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.

A's holiday shopping focuses on a center fielder

A's holiday shopping focuses on a center fielder

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The A’s didn’t add any players during the four-day winter meetings, but they did wave goodbye to one.

Minor league right-hander Dylan Covey was scooped up by the Chicago White Sox in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. The Sox pay the A’s $50,000 for his rights, and he must either remain on their 25-man roster for the entire 2017 season or be offered back to Oakland for $25,000.

The 25-year-old Covey, ranked the A’s No. 20 prospect by mlb.com, was an Arizona Fall League standout this offseason after working his way back from an oblique injury that wiped out most of his 2016 season.

“We’ll see what happens,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “He certainly was as deserving as anybody of being protected (on the A’s 40-man roster), we just ran out of spots. Good for him to get this opportunity.”

As for ways Oakland might supplement its own roster, that task continues.

The A’s held plenty of discussions over four days spent at the sprawling Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, but those talks didn’t bear fruit in their search for a center fielder. They had trade dialogue with the Kansas City Royals regarding Jarrod Dyson, a blazing runner and potential leadoff man, but couldn’t find common ground.

As the holidays approach, the A’s will continue to scan the free agent market and explore trade opportunities.

“My guess is there are plenty of things we talked about this week that have legs, and those conversations will continue over the next few weeks,” Forst said. “We’ve got two months until pitchers and catchers report, four months until the season. We’re not the only ones leaving here without actually consummating something.”

The Orioles are another team reportedly trying to pry Dyson from the Royals. Another center fielder mentioned as being available is Reds speedster Billy Hamilton, although reports suggest Cincinnati isn’t in a rush to move him.

Dexter Fowler is the best free agent center fielder still on the market, although Austin Jackson and Rajai Davis seem to fall more in the A’s price range.

Forst was asked how much urgency there is to the center field search.

“I’m not confident they’re gonna be there all winter, there’s only a certain number of guys,” he said. “We’re not going to risk anything to jump out (and do something) we wouldn’t otherwise do. But we think we’re being diligent.

“We cast a wide net, and we continue to. We have to keep doing that just to make sure — free agents, trades, different kinds of players, platoons, whatever. I think we have to keep our toes in every option.”

As for other areas the A’s can improve, they may look to add a veteran starting pitcher. Just speculation, but Doug Fister is one free agent whose price tag figures to be reasonable, and he’s a Northern California native. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the A’s simply invited a veteran to camp on a minor league contract to see if they can find a diamond in the rough, or at least someone to provide competition.

A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane mentioned second base as an area of concern because of injury issues (Jed Lowrie) and inexperience (Joey Wendle, Chad Pinder), but it’s very possible the A’s stick with their in-house options.
 

Notes: A's likely to leave winter meetings with unfinished business

Notes: A's likely to leave winter meetings with unfinished business

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s general manager David Forst flies home Thursday afternoon, and unless there’s a drastic change in the final stages of the winter meetings, he’ll still be searching for a center fielder.

Wednesday’s events included some discussion between Oakland and other parties, but no concrete progress toward landing a center fielder. That’s despite the late-breaking news Tuesday that the A’s and Royals were talking trade for fleet-footed Kansas City outfielder Jarrod Dyson.

“It’s a two-way street with a free agent or a team, a function of the other side’s pace,” Forst said. “It’s unlikely (they complete a deal at the meetings), and not for lack of conversations or lack of ideas. Just things move at different speeds.”

It doesn’t necessarily mean the chance of landing Dyson is done. Forst pointed out talks which transpire at the winter meetings sometimes materialize into a deal down the road. But it’s also worth noting that the Baltimore Orioles are pursuing Dyson too. FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported that Baltimore and Kansas City have discussed him.

Therefore, consider the A’s as players in the free agent as well as trade markets.

“We’ve cast a wide net,” Forst said.

Two free agent center fielders came off the board Wednesday as the Rockies agreed to a five-year $70 million contract with Ian Desmond and the Rangers re-signed Carlos Gomez to a one-year $11.5 million deal. Desmond was assumed to be out of the A’s price range, but Gomez was thought to be a realistic target. He opted to return to Texas, which needed to do some outfield re-stocking after losing Desmond and Carlos Beltran, who like Gomez was an in-season acquisition for the Rangers in 2016.

The three most enticing free agents left now at the position appear to be Dexter Fowler — like Desmond, expected to command a pricey multi-year deal — former Athletic Rajai Davis and Austin Jackson.

As for other needs, the A’s would add a veteran starting pitcher at the right price and could look to upgrade at second base, though neither of those is as high a priority as landing someone to anchor the middle of their outfield.

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Manager Bob Melvin addressed reporters at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Though A’s top baseball official Billy Beane said Tuesday the organizational focus was on the future, aiming for a strong team to be in place by the time the A’s potentially move into a new ballpark, Melvin’s attention is solely on the upcoming season.

“In 2012, we had I don't know how many rookies on that team. It was all rookie starters, and we ended up winning the division,” Melvin said. “Once you start the season, the focus is all about winning.”

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Should the A’s not bring in a center fielder who can also lead off, the first in-house candidate Melvin mentioned as perhaps hitting atop the order was Joey Wendle. He gave a nice showing of himself in a September call-up and hit leadoff for a stretch, but there’s no guarantee that Wendle even starts at second base next season, especially if veteran Jed Lowrie is healthy after foot surgery.

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Former Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale has rejoined Oakland’s staff as Melvin’s third-base coach, and Melvin has plenty of confidence that Hale will capably fill Ron Washington’s shoes as the infield instructor. Washington was popular with A’s infielders and had particular success working with shortstop Marcus Semien.

Hale served as Melvin’s bench coach before getting hired by Arizona before the 2015 season.

“Obviously we've talked a lot about Wash and what he's meant to some of these younger guys,” Melvin said. “We feel like if anybody can replace Wash, it's Chip Hale.”

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Forst said John Axford will pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Fellow reliever Liam Hendriks has not yet committed to Team Australia.

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Right-hander Chris Bassitt, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May, was examined by A’s head trainer Nick Paparesta on Wednesday and his recovery is going very well. He’s between throwing programs right now. Forst added that lefty Felix Doubront is also coming back well from the same procedure.