I’ve been closely following the Oakland A’s for most of my life and have been writing about them for two years on this website. I think it would be fair to say that I know as much or more about this team than 99.9 percent of our population that doesn’t work directly with the organization. But on Friday I was given a much valued “back stage” perspective of daily happenings of the Athletics.
The A’s invited a bunch of bloggers to come and interview several members of the organization and go through the motions of a journalist’s daily routine. I tried to be as professional as I could but I think I was smiling from ear to ear the entire day.
Before I go on, I’d like to thank the A’s for hosting this event and to say I had a great time. I’d especially like to thank Adam Loberstein who coordinated it and everyone that took the time to speak with us including Manager Bob Melvin, pitchers A.J. Griffin and Brett Anderson, and Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi.
There is one more person I’d like to thank: World Series champion and the A’s color announcer for the TV broadcast, the great Ray Fosse. Talking to Fosse was the highlight of the day, but I’ll get to that shortly.
As I said, the intent for the day was to give bloggers a feel for a more professional setting, and while I took that to heart, I also didn’t want to deny the inner-child in me the opportunity to soak up everything.
I easily have enough material to make a good story but it isn’t necessarily anything that I haven’t addressed already. So instead I’ll try to paint a picture of the day and how it felt looking behind the curtain.
To start, Adam led us into the post-game interview room where we were set to have ten exclusive minutes with Bob Melvin. My first thought was, “of course this is the A’s interview room.” When I watch on TV, it’s obviously framed to show only the backdrop of the interview. Because the A’s are so important to me, in my mind that room is the size of an auditorium and there are thousands of reporters there. In reality, it’s barely the size of my San Francisco apartment’s living room (really small), there are pipes exposed on the ceiling and it was tucked away down a dark corridor. It… was… awesome.
Then came Bob Melvin. I’ve liked him since the day he was hired, which could be more of a reflection on how I felt about the A’s previous manager, Bob Geren. Nonetheless, he just exudes confidence. You sort of get that sense while watching or listening to his interviews but when he speaks to you directly, he seems calm and cerebral but firm all at once. It’s tough to explain but I can see why he has such a profound effect on this young team; during the brief time we spoke he had an effect on me.
Melvin was very candid with us and answered each question honestly and thoroughly (and many politically). My fellow bloggers and I try to fire off as many questions as we could, ranging from bullpen philosophy to the progression of the teams attitude throughout this unlikely season. The only question that made him skip a beat was regarding the team’s MVP. After thinking about it briefly, he ended up giving three names saying, “The guys we count on the most are Coco, Reddick and Cespedes and I think at different parts of the season they would be considered the MVP at the time.” Can’t argue with that. They’ve been huge.
When Melvin left, Adam led us outside… as in out on the field, outside. It’s cliché to say, but I swear the grass was the greenest grass I had ever seen and smelled. This was my second favorite moment of the day and it caught me completely by surprise. I knew exactly what I would see when I got outdoors but didn’t know how awesome it would look. I had been on the field before, but not in this type of setting. Not when the players are taking batting practice and not when reporters I read every day are doing their pre-game Melvin interviews. This was actually the part of the day I was most looking forward to as I thought I would get a chance to pick the brains of my favorite beat writers. As it turned out the ones I most wanted to talk to weren’t there and as it further turned out that didn’t matter because as we were sitting their watching Melvin being swarmed by reporters (if you’re claustrophobic, don’t become a baseball manager) Ray Fosse walked up.
“Who are all you guys?” he said. When we told him about the blog day, it started a conversation, which led to another and then another. This was a completely unplanned portion of the day, and probably the part I will remember most. We got to talk baseball for a half hour with someone I grew up watching since I can remember watching baseball. And Fosse is exactly as passionate, knowledgeable and approachable as he seems on TV.
We talked about the success of the rookies, the status of the new stadium situation, the playoffs, and the great Oakland teams of old. He even let us hold his 1973 World Series ring. When it was my turn I fainted and woke up four hours later in a dimly lit room with A’s security guards watching me (not really).
It was by far the highlight of the day.
Next we returned to the interview room to talk with Farhan Zaidi. This was probably the best interview we had as a group. I don’t know if it’s related but Zaidi said he had never been in the interview room before, so maybe the fact that he doesn’t have to do it every day helped our cause because he was the most detailed in his answers.
We mostly asked questions regarding the farm system: the rise of Dan Strailey, when will we see Grant Green, and why late bloomers like Donaldson and Carter have had their recent success. He did say something that struck a chord with me more than anything else. When asked about the endless supply of young pitching Zaidi pointed out that the A’s don’t set out to “build a 5 man rotation. We build a 162 game rotation. These days there are very few guys who you can expect to make 35 starts.” This also goes back to the debate about trading Strailey at the deadline. The A’s want depth and always seem to need it. Are the A’s pitchers really better than everyone else in the AL not named the Rays or do they just have more depth. You could make a damn good argument for the latter. The A’s have lost Colon, McCarthy, Anderson, Braden, and Griffin for large chunks of the season and they haven’t missed a beat because the next guy is ready to step up and take his place.
Finally, we were able to interview the players. As I mentioned, A.J. Griffin and Brett Anderson were nice enough to take the time out of their busy day to speak with us and both were very forthright. When Anderson walked in the room he spit a bunch of tobacco juice into a cup he had in his hand, literally as he passed me. In most settings I would have thought this disgusting and rude. In this particular setting I couldn’t have been happier with the development.
I doubt either of them wanted to be there; they probably hate answering the same questions every day and probably more so when those questions are coming from bloggers, but I have to commend them again. All questions were answered honestly and in detail. Griffin was deliberate and serious with his answers and Anderson showed a bit more of that dry wit we have come to expect from his twitter posts (and even answered a twitter related question.)
Both guys seemed calm and collected, which I think is a reflection of their manager. In fact, both guys alluded to that “calming presence,” as they put it, from Melvin as a huge reason for the team’s success. He’s approachable and yet commands respect and has his team believing. These are things we all have guessed based on the teams results, but hearing it straight from the source reaffirms this surprising season.
And with that, the day was over. I had a blast and hope I can do it again soon, hopefully as a professional. Until then, I’ll thank the A’s again and be happy I got this chance; not many get it. My wife and I capped the day off with an A’s win over the Orioles as Derek Norris made that incredible throw down to second to end the game on a caught stealing. A badass finish to a badass day.
About the Author
Written by Josh Muller
My name is Josh Muller. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and currently live in San Francisco. I watch sports religiously and organize my calender year to coincide with baseball season. I'm a diehard A's and Warriors fan, love talking sports all day and believe that the words "Opening Day" are the two greatest in the English language.