Athletics

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 hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.