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AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE A’S, THE GIANTS AND THE LEAGUE

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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PREVIEW 2018

Bay Area News Group $4.95

A BAY AREA NEWS GROUP PREMIUM EDITION


Say hey, thanks for the memories WILLIE MAYS WALKS TO HIS POSITION IN CENTER FIELD FOR THE LAST TIME AS A GIANT. MAYS WAS TRADED THE NEXT DAY — MAY 11, 1972 —TO THE NEW YORK METS FOR A PITCHER NAMED CHARLIE WILLIAMS AND $50,000.


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THE GIANTS

THE A’S

A father’s sacrifice

Mysticism and moxie

The Giants’ biggest off-season acquisition, former MVP Andrew McCutchen, plays with a joy his father made possible.

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Two teams and 110 years of Major League Baseball

PLUS: IS EVAN LONGORIA THE GUY TO RESTORE THE GIANTS’ SWAG? PAGE 22

Vida Blue, the most accomplished player to wear the green-and-gold and the black-and-orange, shares how the colorful personalities and championship teams of the A’s and Giants forged a passion that runs from Monterey to Marin and points far beyond.

Can third baseman Matt Chapman’s talent and charisma bring the A’s organization back from obscurity? PAGE 40

PLUS: KENDALL GRAVEMAN NEEDS TO BE A “KNIFE FIGHTER” AGAIN. PAGE 48

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PLUS: DANIEL BROWN ON THE FIRST COUPLE OF SPORTSWRITING. PAGE 58

C O V E R I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y D AV I D E B A R C O PA G E 2 P H O T O B Y R O N R I E S T E R E R

Section Editors: Mark Conley Section Designers: Chris Gotsill, Jennifer Schaefer Copy Editing: Richard Parrish, Darryl Matsuda

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WHAT’S GREEN AND GOLD AND BLACK AND ORANGE ALL OVER?

S TO R Y B Y DA N B R OW N

I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y J E F F D U R H A M

HAPPY ANNIVERSARIES, VIDA BLUE. NO ONE HAS VIEWED EVERY LITTLE FASCINATING PLOT TWIST SURROUNDING BAY AREA BASEBALL THROUGH QUITE THE SAME PRISM AS YOU.

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e wore Charlie Finley’s crazy uniforms and endured Candlestick Park’s fickle winds. He saw Reggie Jackson say hello and watched Willie McCovey say goodbye. He started an All-Star Game for the A’s as a wide-eyed kid in 1971 and one for the Giants as a steely-eyed veteran in 1978. You want to know the history of major league baseball in the Bay Area? Vida Blue is here to serve as your guide. As the A’s (50 years) and Giants (60) prepare to celebrate milestones in 2018, we asked Vida Blue to raise a glass to both teams. For him, it’s happy anniversaries. “Baseball opened doors for me on both sides of the bay,’’ Blue said. At 68, the left-hander is the living embodiment of those Bay Bridge Series caps split down the middle. Blue pitched in the A’s organization from 1967-77 and for the Giants from 1978-81 and ‘85-86. Then again, Blue always has been good at covering both sides: He remains the last switch-hitter to win the American League MVP award (in 1971, two years before the DH). So here’s a look at the two

SEE VIDA ON PAGE 69


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THE GIANTS

60 YEARS WORTH OF

Aug. 19, 1957 “We’re going to San Francisco,’’ owner Horace Stoneham declares after years of declining attendance at the Polo Grounds. When Stoneham was told New York kids love the Giants, the owner replied: “Yes, but I haven’t seen many of their fathers at the games lately.”

MEMORIES

April 15, 1958 In the first major league game played on the West Coast, the Giants rock Don Drysdale and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-0 at Seals Stadium. Daryl Spencer and Orlando Cepeda homer. (opposite page, top)

July 30, 1959 Willie McCovey goes 4 for 4 with two triples against Robin Roberts in his major league debut. McCovey would win Rookie of the Year honors, following Cepeda, who won it in ’58.

April 12, 1960 Candlestick Park opens with a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals. Baseball fans would continue to shiver through 1999. (opposite page, bottom left)

S I N C E T H E G I A N T S M OV E D W E S T I N 1 958, T H E R E H A S B E E N N O S H O R TAG E O F E XC I T I N G M O M E N T S , M E M O R A B L E C H A R AC T E R S O R C R U E L H E A R T B R E A KS I N S A N F R A N C I S C O. H E R E ’ S A S T R O L L D OW N M E M O RY L A N E .

April 30, 1961 Fighting off a bout of food poisoning, Willie Mays jumps back into the starting lineup against the Milwaukee Braves and hits four home runs, becoming the seventh player since 1900 to accomplish that feat. (bottom middle)

July 11, 1961 A stiff wind forces Giants reliever Stu Miller to sway on the mound at Candlestick Park — the most famous balk in All-Star Game history.

Oct. 16, 1962 McCovey blisters a line drive to Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson for the final out of the World Series. Felipe Alou was at third base and Mays at second, and the 1-0 loss in Game 7 haunted McCovey for years.

July 2, 1963

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Juan Marichal outduels Warren Spahn as both pitchers carry shutouts into the 16th inning. Mays ends the greatest pitching duel of all-time, 1-0, with a homer into the Candlestick Park seats. (this page, bottom right)

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May 11, 1972 The Giants trade Mays to the New York Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000.

1979 Shortstop Johnnie LeMaster responds to constant jeers at Candlestick Park by changing his name to “BOO” on the back of his uniform. (this page, bottom)

Oct. 6, 1985 The Giants fall 8-7 to the Atlanta Braves, losing 100 games for the only time in franchise history. New manager Roger Craig would soon usher in an era of Humm-Baby electricity.

April 8, 1986 On Opening Day in Houston Will Clark hits a home run against Nolan Ryan with the first swing of his big league career.

Oct. 1987 Jeffrey Leonard hits four home runs and posts a .917 slugging percentage against the St. Louis Cardinals in NLCS. The Giants lose the seven-game series, but “Hac Man” turns his One Flap Down home run trot into an art form.

1965 Mays wins his second MVP award (his only one in San Francisco) by hitting .317 with 52 home runs, 112 RBI and a 1.042 OPS.

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May 8, 1966 The Giants trade Cepeda to St. Louis for pitcher Ray Sadecki. Cepeda goes on to win the MVP Award in 1967 and help the Cardinals win the World Series.

Sept 17, 1968 Gaylord Perry no-hits St. Louis at Candlestick Park; a day later Ray Washburn repays the favor by no-hitting the Giants.

Aug. 10, 1989 Dave Dravecky returns from cancer to throw eight strong innings against the Cincinnati Reds at Candlestick Park. (opposite page)

Oct. 9, 1989 Will Clark’s two-run, eighth-inning single against Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams finishes off the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS and propels the Giants into their first World Series since 1962.

Oct. 17, 1989 A magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocks Candlestick Park just minutes before Game 3 of the World Series. The postponement is part of an anticlimactic sweep at the hands of the A’s. (this page, top)

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18/2001

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17/2000


Aug. 7, 1992 A Mercury News headline blares “Bye-Bye, Giants: Lurie accepts offer, team is headed to St. Petersburg.” But N.L. owners reject the move, which allows a group featuring Peter Magowan and Larry Baer to swoop in for a save.

Dec. 6, 1992 In an attempt to revive the franchise, the Giants sign free agent Barry Bonds to a then-record six-year, $43.75 million contract. “It’s a lot of money, but there’s only one Barry Bonds,’’ Magowan says.

1993 The Giants set a franchise-record by going 103-59 behind new manager Dusty Baker and MVP Bonds. Their failure to make the playoffs helps open the door for the addition of a “wild card” entrant first used in the ’95 season.

1994 The Giants pair former 20-game winner Mike Krukow with scrappy second baseman Duane Kuiper in the booth, creating broadcast magic that endures to this day.

Dec. 11, 1997 Construction begins on a $357 million ballpark at China Basin, the first privately financed major league ballpark to be built in 38 years. (opposite page, top)

April 11, 2000 Kirk Rueter delivers the first pitch in the history of what was then known as Pacific Bell Park. Kevin Elster hits three home runs in the Dodgers’ 6-5 victory. (this page)

Oct. 7, 2001 Bonds drills a full-count pitch from Dennis Springer of the Los Angeles Dodgers for his 73rd home run of the season, establishing a single-season record. (opposite page, bottom)

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Oct. 26, 2002 Scott Spiezio homers against Giants reliever Felix Rodriguez, igniting an Angels comeback in Game 6 of the World Series. Anaheim erased a 5-0 deficit in that game and won the decisive Game 7 the next day. (this page)

June 5, 2006 The Giants select University of Washington pitcher Tim Lincecum with the 10th overall pick of the First-Year Player Draft. “The Freak” would win two Cy Young Awards and throw two no-hitters. (opposite page, top left)

Aug. 7, 2007 Bonds hits home run No. 756 to surpass Hank Aaron for the all-time career record. “Let the debate about the authenticity of Bonds’s record begin,’’ the New York Times wrote that night. “It will be here for a while.” (opposite page, top right)

June 5, 2008 The Giants select Florida State catcher Buster Posey with the fifth overall pick of the FirstYear Player Draft. He wins Rookie of the Year in 2010 and MVP in 2012.

Nov. 1, 2010 Brian Wilson strikes out Nelson Cruz swinging to finish off the Texas Rangers in Game 5, making the “Band of Misfits” the first Giants team to win a World Series since 1954 in New York.

June 13, 2012 Matt Cain throws the only perfect game in the history of the franchise, a 14-strikeout effort against the Houston Astros in a 10-0 victory at AT&T Park. (opposite page, bottom left)

Oct. 28, 2012 Behind dominant pitching and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval (who hit three home runs in Game 1) the Giants sweep the Detroit Tigers. Sergio Romo strikes out Miguel Cabrera in the 10th to close Game 4.

Oct. 29, 2014 Madison Bumgarner comes out of the bullpen for five shutout innings to hold off the Royals, 3-2, in Game 7 of the World Series. For the postseason, Bumgarner goes 2-0 with an 0.43 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 21.0 innings. (opposite page, bottom right)

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20/2006

21/2007

25/2012

ASSOCIATED PRESS; STAFF ARCHIVES

26/2014

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ANDREW MCCUTCHEN

PROTECTING HIS

HOUSE

THE GIANTS NEWCOMER HAS A STRONG S E N S E O F F A M I LY A N D TA K E S T H E F I E L D W I T H A J OY H I S FAT H E R M A D E P O S S I B L E S TO R Y B Y DA N I E L B R OW N • I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y M A R T I N S AT I


THE GIANTS

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Andrew McCutchen might not be the player he was at his peak, when he led the National League in offensive WAR for three consecutive seasons (201214), but his reputation remains unchanged.

pounds,’’ he said, still impressed. Because they were also roommates, Needs remembers the day McCutchen decided to give it all up and head back to Fort Meade, Florida. He eventually became a youth pastor. “He had a real strong sense of what was right and what was wrong,’’ Needs said in a telephone interview. “He had been raised well and was really morally responsible. He just said, ‘David, I have to take care of my family.’ ” Lorenzo returned to Fort Meade to join Andrew’s mother, Petrina Swan. (Lorenzo and Petrina were married Aug. 1, 1992). The couple lived in a trailer park and worked multiple jobs to afford their son’s youth-league entry fees and equipment costs. Lorenzo worked as an assistant manager at a grocery store, a chicken fryer at Junior Foods and a phosphate miner at night. Petrina, a former high school volleyball star, worked as a clerk at the Fort Meade sheriff’s department. Even with all that, it was barely enough. Jon Spradlin, who coached Andrew in high school, ventures that there were times when Lorenzo could cover everything but his own game ticket. “He’d get (Andrew) to the games and, quite honestly, his dad couldn’t afford to get into the tournament,’’ Spradlin said. “He might have had to watch from outside. But he’d find a way to get him there and let him go perform.” Spradlin continues to marvel at how little has changed, even after Andrew’s five All-Star games and $50 million in career earnings. “His parents,’’ Spradlin said,

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orenzo McCutchen, the outfielder’s father, hoped to become a college football star one day. Andrew McCutchen, the newest Giant, can tell you why he didn’t.“He had a newborn,’’ Andrew said, smiling widely, “and that newborn was me.” Lorenzo abandoned his college football career in 1989 and returned home to help raise his 2-year-old boy. Andrew McCutchen remains forever grateful, and he plays that way. As the former MVP gears up for his first season in San Francisco, he wants his new fans to know why he’s still a little kid inside. He wants people to understand that he takes the field with a joy his father made possible. To put a twist on that old Ernie Banks line: “Let’s play for two.” “My dad had to come back (home) and throw football away,’’ Andrew said. “Well, not throw that away, but take care of something that was a little more important. And I’m happy he did that.” Lorenzo McCutchen made it as far as his redshirt freshman season at Carson-Newman University, a Division II school in Jefferson City, Tennessee. That’s hardly a pipeline to the NFL, but it’s worth noting that the running back ahead of him on the depth chart, Vernon Turner, carved out a 54game career as a special teamer. David Needs, the Carson-Newman quarterback during that time, recalled that Lorenzo bulldozed opponents during contact drills and put on a show in the weight room. “Here was a running back who was benching 350

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THE GIANTS

“still get up and go to work every morning.’’ G R I D I R O N TO U G H N E S S

finished his nine-year Pittsburgh career with 203 home runs, joining Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente as the only players with at least 200 homers as a Pirate. Giants closer Mark Melancon played parts of four seasons in Pittsburgh and saw first-hand how the sleekly built outfielder generated unexpected power. “I don’t know if anybody in the game has quicker hands,’’ Melancon said. “I think just it’s that explosiveness. He’s able to produce just lightning-quick hands and feet. That nervous system is different than most, those fast-twitch muscles.” McCutchen, 31, showed off

Andrew McCutchen, a career center fielder, will play right field for the Giants. The 2012 Gold Glove winner pushed back when the Pirates tried to make that move.

those fast-twitch muscles on Instagram during the off-season. He posted a video clip of himself running on the treadmill at a leg-blurring 26 mph. It looks as if someone hit the fast-forward button. That’s why Melancon celebrated the Giants’ trade for McCutchen by hopping on the treadmill and posting his own clip on social media. His pace, though, was the tortoise to McCutchen’s hare. “He’s just so impressive in everything he does that I don’t even try to go down that road and fight him,’’ Melancon said. McCutchen was a bit of a physical anomaly even as a

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Baseball was Andrew’s athletic path even as a little kid, but having a hard-blocking fullback as a father instilled him with a dose of gridiron toughness. “He was a guy that used his football mentality and put it on the baseball side,’’ McCutchen said. “So a lot of the stuff I learned, I learned it a little different.” For example, there’s the lesson about avoiding strikeouts. Some young players are told to shorten their swing or keep their eye on the ball. Lorenzo’s coaching advice was a tad more intense. “One of the things that he used to preach when I was a kid was that home plate was my house. And my sister was in that ‘house’ and my mom was in that ‘house,’ ” McCutchen said. “And when they pitched the ball, you don’t want anybody to get in it. He told me to hit that ball so no one would get in my house. He would tell me to protect my house. “He would say that all the time. That was my mentality, and I think that helped me as a kid growing up. He knew what fueled me to make me better. If it made me emotional, it made me better.” Such ingrained self-defense reflexes help explain how McCutchen manages to generate offensive lineman strength out of a cornerback body. Listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, McCutchen hit 28 home runs last season, his seventh consecutive season with at least 20 home runs. A right-handed hitter, he

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McCutchen, the 11th pick in the 2005 draft, has swiped 171 bases in his career.

the story: Andrew McCutchen was here for five years, and not once was it ever, ‘I can do this. I can do that. I’m this good.’ “He just showed up and did his work every day. He worked hard, and it showed in games. It was never about him.” CHANGE IN POSITION

McCutchen, a career center fielder, will play right field for the Giants. The Pirates tried to make that move last year, owing to the 2012 Gold Glove winner’s declining range. McCutchen’s first reaction was shock. His second reaction was: “I don’t want to do this.” As he wrote in The Players’ Tribune last February: “In my mind, center field is my spot. I’m the center fielder. I always have been. And I was proud of that.” But he eventually agreed, in part because his father always told him to be an athlete who can play anywhere or do anything. He also reminded himself that playing in right field in Pittsburgh meant following in Roberto Clemente’s footsteps. The experiment lasted only a few weeks before McCutchen moved back to center in the wake of Starling Marte’s injury. But along the way, he posted a photo of Clemente tipping his cap to the home crowd. “I definitely felt a connection,’’ McCutchen said this spring. “The philanthropy throughout his career was something that was very intriguing to me. I learned that he was a great player but an even better person.” Clemente, a Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star, died in a

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kid. Fort Meade High School is what’s called a “middle-senior” high school, meaning it includes students from sixth grade through 12th. When he tried out for the baseball team as an eighth grader, McCutchen planned on reporting to the junior varsity squad. Spradlin caught him first and directed him to varsity practice. “No, that guy ain’t going nowhere,’’ the coach joked. “I think he’s probably the only kid who came in middle school that never played a JV inning.” McCutchen batted .591 as a freshman and led the county in hitting. “To be honest, he was never bigger or stronger than anybody. It was just his skill set,’’ Spradlin said. “Here was this kid who at that time was, I don’t know, 140 pounds? But he just had this bat speed. You have 18-year-old kids who don’t know the strike zone like he did.” By the time McCutchen was a senior, 30 to 50 scouts showed up for batting practice, arriving at 4:30 p.m. for a 7:30 game. One day during BP, McCutchen launched one from home plate to a distant cow pasture. A scout hopped over the fence behind home plate and began stepping off the distance to see how far it went. (Spradlin thinks it was about 400 feet.) Most impressive of all, Spradlin said, is that McCutchen never showed a trace of ego. Lorenzo and Petrina made sure of that. “Nowadays, man, kids are just completely different,’’ Spradlin said, referring to the kid who was the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft. “And we always talk about

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THE GIANTS

McCutchen, left, laughs with coach Hensley Meulens during a spring training workout in Scottsdale, Arizona. He spent much of the spring providing the kind of quiet leadership the Giants hoped for when they acquired him, tutoring rookie Steven Duggar, the center fielder of the future.

to ask her out ... and she shut me down,’’ McCutchen said. “And she shut me down, like, five more times after that.” Maria figured he was a typical ballplayer on the prowl. McCutchen got a date only after proving he was a man of substance. He proposed to Maria on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2013. “Definitely out of my league,” McCutchen says now, “but I did it. I did it!” Andrew and Maria settled in Pittsburgh, had a child last November and bought a beautiful home. Even after leaving for San Francisco, he vowed that he left his heart in Pittsburgh. McCutchen wrote a sweet farewell letter to fans there, vowing to forever stay connected to the Steel City. (“Maybe when I’m 100, they’ll drag my butt back down to Florida, snowbird-style,’’ he wrote.) But McCutchen wants to clear up one misconception. As much as he loves Pittsburgh, he did not name his son Steel in honor of the city. He and Maria had always planned on picking a strong name for their child, and Steel fit the bill. “Next thing you know, one thing led to another, and everybody said, ‘Oh, you named your kid after Pittsburgh,’ ” McCutchen says now. “Well, not really.” P O P, B U T N O P U B

One of the perks of joining the Giants is that McCutchen doesn’t have to be the face of anything. The Giants already have more faces than a winning poker hand thanks to the likes of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence.

