Billy Beane

New A's ballpark likely wouldn't be as pitcher-friendly as Coliseum

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USATSI

New A's ballpark likely wouldn't be as pitcher-friendly as Coliseum

With all the speculation about where the A’s will build their new ballpark, much less attention has been given to the potential characteristics of the playing field itself.

It appears all of that vast foul territory that is a hallmark of the Coliseum — and such a safety net for pitchers — will be left in the past.

A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said he anticipates the foul ground to be reduced considerably once the A’s start designing the playing surface in a potential new ballpark.

“I think most people would say that you’re trying to create intimacy, so minimizing foul territory is probably the direction most teams and stadiums have gone and are gonna continue to go,” Beane told NBC Sports California. “You want to create an experience for fans that’s as close to the field (as possible).

“Some of that is stuff, it’s utilitarian — what’s the advantage baseball-wise for us? (But) what we would consider as baseball guys, (team president) Dave (Kaval) will be looking at from the fan standpoint.”

Before any of this becomes a factor, the A’s first need to announce their location in Oakland to build. Kaval says that will happen before this calendar year ends. The three locations being considered: one right across the street from the Laney College baseball field, just off Interstate 880; the Howard Terminal site that’s a short walk from Jack London Square; and the current Coliseum site.

Beane said in-depth conversations about the playing field itself have yet to take place, such as the outfield dimensions, location of the bullpens, etc. But he talks as if a much smaller foul territory is a given, and that would mark a significant change for the A’s when they play at home.

Seats at the Coliseum are located so far back from the field, and that spacious foul ground makes the venue arguably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors. Pitchers who join the A’s often comment on the foul territory being a huge positive in their decision to sign with Oakland.

Of course, there’s a flip side. Free agent hitters who get frustrated that so many Coliseum at-bats result in foul pop-outs might view the A’s more favorably if they provide a more hitter-friendly home ballpark.

Beane said he believes he and his baseball operations staff will definitely get their say in what characteristics they want the new field to have. But creating a cozier atmosphere, with fans sitting closer to the action, is a key element for the A’s wherever they build.

“To take fans farther away from the game in this day and age would probably be crazy,” Beane said. “… I think we’re all gonna be on the same page. When you get a new stadium, the reason you build it is to get people to come watch games. You have to keep in mind that the fan experience is probably the first thing.”

Billy Beane opens up on acquiring injured prospects in Sonny Gray trade

Billy Beane opens up on acquiring injured prospects in Sonny Gray trade

When the A's sent their ace Sonny Gray to the Yankees before the MLB trade deadline on July 31, two of the three prospects they acquired are out for the season. 

"It was a little unique. I don't think in the case of a couple of these guys, had they not been injured, that we would have been able to discuss them," A's VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said Sunday on MLB Network Radio. "We view it as a risk certainly, but we also view it as an opportunity." 

In the A's trade with the Yankees, New York sent over INF/CF Jorge Mateo, RHP James Kaprielian and OF Dustin Fowler. Kaprielian underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Fowler, in his MLB debut on June 29, ruptured his patellar tendon while sliding into the right-field wall on his attempt to catch a foul ball. 

"Certainly in Tommy John, there is a good track record of guys coming back successfully," Beane said of Kaprielian. "And James' case, we expect probably the normal 13 months, which would take him to May of next year."

As far as Fowler's injury went, getting news on the 22-year-old outfielder was much different. 

"The unique thing about Fowler's injury is it wasn't one you commonly see in baseball so we had to do a lot of consulting with NFL orthopedicts," Beane explained. "With the patellar tendon, it's more of an NFL injury. The success on the return has been very positive."

Despite the ugly injury in what should have been a day Fowler always remembered for all the right reasons, Beane is optimistic he will be ready to go next year. 

"Our expectation is that Dustin will be ready for spring training. Obviously we're still early in the process, but that's our expectation." 

Fowler is ranked as the No. 76 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline and No. 89 in Baseball America's rankings. 

Beane recognizes the risk in taking Fowler and Kaprielian, but clearly believes the reward is much higher down the road, saying, "We saw it as an opportunity to get two players we though were very talented." 

Should Billy Beane pull Sonny Gray off the shelf, dangle him in winter?

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AP

Should Billy Beane pull Sonny Gray off the shelf, dangle him in winter?

There is nothing worse than a trade deadline when your team has nothing to do with it. Everyone’s talking, and you’re in the room, but nobody’s talking to you.

Second worst is when everyone IS talking to you, but it’s because they want to know what you’re ready to get rid of rather than what you’re ready to obtain. In an acquisitive world, selling always sucks.

Still, the Sonny Gray rumors – “He’s a Yankee!” “No, what, maybe not.” “Uh-oh, why is Atlanta interested?” – have at least allowed A’s fans to be interested in the final few hours of this deadline. And even if he passes through the 1 p.m. PT deadline without being moved, he will remain a jewel for folks who like talking about who’s talking to whom and about what.

Gray has been declared the hot get of this trading season, although typically the hot name on July 31 ends up being forgotten by September 30 because he has been passed by someone else in a better spot. Plus, the best deals seem to be made earlier and earlier in the process than ever before.

Nevertheless, in the new world where making up your own reality is more fun than having to live through an actual reality, Gray is still the tastiest item on the menu, unless you like lighter meals and are more intrigued with Baltimore closer Zach Britton.

And Gray will only seem more delicious if Billy Beane actually pulls him off the shelf and dangles him in the offseason when the list of potential buyers is always larger. The Yankee rumors have cooled, and Beane has claimed he will have no hesitation keeping Gray until a more opportune time.

Yet there we sit, because the A’s are at least in play, as opposed to another team we know and can see from our windows, which has a poorer record, fewer prospects and much lower profile. Maybe if the Giants had signed JaVale McGee to the veteran minimum just to show they're still involved even peripherally, we’d be paying better attention to them.