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Posts Tagged ‘Oakland Athletics’

For the first four innings of today’s matinee between the Yankees and Athletics, Oakland seemed well on its way toward sweeping it first series in the Bronx since June 2006. Then, the Yankees scored 20 runs over the next four innings, turning a 7-2 deficit into a 22-9 victory.

In order to effect the comeback, the Yankees hit two grand slams in successive innings. Robinson Cano belted the first one, which cut the deficit to one run in the fifth, and then, in the following frame, Russell Martin added the second. It was only the fourth time in franchise history that the Yankees hit two grand slams in one game. 

Yankees’ Multi-Grand Slam Games, Since 1901

Date Opp Score Stadium Batters
8/24/2011 OAK 22-9 Yankee Stadium Robinson Cano Russell Martin
        Curtis Granderson  
9/14/1999 TOR 10-6 SkyDome Bernie Williams Paul O’Neill
6/29/1987 TOR 15-14 Exhibition Stadium Don Mattingly Dave Winfield
5/24/1936 PHA 25-2 Shibe Park Tony Lazzeri (2)  


Source: Baseball-reference.com

Not content to merely tie a franchise and league record, the Yankees proceeded to load the bases again…and again…and again. In the seventh inning alone, the Yankees had six different plate appearances with the bases loaded, but the record breaking third grand slam proved elusive. However, after two more failed attempts with the bags juiced in the eighth, Curtis Granderson finally put an exclamation point on history by depositing a 1-2 fastball into the Yankees’ bullpen.

Yankees’ Grand Slams by Year, Since 1950

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Seattle isn’t the only city with streakers. A whole team of them just ran through Oakland.

Over the past three-plus seasons, the Yankees have had their way with the Athletics. Since 2008, the team has compiled a 24-4 (.857) record against the A’s, which, following the recent sweep at the Collisseum, now includes a current 10-game winning streak.

The last time the Yankees lost to the Athletics, a 4-2 defeat on April 22, 2010, the result was obscured by the on-field confrontation between Dallas Braden and Alex Rodriguez. However, ever since Braden showed New York how it was done “in the 209”, the Athletics haven’t even been in the same area code as the Yankees.

The Yankees’ dominance over the Athletics is not unlike the way the Bash Brother teams of the early 1990s used to manhandle the Bronx Bombers. At one point, Tony LaRussa’s powerhouse A’s reeled off 16 consecutive victories over the hapless Yankees, coming within one victory of the longest winning streak by one team against the franchise.

Yankees’ Longest Winning and Losing Streaks by Franchise

vs. W Strk Years vs. L Strk Years
Orioles 21 1927 Red Sox 17 1911-12
Athletics 16 1919 Athletics 16 1989-91
Indians 13 1976-77 Indians 13 1908
Twins 13 2002-03 Tigers 12 1908
Blue Jays 13 1995-96 Orioles 11 1907-08
Red Sox 12 1936, 1952-53 Blue Jays 10 1992
Royals 12 1997-98 Twins 9 1912
Tigers 11 1942 White Sox 8 1967, 1972-73
Rays 11 1998-1999 Brewers 7 1972-73
White Sox 10 1944-45, 1964 Rangers 7 1990
Rangers 10 1961-1962 Angels 5 Several
Mariners 8 1999, 2007-08 Royals 5 1978, 1990
Angels 7 1980-81 Mariners 5 Several
Brewers 7 1971-72 Rays 4 2005
Mets 7 2002-03 Mets 3 Several

Note: Only includes teams against which the Yankees have played at least 25 games.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Fear the Beard?

Forget “Fear the Beard”. Brian Wilson’s now infamous black mane has gained so much notoriety that his new slogan should be “Hear the Beard” because it has become nearly impossible to avoid. From print to television to video games, Wilson’s famous, and infamous, facial hair has gained so much exposure that it might soon require an agent of its own (click here for a youtube page dedicated to the Beard). Perhaps that’s why it seems as if many others in the game have decided to eschew the razor.

In the very early days of baseball, beards, mustaches, and sideburns were actually quite popular. Before the turn of the 20th century, facial hair was as common as spit balls, but sometime in the early 1910s, the clean shaven look became the norm. For most of the next 60-plus years, the beard was all but banned from the game. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find a photo from this era showing a player with any kind of facial hair.

Mustaches were common place during the 19th century, as evidenced by the team photo of the 1885 National League champion Chicago White Stockings, who were led by Hall of Famer Cap Anson (top row, three from the left).

One of the main reasons that baseball decided to adapt a de facto clean cut mandate was so it could portray itself as a wholesome, family-oriented game. Over time, however, the growing influence of razor and shaving cream ad dollars may have also contributed to the cause. Whatever the motivation, beards and mustaches were relegated to the bush leagues. Barnstorming teams like the House of David and various copy cats*, including a Negro League counterpart, toured the country playing high quality opponents, but the main attraction was always the players’ flowing beards. Whenever these whiskered teams rolled into town, the local newspapers were sure to play up their prominent facial adornments.

*There were so many imitators of the House of David that the outfit sought to copyright the fashion statement. However, in a decision rendered on May 24, 1934, Judge John M. Woolsey ruled that “from time immemorial beards have been in the public domain”.

The House of David baseball team, depicted here in 1916, was composed of members of a Michigan-based religious colony.

