Athletics

Jaymee Sire's All-Star Game BBQ review

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Jaymee Sire's All-Star Game BBQ review

KANSAS CITY -- If baseball is Americas pastime, then barbecue has to be right up there with one of Americas great food traditions. It just so happens the best baseball players in the country are gathering this week in the countrys best city for BBQ, at the 83rd All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium.Being your resident foodie-sports reporter, I felt it was my duty to report on the very best BBQ Kansas City has to offer. This was not an easy assignment, mind you. First of all, I dont think barbecue was meant to be consumed on back-to-back-to-back days for fear of extreme artery clogging. Secondly, Im pretty sure everyone, including the President, has a different take on which is the best BBQ in K.C. Theres also the dilemma of what to order. Among just some of the more popular possibilities are traditional ribs, brisket, or burnt ends. If you're finding yourself googling burnt ends right now, dont worry, I didnt know what they were until a few days ago. My Kansas City-born friend and BBQ connoisseur, Dan Nelson, had this to say about the culinary wonder: Other than George Brett and the pre-2005 Chiefs, Burnt Ends is K.C.'s greatest contribution to modern society.According to Wikipedia, Burnt ends are flavorful pieces of meat cut from the point half of a smoked brisket. OK, seriously, that sentence doesnt do them justice. Close your eyes and imagine a slightly crispy, extremely smoky and perfectly buttery little nugget of meat and then topping it with a sweet, tangy BBQ sauce. That is a burnt end. The ones we had were at Jack Stacks. Im told they were a little drier than better places around K.C., but I still thought they were delightful. That brings us to the great debate of which BBQ place is king. I received a ton of feedback on Twitter, from both K.C. residents and people who had merely just eaten here. I also watched Anthony Bourdains No Reservations episode on Kansas City. Here are a few things I can tell you:- Arthur Bryants seems to be the favorite among out of towners, but not necessarily the locals I spoke to on the subject. Im sure it is very, very good. In fact, Calvin Trillin, the New York Times food writer, proclaimed Bryant's the single finest restaurant in the world, and all of the U.S. presidential candidates have gone until Barack Obama (who prefers Joe's).-Gates is said to have the best BBQ sauce-Jack Stack might have the best BBQ side ever inventedcheesy corn bake. Thats cheddar cheese, cream cheese, corn, garlic and diced ham. Alsothe warm carrot cake is out of this world. However, I agreed with Bourdain that the food is great, but the place is a little too clean for a BBQ joint. (Think old school steakhouse with comfy booths, dark wood tables, wine, and a waitress.)
-LCs is located near Arrowhead Stadium and is probably the most hole-in-the-wall place of the bunch from what I could tell from the Bourdain segment. Also a favorite among locals, and my two co-workers are hoping to go Wednesday before their flight.-And last, but certainly not least is the aforementioned Oklahoma Joes. The place is located in a gas station. No joke. It opens around 11 a.m., and there is constantly a line down the block until the food runs out. As several of the locals put it, its consistently the best in town. Its No. 1 on Zagat, and also tops if you do a Yelp search for highest-rated BBQ in the area. As you can see, I felt like I really did some thorough research on this one, and was beyond excited to select Joes for my All Star BBQ pick. One of their specialties was the Z Man sandwich, which is brisket, two onion rings, and smoked provolone. Executive Producer Doug Brown ordered this with a side of the delicious seasoned fries and didnt leave one morsel of food on the plate. I had one bite and loved the smoky combination of thinly sliced juicy beef, melted cheese, and crispy onion rings.Our photographer, JC Garcia, is from Texas and therefore considers himself a pretty good authority on barbecue, and especially brisket. In order to accurately assess Joes BBQ, he decided to get a regular brisket sandwich (as opposed to Z Man). JC was in love with the brisket. It wasnt full of fatty chunks like some brisket Ive had ... just enough to help give it the lovely flavor. It was juicy and delicious.Me? I simply had to get some ribs. You know what they say ... when in Rome, err ... K.C. I think the guy behind the counter had a good little chuckle to himself when I ordered a half slab of ribs and a side of baked beans. No, I didnt even begin to finish all of this. But oh. My. God. It was SO amazing. Im told some rib purists would disagree with me, but I like the meat to be so tender and juicy that its collapsing off the bone. These were miles and away the best ribs of my life. I will have dreams about these ribs.But like anything, its all subjective depending on the style you like, the meat you order, and the day youre there. What about you? Which K.C. BBQ spot gets your vote for the best? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below, and be sure to check out Oklahoma Joes next time youre in K.C.!

Mailbag: Will A's go after Bay Area native CC Sabathia?

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AP

Mailbag: Will A's go after Bay Area native CC Sabathia?

As the postseason continues to unfold, it’s fair game to speculate on what might be in store for the A’s looking ahead to next year. Here’s some questions that came in via Twitter, with my thoughts attached …

@usernamaxwell -- What do you think the 2018 rotation will look like?

Talk about wide open. You can safely write in Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea. I’ll put Paul Blackburn in there based on his impressive showing before suffering a season-ending hand injury. Daniel Mengden has an inside track based on his strong September. But for both Blackburn and Mengden, the sample size of success is so small. For others, like Jharel Cotton and Daniel Gossett, they struggled during an extended opportunity in this season’s rotation. That’s why I expect the A’s to sign a free agent starter. It likely won’t be a front-of-the-rotation guy. But something tells me one of those five spots will be filled by someone not currently in the organization. As for in-house guys, everything is written in pencil for me beyond Graveman and Manaea.

@sanomafang -- Who do you see starting at CF next season?

