There is a lesson in the sudden caverning of Yankee Stadium. Well, there are lots, actually, but the first is this.A ballpark is not architecture, or sight lines, or concession stands. A ballpark is the people and the show inside it.When Detroit Tigers left fielder Quentin Berry dismissed the new Yankee Stadium as a an excellent place for quiet contemplation, he made sure to compare it to the crowds in Oakland, which he described as rowdier.And he meant it as a compliment. The gray old dowager with the dirty green frock, a cooler place to play than Yankee Stadium perfect.Now the Coliseum didnt change. The fans did. They finally overcame their revulsion at years of being told their team, their stadium and their very presence was unfashionable, and went to see what all the fuss was about. And they had a hell of a time, so much so that they even celebrated Justin Verlander dry-cleaner-bagging them in Game 5 of the AL Division Series.And it isnt their fault that they didnt come before the end of the season. It is never the customers job to support the entrepreneur, and never has been. It is the job of the entrepreneur to attract the customer. It has always been so, and anyone who believes the inverse is, well, an idiot.Or a real estate hustler.Or both.By the way, we would be remiss if we didnt mention that losing Derek Jeter would buzzkill any crowd, so were not savaging Yankee fans here. Theyre entitled to make their noise when they feel like it, too.The fact is, the fans in Oakland made Oakland a cool place to play the last few weeks, not out of obligation, but because the players taught them how to overcome their annoyance at the people who run the franchise. And it certainly wasnt out of anticipation for a new stadium somewhere, either.It was the moment that made the ballpark, and the comparisons with Yankee Stadium have never been more apt.Yankee Stadium has been a monument to the outer limits of greed from the moment it was imagined. Its parking company is going broke because people discovered that its easier to take the train. The deafening noise that once poured down upon visiting players in the old park flies off into the stratosphere in the new one.This brings up one other thing which typically gets forgotten in all the talk of ballparks and land deals and moving things to different placed. When you change location and you change pricing, you change your fan base. The Giants fan base now is radically different than the one they had in 1999, and they did it by design. Thats another part of the As San Jose plan. They know moving will be changing their fan base, decided it is worth it to do so, and the fan base they have now knows it and rightfully resents it.But they came out down the stretch anyway, helped in a small but growing way to overwhelm the Angels and Mariners and Rangers down the stretch, and nearly swallowed the Tigers with their fervor. They arent as strong as Verlander, true, but no fan base is. When hes dealing, everyone is at the table, and everyone goes home broke.Thats the baseline lesson here the fans come to see the games, and the games are made by the players. The players create the atmosphere, the fans stir it, and before you know it, you get left fielders from other teams comparing the allegedly downtrodden As fan with the swells in New York, and doing it favorably.You can have all the pretty colonnades and displays and 40 beer kiosks and platinum-inlaid urinals and waiters for every seat to take your grub order and the tax breaks up the nostrils to make it all a windfall for the owners. But a ballpark is a useless waste of public space if not for the show on the field, because a ballpark is still ABOUT THE BASEBALL.Which, in his own way, was what Quentin Berry was saying all along. Atmosphere is not dictated from the board room, and never has been. Building plans may excite the kids down at the union hall, but they mean nothing if what youre putting on inside the building is not consistent with its mission, which, in the case of a ballpark, is ball.So thats one more thing to keep As fans warm this winter. They throw a cooler party than the people at Yankee Stadium, just because theyre there to make it happen. So never mind your spread sheets and land deals and architectural niceties. The people throwing the party is really how this works in the end.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
Santiago Casilla says he’s returning to his baseball home, which requires only a trip across the Bay Bridge.
The A’s finalized a two-year $11 million contract with the former Giants closer Friday, adding him to a bullpen that has no shortage of late-inning relief options for manager Bob Melvin.
“There’s an old saying that it’s always good to return home, and I’m very happy to get this new opportunity with the Athletics,” Casilla said on a media conference call, via interpreter Manolo Hernandez Douen.
It’s “new” in that the 36-year-old Casilla spent the past seven seasons wearing black and orange. But his major league career is rooted in Oakland. The A’s signed him out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent back in 2000, and he spent his first six seasons with Oakland, the first two of those pitching under the name Jairo Garcia.
He’s since won three World Series rings with the Giants, including notching four saves during the 2014 postseason. His final season with San Francisco ended on a sour note last year, however, as he was demoted from the closer’s role during a rough September.
What role will he find in 2017?
