|  Baseball Index  |  Peter Gammons Bio


A's focused on finishing the job

Special to

Feb. 22

PHOENIX -- On the first day of each spring training, Oakland pitching coach Rick Peterson gathers his pitchers around him for what he calls their state of the union address.

"The first topic annually," says Peterson, "is complacency. This year, it wasn't necessary. It is clear that the last thing these guys are are complacent."

"We are on a mission," says A's pitcher Tim Hudson. "We all know that we have a great team with great players that has accomplished a lot during the regular season. Ten years from now, it would be a shame to look back and realize we never won a World Series. So to accomplish anything less will be a disappointment."

A's team
The A's goal for 2003 is to avoid the anguish they've had to suffer through during the past three postseasons.

"I have lost two Game 5's," says fellow pitcher Mark Mulder. "So it's time for me and everyone to take the responsibility for getting off to a better start and finishing the season the way we have, and it starts with me."

If you remember, Mulder gave up one run in seven innings in Game 5 of the Division Series last season against Minnesota. Most athletes would refer to his positive outing in some "I-did-my-job" way. Not Mulder. He accepts the responsibility for losing.

Hudson never referenced the hip problem that bothered him so badly in his two starts against the Twins, which kept him from getting the ball down in the strike zone. Hip rotation is a vital part of the 162-pound Hudson's delivery, but he didn't mention the hip problem at the time, didn't mention it in talking about the team's disappointments; Mulder and others brought it up. It wasn't until after Christmas that Hudson's hip was back to normal, but, even now, he says,"that is no excuse. You win or you lose, and we lost."

Since the day Barry Zito arrived in the majors -- July 22, 2000 -- he has 47 victories, Mulder has 44 and Hudson has 43. They are the three winningest pitchers in the American League during that time.

"That is remarkable in of itself," says Peterson. "But when I heard Mark and Tim say what they said, I knew I didn't have to even bring up complacency. What they said is why they are special. They shoulder responsibility, as does Barry. They are special, rare athletes."

"There not only are a lot of very talented players on this team, but they do accept the responsibility that goes along with success," says new A's manager Ken Macha, who has seamlessly moved into his new job. "The best thing is that there are so many of the stars who are on a mission to get that World Series ring."

Jermaine Dye
Right fielder
Oakland Athletics
131 488 74 24 86 .252

One is Jermaine Dye, who after breaking his leg in the 2001 playoffs had what for him was a below-average (.252-24-86) season.

"Last year, the leg never was right, and I couldn't really put any pressure on my front leg, which meant I really couldn't drive through my swing," says Dye. "This spring, it's back to normal. I feel fantastic, and I really want to have that big year and help get us get a World Series ring."

The addition of Erubiel Durazo gives Oakland a powerful two-through-six in the batting order with Scott Hatteberg, Miguel Tejada, Dye, Eric Chavez and Durazo. Adam Piatt, who seemed on the brink of contributing in 2000 (.299 batting average, .882 OPS) but was slowed by a bad back last season, is healthier and stronger. They will miss the retired David Justice, on and off the field, although Justice is coming into camp this coming week to be around the team. How Chris Singleton (.296 OBP), Terrence Long (.298 OBP) and Ramon Hernandez (.313 OBP) bounce back will be watched carefully, as general manager Billy Beane will make a trade if need be as he is the master of the trade-deadline deal.

Ted Lilly is the fourth starter, and has strengthened his lower half and lengthened his stride to smooth his delivery and take pressure off his shoulder. John Halama or Aaron Harang wll be the fifth starter.

Peterson thinks Keith Foulke will be an upgrade at closer, and looking at what Foulke did the last two months (26 1/3 IP 1 ER, 1 BB and 17 K) there is every reason to believe he's right again.

"We may do something different," says Peterson. "Ricardo Rincon and Chad Bradford can always pitch the ninth inning, as well, and we have some very interesting other arms (Rule V pick Buddy Hernandez and Chad Harville for two) that may give us more depth."