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plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. “He used baseball to be able to do so much good in the community — so much so that he ended up losing his life trying to help others,’’ McCutchen said. “And for me, that’s the greatest thing you can do in your life.” While in Pittsburgh, he combined with Pirates Charities to found “Cutch’s Crew,” a program designed to mentor inner-city youth baseball players. He also supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, the Light of Life Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity, among others. He won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2015. “He was a face of the franchise, which almost every team has. But I think there’s a lot more that went into that because he’s such a class guy and stood for so many good things,’’ Melancon said. “It was pretty cool to see how one person can change a city.” Or, as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle once said: “This is the guy I’d let hit third and date my daughter.” McCutchen charmed Pittsburgh quickly, but one particular woman took some extra effort. Not long after the outfielder made his major league debut in 2009, at age 22, he met a young Pirates employee named Maria Hanslovan at a baseball camp. Then they started bumping into each other on random occasions throughout the city. “So eventually I got the courage

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McCutchen needs to provide some pop for a team that finished last in home runs last season and upgrade an outfield defense that should have played with butterfly nets a year ago. He spent much of the spring providing the kind of quiet leadership the Giants hoped for when they acquired him in exchange for pitcher Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. McCutchen tutored rookie Steven Duggar, the center fielder of the future, on the nuances of the position. Even during games, he’d catch Duggar’s eye and reposition him a few steps here or there based on the situation. McCutchen might not be the player he was at his peak, when he led the National League in offensive WAR for three consecutive seasons (2012-14). But his reputation remains unchanged. “Another true pro,’’ second baseman Joe Panik said. “Another guy that’s going to come in and not be afraid of the big moment. He’s proven throughout his career that he can play with the best of them.” This is why Lorenzo McCutchen gave up football. This is why Petrina McCutchen wound up belting out the national anthem at Pirates games over the years. This is why Andrew McCutchen is still protecting his house. “Everybody that I’ve known who knows Andrew McCutchen would say that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has integrity,’’ said Needs, the Carson-Newman football teammate. “And I don’t have to look very far to find out where that comes from.”


IS HE STILL

THE DUDE? Evan Longoria hopes to prove so for a Giants team that very much needs both his swagger and his production S TO R Y B Y K E R RY C R OW L E Y P H OTO BY A R I C C R A B B

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van Longoria doesn’t gloat, but he doesn’t lack for confidence either. From time to time, he’ll indulge reporters and share a few memories from his journey. But to understand how a high school shortstop with zero college scholarship offers became one of the best third basemen of his era, don’t rely on the tales of his scaling a steep hill during practices or hitting the weight room after dark. Nearly every overlooked player who “makes it” in professional baseball has stories about taking extra swings, extra ground balls and extra sets of squats. Not every player has Longoria’s swagger. Consider the first home run he hit in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. “He hit it over the batting cage that was in left field,” coach John Schiffner said. “Absolute monster shot. And he watched it at home plate, and I jumped off the bench and I said, ‘Dammit, run!’ He gets to home plate, and of course guys are high-fiving him, and I said, ‘Don’t you ever do that again,’ and I’m just swearing at him and he said, ‘Aw Schiff, I crushed that … ’ ” The fact Longoria even played for Schiffner, the winningest coach in Cape Cod Baseball League history, is an underdog story in its own right. Before the undersized infielder — Longoria says he stood 5-foot-10, likely less — fought to find a roster spot in college baseball’s top summer league, he struggled to find a Division I college that wanted him. “I just wasn’t as physically impressive as some other guys, so I think that kind of gets overlooked,” said Longoria, who at age 32, stands 6-1 and weighs 215 pounds. “I don’t know if there’s another reason, really. I just wasn’t that fun to watch early on.” Longoria’s college career began at Rio Hondo in Whittier, just a few miles from his Southern California hometown of Downey. Mike Salazar, the coach at Rio

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Two summers after no college would have him, Longoria was MVP of the best summer league for college players.

Hondo, said he needed just one look to know Longoria could play. “The first game I saw he hit a home run, made some good plays and was just solid,” Salazar said. “This guy was legit, and I wanted to have him from Day 1. So I just recruited him hard. We were talking in the dugout at his school, and we just kind of got it going from that point on.” By the time Longoria enrolled for classes at Rio Hondo, he was already pressing Salazar to open the weight room and the batting cages. He was not, however, begging to run that steep hill near campus, the one they call “MMF.” Neither Salazar nor Longoria will divulge the name of the hill, but you can infer the first M stands for Mount and the two other words speak to how tough the hill is. “I’m kind of old school, it’s not just a hill,” Salazar said. “At times, it’s not groomed. So there’s sticks that are five or six feet high, and

you just have to plow through it to the top. It’s almost like a hamburger hill, just a straight up, inverted, couple hundred-yard run.” Salazar said Longoria told him Rio Hondo is where he learned how to hit, but that was where he developed the mental toughness that has carried him for 20 years. Salazar “would push us to our limits,” Longoria said, “and I remember that being the first time where I was like, ‘Alright, if I want to be the best, I’m going to have to push myself at doing this.’ … It wasn’t even baseball-related. I wanted to be the best at running up a hill.” A year as a junior college shortstop failed to produce a major college scholarship. USC and Cal State Fullerton made overtures, but neither made an offer. One coach who did think Longoria could play was Mike Weathers at Long Beach State. Trouble was, Weathers already

had a shortstop, a guy named Troy Tulowitzki. Weathers recalled his first meeting with Longoria. “I said, ‘Well, we’ve got this guy Tulowitzki playing shortstop. (But) I’ll give you a shot at it.’ And that’s what we did. They worked out in the fall alongside each other, and Evan was plenty good at it. But Tulo was really good and had already been there.” And that’s how Longoria became a third baseman. With Tulowitzki and Longoria on the left side, Long Beach State had two future top-10 draft picks on the infield in 2005. That still might not have been the best infield Longoria played on that year. That summer, in Cape Cod, Longoria moved to second base because the third baseman was Todd Frazier (drafted 34th overall by the Yankees) and the shortstop was Chris Coghlan (drafted 36th by Toronto). “Of course, we were really good,” Schiffner said. “Arguably the 2005 team was the best team I ever had. There was nine big leaguers on the team, and five were first-rounders. It was a great team.” Two summers after no college would have him, Longoria was MVP of the best summer league for college players. He returned to Long Beach State that fall as a bona fide major league prospect, and that inspired Weathers to coach him even harder. “I think that ’06 season, because of all the players we had already sent (pro), I thought this kid’s got a really good chance,” Weathers said. “To be third that year in the draft? I wasn’t so sure about that.” In his final year at Long Beach State, Longoria shared Big West Player of the Year honors with Justin Turner (now the Dodgers’ third baseman). In a draft that included Tim Lincecum (10th), Clayton Kershaw (seventh) and Andrew Miller (sixth), Longoria was taken third by the Tampa Bay Rays. “Tremendous makeup, but can you project what he’s become? I don’t think so,” Schiffner said. “We


ARIC CRABB/STAFF

knew he was a really good kid, he was a sensitive kid. He was a fun kid, but I don’t think anybody saw that (drafted third overall) at that point in the maturation process.” In 2008, after only 38 games at Triple-A, Longoria made his major league debut. Then he hit 27 home runs (in 122 games), won Rookie of the Year and helped take the Rays to their first World Series. Longoria remains the first and only face of the Tampa Bay franchise: a three-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. His success was born not only of his work ethic, but also, according to Salazar, his hunger for big moments. “He always embraced being clutch, and he would say that a lot,” Salazar said. “He had this swagger and he would say, ‘Oh, I’m so clutch,’ I mean he would say that when he was 18 years old. I would just say, ‘Shut up, let’s go.’ But then he would clutch up. Twoout base hit to score a run. Boom. And then it just happened and happened and happened.” After 10 years in one of baseball’s smallest markets, Longoria received a life-changing call this offseason. The Rays agreed to trade him to San Francisco in exchange for Denard Span, top prospect Christian Arroyo and two minor league pitchers, effectively severing ties with their most relatable star, most engaged community presence and most established clubhouse leader. Now, Longoria is tasked with filling one of the Giants’ biggest holes and saving face for a front office that has pinned its hopes on an aging veteran who might be past his prime. There’s no telling if this marriage will work, but it feels right. The California-bred player and the California-based team both embarking on a new beginning. And with both accustomed to hearing whispers of doubt, Longoria’s swagger could be just what this team needs. “If you want to be the dude, you better be able to handle being the dude,” Salazar said. “For him, he always wanted to be the dude.”

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

PLAY BALL

25


HERE’S

JOHNNY AS HE EYES A BOUNCE-BACK 2018,

THE GIANTS’ FIREBALLING ECCENTRIC S H A R E S W H AT D R I V E S H I M O N A N D OFF THE BASEBALL FIELD S TO R Y B Y K E R R Y C R OW L E Y P H OTO B Y A R I C C R A B B

26

PLAY BALL

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP


THE GIANTS

H

e owns a ranch, but he’s quick to point out he’s not a cowboy. “Not like Bumgarner,” he says. He’ll post shirtless edits on Instagram, but when his baseball career is over, he fancies himself a serious businessman. Johnny Cueto doesn’t come across as a baseball diehard, and he’ll even admit his mother forced him to play the game as a child.

Q

You’re from San Pedro de Macorís in the Dominican Republic, which is considered “the land of shortstops.” Why did you decide to become a pitcher instead of a shortstop?

A

When I first started playing baseball, I would play the outfield. I had a strong arm and I ended up playing both. I would pitch one day and I would play the outfield the next. But then I realized because I threw hard and I had a good arm, I decided just to stay in pitching.

Q

Your mom worked hard to be able to buy you equipment when you were younger, what do you remember about the sacrifices she made to help you play baseball?

A

She was basically my inspiration. I mean, there were some times that I didn’t want to go play baseball and my mom would say, “No, you’re getting up, you’re going to play.” And I would say, “No I don’t feel like it,” and she would say, “No, you have to go.” But in order to get to the baseball field, I had to jump over a huge wall. It was a private wall like at a university, so I had to jump that wall to walk over to the stadium. My dad would tell me, “I think the reason you don’t want to play baseball is because you’re looking at girls and the girls are after you.”

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto says his mother was his inspiration.

Yet a competitive drive has carried Cueto, 32, through a 10-year major league career, fueled by a desire to prove doubters wrong. (We’ll allow him to elaborate on that in his own colorful Johnny Cueto way below.) After struggling through an injury-riddled 2017 season, Cueto sat down to explain (with the translation help of Giants broadcaster Erwin Higueros) why he returned to the Giants, what drives him to perform and the allure of relaxing on his ranch.

Q

As a shorter pitcher (5-foot-11), you had to overcome doubts about your size. Do you take more satisfaction in your accomplishments knowing that scouts overlooked you?

A

It’s true, there were a lot of teams that didn’t even pay attention to me because of my size. I have small hands and plus I was skinny, so they would say, “Nah nah, you’re too small to play baseball.” But even though they had doubts, I never put my head down and I never gave up and one of the things I think I have over other players that give up is that I have balls.

Q

Some of your most memorable performances came on big stages. What do you remember about your Major League debut, when you struck out 10 hitters in seven innings, and your World Series start, when you threw a complete game for Kansas City?

A

It was against the Diamondbacks and of course I felt good, I was like on Cloud Nine after that game. But it was just one game, and like I said, there’s some players that just don’t have the guts to do it over and over. And the complete game against the Mets, it was unbelievable. But if I remember correctly, that game against Houston (Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS), was either you win and you continue or you lose and you go home. So it was amazing.

Q

This offseason, you had an opt-out clause in your contract, but when you arrived at spring training, you said you never thought about leaving the Giants. Why?

A

It’s a combination of a lot of things. First of all, I like the team and I like the fans. Not just in San Francisco, but when we go on the road, there’s Giants fans all over the place and I like that. At the end of the day, it’s a business decision, right? I had a bad year, so I sat down with my agent and we talked about it. We came to the conclusion it was best for me to stay here. If not, I would probably still be having some of the issues that the free agents are having right now.

Q

Do you know how much longer you want to keep pitching and when you do stop, have you thought about life after baseball?

A

Right now I can’t tell you if I’m going to play three or four years more after my current contract. But if you ask me, I would like to pitch for 20 more years, I just don’t know. But afterward, maybe I’ll become a businessman. Rent apartments, build properties, maybe go to my ranch and just relax over there. But of course, I have to work on my son and get him ready for baseball.

Q

You’ve told stories about your ranch in the Dominican Republic, but what inspired you to purchase it?

A

I know a lot of chiefs of police down there and they would invite me to their ranches, so after seeing how beautiful they were, I wanted to get one. I was able to buy one, but it wasn’t built. It was just like land. So I had to build it, but the reason I like to go there is just to relax. I use it like a retreat. I bring my friends over so we can relax, we play dominoes, listen to music and have a couple of drinks. But basically, it’s just for me to relax and to get away from the real world.

Q

Your Instagram is pretty famous these days. What’s the secret to social media success?

A

There’s no secret, it’s like a hobby to me. I’m like an open book. I mean, I am aware of what I can post and what I can’t, but I do it for the fans. I want the fans to see the real Johnny.

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

PLAY BALL

27


28 PLAY BALL BAY AREA NEWS GROUP TOP: NHAT V. MEYER/STAFF; MIDDLE: PATRICK TEHAN/STAFF; BOTTOM: DOUG DURAN/STAFF


THE GIANTS

The Giants opted to go for one more reload. Will it work?

BOCHY: ARIC CRABB/STAFF; LONGORIA/MCCUTCHEN: JANE TYSKA/STAFF; WATSON: GETTY IMAGES

O

ptimism is a powerful force. The belief that good things are going to happen — that lofty goals can be achieved if a truly complete effort is given — is the backbone of success in both the sporting realm and the real world. There’s no denying that the power of positive thinking is strong — we’ve seen it can transform otherwise pedestrian outfits into juggernauts. But is positive thinking powerful enough to take down the Dodgers in the National League West? The Giants certainly hope so. After a 98-loss season in which seemingly everything that could go wrong did, the Giants didn’t make wholesale offseason changes. The rebuild will have to wait. Instead, the organization chalked up the disastrous 2017 campaign as an anomaly, and while the team made some laudable offseason additions, the core of the team has remained more or less the same. “We’ve never tried to operate that way, thinking that we’ve got to hard reset or a long rebuild,” vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said. “Ours is more a year-to-year proposition and out of respect to the fans. But some of these markets aren’t as invested as ours is, especially from a fan-base standpoint or as stable from an ownership standpoint.” That said, the dynasty, as we once knew it, is over. You can’t lose 98 games in a season, even if it’s only a one-year blip, and continue to claim dominion. But the Giants, as San Francisco knows and loves (2017 excluded), are allin on 2018. And yet, if you were hanging around the Giants this preseason, you’d never know that 2017 happened. The Giants are operating as if the 2018 season will be business as usual. This upcoming season is anything but that.

Dieter Kurtenbach

Opposite page, from top 2010: The Giants celebrate their first World Series title since 1954. 2012: Sergio Romo was the talk of the town in the Giants’ victory parade. 2014: And it’s not just the players who can celebrate ... the fans toast the Giants’ win over the Royals. Brian Sabean, right, has his work cut out for him. Can the Giants reload for one more go with newcomers, left to right, Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Tony Watson?

