Tokyo Diary -- Japanese Fanfare


Tokyo Diary -- Japanese Fanfare

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kate Longworth is Tokyo-bound with the A's! Although it's not her standard practice to let strangers read her diary, she invites you to go behind the scenes with the A's up-and-coming players. Log on throughout the day for Kate's journal posts from Japan, and tune in nightly for her A's reports on SportsNet Central and NBC Bay Area. Whether the players are in the Tokyo Dome taking BP or trying exotic sushi, you can explore the streets of one of the most fascinating cities -- Comcast SportsNet is your ticket to Tokyo!
Tokyo Diary
Friday, March 23, 2012

"Lights, Camera, Action"
Actors and Actresses prepare for weeks before walking the red carpet, deploying special diets designer fittings. The Athletics? They endured 14-hours of air travel and patiently navigated customs before emerging in front of screaming fans and flashing bulbs in Japan.

After our 160-passenger charter cleared immigration, we made the 15-minute walk through the airport to the buses waiting to take us to our hotel. Once we passed the security checkpoint, hundreds of baseball fans were waiting, trying to get an up-close glimpse at Major League Baseball players.

Fans were loudly cheering and clapping as they held out baseballs, hoping for autographs, while players walked by arm in arm with the wives and girlfriends soaking it all in. It took me back to last September to the "green carpet" walk in Oakland for the "MoneyBall" premiere. Just as our American media lined up with video and still cameras to rapidly snap away at Brad Pitt, the A's players were bombarded with flashing lights and cheers.

"It was like the media reception Hideki Matsui got all last here from the Japanese media in the states," said a smiling Tyson Ross.

For those, like me, who choose a wardrobe of comfort versus fashion when traveling long distances, that is not the case when you are a pro. All the players were sporting suit jackets, and all of us on the charter had a strict dress code of "business travel."

"Not there Yet"
The best thing to do after you traveled for over half a day to get to your destination? Get on a bus! Yes, it was an anti-climatic arrival after such an incredible reception at the airport as we embarked on bus caravan No. 2. Just as we started Thursday in Arizona on buses traveling to the airport, a two-hour bus ride to our hotel awaited us Friday evening in Tokyo.

We flew into Norita Airport, which -- from what I gather -- is on the outskirts of the area. We left Arizona at 11 a.m. on Thursday. When we boarded the buses, it was 6 p.m on Friday.

"We Made It...and it was Worth the Wait"
We finally arrived at Hotel New Otani in downtown Tokyo.

"We (the players) all played a game on the way over here," Wes Timmons told me as he got off the bus. "What's your wish list to do first when you arrive -- shower, eat or sleep."

For those wondering at home -- eating won out for this team!

The New Otani hotel is like a miniature city in itself. Seriously, it is a campus of high rises boasting hundreds of room. We are on the 22nd floor of the third tower. I am afraid to leave our rooms, without another member of our group with me because I am not sure if I will find my way back -- and I have yet to even step outside into the city streets!

There are numerous restaurants, ranging from Japanese dining to American to steak houses. And there are shops around every corner as well; some are similar to lobby shops back home, but many more extravagant -- flower shops, jewelry, clothing, etc.

The entire hotel circles a traditional Japanese garden, depicting the traditional Japanese scene with red bridge and cherry blossom trees. It was incredible tonight in the rain and dark, and I can't wait to see it tomorrow.
"Making TV"
If you are wondering how you are getting behind the scenes access to your favorite A's players delivered to you -- all the way from Japan, every night -- here's the lowdown.

At 11:45 p.m. Friday in Japan, our CSN crew heads to the CNBC Bureau here in downtown Tokyo. It's 7 a.m. Friday back in San Francisco. Using the magic of technology, we send the video to Singapore than route it through New York and by 6 and 10:30 p.m. on SportsNet Central, you'll see exactly what our day entailed back home in the Bay Area.

"Saturday's Game Plan"
The team will take the field for its first workout at the Tokyo Dome. Tonight we will be featuring on Night on the Town in Japan with the A's players as we hit up an authentic Sushi Restaurant followed by some karaoke!