Casilla, who reportedly can earn up to $3 million in incentives based on games finished, joins three other relievers in the A’s ‘pen who have legitimate big league closer’s experience — John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Doolittle was the closer entering last spring but shoulder problems derailed him for a second consecutive season. Madson handled the ninth for most of 2016 and notched 30 saves, but general manager David Forst made it clear Friday that the Opening Night closer has yet to be determined.
“We had a number of different guys save games last year,” Forst said. “… Santiago saved almost 80 games the last couple years. He’s got a lot of experience. As we talked to him and his representatives, he made it clear he’s willing to do anything. It’s great for Bob to have a number of options. It’ll sort itself out in spring training as to who the guy is to start the season.”
Doolittle, Axford, Ryan Dull and Zach Neal combined for 12 saves last season. But even though the A’s are fully stocked with ninth-inning options, it’s fair to question whether any of them is a clear-cut answer for the closer’s role as spring training nears.
Madson’s seven blown saves tied for second most in the American League. Doolittle hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. Axford issued 4.11 walks per nine innings last year, and Dull’s biggest strength is his ability escape jams when entering mid-inning.
Casilla went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA and 31 saves last season, striking out a career-best 10.1 per nine innings, but there was some turbulence. He was displeased with Giants manager Bruce Bochy last May after being pulled from a game. Then he struggled mightily in September and lost the closer’s role. Bochy didn’t call on him at all as the bullpen coughed up a ninth-inning lead to the Cubs in Game 4 of the NL Division Series that ended the Giants’ season. That decision had Casilla in tears after the game.
Asked Friday if he harbored any hard feelings toward the Giants, Casilla replied: “It’s a new year, a new team. I have left this in the past.”
Forst pointed to Casilla’s sustained velocity — his fastball averaged 93.6 miles per hour last season — and his expanded repertoire over his career as reasons why the A’s went after him.
“His numbers were really good — 65 strikeouts, 19 walks,” Forst said. “As we got through the offseason I think we thought he was being overlooked a little bit just because of the narrative surrounding his departure with the Giants. I wasn’t around and I don’t know what went on, but it seems like a few blown saves marred what otherwise was a fantastic season for him.”
In other news, the A’s signed veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Forst noted De Aza’s ability to play all three outfield spots and his speed as traits that caught the A’s attention.
OAKLAND, Calif. – The Oakland A’s agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Santiago Casilla on a two-year contract through the 2018 season, the club announced today. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated outfielder Brett Eibner for assignment. The A’s also announced that they agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler and outfielder Alejandro De Aza on minor league contracts with an invite to spring training.
Casilla went 2-5 with 31 saves, a 3.57 ERA and .235 opponents batting average in 62 relief appearances with San Francisco last year. He ranked sixth in the National League in saves but had nine blown saves, which tied for the most in the majors. The 36-year-old right-hander struck out a career-high 65 batters in 58.0 innings. He walked just 19 average his average of 2.95 walks per nine innings was the second lowest mark of his career. Casilla allowed just 1-of-18 (5.6%) inherited runners to score and held first batters faced to a .228 batting average and .267 on-base percentage.
Casilla returns to the Oakland organization as he was originally signed by the A’s as out of the Dominican Republic on January 31, 2000. He made his Major League debut with Oakland in 2004 and was 6-4 with four saves and a 5.11 ERA in 152 relief appearances from 2004 to 2009. Casilla was released following the 2009 season and spent the next seven seasons with the Giants. He went 32-22 with 123 saves and a 2.42 ERA in 414 games with San Francisco. Casilla saved a career-high 38 games in 2015 and he ranks sixth on the Giants career saves list. The 13-year veteran is 38-26 with 127 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 566 career appearances.
Eibner began the 2016 season with Kansas City and hit .231 in 26 games over two stints with the Royals before he was traded to Oakland for Billy Burns on July 30. He batted .165 in 44 games with the A’s and combined for a .193 batting average, six home runs and 22 RBI in 70 games in his Major League debut.
Detwiler was acquired by the A’s from Cleveland in a minor league deal July 17 and combined for a 2-4 record and a 6.10 ERA in 16 games, including seven starts. He was also 6-4 with a 4.40 ERA in 16 games, including 15 starts, with Triple-A Columbus and Nashville. De Aza spent the entire 2016 season with the New York Mets and hit .205 with six home runs and 25 RBI in 130 games. He is a .261 career hitter in 810 games in nine Major League seasons with Florida (2007, 09), Chicago-AL (2010-14), Baltimore (2014-15), Boston (2015), San Francisco (2015) and New York-NL (2016).
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