In fact, the 2018 campaign is setting up to be the most important (and interesting) in recent memory. More than just a World Series title is on the line — everyone in the Giants organization, from the front office to the batboys, seems to be hanging in the balance of this campaign. Marginal improvements from last year’s debacle simply won’t do. In many ways, the 2018 season is a make-or-break year for the Giants. And yet you’d never get that sense being around the team. A lot of that has to do with the front-office duo of Sabean and general manager Bobby Evans doing an admirable job of adding to the roster (while — right or wrong — keeping payroll under baseball’s Competitive Balance Tax threshold) with the addition of three All-Stars — outfielder Andrew McCutchen, third baseman Evan Longoria and left-handed reliever Tony Watson. But at the same time, the Giants return the vast majority of a veteran roster that finished in last place in the National League West last season. It should come as no surprise that the players loved the moves: “A lot of teams are tearing down their rosters and rebuilding and trying to do the whole rebuild thing over five years,” second baseman Joe Panik said at Giants media day in February. “As a player that’s been here through the ups and downs, I’m so happy that Brian and Bobby were able to go out and get guys that we needed to make a push.” But things aren’t all sunny and positive. Sabean, who was promoted from general manager to a bigger-picture VP role after San Francisco’s third championship in 2014, was asked by ownership to step into a more day-to-day role this season. Evans has taken Sabean’s new role in stride, but the change can mean only one thing — this team better win, or else. Of Sabean’s return as a steady presence, Evans said: “It’s really a great time for it because we

have so much riding on this group, and we want to make sure we stay the course and get the most out of them. We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of ability, a lot of success and a lot of great track records, and we want to see this team succeed.” Yes, the core of that Giants roster built up enough clout to stave off a rebuild this summer. It has three World Series wins, after all; and given the cost and length of many of the Giants’ core players’ contracts and San Francisco’s bottom-of-the-barrel farm system, a rebuild was close to unfeasible.

But what happens if 2017 wasn’t a fluke? What if the red flags we saw planted across the diamond last year are still flapping come June? Will these Giants and their bosses be in such a good mood then? This Giants roster has always been a bit of an outlier — a team that zigged while others zagged — and that contrast was at the heart of the team’s successes earlier this decade. But the difference between the Giants’ style of play and the rest of baseball’s has never looked as pronounced as it does right now. BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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29


THE GIANTS

Regular-season schedule MARCH/APRIL SUN

NOTES

MON

25

26

TUE

27

WED

THU

29 @LAD

28

FRI

30 @LAD

4:08 ESPN

1 @LAD

3

2

5:37 ESPN

8 LAD

9

1:05 NBCBA

15 @SD

ARI 7:15 NBCBA

16

SEA 1:35 NBCBA

10 ARI

4

11

7:15 NBCBA

17 @ARI

1:10 NBCBA

23 WAS

1:07 NBCBA

24 WAS

7:15 NBCBA

29 LAD

5

ARI 12:45 NBCBA

12 @SD

18 @ARI

6:40 NBCBA

22 @LAA

SEA 4:15 NBCBA

25 WAS

6 LAD 7:15 NBC

13 @SD

7:10 NBCBA

19 @ARI

6:40 NBCBA

7:15 NBCBA

7:10 NBCBA

7:10 NBC

20 @LAA

6:40 NBCBA

26

7:07 NBC

27 LAD

12:45 NBCBA

7:15 NBC

SAT

31 @LAD 6:10 NBCBA

7 LAD

14 @SD

6:07 NBCBA

7:15 NBCBA

MAY SUN

MON

TUE

1

6

@ATL 7 @PHI 4:05 10:35 NBCBA NBCBA

13 @PIT

14 CIN

10:35 NBCBA

8 @PHI 4:05 NBCBA

15 CIN

7:15 NBCBA

20 COL

21

SD 7:15 NBCBA

WED

2

SD 12:45 NBCBA

9 @PHI

THU

3

4:35 NBCBA

10 @PHI

4:05 NBCBA

16 CIN

7:15 NBCBA

17 COL

12:45 NBCBA

5:10 NBCBA

11 @PIT

10:05 NBCBA

4:05 NBCBA

18 COL

7:15 NBCBA

22 @HOU 23 @HOU 24

1:05 NBCBA

FRI

4 @ATL

7:15 NBC

25 @CHC

11:10 NBCBA

27 @CHC

28 @COL

29 @COL

5:08 ESPN2

4:10 NBCBA

5:40 NBCBA

5:40 NBCBA

MON

TUE

WED

11:20 NBCBA

SAT

5 @ATL 4:10 NBCBA

12 @PIT 4:05 NBCBA

19 COL

4 @COL

5:40 NBCBA

5:10 NBCBA

5:10 NBCBA

1:10 NBCBA

All games broadcast on 680 AM

15 OAK

22 @OAK

1:05PM NBCBA

SUN

4 ARI

3 PHI

7:15 NBCBA

1:05 NBCBA

10 @WAS

11 @MIA

1:05 NBCBA

17 @LAD

4:10 NBCBA

18 MIA

1:10 NBCBA

17

FRI

SAT

6 STL

7 STL

7:15 NBCBA

12

18

7:15 NBCBA

13 OAK

12:45 NBCBA

19

23

24 @SEA

25 @SEA

7:10 NBCBA

30 @SD

26 MIL

1:10 NBCBA

7:15 NBCBA

1:05 NBCBA

14 OAK

7:15 NBCBA

7:05 NBCBA

20 @OAK

21 @OAK

6:35 NBC

27 MIL 7:15 NBC

6:05 NBCBA

28 MIL 6:05 NBCBA

31 @SD

7:10 NBCBA

1:10 NBCBA

MON

TUE

WED

THU

2 @ARI 6:40 NBCBA

5 @ARI 1:10 NBCBA

12 PIT 19 @CIN 10:10 NBCBA 1:05 NBCBA

THU

FRI

7:15 NBCBA

25

5

ARI 7:15 NBCBA

12 @MIA 4:10 NBCBA

19 MIA 7:15 NBCBA

26 COL 7:15 NBCBA

6

ARI 12:45 NBCBA

13 @MIA 4:10 NBCBA

20 MIA 12:45 NBCBA

27 COL 7:15 NBCBA

7

14 @MIA 9:10 NBCBA

21 SD 7:15 NBCBA

28 COL 12:45 NBCBA

PHI 7:15 NBCBA

SAT

6 HOU

7 HOU

7:15 NBCBA

12:45 NBCBA

13 @LAD

14 @LAD

7:10 NBC

8

9 PIT 7:15 NBCBA

15 @LAD

16

FRI

3 @ARI 6:40 NBCBA

10 PIT 7:15 NBCBA

17 @CIN

7:10 NBCBA

7:10 NBCBA

20 @NYM

21 @NYM

22 @NYM

23 @NYM

24 TEX

4:10 NBCBA

4:10 NBCBA

4:10 NBCBA

10:10 NBCBA

7:15 NBC

27 ARI 7:15 NBCBA

28 ARI 7:15 NBCBA

29 ARI

4:10 NBCBA

30

SAT

4 @ARI 5:10 NBCBA

11 PIT 6:05 NBCBA

18 @CIN 4:10 NBCBA

25 TEX 1:05 NBCBA

31 NYM 7:15 NBCBA

7:15 NBCBA

9 @WAS

4:05 NBCBA

9:05 NBCBA

7:10 NBC

22 SD

WED

THU

FRI

16@LA D 5:15 FOX

23 SD

2 NYM 1:05 NBCBA

9 @MIL 11:10 NBCBA

16 COL

1:05 NBCBA

1:05 NBCBA

29 @ARI

30 @ARI

23 @STL

7:10 NBCBA

SAT 1:05 NBCBA

11:15 NBCBA 12:05 NBCBA

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

TUE

1 NYM

7:15 NBC 6:40 NBC

MON

7:05 NBCBA

8 @WAS

15 @LAD

SUN

2 PHI

30 LAD

PLAY BALL

11 CHC

7:15 NBCBA

1

26 TEX

1

30

10 CHC

THU

5 STL

AUGUST

26 @CHC

30 @COL 31

16

1:05 NBCBA

1:05 NBCBA

4:15 FOX

7:15 NBCBA

WED

1:05 NBCBA

29 MIL During the overlap of Giants, A’s, Sharks and Warriors games in April (and beyond, depending on NBA and NHL playoffs), NBC Sports Bay Area shuffles games between NBCBA and NBCBA+. For up-to-the-minute listings, be sure to check Page 2 of our daily Sports section.

9 CHC

TUE

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER

SUN

1:05 NBCBA

3 @COL

1:05 NBCBA

JUNE

24 SD

Home games

28 LAD 6:05 NBCBA

MON

2 @COL

1:05 NBCBA

5:40 NBCBA

21 @LAA

SUN

1 @ARI

8 STL

1:05 NBCBA

30 SD

1:05 NBCBA

All times Pacific and subject to change

JULY

3 @COL

4 @COL

5 @COL

12:10 NBCBA

5:40 NBCBA

5:40 NBCBA

10 ATL 7:15 NBCBA

17 @SD 7:10 NBCBA

24 SD 7:15 NBCBA

11 ATL 7:15 NBCBA

18 @SD 7:10 NBCBA

25 SD 7:15 NBCBA

12 ATL

6

5:10 NBCBA

13

12:45 NBCBA

19 @SD

20

6:10 NBCBA

26 SD 7:15 NBCBA

7 @MIL

14 COL

4:10 NBCBA

15 COL

7:15 NBC

6:05 NBCBA

21 @STL

22 @STL

5:15 NBC

27

8 @MIL

28 LAD 7:15 NBC

4:15 NBCBA

29 LAD 1:05 NBCBA


THE GIANTS

Five players & five plotlines

JIM GENSHEIMER/STAFF

B Y K E R R Y C R OW L E Y

Madison Bumgarner

TRADE BAIT

The four-time All-Star authored one of the most memorable individual performances in postseason history, but the 2014 World Series is in the distant past for a player and club attempting to win back the trust of a fan base. Bumgarner’s April dirt bike crash wiped out half of his season and a significant portion of the goodwill he built up with the franchise, but he returned to action after the All-Star break and re-established himself at the top of the Giants’ rotation. If they hope to contend, they’ll need Bumgarner to return to form as one of baseball’s most feared pitchers and the tone-setter every fifth day. If the lefthander lives up to expectations, a postseason push and a dominant season could make the Giants

Andrew McCutchen enters the season with high expectations, but if the Giants stumble out of the gates, he could be the first player on the trading block. His expiring contract would be easy to unload, and the Giants should land prospects in return. If all goes well, the Giants will be buyers at the trade deadline, but early struggles will have clubs checking on Jeff Samardzija and even Bumgarner.

inclined to lock up Bumgarner on a long-term deal that will keep him in San Francisco for years to come. On the flip side, with his team-friendly contract set to expire after 2019, a slow start to the year could land Bumgarner on the trade block and force the Giants to consider taking the first step toward a rebuild.

Brandon Crawford Crawford entered the 2017 season as one of the top twoway shortstops in baseball, but a decline in production at the plate forced him toward the bottom of the Giants’ lineup. After collecting his third straight Gold Glove, Crawford remains an elite defender, and he should have the chance to bounce back with the

bat thanks to the reinforcements the Giants added to the middle of the lineup.

Mark Melancon Melancon owns one of the richest contracts for a reliever in baseball history, but three separate stints on the disabled list turned his inaugural season with the Giants into a massive disappointment. After undergoing surgery in September, Melancon must serve as both a lockdown closer and the leader of a bullpen that’s been an issue for the last two seasons.

Brandon Belt Belt tied his career-high with 18 home runs last season but missed

the final two months of the year after suffering his fourth concussion. Belt reported to spring training eager to prove he’s completely healthy, but the Giants will monitor him closely since they need him to deliver left-handed power from the middle of the order.

Hunter Pence The oldest player on the oldest team in baseball, Pence, 35, is a grizzled veteran who’s agreed to switch from right field to left field to accommodate the addition of McCutchen. Pence is in great shape, but injuries have beaten him down over the last few seasons and two prospects, Austin Slater and Chris Shaw, expect to push him for playing time as the season evolves.

Brandon Crawford has a chance to bounce back at the plate thanks to reinforcements the Giants added to the middle of the lineup. BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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2/1963

3/1970

5/1968

4/1968 32

PLAY BALL

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP


T H E A’ S

ASSOCIATED PRESS; STAFF ARCHIVES

50 YEARS wORTH OF MEMORIES F O U R C H A M P I O N S H I P BA N N E RS H AV E B E E N R A I S E D I N O A K L A N D , Y E T S O M E M I G H T S AY T H E A’ S 5 0 -Y E A R E A S T B AY R U N H A S B E E N C U R S E D . T H E D E TA I L S , H OW E V E R , PA I N T A P I C T U R E O F ONE OF THE MOST COLORFUL JOURNEYS IN PRO SPORTS FRANCHISE HISTORY

February 1964 Kansas City A’s owner Charles O. Finley signs a 20-year lease with Oakland to play in a yet-tobe-built Oakland Coliseum. American League owners vote 9-1 to reject the move — Finley was the only “yes” vote. (opposite page, top left)

Oct. 18, 1967 After failing to move his team to Atlanta, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle, Louisville and a “cow pasture” in Peculiar, Missouri, Finley is granted permission by A.L. owners to move his team to Oakland for the 1968 season.

1968 Finley hires Yankee great Joe DiMaggio, a Bay Area product, as a coach and executive vice president. Before the inaugural season starts, DiMaggio notices views from the upper deck are obscured, so he persuades the team to move the infield back — giving the Coliseum the largest foul territory in MLB. (opposite page, top middle)

April 17, 1968 The first home game in Oakland A’s history draws 50,164 fans, and California governor Ronald Reagan throws out the ceremonial first pitch. The Orioles win 4-1 as Boog Powell hits the first home run at the Coliseum. Tony La Russa gets a pinch single for the A’s in the ninth inning. (opposite page, bottom)

April 18, 1968 In the team’s second home game in Oakland, the Coliseum is a veritable ghost town as 5,304 fans watch the A’s win 4-3 in 13 innings.

May 8, 1968 At 22, Catfish Hunter becomes the youngest pitcher in the modern era to pitch a perfect game. Hunter throws the ninth perfect game in baseball history and drives in three runs in a 4-0 win over the Twins before a crowd of 6,298 at the Coliseum. Finley rewards Hunter with a $5,000 bonus. (opposite page, top right)

1969 Reggie Jackson demands a salary increase from $10,000 to $25,000 then finally settles for $20,000. Jackson spends much of the season on pace to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record of 61. Jackson has 37 by the All-Star break, but amid the pressure of chasing the record, he breaks out in hives and finishes with 47 homers. BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

PLAY BALL

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34 PLAY BALL BAY AREA NEWS GROUP RON RIESTERER; ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES


1970

Finley lures announcer Harry Caray to Oakland and tries to get Caray to change his signature call from “Holy Cow” to “Holy Mule.” Caray leaves after the season.

April 13, 1970 For their home opener against the Brewers, Finley has the grounds crew use gold-colored bases instead of white ones. MLB rules the next day that, from then on, only white bases will be allowed.

Sept. 21, 1970 Rookie phenom Vida Blue pitches a no-hitter against Twins.

1971 Blue becomes the talk of baseball, starting the All-Star Game and landing on the cover of Time magazine. He is AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner after going 24-8, leading the A.L. in ERA (1.82) and striking out 301. The A’s win 101 games for their first AL West title, then get swept in three games by the Orioles.

June 27, 1971

Oct. 22, 1972

Left fielder Joe Rudi catches Pete Rose’s fly ball in the ninth inning as Oakland beats the Reds 3-2 to capture its first World Series title. Gene Tenace, who hit five home runs during the regular season, is named World Series MVP after tying Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig with four series home runs. (opposite page, bottom)

Oct. 14, 1973 Second baseman Mike Andrews is “fired” by Finley after committing two 12th-inning errors in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets. Finley says Andrews is injured and puts him on the disabled list, to the dismay of Andrews’ teammates, who threaten to sit out Game 3 in New York if Andrews isn’t reinstated. Finley relents at the last minute, and the series resumes with an A’s win. A 42-year-old Willie Mays grounds into a force play in bottom of the 10th inning. It would be his last at-bat in the major leagues. “Growing old is a helpless hurt,” Mays would later say.

Oct. 17, 1974

6,000 women are admitted free to a doubleheader against the Royals on baseball’s first “Hot Pants Day.” Not including the scantily clad women, A’s draw 33,477 fans — more than the combined attendance in their final nine home games. (opposite page, middle)

Rollie Fingers saves a 3-2 Game 5 win against Dodgers at the Coliseum, giving Oakland three consecutive World Series titles. The A’s remain the only team in baseball history other than the Yankees to accomplish the feat. Until the Warriors beat the Cavaliers to win the NBA title in June, the A’s were the last major sports team in the Bay Area to win a title at home. (this page)

March 16, 1972

April 2, 1976

Unhappy with Finley’s contract offer, Blue begins a holdout that lasts through the first two months of the season. He threatens to go to work for a company that sells toilet seat covers.

Reggie Jackson is traded to the Orioles along with pitcher Ken Holtzman for outfielder Don Baylor and pitchers Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell.