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“Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” Yogi Berra once observed. Although that confusing statement usually draws a chuckle when repeated, those who play the game understand exactly what it means. More than any other major team sport, baseball is a game played as much with the mind as the muscle. Not only do the many split second decisions require intense mental preparation, but the psychological toll of the long season, with all of its failure, must be maddening. After all, the very best baseball players fail more often than not, and what’s worse, their shortcomings are spotlighted by the individual nature of the game.

Harvey Dorfman spent almost 30 years trying to unlock the mental side of baseball.

If any sport benefits from the use of psychology, it’s baseball. And, if Yogi Berra wasn’t the game’s first psychologist, that distinction certainly belongs to Harvey Dorfman, who passed away on Monday at the age of 75.

In 1984, Dorfman became the first full-time counselor employed by a major league baseball team when the Oakland Athletics hired him to “coach” young players identified as having trouble focusing. At the time of his hiring, Dorfman actually sounded a lot like Yogi. “Ask any coach and he says 80 percent of the game is mental…but yet they have never had anyone working full-time on that part of the game,” he reasoned. Based on that sound logic, a new component of player development was born.

Dorfman, who studied psychology in college but had previously been employed as a baseball columnist and school teacher in Vermont, first started working with the Athletics’ minor league teams, including the Albany-Colonie affiliate, which won 25 of the first 40 games played during his consultation and coasted to the Eastern League regular season title. By the next spring training, Dorfman was working with the big club, a relationship he maintained over the next 10 years.

After his tenure in Oakland, Dorfman continued a long and successful career in baseball, including three years on staff with the Marlins. One product of his time in Florida was Al Leiter, who completely turned around his career upon joining the Marlins in 1996. Yankees’ fans watching on YES should be very familiar with this case study. One of the most repeated phrases uttered by Leiter when serving as an analyst is the need for a pitcher “to visualize and execute a pitch”. That’s Harvey Dorfman.

He told me to stop making excuses for bad outings. Nobody cares. Just get out there and get it done. He’s one of the main reasons why I was able to pitch for another 12 years after I got hurt.” – Al Leiter, speaking about Harvey Dorfman, Newsday, April 9, 2010

In order to crack into the big leagues, Dorfman needed a benefactor with roots in the game. Considering the macho culture of major league baseball, the stigma of “counseling” was a significant obstacle to overcome. All it took, however, was for someone to make the connection between counseling and improved performance. That man turned out to be career minor leaguer and former Expos manager Karl Kuehl. (more…)

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

This morning, a clean cut Eric Chavez trotted out to third base at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa and began taking ground balls. Eager to embark on a second career, Chavez told the assembled group of beat writers that he has “a new heartbeat over here”, referring to his new team and anticipated role as a backup player.

Eric Chavez talks to reporters after working out at the Yankees’ minor league complex (Photo: @BryanHoch)

Already an “old man” in baseball circles, thanks mostly to debilitating back and shoulder injuries that robbed him of a once promising career, it’s hard to remember that Chavez was once part of the heart and soul of a young Athletics team that made the playoffs in the first four seasons of the last decade. During the first year of the string, Chavez was a standout in the 2000 ALDS, batting .333 and knocking in four runs against the Yankees. However, during that series, Chavez made more noise with his mouth than his bat.

After losing game 4 in an 11-1 route, the older Yankee team had to fly across country to play a fifth and deciding game the very next day. While warming up on the field before the game, a larger than life image of Chavez appeared on the Oakland Coliseum scoreboard. The segment was a pre-game interview with the confident third baseman, who had gone 2-5 with two RBIs in the previous game. When asked about the prospect of ending the Yankees’ dynasty, Chavez’ response was very matter of fact and dripping with an air of inevitability. “I don’t mind at all. I mean, they’ve won enough times,” Chavez’ voice boomed throughout the stadium. “It’s time for some other people to have some glory here. But, no, they had a great run.”

According to reports at the time, the Yankees took immediate notice of Chavez’ proclamation, especially one word: “had”. Although the team probably didn’t need the extra motivation, the brash eulogy proved to be premature. Not only did the Yankees go on to beat the A’s 7-5 in the deciding fifth game, but Chavez made the last out that sent the Yankees onward toward another championship. What’s more, the Yankees knocked the Athletics out of the playoffs in 2001 for good measure. Over the rest of his time in Oakland, Chavez and the Athletics would only win one postseason series. Meanwhile, the Yankees would win two more championships and four A.L. pennants. So much for ending the dynasty.

I think it’s fitting that the last out was from the guy who insinuated that we were over the hill. It’s my understanding that we’re not done yet.”Bernie Williams, quoted in The New York Times, October 9, 2000

The Yankees never did pass the torch to the Athletics. Eventually, the big three pitching staff of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder as well as offensive standouts like Jason Giambi, and Miguel Tejada all moved on from the cost conscious A’s. Amid all the movement, however, Chavez remained. In March 2004, the Athletics signed their talented young third baseman to a six-year/$66 million extension.

Toward the end of his time in Oakland, Chavez spent more time in the trainer’s room than on the field.

At the time, the contract extension seemed like a shrewd move by the Athletics. Only 25 at the time, Chavez was not only a potent hitter, but also a bona fide Gold Glover at third (an earlier generation’s Evan Longoria), making him one of the game’s best all-around players. Almost immediately after signing the extension, however, Chavez began to suffer from a string of injuries. First, a broken hand in 2004 caused him to miss over 30 games in what was shaping up to be his best season. Then, a series of shoulder and back injuries gradually reduced him to a shell of his former self. Over the final three years of his contract, Chavez earned $35 million but only played in 64 games.

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