$

6. Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson spoke to a packed house Wednesday night at the East Bay Church of Religious Science in Oakland. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli reports one supporter said Williamson’s self-help books saved her life. $$

7. Because Cal has not played in the Rose Bowl since 1959, you would have thought alcohol is a prerequisite at Memorial Stadium. Not so, apparently. Starting this upcoming college football season, beer and wine will be available at Golden Bears home games, SFGate reports.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

A's get Homer Happy

Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt

by Kibby Kleiman
Thu, Aug 15, 2019 at 10:36 PM

We prefer baseball to Home Run Derby but if you're going to play ball in 2019, might as well win the long ball contest. The A's won a game that they absolutely needed, considering the next three against the first-place Astros will be odds against.

With all due respect to Marcus Semien, Khris Davis and Matt Chapman, we love us some Matt Olson. The A's clean up hitter makes us all nostalgic for what I can't remember us ever having, a slugging lefty first baseman and who launches towering blows that would have gone out in any generation.

Matt Olson hit two home runs (Matt Chapman also hit two) and the most important blow of the game in this most important series. Down 2-0, and with momentum flowing the wrong way, the A's scraped together a pair of base runners, when Olson came to the plate and you just kind of knew that he would go deep. Then he did again later when we couldn't tell. With a Coliseum record ten home runs hit, this was a thoroughly ridiculous game. But a totally necessary win.

Thursday's Briefing: PG&E failed to trim more than 400 trees near power lines; Schaaf cancels event in solidarity with Kaiser union members

Former Oakland city administrator named Coliseum Authority interim CEO

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Aug 15, 2019 at 4:00 AM

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf - CHRIS DUFFEY
  • Chris Duffey
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

News you don't want to miss for Aug. 15:

1. A federal monitor overseeing PG&E's probation found the utility failed to trim vegetation near hundreds of power lines in the the state, The Wall Street Journal reports. The monitor "reviewed more than 1,500 of the company’s vegetation-management projects across 71 miles of power lines and discovered more than 400 trees that the company’s crews may have missed." $$

2. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee hearing Wednesday on PG&E's plan to shutoff power in areas with a high risk for wildfires met strong resistance, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A number of witness were critical of the plan for failing to understand the potential consequences an extended power shutdown might pose for residents and businesses. $$

3. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Francisco Mayor London Breed canceled appearances at a discussion on homelessness in solidarity with Kaiser Permanente union members who had formed at picket lines outside the event, NBC Bay Area reports. The panel at the Commonwealth Club was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. This week Kaiser employees authorized a strike set for October.

4. Ghost Ship trial: The eighth day of deliberations included requests by jurors to have testimony from three witnesses read back to them, KRON reports. One of them is master tenant Derick Almena, who is charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the 2016 warehouse fire.

5. The Berkeley Civic Arts Commission voted last month to remove two sculptures that have long stoked artistic discussion in the city, Berkeleyside reports. The two pieces are seen by thousands of motorists on the pedestrian bridge that stretches across Interstate 80. The works were created by Scott Donahue, who is now an Emeryville councilmember.

6. Henry Gardner, who once served as a popular Oakland city administrator, was named interim CEO of the Oakland Coliseum Authority, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Scott McKibben resigned from the post last week after questions were raised about a conflict-of-interest he may have had in the recent stadium naming-rights deal with RingCentral. Gardner has been busy. He just recently served two weeks as Richmond's interim city manager. $$

7. Matt Chapman hit a pair on home runs Wednesday afternoon to lead the A's to a 9-5 win over the Giants in San Francisco, NBC Sports reports. The A's split the two-game series. The Bay Area rivals will resume the series next week in Oakland.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A's in Splittsville

A bad place to be even when facing the Astros

by Kibby Kleiman
Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 9:16 PM

The A's just finished winning one and losing one against the San Francisco Giants, that following a week in Chicago where Oakland won three and lost three. Which is not going to get this or any team into the playoffs unless they buy a ticket.

Coming up in the next two weeks is lots of Houston Astros and then excessive New York Yankees. We need to find some anti-entropic energy and fast!

Thursday is going to set the tone. The A's throw ace, Mike Fiers against the Astros worst starting pitcher. Failure to exploit the one game where we have an advantage will lead to a baseball shame spiral (also known as Justin Verlander). Part of what makes the past week's equilibrium so uneasy is that this is the part of the season where it is going to feel like victory to go .500. Best news of the week is the rebirth of Matt Chapman. Our platinum-glove winner brought back his booming bat, hitting two home runs against the Giants on a day he probably could have had three. Add that to Monday's good swings, Chapman is getting lethal again during this playoff drive; see Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Josh Donaldson as points of historical reference. The A's are one of three teams chasing two spots in the wild-card race and their rivals aren't losing...yet. Thursday might be the closet thing to a must-win game this season. The A's have to be better than even Steven Piscotty to make the Rays and Indians feel the pressure of the pennant race. Time to bring some serious imbalance to the ballpark this weekend.