Oct. 8, 1972 During Game 2 of the A.L. playoffs, Campy Campaneris hurls his bat at Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow after getting hit by a pitch. Campy is suspended for the rest of the series and the first seven games of 1973. He does, however, get to participate in Oakland’s first World Series a week after his bat toss. (opposite page, top)

Oct. 12, 1972 A’s beat Tigers 2-1 in Game 5 of the playoffs, clinching a World Series berth. Reggie Jackson tears a hamstring stealing home in the second inning and will spend the World Series on crutches.

June 15, 1976 Finley sells All-Stars Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi to Boston for $1 million each and ships Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1.5 million. Fingers and Rudi suit up for the Red Sox, who happen to be in Oakland, but never play a game. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn nullifies the sales “in the best interests of baseball.”

April 7, 1978 Finley “awards” radio broadcasting rights to a 10-watt college station, Cal’s KALX. Play-byplay announcer Larry Baer would see better days across the bay.

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April 17, 1979 Exactly 11 years after their first game at the Coliseum, the A’s officially draw just 653 fans in a 6-5 win over the Mariners. Most accounts say no more than 250 fans were in the park. Oakland draws just 306,763 fans for the entire season. The A’s would go on to lose 108 games.

Feb. 21, 1980 The A’s hire manager Billy Martin, a Berkeleyborn kid who gained fame as a player and manager with the Yankees. (this page, top)

13/1980

Aug. 23, 1980 Walter J. Haas purchases the A’s from Charlie Finley for $12.7 million.

1981 Welcome to “Billy Ball.” Martin leads the upstart A’s to a division title and a berth in the ALCS during the strike-interrupted season.

Oct. 15, 1988 Kirk Gibson’s unlikely home run off closer Dennis Eckersley in the World Series opener sparks the Dodgers, who stun the A’s in five games. (this page, bottom)

Oct. 17, 1989, 5:04 p.m. A deadly 6.9 earthquake devastates the Bay Area minutes before Game 3 of the Bay Bridge World Series between the A’s and Giants. The series would resume 10 days later, and the A’s finished off a four-game sweep of the Giants. (opposite page, Jose Canseco and his wife, Esther, leave after the earthquake)

Sept. 20, 1995

ASSOCIATED PRESS; STAFF ARCHIVES

Walter Haas dies. The Haas family had sold the team to a group headed by Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann for a reported $85 million earlier in the year.

April 1, 1996 A’s home opener is in Las Vegas as they become first MLB team to open in a minor league park in nearly 40 years. Cashman Field is home for a homestand while the Coliseum gets the final touches on a Mt. Davis-sized facelift to accommodate the Raiders.

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22/2002 19/1996

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24/2017

July 31, 1997 In one of the franchise’s worst deals ever, A’s trade slugger Mark McGwire to Cardinals. A year later, McGwire breaks baseball’s single-season HR record with 70. (opposite page, top)

Oct. 1, 2000 Tim Hudson wins 20th game on final day of season to lift A’s into playoffs for first time in eight years with an AL West championship. It marks the beginning of four straight postseason trips for the A’s. (opposite page, bottom)

Oct. 13, 2001 Derek Jeter’s flip relay toss nabs no-sliding Jeremy Giambi of A’s at the plate to save Game 3 of ALDS for Yankees, who go on to win the series. (this page, bottom left)

Sept. 4, 2002 A’s “Moneyball’ moment is Scott Hatteberg’s ninthinning walk-off home run to give Oakland its AL-record 20th straight win. A’s magical season ends with loss to Twins in Game 5 of ALDS. (opposite page, middle)

March 30, 2005 John Fisher and Lew Wolff purchase A’s from Schott/Hofmann group for $180 million.

21/2001

2006 A’s reach ALCS for first time since 1992 but are swept by Tigers.

May 9, 2010 Dallas Braden reaches perfection on Mother’s Day as he pitches 19th perfect game in Major League Baseball history. (this page, bottom right)

Oct. 3, 2012 A’s beat Rangers to cap furious rally that sees Oakland end five straight nonwinning seasons while winning AL West on last day of season.

ASSOCIATED PRESS AND STAFF ARCHIVES

Sept. 30, 2014 In Wild Card game, A’s lose 9-8 to the Royals in 12 innings.

Dec. 6, 2017 In the latest of a long list of ballpark setbacks over the past eight years, A’s absorb blow of announcement that Laney College, the team’s preferred site for a new home, is probably off the board. (this page, top)

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SHOW

TIME Matt Chapman does not lack for stage presence. Now it’s time to find out whether he can lead this A’s organization back from obscurity B Y DA N I E L B R OW N I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y SA M H A D L E Y


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ARIC CRABB /STAFF

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t’s shortly after 2 p.m. at the A’s new corporate offices in downtown Oakland. Pitchers and catchers don’t report for another month, but runway models are needed right this second: The A’s are about to unveil their new uniforms for 2018. With former A’s pitcher Dallas Braden serving as the tongue-incheek emcee, shortstop Marcus Semien and first baseman Matt Olson trudge across the office carpet. They do so with all the enthusiasm of someone heading out to grab the mail. And then it’s Matt Chapman’s turn. The brash third baseman bursts through the swinging glass doors like Derek Zoolander on a Mardi Gras bender. At the top of his turn, Chapman runs a slow finger beneath the “Oakland” on his jersey and raises a finger to his pouty lips to signal, “Shhhhhh.” Then he turns and flexes until the cameras capture the name on the back of the uniform. This kid is going to be fine. You know, once he gets over his shyness. “I kind of just went by how it felt,’’ Chapman, 24, deadpanned when asked to assess his routine. “I think that there’s room for improvement there.” Here’s the boldest fashion statement of all: A’s fans should go ahead and buy one of those No. 26 jerseys. Chapman won’t be eligible for free agency until 2024. And if the A’s follow through (this time) on their pledge to sign promising players to long-term contracts, the 2014 first-round pick ought to keep a pen handy. In terms of potential and personality, he has the makings of a face-of-a-franchise type. “He’s the guy where if something tough happens, he’s going to tell everyone it’s going to be all right,’’ pitcher Kendall Graveman said. “If there’s an error made, he’s going to say, ‘Hey, give me another one. I want to make the play.’ He’s a go-getter. He’s an enforcer. He’s everything you’d want in a baseball player in my eyes. He speaks volumes not only with his talent but the way he carries himself.”

ppp

“A moment would come, and then another, and then another. These moments would be his life.” — Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding There’s a mysticism to the way Chapman plays defense. For all his strutting and goofball humor off the field, the kid is Yoda with a Wilson model glove at the hot corner. He’s tapping into an unseen force. Chapman vanishes into a hyper-alert state thanks to a prepitch routine that considers what pitch is coming, how that pitch is working for the pitcher, the previous swings from the batter at the plate ... ... and he winds up so connected to the moment that he simply feels what will happen next. “Defensively, it’s just kind of moving with the ball, flowing with the ball,’’ Chapman explained. “You can just get in tune with the game. “It’s something that’s hard to explain. But when you’re on defense, especially if a guy is working fast and throwing a lot of strikes, there’s a lot of action going on. It’s easy to get into rhythm and go.”

Chapman vanishes into a hyper-alert state thanks to a prepitch routine that considers what pitch is coming, how that pitch is working for the pitcher, the previous swings from the batter at the plate ... ... and he winds up so connected to the moment that he simply feels what will happen next.

His reaction time is the stuff of highlight tapes from Fullerton to Midland to Beloit and every other place where Chapman’s range has been measured in zip codes. This season he’ll patrol Oakland, 94621, with its vast foul territory and its man-eating tarps. Forget the new ballpark: This is Chapman’s kind of place. During the second half of last season, the rookie averaged 3.57 total chances per nine innings, the best mark ever by an Oakland third baseman with 40 or more games played. Braden, who played with Eric Chavez, said Chapman looks ready to follow in the diving footsteps of the six-time Gold Glove winner. Braden has already seen enough flashes of greatness. “Those aren’t flashes,’’ Braden said. “Guys who are really good at their job, they practice greatness. And you get that from Chapman, watching him play.” Chapman led AL third baseman in Ultimate Zone Rating among players with at least 700 defensive innings, according to FanGraphs. Graveman didn’t need the stats, just his eyes. “There’s not many like him,’’ he said. “I’ve never seen anybody in person who plays defense like he does.” BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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While Chapman’s bat will continue to vacillate between hot and cold like a broken motel shower, his glove alone makes him a must-watch player heading into his first full season. “When I came over to this organization (in 2016), I heard people mention Matt Chapman and his power and his defense,’’ pitcher Andrew Triggs said. “But getting to see it just as a spectator is fantastic.” In all, Chapman looks like a worthy heir to the A’s royal lineage at third base: Chavez, Sal Bando, Carney Lansford and Josh Donaldson. (Heck, even Wayne Gross made an All-Star Game in 1977.) Is Chapman next? And could it be in 2018? After making his debut last June 15, he went on to lead major league rookies in doubles (21) and extra-base hits (37) after the All-Star break. During that span, Chapman also ranked third among rookies in home runs (14) and RBIs (37). There could be more pop to come. Rick Vanderhook, who coached Chapman at Cal State Fullerton, ran into Chapman and a handful of other young pros taking batting practice at Fullerton during the off-season. He said Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers was there, and Garrett Stubbs of the Houston Astros, too. “And Chapman is hitting balls out of sight,’’ Vanderhook said. “We didn’t let them break out brand new batting practice balls till they left. Because no one was going to chase them.” ppp

“Baseball was an art, but to excel at it you had to become a machine. It didn’t matter how beautifully you performed SOMETIMES ... it wasn’t just your masterpieces that counted.” Matt Williams won four Gold Gloves at third base. He won lots of other stuff, too, but keep your mitts off those Gold Gloves. “They’re my pride and joy,’’ Williams, now 52, said. “There’s been a lot of things — Silver Slugger, Manager of the Year. But Gold Gloves are the basis by which you play the game, for me, anyway.” Williams, best known for his Giants days from 1987-96, enters his first season as the A’s third 44

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NAHT V. MEYER /STAFF

— The Art of Fielding


base coach. He will also coach an actual third baseman. “I’m excited. And I know he’s excited,’’ the five-time All-Star said of tutoring Chapman. “He has a really bright future.” To Braden, this is a match made in heaven. Chapman (6-foot, 210), like Williams (6-2, 205) is a sturdy defender with massive power and the range of a lithe shortstop. Both bring an intense mental approach to the position — the hot corner is also the thought corner. “Chapman got better the minute they hired Matt Williams,’’ said Braden, now an analyst for NBC Bay Area. “It’s going to make him that much better just to be able to learn from a Bay Area legend like that. “(Williams) will give him some tutelage in that everyday, grinder mentality. You have to embrace this grind. You have to love the grind. And I think that’s something Matt Williams can absolutely project upon a guy like Matt Chapman. They are one and the same.” Williams can also teach Chapman about weathering the occasional dry spell at the plate. Williams batted just .197 with 181 strikeouts over his first 693 big league at-bats. But his glove allowed him to make at least a minor contribution to both the 1987 division winners and ‘89 World Series team. “It’s important to separate them,’’ Williams said of the bat and the glove, “because it’s very easy in the human mind to have one affect the other — good or bad. But you can help the team in many ways. It’s the old adage: If I’m not getting any hits, nobody else is, either.” ppp

“When your moment came, you had to be ready, because if you (messed) up, everyone would know whose fault it was. What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?” — The Art of Fielding

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“Chapman got better the minute they hired Matt Williams,’’ said Braden, now an analyst for NBC Bay Area. “It’s going to make him that much better just to be able to learn from a Bay Area legend like that.

Chapman struck out in 28.2 percent of his plate appearances last season, about the same rate as noted swing-through machine Khris Davis (29.9 percent). But both sluggers make the most of their contact. Of Chapman’s 68 hits, 39 went for extra bases (57.4 percent). In A’s history, only one player with 250 or more plate appearances had a higher such percentage: Mark McGwire, at 58.8 percent, in 1995. Hot or cold, Chapman’s confidence remains unshakable. “I have to commend him because I’ve seen him go through some pretty serious slumps,’’ said A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson, who managed Chapman at Double-A Midland. “To his credit, he has the same demeanor every single day he walks back into the

clubhouse. ... I think he has the ability to flush the previous day, no matter what happened. That has always been an attribute.” Slumps never faze Chapman. But errors? Cover your ears. “I’m still working on that,’’ Chapman said with a laugh. “Those definitely stick with you a lot more than a strikeout or a bad at-bat, because you almost feel like they’re a little more

controllable. Especially when you make one that might be a stupid throwing error. Those are really tough to swallow. “ Defense was a priority for him, even as a youth player. His parents made sure of that. Jim and Lisa had the video camera rolling the first time little Matt toddled around with a plastic bat. Jim tossed him a Wiffle ball, and the kid whacked it into a distant room faster than you can say “exit velocity.” Mom and Dad looked at each other as if to say, “What just happened here?” Jim, who played four years at Cal Poly Pomona, helped guide his child prodigy through the baseball-rich competition around Lake Forest (Orange County). Dad took the long view the whole way. “When I was younger, I used to

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T H E A’ S

The good the bad and the ugly

only pitch and catch. My dad decided to have me play the infield,’’ Matt said. “He kind of taught me the basics. It kind of came naturally for me. It’s not something I had to think too much about.” Matt starred at El Toro High School, even if he had to wait. As a sophomore in 2009, Chapman rode the bench behind Nolan Arenado, who would grow up to be a star for the Colorado Rockies. Arenado has five Gold Gloves in five major league seasons. Chapman admires him most not for his hardware but for his hard work. “He knows he can get better. He continues to work, and he’s never satisfied,’’ Chapman said. “For him to keep getting better and better, it’s just so impressive.” Chapman wants to get better, too, although that would have been hard to imagine last July 28. In the third inning at the Coliseum, Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins ripped a hot shot down the third-base line that StatCast

Matt starred at El Toro High School, even if he had to wait. As a sophomore in 2009, Chapman rode the bench behind Nolan Arenado, who would grow up to be a star for the Colorado Rockies.

measured at 110 mph. Chapman snared that streaking comet with a dive to his right, then spun for an accurate throw to start a 5-4-3 double play. Replays showed A’s pitcher Daniel Gossett shaking his head is if he’d just been pranked. “The most incredible double play I’ve ever seen,’’ Christenson called it. Two days later, Chapman sprinted across the spacious foul territory to make a catch on a dead run. He then hurdled over a fortress of Gatorade jugs and into the A’s dugout. “He stuck the landing,’’ Braden said. “That’s the kind of stuff where you can tell he’s thinking about it before it happens.” Of course he was. “I was aware that the (Gatorade jugs) were coming up,’’ he said that day, “and I just kind of planned in my head that, ‘Well, I either I barrel into them, or I jump over them.’”

Get used it. As the A’s head into 2018, their rising third baseman is prepared to make a massive leap. Matt Chapman, at age 24, could already produce a film festival worth of highlight plays. But Rick Vanderhook knows a few bloopers that would wind up on the cutting room floor. “I saw some bonehead things when he was young,’’ the Cal State Fullerton coach said. Chapman is a Gold Glove candidate as he enters his first full season in Oakland. Vanderhook calls him “spectacular,” and the two remain close. But then there’s June 3, 2012. “Here’s a play he’ll never forget in his life,’’ Vanderhook said, setting the stage. Fullerton faced Austin Peay in an NCAA regional game in Eugene, Oregon. Chapman was a freshman third baseman. “And he’s really good at catching pop ups, if you haven’t noticed,’’ Vanderhook said. “So every time the ball goes in the air, he’s calling it.” But this particular pop up was on the first-base side of the field, meaning the hardcharging Chapman would have to scramble over the mound to get there. Oh, and did we mention it had rained? “And I’m sitting in the firstbase dugout, and I see what’s happening,’’ Vanderhook said. “I say, ‘Uh, oh. Look out!’ ” “And he comes flying — because everything he does is 100 percent — and he hits that pitcher’s mound and just went — pssshhhseewww!’” Chapman’s wipeout left a vapor trail from the mound to foul territory. The ball fell for

an RBI single as the Titans were eliminated in a 3-0 loss. “He called that one a little early,’’ Vanderhook deadpanned. Suffice to say, Chapman figured things out. In his final season at Fullerton, he batted .312 with six home runs and a team-leading 48 RBIs. He had a .412 on-base percentage, 16 doubles, six steals and made the All-Big West Conference first team. On the day Chapman got called up to the big leagues last June, he called his former coach from the airport. Vanderhook connected his phone to the PA system on the team bus so the Titans players could hear what it’s like for a dream to come true. “I mean, that’s a big deal, even if it’s for one day,’’ Vanderhook said. Chapman will clearly stick around longer than that. As A’s fans get to know him, Vanderhook advised keeping an eye on his throwing ability. “That arm, you never see. You’re lucky if you see it one time,’’ Vanderhook said. “If you’re old enough, there was a guy named Ken Caminiti at San Jose State. He had a bazooka. And Chapman has that bazooka.” (Caminiti, who died in 2004, won three Gold Gloves over his 15-year career.) Chapman’s arm was so good that he even pitched a few times in college. More often, the third baseman would beg coaches to clock his fastball on the radar gun. “And he’d go throw 94 mph just after playing catch,’’ Vanderhook said. “He’s just different.”

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THE KNIFE FIGHTER K E N DA L L G R AV E M A N I S O N E O F T H E N I C E S T G U YS YO U ’ D E V E R WA N T TO M E E T. J U S T D O N ’ T M E E T H I M O N A BA L L F I E L D.