One thing that Macha addressed at the opening of camp is the fact that the A's have started very slowly each of the last two years.

"Rick and I have talked about some things the pitchers may do differently," says Macha."We just need to be more aware that the first month against our division -- which happens to be the best division in the game -- requires some urgency.

"But I do think that the way these players came here on a mission bodes well."

The A's finished with the second-best record in the AL in 2000 and 2001. They lost Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen and Johnny Damon after 2001, and went from 102 to 103 wins.

"We cannot let our legacy be losing fifth games," says Zito.

That said, with what Mulder and Hudson not only say but believe, if they remain healthy, they will head to Japan on March 20 as the favorite to go to the last weekend in October.

Angels not missing a beat
That the AL wild-card team has come out of the best division three straight years is remarkable, and unlikely to happen again given the strength of the weaker teams in the East and Central. But if you thought the Angels might change after winning it all, you were wrong.

Next year's crew
For reference sake, here are the players who will be free agents at the end of the 2003 season (players with options in parenthesis):

1B: Rafael Palmeiro, Tex.; (Eric Karros, Cubs; J.T. Snow, S.F.)
2B: Roberto Alomar, Mets; Luis Castillo, Fla.; (Fernando Vina, St.L.; Eric Young, Mil.; Mark Grudzielanek, Cubs; Pokey Reese, Pit.)
SS: Rich Aurilia, S.F.; Miguel Tejada, Oak.; Barry Larkin, Cin.; (Edgar Renteria, St.L.; Jose Valentin, White Sox)
3B: (Fernando Tatis, Mon.; Craig Paquette, Det.)
OF: Mike Cameron, Sea.; Juan Gonzalez, Tex.; Vladimir Guerrero, Mon.; Luis Gonzalez, Ari.; (Ellis Burks, Cle.; Gary Sheffield, Atl.; Moises Alou, Cubs; Brian Jordan, L.A.)
C: (Brook Fordyce, Bal.; Brent Mayne K.C.)
SP: Greg Maddux, Atl.; Kevin Millwood, Phi.; Randy Johnson, Ari.; Bartolo Colon, White Sox; Cory Lidle, Tor.; Sidney Ponson, Bal.; (Pedro Martinez, Bos.; Derek Lowe, Bos.; Glendon Rusch, Mil.; Miguel Batista, Ari.; Livan Hernandez, S.F.; Steve Sparks, Det.; Rick Reed, Min.; Hideo Nomo, L.A.; Sterling Hitchcock, Yankees; David Wells, Yankees; Andy Ashby, L.A.)
RP: Kelvim Escobar, Tor.; Keith Foulke, Oak.; Armando Benitez, Mets; Steve Kline, St.L.; (Trevor Hoffman, S.D.; Robb Nen, S.F.; Jose Mesa, Phi.; Greg Swindel, Ari.; Rheal Cormier, Phi.; Mike DeJean, Mil.; Felix Rodriguez, S.F.; Scott Sullivan, Cin.; Gabe White, Cin.; Antonio Osuna, Yankees; Matt Mantei, Ari.; Mike Williams, Pit.)

"These guys are no different, no less enthusiastic," says Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "Some of that is feeding off Darin Erstad and David Eckstein, but it's the nature of this team."

"I hear people say we had a lot of players have career years," says Angels GM Bill Stoneman. "But that's not really so. A lot of our good players can have better years."

Troy Glaus, for one. His homers have gone from 47 to 41 to 30 the last three seasons, his batting average from .284 to .250. But in the postseason, when his OPS was 1.266, .960 and 1.313 in the three series, he seemed to figure it out and could be on the verge of a monster season.

"I did stay up the middle and learned to better dictate where the ball would go," says Glaus. "I think a lot clicked in."

Think back to his at-bats against Jason Schmidt, then off Rob Nen in Game 6 of the World Series.