A's lineup: Brand new spot for Pinder; Mengden makes first start of 2017


A's lineup: Brand new spot for Pinder; Mengden makes first start of 2017

Bob Melvin and Terry Francona issued their lineups for today's series opener in Cleveland.

In addition, the A's placed Kendall Graveman on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain (retroactive to May 26) and recalled Daniel Mengden from Triple-A Nashville.

Mengden will make his first start of 2017 today.

A's (22-27)
1. Rajai Davis (R) CF
2. Chad Pinder (R) SS
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) DH
7. Stephen Vogt (L) C
8. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
9. Matt Joyce (L) RF
P. Daniel Mengden RHP 

Indians (25-23)
1. Jason Kipnis (L) 2B
2. Francisco Lindor (S) SS
3. Michael Brantley (L) LF
4. Carlos Santana (S) 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion (R) DH
6. Jose Ramirez (S) 3B
7. Yan Gomes (R) C
8. Bradley Zimmer (L) CF
9. Austin Jackson (R) RF
P. Carlos Carrasco RHP (4-2, 2.93 ERA)

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

NEW YORK — A weekend that began with promise instead wound up feeling like another lost opportunity for the A’s.

Their defense once again paved the way to their undoing Sunday, and there were plenty of players willing to accept responsibility for a 9-5 loss to the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series in the Bronx.

When right fielder Matt Joyce had a catchable fly ball pop out of his glove for a third-inning error that loaded the bases, it seemed inevitable the mistake would come back to haunt the A’s.

On cue, one-time Oakland draft pick Aaron Judge drilled an opposite-field grand slam off Andrew Triggs to a turn a 2-1 A’s lead into a 5-2 deficit. Joyce said he couldn’t stomach to watch the replay of his missed catch afterward.

“It just hit my glove and I dropped it,” Joyce said. “Obviously that’s pretty tough to swallow for me in that situation. For me, I think that’s an easy play. It’s a little embarrassing. It’s obviously really frustrating, especially with what it led to.”

The A’s (22-27) chalked up two more errors, giving them a staggering 49 in 49 games played. When play began Sunday, they had at least 10 more errors than every other big league club. It’s no surprise, therefore, that they also lead the majors with 35 unearned runs, after five of the nine runs they surrendered Sunday were unearned.

That kind of bumbling play in the field is making it difficult for the A’s to maintain leads when they claim one, and tough to mount comebacks when they fall behind. In a factoid that helps explain why the A’s likely find themselves looking at another summer of selling off veterans, they have won just one of the eight road series they’ve played in 2017. Their 7-17 record away from Oakland is second worst in the American League.

The A’s took Friday’s series opener 4-1 but dropped the final two to the AL East leaders.

“I’ve said often, there’s a psychology to it too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You feel like you have a chance to battle and come back and score some runs, and when your defense is poor, sometimes mentally it’s tough to overcome or get past it. We just have to keep working on it.”

Leading 5-2, New York added to its lead in the fourth with help from a Josh Phegley throwing error on Aaron Hicks’ stolen base. Hicks wound up on third and came home on Chris Carter’s sacrifice fly. The A’s pulled to within 7-5 on Khris Davis’ 15th homer which in the eighth, a two-run shot. But the Yankees answered right back with two more off reliever John Axford, who hurt his cause with two walks.

There were other mishaps that didn’t cost the A’s runs, like Davis making a poor throw to third that allowed a Yankee runner to advance an extra base, and third baseman Ryon Healy losing a foul pop up in the sun.

Regardless of the defensive issues, A’s starter Andrew Triggs wasn’t looking to hand off blame. Just one of the six runs he allowed was earned over his six innings. But Triggs still had a chance to preserve a 2-1 lead in the third if he could have retired Judge with two outs and the bases loaded. Instead he left a 2-1 sinker over the plate and Judge mashed it over the right field wall.

“In my mind it was either sinker away or sinker in, and I thought away was better,” Triggs said. “But you gotta execute the pitch and I didn’t.”

It was the first career grand slam for Judge, who was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by Oakland in 2010 but opted to attend Fresno State. The Yankees took him in the first round in 2013, and in clubbing his 16th homer Sunday (tying him with Mike Trout for the league lead), Judge continued building his strong early case for the Rookie of the Year award.