S TO RY B Y M A R T I N G A L L E G O S P H OTO B Y A R I C C R A B B


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’s pitcher Kendall Graveman is one of the loosest guys in the clubhouse, but around an hour before game time, he flips a switch. And suddenly, the 6-foot-2 right-hander becomes a bad man. “Some of our kids would call him a knife fighter,” said Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen, Graveman’s college coach for four years. “You step between the lines, someone is gonna get cut up. He was that deadly serious when he stepped out on the field.” Graveman brought that demeanor with him from Alexander City, Alabama, where he played for his dad from Little League through high school. “He wanted me to be respectful 50

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“This kid is different. He is the model of consistency in terms of bringing it every day. You wish everyone can be like Kendall Graveman.”

and a nice guy, but once you cross that white line to go play baseball, it’s time to compete,” Graveman said. “That’s something in my childhood that kind of stuck and is still there today.” It’s something the A’s desperately need from Graveman. They also need him to stoke the competitive fire of the other starters. At 27, Graveman will be the senior member of the Oakland rotation. With 71 major league starts, he also is the most experienced. His numbers — 22-24 with a 4.11 ERA — are hardly imposing. And yet, there is something about him. No less an authority than Dave Stewart sees it. Asked which current A’s player would best fit

with the powerhouse rotations that Stewart anchored from 1987-92, the four-time 20-game winner didn’t hesitate: Kendall Graveman. “I think he would have fit right in,” Stewart said. “His work ethic is unmatched by anybody on this current team. He goes about his business and competes. He likes to take the ball. I think Kendall fits.” Cohen called Graveman “a college version of Dave Stewart. That look on his face. That level of competitiveness. That attack mode on the mound.” Graveman said he doesn’t feel worthy of the comparison, at least not yet, but it is nice to hear. “The greatest compliment as

a competitor is someone that’s willing to go out there and give it his all, good or bad,” Graveman said. “When you watched Dave Stewart, he wasn’t gonna leave anything out there. I think that’s what makes me rest easy at night. Knowing I fought for my team that day.” Oh, he’ll fight. In Graveman’s senior year at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs went to the College World Series (where they lost in the final to UCLA). Their run began on a Sunday afternoon in a regular-season game against Southeastern Conference rival Louisiana State. Mississippi State had lost the first two games of the series. Graveman, the Sunday starter,


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flipped the switch and became that bad man, the knife fighter. He threw a fastball behind the head of LSU first baseman Mason Katz, prompting LSU manager Paul Mainieri to sprint from the dugout as he argued for Graveman to be ejected. Graveman stayed in the game and earned the win, starting a 20-14 run that took the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament. “I felt like I needed to protect my teammates,” Graveman said. “Looking back, it might not have been the smartest thing to do, but they wore us out the first two nights. It was a game that we ended up winning and kind of flipped our season.” Cohen described Graveman as the greatest competitor he has coached over his 25 years in baseball. “This kid is different. He is the model of consistency in terms of bringing it every day. You wish everyone can be like Kendall Graveman,” Cohen said. “So much presence. So much moxie.” Giants pitcher Chris Stratton spent three years at Mississippi State with Graveman and said he never has known a nicer guy. The two became good friends, were in each other’s weddings and often go out for dinner together during spring training.

It’s been a meteoric rise to the top of the A’s rotation for Graveman. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013, it took him less than a year to earn a September call up with Toronto in 2014.

But Stratton has seen what happens when Graveman takes the mound. “He’s the most competitive guy I’ve ever played with,” Stratton said. “He just has that fire, especially when he’s on the mound. It’s definitely intense. When he gets on the bump, it’s time to go.” While Graveman believes his intensity is mostly a positive, there have been times where he has let it get the better of him. There were times in college when he would get into heated arguments with Cohen and pitching coach Butch Thompson after games in which he would get removed early. Graveman still finds himself trying to harness that intensity,

but he believes he has better control of it now as he has matured in the big leagues. “It was always those moments where something inside of me clicked. I really don’t know why it’s like that,” Graveman said. “Some people have it, some people don’t. I don’t so much like winning, I just really hate losing.” Looking to set the tone, Graveman took the responsibility this spring of calling early-morning meetings for all the pitchers in camp. The message: developing a competitive spirit not only against opponents but also among themselves. “This is going to benefit all of us. Not everybody goes about it the same way,” Graveman said. “You look at Jake Peavy, one of the greatest competitors I’ve seen on the mound. This guy was out there cussing at himself when he did good and when he did bad. Then you look at someone like Corey Kluber; they say he’s like a robot out there, but he’s competing just as much. Two totally different demeanors. “Within this pitching staff, I’m not trying to make everyone compete the way I do. But as long as you’re competing and we know that, it’s going to come off different to everyone. The guys that are behind them playing defense

know they’re going to get a guy that’s not scared and competing every pitch. I think if we can do that over a 162-game stretch, we’ll all be better for it. We gotta find our own little way to compete.” It’s been a fast rise to the top of the A’s rotation for Graveman. After being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013, it took him less than a year to earn a September call-up, then he was traded to the A’s two months later in a deal for Josh Donaldson. Graveman has gone from the young rookie of the rotation to the top dog after three seasons. Pitching is key to any team’s success, but for the A’s, given their offensive promise, that might be inordinately true. With three inexperienced starters on the back end of the rotation, a leader is needed up front. Cohen believes the A’s have the right man for the job. “You want this guy in your clubhouse. I don’t care what sport. I don’t care what organization or what business. This is the guy you want leading,” Cohen said. “In baseball, you’ve got all the measurables, but what’s hard to measure is that makeup. That thing that affects other people. He’s just got it. He’ll be a great leader for the A’s.”

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s the walking epitome of the A’s slogan, Dave Stewart truly is “Rooted in Oakland.” With the team celebrating its 50th season in the East Bay, the native son was a perfect candidate to catch up with given his lifetime connection with the club. Stewart, who stopped by spring training for a week to work with A’s pitchers as a special instructor, agreed to sit and chat about topics such as playing Little League baseball with Rickey Henderson, his showdowns with Roger Clemens, the current state of baseball, memories of the late Bob Welch and why his foray as a general manager didn’t go so well.

Q

Being an Oakland native, what did it mean to you to be able to play for the team you grew up watching?

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That was a dream come true. I grew up blocks from the Oakland Coliseum. I had an opportunity to watch the A’s come here in 1968 when they were a very young up-and-coming team. Blue Moon (Odom), Vida (Blue), Reggie (Jackson), Dave Duncan. To have an opportunity to watch those guys and see the championships from 1972-74, and then to actually come here and play was amazing. A lot of times you come back to where you were raised, and you don’t necessarily play good. But to come home and win a championship, it’s a dream come true.

he was growing up. He’s always had a style, which I always called it the “Rickey Style.” He’s always had some type of flair. He’s always done things according to Rickey. It was great growing up with Rickey, Lloyd Moseby, Gary Pettis — all those guys were great. Not to mention Al Woods, who’s also from the Bay Area, Cleo Smith, you’ve got Marvin Webb, Glenn Burke, there’s a bunch of guys that came out of the Bay Area that were all playing at the same time. Charlie Beamon ... all of us had an opportunity to touch the big leagues at some point.

Q

Looking at these current A’s, is there anyone you think would have been a good fit with your Oakland clubhouses of the 1980s?

A

Kendall Graveman would have been a good fit. I think he would have fit right in with Welchie (Bob Welch) and myself, Mike Moore, Curt Young, who was his pitching coach for a while. His work ethic is unmatched by anybody on this current team. He goes about his business and competes. He likes to take the ball. I think Kendall fits. And I like Chris Hatcher out of the bullpen. Take the ball and compete. He takes responsibility for anything that happens out there, and that’s how Dennis Eckersley was and Gene Nelson, Rick Honeycutt, that group of guys.

Q

What was it like to play alongside Rickey Henderson on the same Oakland Little League team?

That era of A’s baseball you played in was so special. There was a magic about it. Given the way the game is played today, is something missing from today’s game that makes that vibe you guys had something difficult to replicate?

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A

Q

We played against each other and with each other as kids. Those days were competitive. Rick has always been a great athlete in all sports. He was a good baseball athlete, great football athlete and a good basketball athlete. There’s not much different about Rickey today than when

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“A lot of times you come back to where you were raised, and you don’t necessarily play good. But to come home and win a championship, it’s a dream come true.”

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The workload is different, especially the pitching part of the game. Pitchers don’t do as much. They’re not required to do as much. The days of 14 or 15 complete games in a season are done. You make 36 or 37 starts, those days are done ... 250, 260, I think I had 270 to 280 innings

pitched one year, you’ll never see that again. And I would almost dare anybody to win 20 (games) four years in a row. I would not have been able to accomplish that I had not been able to go out and throw innings.

Q

What was it about those matchups with Roger Clemens that seemed to bring out the best in you?

A

I had a chip on my shoulder every start. I was the No. 1 starter, and there’s a responsibility that goes with that. Nobody ever told me that I was responsible, I took it upon myself to be responsible. I was in the best of condition and shape that I could possibly be. I made my starts every fourth or fifth day, whatever I was called to do, but more importantly, competed against the best. I gave us an opportunity and a chance to win, and I wore that with pride. I was prideful of my position. So with Roger, Jack Morris, Frank Viola, Ron Guidry — you can pick anybody in that period of time — with those guys, you could lose a game in the first inning. If you give up one run in the first, all those guys were capable of shutting you out. Roger was the guy that everybody looked at as being the best in that period of time. I’m not trying to take that from him, but I can tell you what, I put a few kinks in his armor. I wasn’t gonna let Roger beat me. That’s the way I looked at it.

Q A

Do you have a favorite player to watch in MLB today?

I enjoy watching Madison Bumgarner from the Giants. I enjoy watching King Felix (Hernandez) from Seattle. Those guys are old school. They could have played in any era of baseball. They take the ball and they wear it. It’s gonna be a tough day when they’re on the mound. When it comes to position players, you gotta love (Giancarlo) Stanton. You gotta love (Buster) Posey from the Giants. I enjoy watching

(Anthony) Rizzo from the Cubs and (Jose) Altuve, who in my opinion, people say he’s one of the best “small” players in the game, but he plays big. He’s one of the best players in the game, I really love watching him play. How can you not like watching (Mike) Trout play. That guy represents every tool of the sport.

Q

You’ve coached in baseball, you’ve been a general manager, been an agent. Were any one of those roles particularly harder than the others?

A

I think they’re all tough in their own ways. Being a general manager in Arizona was probably the toughest role that I’ve had, and it was only tough because I had three bosses. If I only had one person that I needed to report to and talk to, I think the job would have been easier. But it’s really difficult to get something done when you have to run it past three people and you have to manage three personalities.

Q

Bob Welch was a really good friend of yours. Is there a favorite story or memory that you have of him?

A

Bobby and I were together since 1978 back in the Dodger days. There are thousands of stories I can tell about Bobby Welch. We were at Municipal Field doing our spring training games, and we always did our long distance running out of the stadium. One time Bobby and I went for a run, and we had run for so long that I stopped and said, “Bobby, where are we?” He didn’t know where we were, and he said, “Man, let’s just keep running.” So we start running a little bit longer, and I decided that I’ve had enough. I had run so far that I had to get a cab back to Municipal Stadium. It was an $8 cab ride, which was a lot back in those days — that’s how far we had run. There’s just endless stories and endless memories. Bobby was one of my best friends.


ME, YOU anD

STEW CATCHING UP WITH CLUB ICON AND NATIVE SON DAVE STEWART, AS HE WAS NICE ENOUGH TO SWING BY

FOR A CHAT WHILE WORKING WITH A’S PITCHERS THIS SPRING. S TO RY B Y M A R T I N G A L L E G O S P H OTO B Y A R I C C R A B B

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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ARIC CRABB/STAFF 54

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T H E A’ S

Stadium’s dark cloud looms over exciting Oakland lineup

L

et’s be honest, in the era of the Warriors, Giants, and two NFL teams in the Bay Area, unless you’re a diehard fan, you probably haven’t paid much attention to the A’s over the last few seasons. Don’t worry, no one will hold that against you — the A’s have finished in last place in the American League West the last three years, coming in a combined 72 games behind the first-place teams. You didn’t miss much. But the A’s are poised to make you notice them in 2018. This A’s roster is young — what’s new there? — but unlike prior low-cost products in Oakland, this team is also dynamic and exciting. You can see a bright future based around third baseman Matt Chapman, first baseman Matt Olson, starting pitcher Sean Manaea and a slew of highly-rated, high-impact prospects that could make a splash in the big leagues as soon as this year. There should be a different feel around this A’s team — a prevailing sense that the A’s have something special brewing in Oakland behind a roster that in a few years has a chance to be a perennial playoff contender or perhaps even more. If only there was a place to put it. No matter what good things happen for the A’s this season, a dark cloud will hang over everything green and yellow until the team breaks ground on a new ballpark. The formula for making the A’s a healthy, thriving Major League team (and not a laughingstock and glorified farm team) was laid out a few years ago, and it was simple (in theory, not execution): Executive vice president Billy Beane and general manager David Forst would rebuild the A’s for the nth time, this time around young, controllable talent, following in the footsteps of the Astros, Royals, and Cubs. (Hey, it worked for them.) At the same time, the busi-

Dieter Kurtenbach

Executive vice president Billy Beane, right, is rebuilding the A’s once again, this time around young, controllable talent, like (clockwise from top left) potential ace A.J. Puk, center fielder Dustin Fowler, slugger Matt Olson and pitcher Sean Manaea.

ness side of the organization, led by team president Dave Kaval, would finally start making serious traction on a new ballpark for the team. And by the time the young talent’s team-controlled (see: cheap) years were ending, the new ballpark — and all the new revenue streams that come along with it — would be in place, and the A’s would be a solid team with legitimate staying power. Well, Beane and Forst are holding up their end of the bargain — the foundation of the roster appears to be in place and reinforcements are on the way, but the business side’s failure to secure their preferred ballpark site near Oakland’s Laney College has sabotaged the big-picture plan and left the fate of the team in flux. Welcome back to square one. A’s fans should be familiar with it. “It’s a situation where, unfortunately, we’ve had many players in and out,” Beane told fans at A’s FanFest in February. “From a revenue standpoint, we’re trying to solve that. Hopefully, at some point, it’s not the case anymore. It’s less fun for me than it is for you, trust me. … I feel your pain, we’re trying to end that.” The clock is ticking on a new ballpark — the A’s will be weaned from Major League Baseball’s revenue sharing plan by the end of the decade, making the need for a new ballpark all the more necessary. The lack of revenue sharing checks is already having an effect: The A’s took in more than $30 million in revenue sharing last year, and had a payroll of $86.8 million on opening day, the third smallest payroll in baseball. This year, the A’s are only receiving $20 million from revenue sharing (plus a lump sum of $50 million for the league’s sale of BAMtech) and payroll is down to $63.5 million. (The A’s were one of four teams the MLB Players Association filed a grievance against in February.) Things are bad now. What happens when the revenue sharing

money — a major component of the A’s payroll — evaporates after the 2019 season? What happens if there’s no new ballpark in sight by then? The already low-budget A’s might somehow find a way to sink to a new level of frugality in the next decade. “Billy doesn’t want to trade them — it just gets to a point where you have to, because we’re not going to be able to withstand it, payroll-wise,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. And as such, any success the A’s have on the field will be tainted while fans wait for a Plan B to come to fruition. Every Chapman snag at third (he was one of baseball’s best defensive players last year) or Olson homer (he had a better slugging percentage than Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Trout last year — albeit in 59 games) is likely to serve as a reminder that those players’ time in Oakland is likely to come to an end when they’re set to be paid anything close to market value. All they’ll amount to, in the end, is some more prospects, who themselves will likely be sold down the line, too. So for A’s fans, success is still just a future disappointment.