With Aaron Sele unable to begin the season, there will be attention paid to the fifth spot (it'll likely be Mickey Callaway, unless Scott Schoeneweis comes out of the bullpen to start). But Saturday, when players were being cheered by fans as they had their pictures taken on picture day, Scioscia said, "in the past, if we had two birds in the stadium at this point in spring training, we were lucky. Now we've got players being cheered."

Stoneman says that the advanced ticket sales have been tremendous. The carryover is important, because from September on the audience was the most diverse in either league, heavily Hispanic and Asian.

"Our area is heavily Hispanic," says Stoneman. "So we have worked hard in those communities. Of course, winning helps."

Has Erstad changed? Impossible. He has the scar from the operation for the broken right hand he suffered in Game 4 of the World Series in San Francisco, but didn't aknowledge the injury until he was playing golf two weeks after the Series.

"Think about how hard he hit that homer off (the Giants) Tim Worrell in Game 6," says Scioscia. "And realize he had a broken hand."

Will Erstad modify his proclivity to running into walls and diving? "No," he says. "It's part of the job."

Then there's Eckstein. He went to Japan after the World Series as part of the major league All-Star team that toured the country, where he became buddies with Barry Bonds.

"He might be my favorite player," says Bonds of Eckstein. "I watch how he does what he does, with all that energy, and I'm amazed. One day watching him, I got a tear in my eye for what he achieves considering the natural ability he was given."

Said Eckstein: "I learned a lot hanging around with Barry. The biggest thing was to respect the game and respect all opponents, to go into each day believing it's a huge challenge. He's very smart, he's interesting and I found him to be very nice."

Eckstein went to dinner at the White House, where President George W. Bush told him he was a fan of his. Pretty good for a kid who couldn't get a college scholarship and who was written off by the Red Sox.

Baseball needs to wise up
The Commissioner's Office representatives have had several significant issues raised to them about making the All-Star Game determine home-field advantage for the World Series. In Mets camp, there were a battery of player leaders -- Tom Glavine, David Cone, Al Leiter, John Franco and Mike Stanton -- and among the issues raised were the rosters (why should fans dictate the team? Why should there be someone from each team?). This was an idea that wasn't thought out; a far better idea is to have home-field advantage in the World Series decided by which league has the best record in interleague play.
Keep an eye out for ...
Intereresting players who are out of options, and thus must be kept on a big-league roster or traded:

Ruben Mateo, Cin., OF
Wily Mo Pena, Cin., OF
Bruce Chen, Cin., LHP
Matt Kinney, Mil., RHP
Brent Butler, Col., 2B
Tim Drew, Mon., RHP
Joe Nathan, S.F., RHP
Matt Wise, Ana., RHP
Bronson Arroyo, Bos., RHP
Nick Bierbrodt, T.B., LHP
Chad Harville, Oak., RHP
Josh Paul, White Sox, C
Aaron Myette, Cle., RHP

One problem is that this winter, instead of trying to create a working partnership to take the game forward, owners went backwards and recreated mistrust, not to mention serious questions about vision, or the lack of it. To jump on the Ban ephedrine bangwagon is a shallow public relations stunt similar to the owners steroids rage, which only came about because two guys now in jail talked publically about steroids.

The ephedra and steroids outcry were reactions. What baseball needs is vision and creative action.

Around the majors

  • Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly believes Byung-Hyun Kim could "be a star as a starter.

    "It's what he wants to do. But there's no turning back. He's not going back to the bullpen, because he would have trouble doing that because he believes that he should start. So if something happens to Matt (Mantei), we'll do what Boston is doing, which I believe can work. One good thing -- as a starter, maybe we can get Byung-Hyun into a regular throwing program. As long as he was in the bullpen, he might throw 50-100 pitches about five or six times a day, in left field, in a cage, anywhere."

  • Macha on Torii Hunter: "When we were preparing for the Twins (in last year's Division Series), I couldn't figure out how their outfielders caught so many balls in foul territory. Then I realized they crowd the corner outfielders to the lines, and give Hunter all that room to run balls down. He's legitimately a great outfielder."

