1-on-1 with Reggie Jackson

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1-on-1 with Reggie Jackson

Editor's Note: Before Sunday's game with the Yankees, our A's Insider Casey Pratt spent 15 minutes speaking exclusively with Reggie Jackson in the form of a one-on-one interview. The conversation was centered around Reggie's time with the A's dynasty of the early 70s. Here is a transcript of their conversation.CP: At the time, prior to the Championship run, a lot of As played minor league ball together. You, Joe Rudi, Dave Duncan and Rollie Fingers to name a few, when you guys were winning in the Minor Leagues, at any point did you have an inclination about how special this team could become?RJ: (Reggie laughs) We were doing our best to try and get to the next level. Whether that was Double-A, or Triple-A, we were trying to get to the next level. All of us had pretty good talent in the league we were competing in. We were successful in Modesto when we played together, we also played together in Birmingham. I didn't play Triple-A ball, I think that Rollie did. Rudi played Triple-A, but most of us went right to the big leagues.No thought of any kind of success at the kind of level that we had. Two of us made the Hall of Fame, Duncan became arguably one of the best pitching coaches in the Major Leagues. He was on a World Series team several times as a player, a catcher, and a World Series several times with the Cardinals as a pitching coach. Dave Duncan had no idea that was going to happen. Joe Rudi really a near miss, a great player that didn't get much Hall of Fame mention, but certainly played at that level for a very long time. But there was no thought of what we were going to do in the future when we were 19-20 years-old, trying to scrape by, and trying to get to the next level as a player.CP: In 1971, the As put it all together, winning the division. You and Vida Blue had terrific years, Dick Williams won manager of the year, what clicked for you guys as a team?RJ: I don't really say getting over the hump, we started to become a good team. In 1971 we got beat by Baltimore, and that was a dominant team really in baseball at the time. The Detroit Tigers were a great team at the time, the Minnesota Twins were as well, and we were young coming into our own. We were a very good team, we were pretty good in '69, in '70 we kinda faltered a little bit. Then we got a new manager in Dick Williams and Dick had taken the Red Sox to the World Series, and got beat by the Cardinals. We were getting better and growing and developing as a young team and I think Dick was there at the right time. When we were in our formative years, and started to understand how to play the game. CP: The 1972 season, the team was ready to get over the hump, but dealt with unique challenges, you were injured in the Detroit series. I remember hearing that was one of the toughest times of your career. How tough was it to sit out that first World Series?RJ: I don't know if it was tough. I think a better way of saying it was it was a heck of an adjustment. Emotionally difficult, I struggled, shed some tears because I wasn't going to play. But, Dave Duncan dedicated the World Series to me, and Rudi played great, and I developed some great relationships there. Johnny Bench and I got to be real close at that time. So the memories are fabulous, I wish I would have played but next year we came back and went to the World Series again.CP: Aside from your injury in 1972, Vida held out and wasnt the same pitcher as he was in 1971, yet the team won it all, against the big Red Machine, how much of a testament was it to the team as a whole to be able step up in key spots and get it done?RJ: We also lost our center fielder, George Hendrick played some center field for us and did a great job. Angel Mangual had some issues and ended up playing center field for a while But we had great pitching, and a real consistent offense. Campy Campaneris of course, Sal Bando and Joe Rudi were there. Gene Tenace played a little at first base and he had a great season there, multiple home runs in the World Series. Rollie Fingers, Darold Knowles, I believe Knowles pitched every game of the 1972 World Series. We had tremendous pitching, real good solid players that didn't make mistakes. I think playing under Dick Williams in 1971 taught us how to play the game, how to go about it, and our maturation was starting from '71 to '72. And then of course the great years after that.CP: Did that motivate you to come back better than ever in 1973? You won MVP of the regular season and the World Series.RJ: I wanted to play in the World Series, I missed the year before. I set out really as a goal to help the ballclub get back to the World Series. I wound up having a very good year, one of my better years. We won the division, got into the series, beat Baltimore in '73 in the playoffs. And then we wound up against the Mets. They had great pitching, Jon Matlack and the great Tom Seaver was one of the best right handers in the game at the time, so we beat a great team. We had Campaneris, Billy North at the time had come over. We still had Gene Tenace there, but Bando and Rudi were solid, Dick Green was a tremendous defender, Campaneris kind of a near miss Hall of Famer. The pitching was what was dominant with Catfish Hunter, and Ken Holtzman being great of course. Vida Blue was there in '73, I think he won 20 in '73, he struggled in '72 because he missed a bunch of time, but was dominant again with another 20 win season. And Fingers was there to shut down. We had Paul Lindblad and Knowles was still with the ballclub. So we were still a dominant ballclub in every facet of the game. We had power, left-handed and right-handed. In '73, we had Deron Johnson as a designated hitter hit 19 homers, Rudi hit 20, Bando hit 20-25 drove in 100. We were solid and probably at that time the best team in baseball.CP: I don't know if how great that pitching staff was gets a lot of recognition when people think back about those teams. Would you agree?RJ: Casey, you know if people that know the game of baseball and you take a look at the ballclub, we didn't have .300 hitters. I think Joe Rudi may have been our only .300 hitter. We had guys that produced, that drove in runs, we hit the ball out of the ballpark, and we hit the ball out of the ballpark when it counted. With Bando or Rudi, or with Deron Johnson, we had guys that got base hits when it counted. We had our stolen base guys in Billy North, and the great Bert Campaneris stole bases when we needed it. Those two guys at the top of the order stole 100 together maybe a little bit more. So we were extremely efficient.We were a tremendous defensive ballclub, we were very sound fundamentally. Dick Williams pounded fundamentals into us. Captain Sal, was a guy that kept things together as a ballclub, kept every body pulling the same way. So we were a outstanding, very efficient business like club, that played the game to win and we had all the ingredients necessary. We had tremendous starting pitching, middle relief, and at the back of the bullpen a shutdown guy with Rollie Fingers.CP: 1973, the As are taking on the Mets, down a man on the roster, and then had to overcome not only a tough Mets team, but the Mike Andrews situation. Was that one of the most rewarding World Series that you ever won?RJ: I don't know Casey, I think they are all rewarding, I was on five World Championships and another five with the Yankees here. I've been on 10 World Series winners and every one is special, even as a staff member with the Yankees. When you win, It's a special feeling, it's a wonderful place to be and I have a great appreciation for it because it doesn't happen to everybody.Now as a player it's a little bit more gratifying because you are in the mix a bit more. So those years in Oakland I am very proud of, they are very special to me. The people on the ballclub are very special, ownership, front office they are very special to me. CP: The As won five-straight divisions, three-straight World Series titles, how many more could you guys have won if the team wasnt dismantled in the manner it was?RJ: I think we would have won a couple of more. Certainly we would have won another two Hindsight is 2020, the game was changing, the business of the game was changing. I could make the same comments now if some one would have said 'Reggie, do you think there will a be a player in player in baseball making 1M to 2M dollars a year?' Well, we have guys on the bench that don't play that make that much money. Players making 20M, 30M a year, so when you suppose or guess, I just like to accept what's there then work within what the guidelines are. The game is still played very similar between the lines. I think the money has affected the game.They are a little bit more cautious with players because you have to protect the investment. And then there are some players that chase the money because that's what's important to them. Then there are some players like Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, or Mariano Rivera they'd play if they were making 100K a year or 50K a year, because they play for the love of the game.Oh, by the way you can make a pile of money with it now. But your great athletes whether it's LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, or the era I came from Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain or those guys. They made a lot of money but that was a byproduct of the love of the game.CP: Speaking of money, in a strange way did Charlie Finley serve as a uniting and motivating factor for you guys, because you had to constantly prove him wrong and fight for every penny?RJ: Not really, when you are on the field you really can't think of the money, if you do you are going to get off track. Playing in New York is a premier example of the difficulties that go along with playing under the spotlight, playing on a ballclub that is expected to win.The perfect example of that is LeBron James. LeBron if he doesn't win it all he is a failure. He doesn't get any credit for being the most valuable player, or helping a ballclub get better. Or helping a team that hadn't been in the postseason get there, etcetera. The standards for some are very different. When you are a Yankee the standards are different. Being with the franchise that has been a privilege for me.I still have a love affair with the Oakland A's. And I'm enormously appreciative of the years I had here. Still feel like I am part ot the community. The focus of the Yankees is we do this to win. And everyone here, the manager, the general manager, the ownership, the players on the field, the grounds crew, it's about winning. About winning the championship. It's a privilege to be associated with people with that attitude.

Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

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Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With one week to go until the A’s break camp and head north, there are still some roster issues to be cleared up.

The big-picture question regarding this team, obviously, is where it might be building a future ballpark.

With all this in mind, we try to provide some clarity on questions submitted via Twitter:

From @Cjkittrell: If the Raiders move to Vegas, does the Coliseum site jump to the top of the list of possible ballpark sites by default?

That’s not necessarily the case. You have to remember what the A’s crave more than anything in a ballpark location: A thriving surrounding area — with restaurants, bars, shops, etc. — that will make the ballpark an attraction beyond the baseball game itself. Team president Dave Kaval has talked of wanting a “ballpark village” around a new venue. A downside of the Coliseum is that there is nothing around the area right now that would attract fans besides the baseball. Other sites, including Howard Terminal, appear to have more potential as far as surrounding attractions.

This doesn’t count out the Coliseum as an option. As Kaval has said, it’s the only site of four being considered that the A’s know is truly viable. There’s comfort in that. And the BART station, freeway access and available parking are big plusses. But something else I’ll mention in regard to the Raiders: Even if they announce a move to Las Vegas, they have lease agreements that would keep them playing football at the Coliseum at least through the 2018 season while their Vegas stadium is under construction. With the Raiders likely to be on the property for that period, it could complicate the A’s own hypothetical construction plans for the Coliseum site.

From @44BWells: With the emergence of Franklin Barrreto and the contract of Jed Lowrie, what's Joey Wendle's present and future?