And there are plenty of reasons to believe success could be imminent for this team. Now, don’t expect these A’s to challenge the Astros for the division this year. And a playoff berth should still be considered unlikely, but after a strong run of play to end 2017, there’s every reason to think this Oakland team has the ability to be more competitive in the American League West and perhaps even climb out of the cellar in the division. Not since the early 2000s has the team featured so much high-ceiling talent, and in two, three, four years, this A’s core could be prodigious. But at the moment, they’re at the nascent point of their collective developments. “You look at our system, not only do we have a younger group here at the big leagues that’s being impactful already, there’s a whole host of them in the minors coming, too,” Melvin said. “This is probably the best our organization has been in going forward as far as high-profile players on the way.” Players such as lefty starter A.J. Puk, who projects to be a possible ace with a powerful four-pitch arsenal. Or projected Opening Day centerfielder Dustin Fowler, who broke in with the Yankees last year, but came back to the A’s in the Sonny Grey trade, and appears to have the makings of a bonafide five-tool player. Or Franklin Barreto, who was getting Jose Altuve companions in spring. Along with Chapman, Olson, and Khris Davis (who has only hit 85 home runs over his last two seasons) and a pitching staff that has immense talent, these A’s could flirt with .500 and set Oakland up to make major waves in 2019 and beyond. These A’s are worth paying attention to this year. They might even be good enough to get people out to the ballpark. Oh. There’s that word again. BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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T H E A’ S

Regular-season schedule MARCH – APRIL SUN

25

1

NOTES

MON

26

27

2 TEX

LAA 1:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

8 @LAA

TUE

28

3 TEX 7:05 NBCCA

10 @LAD

9

7:10 NBCCA

1:07 NBCCA

15 @SEA

16 CWS

1:10 NBCCA

22 BOS

7:05 NBCCA

23 @TEX

24 @TEX

5:05 NBCCA

29 @HOU

17 CWS

7:05 NBCCA

1:05 NBCCA

WED

5:05 NBCCA

THU

29 LAA

4 TEX

5

7:05 NBCCA

11 @LAD

FRI

SAT

30 LAA

31 LAA

1:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

1:05 NBCCA

TEX 12:35 NBCCA

6 @LAA

7 @LAA

12

7:07 NBCCA

13 @SEA 7:10 NBCCA

7:10 NBCCA

18 CWS

19

20 BOS

12:35 NBCCA

25 @TEX

26

14 @SEA 6:10 NBCCA

21 BOS 6:05 NBCCA

27 @HOU

28 @HOU

5:10 NBCCA

4:10 NBCCA

30

11:10 NBCCA

MAY SUN

MON

TUE

WED

1 @SEA

2 @SEA

7:10 NBCCA

7 HOU

6 BAL 1:05 NBCCA

8 HOU

7:10 NBCCA

9 HOU

7:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

12:35 NBCCA

13 @NYY

14 @BOS

15 @BOS

16 @BOS

10:05 NBCCA

4:10 NBCCA

4:10 NBCCA

4:10 NBCCA

20@TOR

21

22 SEA 7:05 NBCCA

10:07 NBCCA

28 TB

27 ARI 1:05 NBCCA

29 TB

23 SEA 7:05 NBCCA

30 TB

THU

3 @SEA 7:10 NBCCA

10

17@TOR 4:07 MLB

24 SEA 12:35 NBCCA

FRI

4

BAL 7:05 NBCCA

SAT

5 BAL 6:05 NBCCA

11 @NYY

12 @NYY

4:05 NBCCA

10:05 NBCCA

18 @TOR 4:07 NBCCA

25 ARI 6:35 NBCCA

19 @TOR 10:07 FS1

26 ARI 1:05 NBCCA

31 TB

1:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

12:35 MLB

MON

TUE

WED

THU

SUN

1 CLE

Home games All games broadcast on 95.7 FM

15 @SF

10 @HOU

11@HOU

5:10 NBCCA

5:10 NBCCA

5:10 NBCCA

17

FRI

6 @CLE

1:05 NBCCA

9 @HOU

16

THU

5

18

4:10 NBCCA

12 @HOU

13 @SF

11:10 MLB

19

7:15 NBCCA

20 SF

22 SF

23 @TEX

1:05 NBCCA

5:05 NBCCA

30 TOR

12:10 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

24 @TEX 5:05 NBCCA

25 @TEX

26 @TEX

5:05 NBCCA

SAT

7 @CLE 1:10 NBCCA 14 @SF 7:05 NBCCA

21 SF

6:35 NBCCA

6:05 NBCCA

27 @COL

28 @COL

5:40 NBCCA

5:10 NBCCA

5:05 NBCCA

31 TOR 7:05 NBCCA

AUGUST SUN

MON

TUE

WED

1 TOR

THU

2

12:35 MLB

5 DET

6

7 LAD 7:05 NBCCA

1:05 NBCCA

12 @LAA

13 SEA 7:05 NBCCA

1:07 NBCCA

19 HOU

20 TEX

14 SEA 7:05 NBCCA

21 TEX

8 LAD

22 TEX

7:05 NBCCA

12:35 MLB

27 @HOU

28 @HOU

29 @HOU

5:10 NBCCA

5:10 NBCCA

11:10 NBCCA

DET 7:05 NBCCA

10 @LAA

SAT

4 DET 6:05 NBCCA

11 @LAA 6:07 NBCCA

7:07 NBCCA

16

17 HOU

12:35 MLB

7:05 NBCCA

1:05 NBCCA

9

7:05 NBCCA

15 SEA

FRI

3

23@MIN 5:10 NBCCA

30 SEA

11:10 MLB

18 HOU

7:05 NBCCA

1:05 NBCCA

24 @MIN

25 @MIN 4:10 NBCCA

5:10 NBCCA

31 SEA

7:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

THU

FRI

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER

SUN

3 @KC

5 @TEX

4

5:05 NBCCA

11:15 NBCCA

10 KC

11

12 HOU

1:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

17 LAA

18

19 @SD

1:05 NBCCA

24 @CWS

25 @DET

11:10 NBCCA

12:10 MLB

6 @TEX

7 KC

FRI 1 @KC 5:15 NBCCA

SAT 2 @KC 11:15 NBCCA

8 KC

9 KC

5:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

13 HOU

14 HOU

15 LAA

7:05 NBCCA

12:35 MLB

1:05 NBCCA

16 LAA

6:35 NBCCA

1:05 NBCCA

20 @SD

21 @CWS

22 @CWS

23@CWS

7:10 NBCCA

12:40 MLB

5:10 NBCCA

5:10 NBCCA

11:10 NBCCA

26 @DET

27@DET

4:10 NBCCA

4:10 NBCCA

28 @DET 29 CLE 10:10 MLB

7:05 NBCCA

30 CLE 1:05 NBCCA

SUN

2 SEA

3

1:05 NBCCA

9 TEX

NYY 1:05 NBCCA

10

1:05 NBCCA

16 @TB

TUE

23 MIN 1:05 NBCCA

4 NYY

WED

17

7:05 NBCCA

11 @BAL

12 @BAL

18 LAA 7:05 NBCCA

24 @SEA 7:10 NBCCA

5 NYY

7:05 NBCCA 4:05 NBCCA

10:10 NBCCA

12:07 NBCCA

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

MON

SAT

1

30 @LAA

PLAY BALL

WED

4 SD

1:05 NBCCA

29 @COL During the overlap of Giants, A’s, Sharks and Warriors games in April (and beyond, depending on NBA and NHL playoffs), NBC Sports California shuffles games between NBCCA and NBCCA+. For up-to-the-minute listings, be sure to check Page 2 of our daily Sports section.

TUE

3 SD 6:05 NBCCA

10:10 NBCCA

26 @MIN

JUNE

56

MON

2

1:05 NBCCA

8 @CLE

6:07 NBCCA

7:05 NBCCA

5:05 NBCCA

All times Pacific and subject to change

JULY

25 @SEA 7:10 NBCCA

6

7:05 NBCCA

13 @BAL

4:05 MLB

19 LAA

4:05 NBCCA

20 LAA

7:05 NBCCA

26 @SEA 7:10 NBCCA

7 TEX

12:35 MLB

27

14 @TB 4:10 MLB

21 MIN

SEA 6:05 NBCCA

8 TEX 1:05 NBCCA

15 @TB 3:10 NBCCA

22 MIN

7:05 NBCCA

6:05 NBCCA

28 @LAA

29 @LAA

7:07 NBCCA

6:07 NBCCA


T H E A’ S

Five players & five plotlines BY MARTIN GALLEGOS

Kendal Graveman

ARIC CRABB/STAFF

Graveman, 27, is not only the A’s No. 1 starting pitcher, he is tasked with setting the tone as the unquestioned leader of one of the youngest starting rotations in baseball. To add even more pressure, Graveman is coming off a season that was filled with shoulder issues, limiting him to just 19 starts. Though he’s looked good in spring training, showing high velocity with a fastball reaching the mid-90s and good movement on his off-speed stuff, Graveman will need to be a workhorse for a young rotation that contains three question marks. Graveman seems to have the leadership part

TRADE BAIT

Over the last two seasons, Khris Davis’ 85 home runs are second only to Giancarlo Stanton’s 86 for most in the majors. Under team control until 2020, Davis, 30, has the type of power bat that can entice a slew of contending teams to offer up a package of top prospects.

down, noticeably more vocal in the clubhouse and often calling early morning pitcher meetings throughout the spring. Next is how he performs on the mound. If Graveman does not have a good year, this season could turn out to be a disaster in Oakland.

Matt Chapman Speaking of pressure, how about getting Gold Glove-caliber defense and 30-plus home run projections placed upon you before your first full season in the majors? That’s how highly the A’s think of Chapman, the third baseman who is expected to be a

cornerstone of the franchise.

Blake Treinen Treinen cemented his role as closer with an impressive final month last season that saw him convert 11 consecutive save opportunities. For a club that blew the second most saves in baseball last year, Treinen will need to bring stability in the ninth inning.

Sean Manaea While Graveman bears most of the responsibility in the rotation, the A’s are also counting heavily

on Manaea. Locked into the No. 2 spot, he is expected to pitch deep into games on a consistent basis with uncertainty surrounding the last three spots on the staff.

Matt Olson Olson joins the other Matt (Chapman) as players expected to lead these young A’s as a franchise-changer. He certainly earned that honor with a 2017 that saw him crush 24 home runs in 189 atbats. But, as is often the case with young hitters who find success early on, you can bet pitchers are already studying film on him as they look to make adjustments.

Matt Olson is expected to lead the young Athletics as a franchise-changer. In 2017 he smashed 24 home runs in 189 at-bats. BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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T H E LOV E S TO RY

Till

deadline

part do us

Rivals at work, allies at home S TO R Y B Y DA N I E L B R OW N I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y S TA N L E Y C H O W

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T H E LOV E S TO RY

S

ome sources decline interviews because they are not authorized to go on the record. Some decline because they don’t want to disrupt, say, a free-agent negotiation in progress. And there are those who, like me, are just trying to avoid my wife’s bad side. “Susan’s going to kill me,’’ Billy Beane joked when I called him for a comment at the end of the Winter Meetings last year. Susan Slusser is the formidable, competition-crushing A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. You don’t mess with The Sluss. Now in her 20th year on the beat, she patrols her territory with an iron pen. Her earned reputation as one of the game’s most diligent and trusted insiders helped her become the president of the Baseball Writers Association of America in 2011. That would be lovely, except sometimes, because of the nature of our jobs at competing Bay Area outlets, we are forced to wage war against each other. It’s husband vs. wife, mano-a-womano, vying for the same news. It makes for terrible date nights. Leo Durocher, the long-ago Giants manager, once said: “If I were playing third base and my mother were rounding third with the run that was going to beat us, I’d trip her. Oh, I’d pick her up and brush her off and say, ‘Sorry, Mom.’ But nobody beats me.” I am married to Leo Durocher. Except she wouldn’t say “sorry.” I know this because I’ve lived it for more than 25 years, whether in press boxes or locker rooms or in our own home. There are times when circumstances send us scrambling for the same breaking news, and we’ll be in different

60

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BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

We met covering a sporting event, of course. UC Davis beat Santa Clara 31-19 on Sept. 8, 1990. Aggies quarterback Jeff Bridewell had 402 passing yards that day, but I made the biggest catch.

rooms trying to reach the same sources at the same time. Spoiler alert: Those occasions do not end well for me. When the A’s traded for Johnny Damon in 2001, our stories varied in an alarmingly significant way. See if you can spot the difference. His: “Damon could not be reached for comment.” Hers: “Damon, speaking by

phone from Hawaii where he is on vacation, said he was excited to come to Oakland.” We met covering a sporting event, of course. UC Davis beat Santa Clara 31-19 on Sept. 8, 1990. Aggies quarterback Jeff Bridewell had 402 passing yards that day, but I made the biggest catch. Susan was the luminous cub reporter for the Sacramento Bee.


ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

T H E LOV E S TO RY

I was a UCD student a month shy of my 21st birthday. We covered lots of events together in those early days, including a basketball game in San Francisco, where an opposing coach veered from his postgame interview to say: “You’re pretty cute. Since you’re writing anyway, why don’t you go ahead and put down your phone number.” I’m almost positive he wasn’t talking to me. Flash forward a few million words later, and Susan is still the person I most want to see after deadline. She’s also still the person I least want to see before it. Mercifully, we rarely overlap. In my household, Susan has the territorial rights to the A’s while I focus more on the 49ers and Giants. And when we’re not doing the dueling laptop thing, being in her aura is a perk of the job. A’s players revere Susan for her fairness, accuracy, accountability, comic timing and ferocious work ethic. If I drop her name, players bounce up. I once approached Jose Guillen at his locker and told him I was married to Susan Slusser. He sprang out of his chair to hug me. Huston Street, Gio Gonzalez and A.J. Hinch had similar happy reactions, albeit with no hugs. Before I left for Detroit last season to cover a Giants-Tigers series, Susan said, “Say hi to Al Kaline for me.” And I did. That’s the definition of relationship goals, kids. Her fan club can be as intimidating as she is. At a gala on the eve of the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City, I spotted the retired Frank Thomas at the bar and introduced myself. (Tepid reaction.) I told him we’d recently enjoyed some of his Big Hurt Beer. (Tepid reaction.) And then I told him I’m married to Susan Slusser. “Your wife is the best,’’ the

“Scooped on the Beane reaction by the hubby, who took the first flight out of town and wound up on the right airplane. Divorce proceedings imminent.”

6-foot-5, 240-pounder said, more forcefully than I expected. Yeah, well, you know, she loves the job and ... “THE BEST,’’ the Big Hurt said, practically jabbing me in the chest. Even if I’d disagreed with him, I wouldn’t have said so. That’s the fun part. What’s not so fun, and what I wish I’d had the foresight to prohibit in a pre-nup, is going up against her at the Baseball Winter Meetings. The three-day MLB swap meet is a cutthroat event for baseball scribes, and this is Slussy’s jam. She spends every waking hour in the hotel hallways staking out agents, scouts, executives and coaches. Many of them come to HER in search of the latest information. I was there to monitor both the Giants and A’s and made the romantic decision to set up shop right next to my wife in the media workroom. That’s where, every few hours, she reduced me to smoldering ash. She’d politely tap me on the shoulder and say something like, “I just posted a

story about the A’s getting close on a Stephen Piscotty trade. You should probably check it out.” And then she’d move on to her next scoop while I frantically Googled the spelling of P-i-s-c-o-t-t-y. It was during these Winter Meetings that Jose Canseco launched a bizarre and unsavory string of tweets about politicians and molestation. I was just getting wind of the controversy when I heard Susan on the phone next to me saying, “Jose, I just want to give you a chance to clarify ... “ I resisted the urge to say, “Say hi to Jose for me.” By the time I took the first flight out of town, a 6 a.m. departure on the final day, I could fit my ego under the seatback in front of me. But then I finally caught a break. On my bleary-eyed shuffle back to seat 26C, I spotted Billy Beane in first class. We chatted only briefly, and I sat down knowing I had a captive audience. Unless Susan had snuck into the cargo hold — the kind of thing she would totally do — I was going to have the A’s executive vice president all to myself once the plane landed. Indeed, upon touching down at SFO, I was able to get Beane’s first comments on the Piscotty deal. Still fearing Susan, who was across the country covering the Rule 5 draft, I sat there at baggage claim and wrote the story before she could catch up. Her tweet was quick and damning. I hadn’t heard her this annoyed since the last time I screwed up loading the dishwasher. “Scooped on the Beane reaction by the hubby, who took the first flight out of town and wound up on the right airplane. Divorce proceedings imminent.” Welcome to my world, honey.

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T H E L E AG U E

Chasing the world champs, an AL West reality B Y FA B I A N A R DAYA

T

he A’s are probably a year away from contending — but they have some pieces that either are just breaking through in the big leagues or are on the horizon. As Oakland attempts to stockpile talent in an effort to match the class of the division, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros are back and better than ever. It’s a roster led by homegrown talents Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel plus new offseason addition Gerrit Cole. They should again compete to be the best team in baseball, let alone the division. They’ll have competition, at least in the intrigue department, as the Angels have added the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” two-way star Shohei Ohtani to pair with former American League MVP Mike Trout. The two stars, coupled with renewed health in the Angels rotation, should make them an interesting option to make a run at the postseason. Seattle suffered a mass flood of injuries to be the only team in baseball to use 40 or more pitchers. But a revamped staff and the offseason additions of Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy to a lineup that already has some talented bats could make Seattle dangerous in a pennant race. The Mariners haven’t made the postseason since 2001, the longest such drought in baseball. They may be a move or two away from ending that drought. It’s everyone battling for second behind the defending champs, but here’s a closer look:

62

1. Houston Astros

2. LA Angels

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Texas Rangers

5. Oakland A’s

Last year: 101-61, first place (won World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers) Key losses: Carlos Beltran, Joe Musgrove, Mike Fiers, Luke Gregerson, Cameron Maybin Key newcomers: Gerrit Cole, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon Best-case scenario: Cole adds depth to the rotation, Justin Verlander retains his top form for at least another year, and Jose Altuve maintains his American League MVP-level form. Worst-case scenario: Verlander’s run of dominance comes to an end, Dallas Keuchel again battles injury issues, and the lineup suffers from a lack of depth. Hot prospect: Right-hander Forrest Whitley had a 2.83 ERA across three levels in 2017 but has to sit out 50 games for violating MLB’s drugprevention program.

Last year: 80-82, second place Key losses: Yunel Escobar, Bud Norris, Yusmeiro Petit, Brandon Phillips, Huston Street, Ricky Nolasco Key newcomers: Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler, Jim Johnson, Zack Cozart Best-case scenario: Infused with talent after also re-signing Justin Upton to an extension, they make the postseason for just the second time in Mike Trout’s career. Worst-case scenario: Cozart’s standout 2017 proves a fluke, Kinsler shows his age, Ohtani is a bust, and injuries again derail the starting staff. Hot prospect: Ohtani. The top overall prospect in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 projects well as a hitter and a pitcher.

