Athletics

Chapman defends ejection: A's deserve 'to be respected by our opponents'

Chapman defends ejection: A's deserve 'to be respected by our opponents'

OAKLAND — Some statements are made simply by the way one plays the game.

Others require more direct action.

A’s rookie third baseman Matt Chapman made the decision to confront Angels catcher Juan Graterol over what he thought were unfair accusations of A’s hitters trying to steal signs.

It wound up earning him his first career ejection in the fourth inning of an eventual A’s 3-1 victory Wednesday. Although Chapman said he regretted not being available over the final five innings at the Coliseum, no way was he regretting the intentions that led him to jaw at Graterol as he stepped into the box in the fourth.

“As you can see on video, the catcher kept staring at every single hitter as they were digging into the box,” Chapman said afterward. “That’s not a very comfortable feeling, having the catcher staring at you while you’re digging in the box. It’s a little disrespectful, to be honest.

“… Even though we are a young group of guys, I feel like we deserve to be treated just like anybody else in the big leagues and be respected by our opponents. I did it out of respect for my teammates and respect for myself.”

Chapman, Mark Canha and Khris Davis all deny the A’s peaking back to steal signs from the catcher. As could be predicted in such controversies, there was a much different story being told in the Angels clubhouse.

“We have video on what they do,” Angels starter Tyler Skaggs said. “We know what they're all about. If they need to look at signs to hit, then it is what it is. I can't control anything out there. … I can see it from the mound. It’s very frustrating.”

For the record, stealing signs isn’t illegal but is considered a breach of baseball etiquette. The Red Sox reportedly may face penalties for stealing signs from the Yankees, but that would be for incorporating the use of electronic technology to do so.

Canha claims he saw Graterol giving rookie Chad Pinder a hard time about possibly stealing signs. Then Canha and Graterol had words about the same thing in the second inning, as Graterol jogged out to talk with Skaggs. (Worth noting: Canha says he’s always felt the Angels don’t care for him, and that the Rangers have accused him of stealing signs before).

“I think (Graterol) thought I was trying to peak, which I’ve never done,” Canha said. “When he did it to Pinder, I was like, ‘That’s just a Scioscia/Angels/Graterol tactic to make younger players feel uncomfortable.’”

Who was right and wrong Wednesday isn’t so much the issue. From the A’s standpoint, the takeaway is that a young player such as Chapman took a stand. Granted, it got him tossed from a game that wasn’t even halfway finished yet, at a time the A’s were trying to snap an eight-game losing streak. He’ll have to use judgement moving forward on when it’s right to take such a bold stand, and whether doing so is worth the risk of getting ejected.

But if the A’s do indeed move forward with this current pack of young players as their core, leaders will have to emerge from that pack. Chapman seemed to be trying to take the reigns with his actions Wednesday.

The move was appreciated by Davis, his veteran teammate.

“Chap’s not gone let that happen,” Davis said of Graterol’s accusations. “I’m happy he stuck up for us … He might be a rookie, but one day he’s gonna be a veteran and just lead the way.”

Canha said he appreciated Chapman’s gesture, but added that he told the rookie: “We’d rather have (you) in the game than sticking up for me.”

Oh yeah, the A’s did halt their longest losing streak in five years. And they got a stellar six-plus innings from lefty Sean Manaea in doing so. But this juncture of their young team’s development is about so much more than box scores and final stats.

It’s about how chemistry develops and leaders emerge. The fourth inning perhaps revealed a glimpse of that Wednesday.

Matt Olson breaks Oakland rookie record by homering in fifth consecutive game

Matt Olson breaks Oakland rookie record by homering in fifth consecutive game

The beat goes on for Matt Olson, who set an Oakland rookie record Tuesday by homering for the fifth consecutive game.

That makes it 23 in just 55 games this season for the A’s first baseman, and an astonishing 15 homers in his past 21 games. In his first plate appearance Tuesday, Olson pounded a hanging 0-1 curve from Tigers lefty Chad Bell deep into the right field seats at Comerica Park.

Since Aug. 11, Olson leads all of major league baseball with 19 homers. And his 23 homers are the most in franchise history over the first 66 games of a career.

According to baseball statistician Doug Kern, just three others in Oakland history have ever gone deep five games in a row: Dave Kingman in 1986, Matt Stairs in 1998 and Frank Thomas in 2006.

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

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USATI

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

When it comes to power hitting, rookie first baseman Matt Olson has enjoyed one of the most impressive career-opening stretches in A’s history.

He went deep again in Monday night’s 8-3 victory over Detroit. Although he’s only played in roughly one-third of Oakland’s games this year, Olson has vaulted into a tie for fourth on the team with 22 homers this season.

Here’s a glance inside some of the numbers behind the rookie’s home run tear:

22 — Olson’s 2017 —and career — home run total. Those 22 homers tie Mark McGwire for most in franchise history over a player’s first 65 games.

18: The number of times Olson has gone deep since Aug. 11, which leads the American League.

19 — The number of major league games Olson appeared in before connecting for his first homer. That came June 24. Since then, he hasn’t gone more than eight games in the majors without clearing the fence.

47 — Olson was the 47th overall pick of the 2012 draft, a compensation choice between the first and second rounds. He was one of a trio of high school infielders Oakland took with its first three picks that year. The others were two shortstops — Addison Russell (11th overall) and Daniel Robertson (34th).

At the time the A’s said perhaps they had drafted three-fourths of their future infield. But Russell and Robertson eventually got dealt. Now, Olson is part of a different young infield core that could include third baseman Matt Chapman and second baseman Franklin Barreto along with veteran shortstop Marcus Semien.

2: The number of players in the past 30 years to hit 20 homers in both the minors and majors in the same season. Olson has done it this year. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who’s generating his share of headlines with his own power hitting, did it back in 2010.

103 The number of homers Olson hit over five minor league seasons leading into this year. That included a whopping 37 for Single-A Stockton in the homer-happy California League in 2014. In comparison, the 17 homers he hit each of the next two seasons at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville looked paltry. Olson says he struggled for a while to trust his natural power stroke and not try to alter his approach too much to boost those power numbers.

4: The total number of major leaguers produced by Olson’s alma mater of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. The others were outfielder Jeff Francoeur, infielder Jeff Keppinger and catcher Clint Sammons.

4 (Part II): Number of consecutive games Olson has homered in. That ties the Oakland rookie record for most games in a row with a homer. Dan Johnson also homered in four straight from Aug. 3-6, 2005. Extend it out farther, and Olson has gone deep 14 times over his past 20 games. And speaking of that …

14: Olson is tied with a couple of legends when it comes to most homers in a 20-game span in Oakland history. McGwire (1987) and Reggie Jackson (1969) also had 14 over their own 20-game stretches, and Jackson did it twice that season. (Hat tip to A’s P.R. stats guru Mike Selleck for several of these factoids, by the way).

23: Remember that Olson is just 23 years old. His 22 homers are the most in a single season by an Athletic 23 or younger since Eric Chavez swatted 32 back in 2001. Chavez also was 23 at the time.