Gutierrez: A's snap skid, but tension lingers

May 25, 2011, 6:37 am
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ANAHEIM - It was a most surreal scene.Numerous A's players, practically the entire team, seated in the chairs and couches in the middle of the visitors clubhouse at Angel Stadium, transfixed with the story unfolding on the television. MLB Network analysts were breaking down the CSN California video of Brian Fuentes' pointed criticism of manager Bob Geren from the night before.Fuentes, meanwhile, sat at his locker, sneaking a few peeks when he wasn't fiddling with his smartphone.No one said a word. No one, really, seemed to be breathing, when first Al Leiter, then Mitch Williams ripped into Fuentes for taking his public beef with Geren onto the public stage.

Trying to ease the tension, an A's player lobbed a few choice F-bombs at the TV in general, at Williams in particular. To no avail. The clubhouse remained subdued.RECAP: DeJesus powers A's to 6-1 win over Haren, Halos
Some seven hours later, though, the clubhouse rivaled neighboring Disneyland as the Happiest Place on Earth."It's not going to divide anybody; it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings," said outfielder David DeJesus. "We've just got to go out there and play and win games and when you win games, everything is brushed to the side."Amazing what a relative offensive explosion, lights-out starting pitching and a 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels to end a season-high six-game losing streak can do to cover the warts. Even if the roots are still there. And noticeable.Because be sure, while both Fuentes and Geren on Tuesday attempted to downplay what he said Monday night in questioning his managerial skills and saying he and teammates had no communication with him, there is still tension.How could there not be? Especially since there are more than a handful in the A's clubhouse who believe, to borrow a classic line, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Still.GUTIERREZ: DeJesus muscles up
One clubhouse source said Fuentes sounding off was merely a veteran player blowing off some much-needed steam on a personal, player-to-manager level. Yet another said Fuentes, a relative newbie in these parts who signed a two-year, 10.5-million free-agent deal in January, essentially took the bullet for many of the longer-tenured players by saying what they have long felt.Who's right? Probably both parties.Geren took umbrage with the assertion he doesn't interact, even as he admitted Fuentes may have had a point in his specific situation."Fair to say that," Geren said, "but also, communication's a two-way street."Fuentes said the two had a chance meeting in a hallway at the team hotel. Geren said he called Fuentes into his office at the ballpark to talk.In any event, they met to clear the air on a day when legendary A's Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley took Fuentes to the woodshed on The Monty Show on Sports Radio 95.7 FM, yes, the A's new flagship station."You can't say what he said. Period," Eckersley said. "He's been in the big leagues too long to act like that. Makes a ton of money and he's not the greatest closer in the universe. So zip it."REWIND: A's Fuentes sounds off on Geren
In his favor, Fuentes has performed well when used in a specific role. In save situations, the left-hander is 1-1 with nine saves and a 2.92 ERA. In his other 12 appearances, the left-hander is 0-6 with an ERA of 8.00. Used in tie-games in his last four outings, Fuentes has given it up in all of them and, at 1-7, he is the first relief pitcher to have lost seven games before June 1 since Gene Garber in 1979.Not that Eckersley was buying any of it, though."If you fail, you don't throw the manager under the bus," he said. "You just don't. Frustration is one thing but to me, that's a weak excuse; if you're acting like you're the man, and you've got to tell me, when is Fuentes the man?"If that was (Tony) LaRussa, are you kidding me? He'd chop my head off. I would make a formal apology."Fuentes offered no such mea culpa. Instead, he said he "felt better about it" after his skull session with Geren. As did the manager."It went well," Geren said. "Yeah, talked to Brian and gave him my thoughts, he told me his thoughts. Walked out. Everything's good. Shook hands, everything's fine."Even as Fuentes was demoted from closer and Grant Balfour will assume the role until Andrew Bailey returns from rehabbing the strained forearm that felled him in spring training, possibly within the next week. And yet, Balfour told reporters before the game he had not been informed of his new job description.But I digress.Geren said he did not even think of calling a team meeting to diffuse any clubhouse friction, real or imagined."No, I think that was something for Brian and I to straighten out," he said. "Don't think it was necessary to bring anyone else into it."And yet, the players are involved. And will remain so as long as there is even a hint of someone feeling slighted by a lack of communication."Everybody respects Brian a lot and he's a good teammate," said Mark Ellis, the longest-tenured A's player. "Today, he probably wishes he didn't say it in the press. But they've talked so it's done."Everybody respects Brian."Then what about the manager?"We respect the manager," Ellis answered. "Our job is to respect the manager."As well as say the politically correct things, right?"We stand behind both Bob and Tito," DeJesus said, referring to Fuentes' nickname. "But Tito because he's one of us. He goes through the grind every day and we're backing him, we're behind him and we felt like that gave us the motivation to go out there and just play loose and it showed up in the game today."Ah, yes. Winning, the ultimate deodorant. That and communication.