Last year: 78-84, tied for third place Key losses: Drew Smyly, Yonder Alonso, Jarrod Dyson, Danny Valencia Key newcomers: Dee Gordon, Juan Nicasio, Ryon Healy Best-case scenario: The Mariners, who used the most pitchers in baseball last season, finally get some health upgrades to boost the bats of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. Worst-case scenario: Health again befalls the pitching staff, and Cano and Cruz show signs of aging. Hot prospect: Kyle Lewis moved to Class A ball in his first full professional season last year.

Last year: 78-84, tied for third place Key losses: Carlos Gomez, Andrew Cashner, Mike Napoli Key newcomers: Bartolo Colon, Doug Fister, Darwin Barney, Matt Moore Best-case scenario: The Rangers’ core of Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara continue to improve. Worst-case scenario: The Rangers take another step back, falling into the bottom of the division. Hot prospect: Willie Calhoun is looking like the favorite to claim the left-field job.

Last year: 75-87, fifth place Key losses: Jesse Hahn, Ryon Healy Key newcomers: Stephen Piscotty, Yusmeiro Petit Best-case scenario: Khris Davis keeps putting up power numbers, and Matt Olson, Dustin Fowler and Franklin Barreto show signs of rounding into a foundational core for the organization. Worst-case scenario: The youngsters fail to come through, the A’s finish with one of the worst records in baseball. Hot prospect: Left-hander A.J. Puk could make the roster before the season ends.

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Justin Verlander helped power the Astros to their first World Series title last season. Can newcomers Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Dee Gordon of the Mariners do the same for their teams?

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Rating the A.L. West


T H E L E AG U E

Rating the A.L. Central 1. Cleveland Indians

2. Minnesota Twins

3. KC Royals

4. Chicago White Sox

5. Detroit Tigers

Last year: 102-60, first place (lost to New York Yankees in ALDS) Key losses: Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson Key newcomer: Yonder Alonso Best-case scenario: Alonso builds on an All-Star 2017 and fills the shoes of Santana. The pitching staff remains strong, and Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco continue to take steps forward. Worst-case scenario: Corey Kluber finally shows signs of aging, and the team struggles to replace Santana. Hot prospect: Francisco Mejia is a top catching prospect but also could play third base.

Last year: 85-77, second place (lost wild-card game to the Yankees) Key losses: Glen Perkins, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee Key newcomers: Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke Best-case scenario: Byron Buxton continues his evolution and makes his first-ever All-Star team, the additions to the pitching staff help out, and the Twins challenge the Indians for the AL Central title. Worst-case scenario: The team can’t match performances that made the Twins’ 2017 year special. Hot prospect: Left-hander Tyler Jay moved his way up to Double-A by the end of last season.

Last year: 80-82, third place Key losses: Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Jason Vargas, Trevor Cahill, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Melky Cabrera, Joakim Soria, Scott Alexander, Brandon Moss Key newcomers: Trevor Oaks, Jesse Hahn Best-case scenario: The mass exodus helps the progression of players such as Whit Merrifield. Worst-case scenario: Losing the likes of Moustakas, Vargas, Hosmer and Cain dampens the spirit of the club, and the Royals finish last in the AL Central. Hot prospect: Eric Skoglund made his Major League debut in 2017 and could add depth to the rotation.

Last year: 67-95, fourth place Key losses: Jake Petricka, Mike Pelfrey Key newcomers: Luis Avilan, Miguel Gonzalez, Welington Castillo Best-case scenario: Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and the rest of Chicago’s top prospects take a leap forward. Worst-case scenario: Lopez and Giolito regress, Carlos Rodon has injury issues, and the massive rebuild shows signs of cracks. Hot prospect: The White Sox have a stacked farm system, but with Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert potentially waiting in the wings, right-hander Michael Kopech should be the next man up.

Last year: 64-98, fifth place Key losses: Bruce Rondon, Ian Kinsler, Anibal Sanchez Key newcomers: Leonys Martin, Mike Fiers Best-case scenario: The Tigers deal for young talent at the trade deadline, using the veteran pieces remaining on the roster. Worst-case scenario: The Tigers can’t find value on the open market and are forced to ride of the rest of the year as currently constructed. Hot prospect: Franklin Perez, one of the key pieces of last season’s Justin Verlander trade, is the gem of the Tigers’ future.

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Rating the A.L. East 1. Boston Red Sox

2. New York Yankees

3. Tampa Bay Rays

4. Toronto Blue Jays

5. Baltimore Orioles

Last year: 93-69, first place (lost to Astros in the ALDS) Key losses: Addison Reed, Chris Young, Doug Fister Key newcomer: J.D. Martinez Best-case scenario: Martinez brings his power display to Fenway Park, adding to a lineup that includes Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, and a healthy David Price pairs with Chris Sale to create a lethal 1-2 punch of left-handers. Worst-case scenario: Even with the surge in the total number of home runs, the Red Sox again fall near the bottom. Hot prospect: Jay Groome is already the team’s top prospect according to Baseball America, despite struggling in his first full pro season, posting a 5.69 ERA across two levels.

Last year: 91-71, second place (lost to Astros in the ALCS) Key losses: Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Todd Frazier, Michael Pineda, Matt Holliday, Jaime Garcia Key newcomer: Giancarlo Stanton Best-case scenario: Stanton and Aaron Judge feast on the American League with their home run prowess, and Luis Severino turns into a Cy Young frontrunner. Worst-case scenario: Aaron Boone struggles in his first season as Yankees manager, the starting rotation struggles with consistency, and the bullpen shows signs of fading. Hot prospect: Gleyber Torres could give the Yankees back-to-back rookies of the year, filling in at either third or second base.

Last year: 80-82, third place Key losses: Evan Longoria, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Alex Cobb Key newcomers: Christian Arroyo, Denard Span, Ryan Schimpf Best-case scenario: The Rays, led by young arms such as Chris Archer, put together a strong run at a postseason bid. Worst-case scenario: Longoria’s leadership is missed, as is the power and production from Duda and Morrison. Hot prospect: Brent Honeywell’s coming-out party will be delayed after undergoing elbow surgery.

Last year: 76-86, fourth place Key losses: Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, Ryan Goins Key newcomers: Jaime Garcia, Yangervis Solarte, Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Aledmys Diaz Best-case scenario: The roster tinkering, including the loss of former franchise face Bautista, refreshes the franchise. Worst-case scenario: The Blue Jays continue to tear down their roster and bottom out. Hot prospect: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are potential franchise cornerstones.

Last year: 75-87, fifth place Key losses: Welington Castillo, J.J. Hardy, Wade Miley Key newcomers: Andrew Cashner Best-case scenario: Manny Machado makes his swan song with the team memorable. He’s likely to leave as a free agent after the season. Worst-case scenario: The pitching is even worse this year. Hot prospect: Outfielder Austin Hays could use more seasoning but might be needed this year in Baltimore.

Yonder Alonso joins a strong Tribe squad while J.D. Martinez brings more power to the potent Boston lineup. Manny Machado could be in his swan song for the Orioles. BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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Dodgers have the swag, but others reloaded B Y FA B I A N A R DAYA

T

he Giants went shopping this offseason — but it remains to be seen whether the goods they acquired are at or near their expiration date. While the new additions should at least make it interesting, the Dodgers suddenly know how to get somewhere in the playoffs. Los Angeles stood one game — or one Yu Darvish Game 7 start — from its first World Series championship in 29 seasons. After spending almost the entirety of the 2017 regular season as the class of baseball, the Dodgers seem poised to repeat the feat in 2018 — and perhaps finish the job this time. It’s World Series or bust in Hollywood. Arizona surprised many under first-year manager Torey Lovullo and swung for the fences to bring in J.D. Martinez at the trade deadline. Martinez is gone now to Boston, with the lone accomplishment to remember the strong season being an NLDS sweep at the hands of the Dodgers. Even without Martinez, Arizona still has MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. The Rockies, aided by a pair of MVP-level performances from Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, joined Arizona as one of the best stories in baseball by jumping back into the postseason and earning the second NL Wild Card spot. They’ve restocked this offseason, particularly in the bullpen with the signings of Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis. San Diego made the biggest monetary signing of the offseason in bringing in former Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, but what else is there? The Padres have pieces, sure, including acquiring Freddy Galvis in an offseason deal with the Phillies, but how well do they fit? Here’s a closer look at arguably the deepest division in baseball:

Rating the N.L. West Last year: 104-58 (lost World Series to Houston Astros) Key losses: Yu Darvish, Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, Tony Watson, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, Luis Avilan Key newcomers: Matt Kemp, Tom Koehler Best-case scenario: The Dodgers come back reloaded and healthy. Kemp overachieves and becomes either a trade chip or a postseason asset, Clayton Kershaw wins another Cy Young, and Corey Seager and/or Cody Bellinger vie for MVP. Worst-case scenario: Some of the moves to shed salary result in the shedding of valuable depth. Hot prospect: Walker Buehler is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt could turn Buehler into a Rookie of the Year candidate. 64

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2. Arizona Diamondbacks Last year: 93-69 (lost to Dodgers in NLDS) Key losses: J.D. Martinez, Fernando Rodney Key newcomers: Alex Avila Best-case scenario: Robbie Ray turns into one of the most overqualified No. 2 starters in baseball and Paul Goldschmidt again shows his MVP form. Worst-case scenario: A massive power void is left with the departure of Martinez. Hot prospect: After the trade of pitcher Anthony Banda, right-hander Jon Duplantier is Arizona’s only player on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list. And he finished last year in high Class A.

3. Colorado Rockies

5. San Diego Padres

Last year: 87-75, third place (lost to Arizona in wild-card game) Key losses: Carlos Gonzalez, Tyler Chatwood, Jonathan Lucroy, Mark Reynolds, Pat Neshek, Greg Holland Key newcomers: Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Chris Ianetta Best-case scenario: The addition of Davis and Shaw fortify the bullpen, and Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon again are MVP candidates. Worst-case scenario: The Rockies pitching staff takes a step back, and the lineup continues to struggle. Hot prospect: The Rockies might have found a first baseman in Ryan McMahon.

Last year: 71-91, fourth place Key losses: Yangervis Solarte, Ryan Schimpf, Travis Wood, Erick Aybar, Jhoulys Chacin Key newcomers: Eric Hosmer, Kazuhisa Makita, Craig Stammen, Freddy Galvis Best-case scenario: Hosmer proves worthy of his eight-year, $144 million free-agent contract, and some of the Padres’ young prospects produce. Worst-case scenario: Hosmer isn’t enough to ignite the offense. Hot prospect: Former first-round draft pick Cal Quantrill could crack the rotation.

4. San Francisco Giants Last year: 64-98, fifth place Key losses: Denard Span, Matt Moore, Michael Morse Key newcomers: Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, Tony Watson, Austin Jackson Best-case scenario: Longoria and McCutchen ignite the offense. Worst-case scenario: McCutchen and Longoria have down years, and the pitching can’t overcome the lack of offense. Hot prospect: Will 24-year-old Steven Duggar impress enough during the spring to set up a platoon situation in center field with Jackson? Clayton Kershaw and Nolan Arenado have title aspirations. Can Freddy Galvis keep the Padres out of the cellar?

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1. LA Dodgers


T H E L E AG U E

Rating the N.L. Central 1. Chicago Cubs Last year: 92-70, first place (lost to Dodgers in NLCS) Key losses: Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Wade Davis, Jon Jay, Hector Rondon, Alex Avila Key newcomers: Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Tyler Chatwood Best-case scenario: Darvish flashes Cy Young form and becomes the ace of a talented staff, Morrow takes the next step to become an elite closer, and Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber have breakout seasons. Worst-case scenario: The unofficial swap of Arrieta for Darvish backfires, and the Cubs’ young core takes a step back. Hot prospect: Right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng made two big league appearances last season. He could fill a role out of the bullpen or in the rotation if needed.

2. Milwaukee Brewers Last year: 86-76, second place Key losses: Neil Walker, Anthony Swarzak, Lewis Brinson Key newcomers: Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jhoulys Chacin Best-case scenario: The Brewers feature one of the best outfields in baseball and make a move to shore up the starting rotation. Worst-case scenario: The pitching comes up short, and the Ryan Braun contract proves immovable. Hot prospect: Right-hander Brandon Woodruff made eight starts late last season.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

5. Cincinnati Reds

Last year: 83-79, third place Key losses: Lance Lynn, Randal Grichuk, Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty, Seung-hwan Oh Key newcomers: Marcell Ozuna, Luke Gregerson, Miles Mikolas Best-case scenario: Ozuna is the big bopper in the middle of the lineup, and Michael Wacha turns into a serviceable No. 2 behind a breakout year from Carlos Martinez. Worst-case scenario: With no Lynn and a dwindling Adam Wainwright, the rotation falls off. Hot prospect: Right-hander Alex Reyes could be a key piece in the bullpen or crack the rotation after having Tommy John surgery last year.

Last year: 75-87, fourth place Key losses: Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen, John Jaso Key newcomers: Corey Dickerson, Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran Best-case scenario: Dickerson, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Josh Harrison and Josh Bell revive the offense. Worst-case scenario: After the changes, they still struggle to score runs. Hot prospect: Austin Meadows might crack the outfield.

Last year: 68-94, fifth place Key losses: Zack Cozart, Scott Feldman, Drew Storen, Bronson Arroyo Key newcomers: David Hernandez, Jared Hughes Best-case scenario: The young nucleus of the club takes a step forward, and the Reds avoid another last-place finish. Worst-case scenario: The Reds are forced to offload veterans such as Billy Hamilton, Eugenio Suarez and Homer Bailey. Hot prospect: Third baseman Nick Senzel has little left to prove in minors.

If Milwaukee’s pitching comes through, so may their outfield, featuring Ryan Braun. Big bopper Marcell Ozuna ads pop to the Cards. If the Reds falter, speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton could move on.

Rating the N.L. East

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1. Washington Nationals Last year: 97-65, first place (lost to Cubs in NLDS) Key losses: Jayson Werth, Joe Blanton, Matt Albers Key newcomers: Matt Adams, Miguel Montero Best-case scenario: The club benefits from the renewed health of outfielder Adam Eaton and the continued dominance of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and Bryce Harper stays healthy. Worst-case scenario: Injuries derail what appears to be another strong postseason contender. Hot prospect: Victor Robles can play all three outfield spots but probably will spend most of the season in the minors.

2. New York Mets

3. Atlanta Braves

Last year: 70-92, fourth place Key losses: None Key newcomers: Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez, Jay Bruce Best-case scenario: The starting rotation, and Yoenis Cespedes, stay healthy, and Frazier, Gonzalez, Bruce and the return of David Wright spark the offense. Worst-case scenario: The 2017 season repeats itself as injuries befall the rotation. Hot prospect: Right-hander Chris Flexen must bounce back after a disastrous major league debut last season.

Last year: 72-90, third place Key losses: Matt Kemp, Matt Adams, R.A. Dickey, Jace Peterson Key newcomers: Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson Best-case scenario: The young talent, led by Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, provides some help for Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte in the lineup. Worst-case scenario: There isn’t enough pitching or depth on the roster. Hot prospect: Acuna, 20, was a star in Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League last season.

4. Philadelphia Phillies Last year: 66-96, fifth place Key losses: Freddy Galvis, Clay Buchholz Key newcomers: Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter Best-case scenario: Santana becomes the veteran bat and voice in the Phillies’ lineup and Rhys Hoskins’ end-of-2017 run is more than just a fluke. Worst-case scenario: Santana doesn’t fit well, and pitching remains an issue for the young club. Hot prospect: J.P Crawford should be the club’s future at shortstop.

5. Miami Marlins Last year: 77-85, second place Key losses: Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, Edison Volquez, Ichiro Suzuki Key newcomers: Starlin Castro, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Magneuris Sierra Best-case scenario: The newcomers quickly fulfill some promise. Worst-case scenario: The offloading of money continues, with Castro, J.T. Realmuto and more possibly coming off the books. Hot prospect: Brinson is the most big-league ready.

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These rookies you should keep your eye on B Y FA B I A N A R DAYA

A M E R I CA N L E AG U E

N AT I O N A L L E AG U E

Shohei Ohtani

Ronald Acuna

ANGELS RHP/DH

BRAVES OF

One of this offseason’s most intriguing storylines came in the form of the Japanese import, aka the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” who chose to pair with Mike Trout and the Angels and should pique the interest of baseball fans and fantasy baseball fans alike with his ability to pitch and hit. The 23-year-old posted a career .859 OPS in Japan and had a 2.52 ERA in 543 career innings.

Like the White Sox, the Braves are loaded with young talent. Shortstop Ozzie Albies came in and posted an .810 OPS in 57 games as a rookie last season, but Acuna is set to follow. The 20-year-old, who ranks second on MLB Pipeline’s list of prospects, posted an .896 OPS across three minor league levels last season, wrapping up the season by winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League.

Gleyber Torres YANKEES INF

Victor Robles

The Yankees loaded up with an offseason splash, adding Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins to pair with reigning American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge. New York may have a shot at back-to-back Rookies of the Year with MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 prospect in Torres. The stud infielder missed time last season due to Tommy John surgery on his left (nonthrowing) elbow, but could crack the Opening Day lineup.

NATIONALS OF

Robles got a taste of the Majors — and the postseason — last year and flashed much of the natural ability that has him sixth on MLB Pipeline’s list of top prospects. The 20-year-old outfielder is a burner and had an .875 OPS in the minors before going 6-for-24 in 13 big-league games.