They appear murky, don’t they? First and foremost, Wendle has to recover from a sore right shoulder that’s kept him out of exhibitions for a while. But the acquisition of utility man Adam Rosales meant Wendle probably wasn’t going to make the club out of spring training anyway. He’s got a fan in manager Bob Melvin, who was impressed with Wendle defensively last September. It was Wendle’s glove that was the question mark when he arrived from the Cleveland Indians. Barreto has the star-caliber upside and the hype. Once the A’s deem him ready, Lowrie becomes a trade possibility. But Wendle’s advantage is that, to a degree, he’s already proven himself in the majors. He’s a known quantity at this level. If a second baseman is needed early in the season, Wendle could get a call-up before Barreto if Barreto gets off to a slow start.

As for Wendle’s future beyond 2017, it would serve him well to be able to handle as many positions as possible. He realizes this. That’s why he volunteered to play winter ball in Mexico this past offseason, where he played lots of shortstop. His role moving forward could be as more of a utility guy, because I see Barreto growing roots at second base.

@ONChristy: Do the A's have the pieces, both in the majors and minors, to make a run in 2018-2020?

Well, it’s definitely tough to look down the road and forecast a three-year block. Here’s a short answer for you: They better! All of the trades of the past couple seasons have been made with an eye toward stockpiling young talent — especially on the pitching side. Contending this year will be a tall order. But by the end of this season, I’d expect Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman to have gotten their feet wet in the big leagues. There’s a strong chance you’ll also see young pitchers such as Frankie Montas and Daniel Gossett up. There’s a large core of young players who are on the cusp of being major league ready.

Add to that some core veterans such as Khris Davis, Kendall Graveman Marcus Semien and (if he’s not traded) Sonny Gray— who will all be under team control through 2019 at least — and the A’s have a solid foundation for contending in that timeframe you mention. But let’s face it, there’s a lot that can and usually does happen over any three-year span that completely changes what we think we know going in.

A's spring training Day 36: Montas is bullpen possibility for Melvin

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A's spring training Day 36: Montas is bullpen possibility for Melvin

PEORIA, Ariz. — The bullpen puzzle for the A’s seemed a rather simple one coming into spring training.

They appeared to have one spot open, with that job likely going to a second left-hander to join Sean Doolittle. Complicating things is that Daniel Coulombe and Ross Detwiler, the two lefty relief candidates still in camp, have posted identical 9.39 ERAs and have struggled to consistently get left-handed batters out.

Now the options seem wide open for manager Bob Melvin and the front office, with numerous variables. Do they go with just four outfielders? If so, there could be two spots open in an expanded eight-man bullpen. That could allow them to keep not only a lefty but perhaps Raul Alcantara, who is out of minor league options. Alcantara remains a starting rotation option as well.

Do they go with a more conventional seven-man bullpen and keep just one left-hander?

“It’s nice to have a second lefty, yeah,” Melvin said before an 8-5 win to the Mariners. “But if you look at the guys we have in our bullpen, there aren’t too many two-inning guys, guys that can throw more than one inning for you. So that factors in as well.”

Given that, Frankie Montas remains very much in the running for a bullpen spot too. The A’s want to give the hard-throwing right-hander a look as a starter. But coming off an injury-ravaged 2016 season in which he pitched very little, Montas will be on an innings limit, meaning a relief role in which he could be a multi-inning guy might make more sense than starting him right away.

"I wouldn't count him out," Melvin said.

What we know: John Axford, Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Dull, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Madson will occupy six relief spots. The rest of the puzzle won’t likely fall into place until the Bay Bridge Series wraps and the A’s make their final cuts to the 25-man roster.

NOTEWORTHY: Speaking of the A’s top relief arms, Melvin said he’s formulating his thoughts on roles for his late-inning guys but hasn’t talked to any of them individually yet. Regardless, he’s holding to the idea that multiple relievers could be asked to close, depending on availability and matchups.

“Even when I do have that conversation with them before we start the season, I don’t know if it will be an exact science,” Melvin said.

HEALTH UPDATE: Chris Bassitt was scheduled for a 30-pitch bullpen session Tuesday, mixing in all of his pitches for the first time since having Tommy John surgery.

“He was pretty fired up about that,” Melvin said.

COTTON STRUGGLES: Jharel Cotton endured his first poor start of the spring Tuesday night in Peoria, walking five and lasting just 3 2/3 innings. Previously, Cotton had issued just four walks total over three starts. The A’s batted around in a six-run third, but Seattle struck for four runs in the fourth, all charged to Cotton to make it a 6-5 game. “We scored the runs and I was supposed to get back out there and put a zero up,” Cotton said. “The command wasn’t there as much. There’s stuff I’ve got to work on in my sides and get back out there next time.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Yonder Alonso, Trevor Plouffe and Bruce Maxwell all had two hits and two RBI apiece … Robinson Cano had an RBI double off Cotton in the third, but Cotton stranded him at third base by striking out Nelson Cruz on a changeup.