  • Macha clipped a story where Randy Johnson said he hasn't yet had his best season, and distributed it to some of his younger players.

  • Reds GM Jim Bowden's supposed flap with Ken Griffey Jr. was a bit out of context thing. Yes, Bowden told Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that the Griffey-Mike Cameron deal has been a flop, but only because Griffey was hurt.

    "I said that healthy, I think Junior will go back to being a Hall of Fame player. I talked to Junior and told him exactly what I said and what I meant."


  • Says Bowden: "I think our pitching is going to be better than people think. Danny Graves is going to be a solid starter, I believe Ryan Dempster will come back and Jimmy Haynes will approach what he did last season. (Pitching coach) Don Gullett will have a positive effect on Paul Wilson, and Pete Harnisch is really throwing the ball well. So, we may be OK there."

  • By the way, Adam Dunn is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, and ran a 6.4 60 (yard dash). Think about that. Amazing.

  • Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti says rookie pitcher Jesse Foppert "can be anything right up to great. He could be special."

  • Asking why the Giants were able to get Damian Moss in the Russ Ortiz deal, one GM said, "he was arbitration eligible and the Braves have more financial problems than we do. (Braves GM) John Schuerholz did the best he could."

  • Initial looks have the Astros very pleased with two young players: outfielder Jason Lane, who is bigger and stronger and can be a contributing bat, and right-handed pitcher Tim Redding, whose work with a psychologist has given him a bit of a different presence.

  • The Angels are raving about rookie pitcher Derek Turnbow, who throws in the high 90s.

  • Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty says there is "a chance that Jason Isringhausen and J.D. Drew could be ready to start the season on time. Jason may not be able to throw back-to-back days the first week of the season, but he could be ready."

    The Cardinals are very pleased with what they've seen from veteran pitchers Cal Eldred, Dustin Hermanson, Joey Hamilton and Garrett Stephenson, who are all coming off injuries.

  • How crazy is the media contingent following Hideki Matsui? He and Jason Giambi went to dinner, and when they came out of the restaurant, there were three TV crews waiting for him.

    Picking the best tunes
    Here are Scott Hatteberg's three musical picks for this spring training:

    Jason Marz
    Jets to Brazil
    Supreme Beings of Leisure

    Remember, Hatteberg was the first one interested in John Mayer and Jack Johnson, no matter how tired you may have gotten of each. And Hatteberg is amazed at teammate Barry Zito's musical progress, his song-writing and his guitar playing.

    Zito is big on Mayer, which doesn't get far with A's GM Beane.

    "It all sounds the same," Beane told Hatteberg and Zito. "Like if you've heard one Dave Matthews song, you've heard the entire repertoire."

    So what can the three agree upon? The group Coldplay. And they'll all go hear American Hi-Fi on March 10 in Tempe, Ari.

  • Brewers manager Ned Yost immediately learned the way Brewers GM Doug Melvin thinks.

    "He asked me, 'when they put the shift on against (Barry) Bonds, why is it that the best infielder, the shortstop, ends up in the position on the right side of the bag where he covers the least ground,' " says Yost. "I had no answer, except that when we put the shift on against Bonds, our shortstop will be the one guy on the left side."

    Not to demean (third baseman) Wes Helms, but (shortstop) Royce Clayton has a little more range than Helms.

  • Years ago, Moose Haas and Robin Yount were Brewers teammates and went to the 1982 World Series together. Yount's 13-year-old daughter Jenna is now a figure skating prodigy. Her physical trainer? Haas, whose wife is Jenna's figure skating teacher.

  • An interesting observation from esteemed ESPN producer Charlie Moynihan. In a conversation about four of the greatest pitchers of this era -- Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez -- he noted that every one of them has a decided mean streak. There may be a lesson there.

  • Agent Scott Boras is now 1-9 in arbitration cases over the last five years.

    Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories

  • Gammons: Armed for success

    Gammons: A family grieves

    Peter Gammons Archive Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
    Copyright ©2002 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site.