Walker Buehler

Michael Kopech WHITE SOX RHP

The White Sox received a massive haul last winter when they dealt Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, with the biggest name, Yoan Moncada, making his club debut last fall. Moncada just barely exceeded retaining rookie status, but the flame-throwing righthander Kopech is waiting in the wings after posting a combined 3.35 ERA between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. The White Sox should be young and talented, and moving Kopech to the rotation could be the latest step in the club’s rebuild. 66 PLAY BALL

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The Dodgers have had the last two National League Rookies of the Year in Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, and Buehler could very well be the third. The 23-year-old right-hander got a brief call-up last season making eight appearances, and was lights out in posting a 3.35 ERA across three minor league levels.

Shohei Ohtani, aka the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” now an Angel, should pique the interest of baseball fans and fantasy baseball fans alike with his ability to pitch and hit.

PITCHING: LA TIMES; HITTING: ASSOCIATED PRESS

DODGERS RHP


T H E L E AG U E

Five storylines to kick off the season B Y FA B I A N A R DAYA

The cold stove Instead of a single frenzied moment, this offseason’s transactions were reduced to a slow drip. It took until the days shortly before spring training for the top free-agent pitcher, Yu Darvish, to land a six-year deal with the Cubs. Darvish’s $126-million deal is one of the few $100-plus million contracts signed this offseason, one of two signed by free agents. The top free agent, J.D. Martinez, signed a $110 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. The dirty word, “collusion,” has been tossed around. So what gives? Why the sudden stalemate? Will the lack of signings carry over to the monster 2019 freeagent class, which includes the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado? “The clubs have conducted themselves in a manner that’s completely consistent with the agreement with the MLB,” commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters early in spring.

TOP: MIAMI HERALD/TNS; BELOW: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Derek Jeter fire sale The one team that led the movement of the 2018 offseason and stayed in the headlines was the Miami Marlins. The new ownership group, including new organizational face Derek Jeter, shipped off 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton in a mega-deal to the New York Yankees and followed the move by sending Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals and Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Dee Gordon also found himself shipped out, moving from second base in Miami to the Mariners’ outfield. More moves may be on the horizon, with catcher J.T. Realmuto reportedly on the trading block. According to data from Fangraphs, the Marlins sans Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna already

are projected to join the 2015-16 Diamondbacks as just the second outfield ever to go from first to last in combined Wins Above Replacement (WAR). The Marlins are shedding salary, and potentially their notable home run sculpture in the outfield, but they are at least getting prospects in return. Miami’s once-barren farm system now has a pair of prospects in MLB Pipeline Top 100 in Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison. He did what? Derek Jeter, the new face of the Marlins organization, has shipped off most of Miami’s big boppers to other teams, including 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, now a proud Yankee.

Digging the long ball The Fall Classic certainly lived up to its billing this past October, with Games 2 and 5 of the World Series between the Dodgers and Astros becoming instant classics. Part of what made it so was a series-record 22 home runs over the seven games, a perfect cap for a record-smashing home run season across baseball. Stanton rode a career-high 59 homers to his first-ever MVP award as the league set a record for total home runs. The youngsters provided the pop, as well, with Rookie of the Year winners Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger each breaking the rookie home run records. The balls are flying out of the park at an astronomical rate, as more emphasis has been placed on pitchers striking batters out and on batters employing a higher launch angle to keep the ball in the air. The “juiced ball” theory generated some hype too, though Manfred told reporters early in spring that offseason studies showed no fundamental difference between the baseballs used in 2017 and in previous years. The home run surge should continue into 2018 — at least in the Bronx, where Stanton and Judge are now teammates after pairing together at the top of the home run leaderboards in 2017.

Pace of play Pace of play continues to be the buzzword of the baseball world, and change is coming — against the players’ will. Multiple reports surfaced in January that MLB will implement a 20-second timer in between pitches and place a limit on mound visits. The players rejected a proposal for 16 seconds between pitches, forcing Manfred to make a unilateral decision to implement the new policy. Manfred confirmed that there would be changes to the policy in 2018. Game times in 2017 averaged three hours and eight minutes each, the longest in history. Even if the players don’t all like it, something had to be done.

The Shohei Show Few free agency storylines have been as complex or unique as that of the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” Shohei Ohtani. The twoway Japanese star officially was posted this offseason — two years before the new collective bargaining agreement would allow him to fully profit off his abilities. For the first time, a top-level, 23-year-old hitting and pitching prospect was made available at a fully affordable cost to each and every single team in baseball. Over a week span, Ohtani narrowed his search to a handful of teams, ultimately joining forces with Mike Trout and the Angels. Manager Mike Scioscia said his club will likely employ a six-man starting rotation and that the priority will be placed upon what Ohtani can do on the mound rather than the plate. “He’s going to get the most looks as a pitcher,” Scioscia said. “If he can pitch to his capabilities, that will always influence your team more than what he would do hitting.” BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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Milestones that could fall in 2018 B Y FA B I A N A R DAYA

Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols is just 32 hits away from becoming the 32nd member of the 3,000 hit club, and he is 16 home runs away from tying Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth on the all-time home run list. He is 82 RBIs away from 2,000 and would climb as high as fifth on the all-time list with another 100-RBI season, passing Jimmie Foxx, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds.

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Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is 16 home runs away from tying Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth on the all-time home run list.

Eyeing 200-plus club Astros right-hander Justin Verlander and John Lackey are each 12 wins away from 200 career wins, a feat accomplished by just 116 players in Major League history. Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia, the active wins leaders, are 10 and 13 wins away from 250, respectively.

Beltre’s hit collection With 100 or more hits, Adrian Beltre (who has recorded at least 106 hits in all but one season of his career) would pass Rod Carew,

Rickey Henderson, Craig Biggio, Ichiro Suzuki (active), Dave Winfield, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn and Robin Yount to climb to 18th on the all-time list.

Etc Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel is just nine saves away from being just the 29th person in history to record 300 saves. Twins first baseman Joe Mauer is 14 hits away from joining the 2,000-hit club. Rajai Davis is just six stolen

bases away from being the 75th member of the 400 stolen base club. Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is just two home runs away from 350 career home runs. Pujols and Beltre need 13 and 19 doubles, respectively, to climb into the top 10 on the all-time doubles list. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is six doubles away from 400 for his career.

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Pujols on the prowl


VIDA FROM PAGE 4

teams divided by the thin Blue line: ON ECCENTRICITIES

A’s: Blue was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in the second round of the 1967 draft. But it didn’t take him long to figure out that Finley had a renegade streak. The owner moved the team to Oakland in 1968. “I call Mr. Finley the baseball version of Al Davis — he was his own man. And that’s a compliment,’’ Blue said, referring to the former Raiders owner. Finley’s tradition-rattling ways included the way he revolutionized baseball’s color palette. He outfitted the 1970s A’s in shockingly garish day-glo uniforms. That was fine with a guy named Blue. “I bought into it. I don’t know about other players, but I thought it was pretty cool and quirky that we had stuff like that,’’ he said. “But I was 21, so you could have told me the sky was falling, and I might have bought into it.” Finley’s combinations consisted of bright greens and golds. And then there were home Sundays, when the A’s wore white tops with white pants. “And they were wedding gown white,’’ Blue said. “Obviously, that’s the whitest white that’s ever been made.” Giants: Anyone who played home games at Candlestick Park eventually became an amateur meteorologist. There was no need for fancy equipment. Just follow the wind-blown trash. “Those hot dog wrappers would come right past the Giants dugout on the first-base side, get in a swirling wind and wind up in front of the visitors’ dugout,’’ Blue recalled. How bad was it? Before the ’Stick was demolished a few years ago, Blue wanted badly for the Giants and Dodgers to play one last game there. He wanted all the young players spoiled by the relative calm of AT&T

Park to see what life was like in the days of yore. “That would have been cool, man, let the current guys see what the hell we went through and how we had to adjust and adapt,’’ Blue said. There would have been another perk to one more game at the ’Stick. “You and I could have set up shop outside selling sweatshirts,’’ Blue said. “The generation of today wouldn’t know how to prepare for Candlestick Park. We would have sold a billion sweatshirts.” HOWARD ERKER/OAKLAND TRIBUNE (1974)

O N H I S TO R Y

A’s: Blue made his debut for Oakland on July 20, 1969, just eight days shy of his 20th birthday. His breakthrough season came two years later, when he went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts and won the AL MVP and Cy Young awards. Like his young teammates, he was coming of age in a city in search of its own stars. “The fact is that Oakland took a backseat to San Francisco because of the status of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry and Orlando Cepeda,’’ Blue said. “Those were established players.” The A’s didn’t have anyone like that. But it didn’t take them long to produce names that endure to this day. Blue rattled off Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace and Bert “Campy” Campaneris. “When we won those five divisional titles and three championships (1972-74), that kind of put us on the map,’’ Blue said. “You can kind of flex your muscles and say, ‘Well, we’re not so bad ourselves.’ ” Giants: By the time the A’s traded Blue to the Giants, after the 1977 season, the Oakland dynasty had been reduced to rubble. Reggie, Rudi, Tenace, Bando, Rollie Fingers — all gone. Finley was eager to unload high-salaried stars, figuring there were more around the corner.

Vida Blue, middle, called Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley, left, “the baseball version of Al Davis — he was his own man. And that’s a compliment.”

Blue remembers his exact thought upon hearing he had been traded to the Giants. “My reaction was: ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I’m free at last,’ ’’ he said. He went 18-10 with a 2.79 ERA for an NL West contender in ’78 and finished third in Cy Young Award voting behind Gaylord Perry and Burt Hooton. Over the next two seasons, Blue was lucky to see McCovey’s swan song before his retirement in 1980. In Blue’s second tour with San Francisco, he got to see a new wave of stars. His final big league season was in ’86, when he played with rookies Will Clark and Robby Thompson. “They had great potential. I knew Will Clark was a star in his own right,’’ Blue said. “For the history of the Giants, it was the changing of the guard. ... They had these great young stars that I thought would fill the void of some of the Giants past.” O N A L L-S TA R DISTINCTION

Blue was the first pitcher to start the All-Star Game for both leagues. He has since been joined by Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer. A’s: Blue was midway through his first full season when he started the 1971 All-

Star Game in Detroit. It was a heck of a way to make an entrance. There were 26 Hall of Famers involved in that game (22 players, both managers, and umpire Doug Harvey; one of the players was Joe Torre, who went in as a manager). All six home runs in the game came from future residents of Cooperstown. And then there was Blue, the kid from tiny Mansfield, Louisiana. “The first time, you’re always a deer in the headlights. And that was me,’’ Blue said. “You can imagine me being a young kid. We were in Detroit, and I’m drooling watching Al Kaline walk past me, and Luis Aparicio and Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson and Catfish Hunter and Reggie and Jim Palmer and guys like that.” Blue was the winning pitcher in that game, but he got a little too much of a close-up with one particular Hall of Famer, allowing a home run to Hank Aaron in the third inning. “He hit a home run to right-center field, and I think they named it the Space Shuttle,’’ Blue said. Aaron wasn’t fooled, huh? “I wasn’t trying to fool him,’’ Blue clarified. “I was trying to throw the ball by him, which is just as dumb.” Giants: Eager to make an impression in his first year in

orange and black, Blue went 12-4 with a 2.42 ERA in the first half of the ‘78 season and started opposite Jim Palmer at the Mid-Summer Classic in San Diego. “I really tried to enjoy the one in 1978,’’ he recalled. “I remember meeting President Ford, who came into the locker room. And he was pretty cordial. It was just a quick, ‘Hi and bye’ because security is so tight that that’s all you can do is shake hands and read each other’s lips and keep moving.” As for the game itself, things got off to a rough start, thanks to even more Hall of Famers. Rod Carew tripled and George Brett doubled to start the game. Throw in a Carlton Fisk sacrifice fly, and the AL led 2-0 after the first inning. Luckily for Blue, the NL rallied for a 7-3 victory. “It was more of a fun time for me than being a deer in the headlights,’’ he said “I really began to feel like I was an established player after eight years in the major leagues.” ON COMMON GROUND

The key question for Vida Blue: What’s the difference between A’s fans and Giants fans? “Oh, I don’t know,’’ he said, diplomatically. “With A’s fans, we grew up together. With Giants fans, they kind of adopted me after the ’78 season. That would be the minor difference. “But fans are fans. They intercross and intersect, American League and National League. I like to think that I’m well respected with the fans of both the A’s and Giants.” Blue played 273 games for Oakland and 179 for San Francisco. Subtract his two late-career seasons in Kansas City, and you have a pitcher who went 196-144 with a 3.15 ERA while in Northern California. “It was nice to be a part of both teams,’’ he said. “I was a pretty lucky guy to take in the Bay Area.” Right back atcha, Vida. BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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T H E L E AG U E S

In closing, happy anniversary to you, Bay Area baseball lovers

F

or 50 years you’ve been able to see every major league team, every star, every future Hall of Famer every day. This is the bounty of a two-team market. As someone who has lived here the past 33 years, I can’t say I expected this anniversary to come. In fact, I’d have bet against it happening, heavily and often, so frequent were the rumors that one team or the other might be leaving. It was the Giants in 1976 (Toronto). The A’s in ’78 (Denver). The A’s in ’79 (New Orleans). The A’s in 1980 (Denver again). And the big one, the Giants in 1992 (Tampa-St. Pete). And here we stand, still. Let us pause to reflect on this good fortune. Since 1968, when the A’s came west as the Giants had done 10 years earlier, we’ve had the opportunity to attend a major league ballgame almost every day from April to October. Every year for 50 years, we have had the opportunity to see every team, every star and shooting star from Mark “The Bird” Fidrych to Joe Charboneau, every Hall of Famer from Mantle and Yaz to Brett, Ripken and Griffey. That doesn’t happen in Kansas City, Milwaukee or Cincinnati. It doesn’t happen in Houston, Phoenix or Philadelphia — markets that rank 4-5-6 in population. It happens only in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — markets that rank 1-2-3 by population — and here. (Baltimore-Washington ranks as a two-team market if you’re willing to drive 38 miles. Hell, given the distance between Dodger Stadium and Anaheim — 31 miles, or three hours, whichever comes first — you could make a case for excluding Los Angeles. Or in local dialect: Beat it, L.A.) Although interleague play gives every MLB market a taste of both leagues, it is just a taste. Kansas

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Bud Geracie

City doesn’t see every National League team every year, just as Cincinnati doesn’t see every American League team. They see one division, and even then it’s not the entire division. For instance, Texas Rangers fans see the NL West this season, but they don’t see the Giants. Four AL West teams visit Dodger Stadium this season, but not the A’s. In sum: Baseball lovers in single-team markets don’t see in three seasons what we see in one. We could have been so unfortunate, so many times. There was a serious scare in 1980 when A’s owner Charlie Finley, after many dalliances, struck a deal with Denver oilman Marvin Davis. It fell apart at the 11th hour when Davis learned he couldn’t break the Coliseum lease to move the team to Denver.

Finley still wanted out, though, and that’s when Walter Haas, the philanthropic head of a San Francisco-based corporation (Levi Strauss), stepped up and saved the team. It was a scene straight out of 1976 when Bob Lurie, a San Francisco real-estate magnate, had stepped up to keep the Giants from going to Toronto. And this would play out again, a third act, in 1992. If your time in the Bay Area doesn’t go back 20 years, it must be hard to fathom that it was the Giants — not the A’s — who came closest to leaving. They were gone, sold to a group in St. Petersburg, Florida. I can still see in my mind’s eye the photographs of Florida officials celebrating. I remember how it felt here and what I wrote on that August day in 1992 when the sale

was announced. Willie Mays is ours no more. Neither is Will Clark, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal nor the original Humm Baby, Brad Gulden. The Giants and 34 years of history: Gone, sold to St. Petersburg. Our reprieve came months later when National League owners refused to approve the sale. Lurie still wanted out, though, and that’s when Peter Magowan, the son of a San Francisco philanthropist, stepped up with a local group to buy the team. Magowan got Barry Bonds, who got the Giants a new ballpark, and we remained a two-team market. So happy anniversary to the Giants. Happy anniversary to the A’s. And happy anniversary to you, Bay Area baseball lovers. Here’s to another 50 years.


H I S TO RY

RON RIESTERER

Oh Henry, it’s Hammertime!

Stanley Burrell, a young Oakland A’s ballboy in 1975, picked up the nickname “Hammer” in the A’s clubhouse because he bore a strong resemblance to home run champion “Hammering” Hank Aaron. Yes, that’s how Burrell later became known as MC Hammer.


SAY HEY

TO OUR

BOYS

OF SUMMER

Martin Gallegos, a San Jose native and a San Jose State graduate, joined our team in 2015 and spent the second half of the 2017 season covering the A’s. Kerry Crowley, a lifelong San Franciscan and an Arizona State graduate, was signed in the offseason to cover the Giants after spending the 2017 season with KNBR. Crowley bats right, throws right. Gallegos bats right, throws left. Both will give it to you straight every day, online and in print. Follow them on Twitter: @MartinJGallegos, @KO_Crowley Email them at: mgallegos@bayareanewsgroup.com kcrowley@bayareanewsgroup.com

DOUG DURAN/BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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Play Ball - 2018  

An in-depth look at the A's, the Giants and the league. Major league baseball preview 2018.

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An in-depth look at the A's, the Giants and the league. Major league baseball preview 2018.

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