Wednesday's Briefing: Kaiser workers to strike in October; Facial recognition software falsely IDs East Bay state senator as a criminal

Report: Shake Shack is coming to Oakland's Uptown Station

by Steven Tavares
Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 4:00 AM

East Bay State Sen. Steve Glazer was one of 26 state lawmakers falsely identified as a criminal by facial recognition software. - GLAZER SENATE OFFICE
  • Glazer senate office
  • East Bay State Sen. Steve Glazer was one of 26 state lawmakers falsely identified as a criminal by facial recognition software.

News you don’t want to miss for Aug. 14:

1. "Kaiser Permanente workers in California have voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike in October that would be the largest in the United States in 20 years," SFGate reports. The strike would affect East Bay Kaiser facilities in Oakland, San Leandro, Pleasanton, and Fremont.

2. Amazon's facial recognition software falsely identified 26 California legislators as criminals, including East Bay State Sen. Steve Glazer, Vice reports. Recall, Oakland recently enacted a citywide ban on the purchase of facial recognition software.

3. Richmond hired Steven Falk as interim city manager Tuesday night. Falk served as city manager in Lafayette until last year when he famously quit out of frustration due to the city's rabid NIMBY elements. Richmond parted ways with former city manager Carlos Martinez last month.

4. "A coalition of 21 Democratic-led states sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its decision to ease restrictions on coal-fired power plants, with California’s governor saying the president is trying to rescue an outdated industry," the Associated Press reports.

5. PG&E is accused of attempting to avoid liabilities stemming from the 2017 Wine Country fires, the Mercury News reports. Meanwhile, a $105 million fund set up by PG&E to aid victims of recent wildfires will begin taking applications, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

6. Shake Shack is coming to downtown Oakland, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The gourmet burger joint is reportedly slated for the Uptown Station building on Broadway once owned by Uber.

7. The hometown A's fell to the Giants in San Francisco Tuesday night, 3-2, but not before A's fans attempted to take over McCovey Cove, NBC Sports reports.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tuesday's Briefing: OPD officers file lawsuit alleging Police Commission lacks power to fire them; Lawmakers grill CSU officials over secret reserves

A's, Giants begin Bay Bridge Series tonight

by Steven Tavares
Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 4:00 AM

  • File Photo

News you don’t want to miss for Aug. 13:

1. Five Oakland police officers which the Oakland Police Commission recommended to be fired for the killing of a homeless man last year, filed a lawsuit Monday alleging the commission lacks the authority to dismiss them, KTVU reports.

2. State lawmakers grilled Cal State University officials at a hearing Monday about a state audit that revealed the college system secretly built $1.5 billion in reserves at the same time approving steep increases in student tuition, Courthouse News reports.

3. Amelia Earhart was en route to Oakland for the last leg of an around-the-world trip in 1937 when her aircraft disappeared somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Now, Robert Ballard, the man who discovered the wreckage of the Titanic, will mount an effort to locate the famous aviator, The New York Times reports.

4. In response to the Gilroy shooting, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing a city ordinance that would require gun owners to have liability insurance, AXIOS reports. If such insurance is unavailable, gun owners would pay into a fund that would cover the costs associated with gun violence.

5. In a decision that could have ramifications for East Bay State Sen. Nancy Skinner’s legislation that would require the N.C.A.A. to pay student athletes when their names and likeness are used, comes a ruling by a San Francisco Appeals Court that a former U.S.C. football player was not an employee of the N.C.A.A. or the university while he played for the school, the Associated Press reports.

6. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown may not retire after all. An arbitrator ruled Monday against a grievance he filed against the NFL to allow him to wear his preferred, albeit obsolete helmet, during games, USA Today reports. Controversy never stops with the Raiders. Brown reported to the team this month with frostbitten feet after stepping into a cryogenic device without property shoes. He later threatened to retire from football if he couldn't use his old helmet during games.

7. Yesterday, it was reported that Oakland is beating San Francisco in new housing units this year. Will the East Bay city’s dominance extend to the baseball diamond? The A’s travel to Oracle Park in San Francisco to face the Giants tonight in the first game of this year’s Bay Bridge Series, NBC Sports Bay Area reports. The Bay Area rivals will resume the series in Oakland next week.

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