Unfortunately there’s no crystal ball that tells us whether Dustin Fowler’s right knee will be full strength by the start of spring training. If he’s fully recovered from surgery for a ruptured patella tendon, it appears his job to lose. That’s saying a lot for a guy that’s played just one big league game. But the 22-year-old Fowler, acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal, is a very highly regarded prospect. A’s officials have made it clear they see him as the likely starter in center if he’s 100 percent. But there’s bound to be rust to knock off. Boog Powell remains very much in the equation here. Bottom line, I see the A’s choosing their center fielder from in-house as opposed to acquiring someone.

@jackconboy -- Who do you think will get a long-term contract and would they give one to pre-arb players?

Although the A’s could target a veteran – reportedly they’ve held past talks with Khris Davis and Marcus Semien about extensions – I tend to think it’s the younger guys they would focus on locking up. Yes, I do think they would consider multi-year deals for pre-arbitration players. The question is when. I think they want to give it a little time to evaluate just who they should sink their money into. Any number of players could be targets. Trying to forecast right now, I think Matt Chapman and Matt Olson would make sense to sign as power hitters who play impact defense at the corner infield spots. These look like anchor-type guys to me. But Ryon Healy, Chad Pinder, Bruce Maxwell, Sean Manaea and others could warrant consideration too.

@OaklandABooster -- Any chance the A’s might bid on CC Sabathia in the offseason?

I’ve heard people speculating on this one. The A’s could use a seasoned veteran in their rotation. And given Sabathia is a Vallejo native, finishing his career in the Bay Area could be the perfect ending for the 37-year-old. So it makes some sense on the surface. But being that he pitched to a 3.69 ERA and 14 wins over 148 2/3 innings with the Yankees this season, expect there to be plenty of competition for his services on the open market. As usual, it will come down to dollars. But I could see the A’s making a play for him.

@dongodile -- What's gonna happen to Chris bassitt -- bullpen or rotation?

I’m pretty curious about this myself because there’s a fit for him somewhere on this staff if healthy. Bob Melvin said, in his season-ending media chat, that Bassitt could pitch in relief next season simply because he logged just 50 2/3 innings in 2017 after returning from Tommy John surgery. He feels comfortable relieving, and let’s face it, this bullpen needs reinforcements. He’s a wild card worth watching in spring training.

@mrjoesiler -- What do you see for the DH position in 2018?

I think this one’s on a lot of people’s minds. Things could very well remain status quo. Matt Chapman and Matt Olson appear locked in at the corner infield spots, and with Khris Davis manning left field, Healy would remain the DH. There’s been speculation that perhaps Healy could be dangled in a trade. I see the logic … moving him means Davis could slide to DH and the A’s could field a stronger defensive outfield that potentially has Matt Joyce in left, whoever wins out in center and Chad Pinder in right. But boy, you have to like the chemistry that’s developing with this young nucleus, and Healy is a part of that. Do you want to subtract a piece from that at this early juncture? Being that the A’s have stuck with Davis in left field for two seasons now despite his subpar throwing arm, I could see them staying the course in 2018 and Healy remaining the DH.

@J_M_C_74 -- With the recent trade acquisitions of SSs Jorge Mateo and Sheldon Neuse, does Marcus Semien become a trade candidate in the next 1 -2 years?

First thing’s first – the A’s have to be convinced they’ve got a better shortstop who’s ready before they would even consider dealing Semien. Both prospects you mention made a nice early impression, but it’s too early to tell if either will be playing shortstop in the bigs. Mateo is a terrific athlete but he could also be a center field option. From what I’m told, Neuse has adequate tools for short but is probably best suited for third base. I’ve long thought Richie Martin, the A’s first-round pick in 2015, would have the glove to eventually take over as the big league shortstop. But Martin’s bat is the concern right now, and he finished the season at Single-A after Mateo was acquired and took over shortstop at Double-A.

Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

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Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

Ryan Christenson has worked his way up the coaching ladder in the A’s farm system, and on Thursday he was named the team’s new major league bench coach.

The announcement makes Christenson, 43, the right-hand man for manager Bob Melvin and essentially the No. 2 man in the dugout. It also settles a position that was in flux over the course of the 2017 season. Mark Kotsay began this past season as bench coach but stepped away from the team in June to be with his family after his daughter, Sienna, suffered a serious eye injury.

Kotsay is expected to remain with the big league club in some form of non-everyday role. Chip Hale finished the season as bench coach but will now switch back to third base coach, a position he originally was hired for leading into the 2017 season. Hale also coaches Oakland’s infielders.

“At some point in time we knew Ryan was going to be here,” Melvin said. “He went through all the classifications (managing in the minors). He did well with a young group. It’s a good fit bringing him in, and he’s ready for the bench coach role. He’s done a lot of managing.”

Though the bench coach works in closest tandem with a manager throughout the game, Melvin also noted the importance of having a third-base coach that thinks right along with him and is on the same page. From that standpoint, he said having Hale in that role is important.

“Chip’s so good at third, that even though I’m used to having him on the bench, it’s tough not to use him (at third),” Melvin said. “Certainly this isn’t a demotion for Chip.”

It’s the first appointment on a major league staff for Christenson, who has spent the past five seasons managing in Oakland’s farm system, starting with low Single-A and working his way up to Triple-A Nashville this season. He led Double-A Midland to back-to-back Texas League titles in 2015-16, and his teams went 391-307 (.561) over those five seasons.

The rest of Melvin’s coaching staff will return intact in 2018. That includes pitching coach Scott Emerson, who took over that role midseason after the firing of Curt Young, and hitting coach Darren Bush. Like Christenson, Emerson and Bush both were promoted from within the farm system to their eventual spots on the big league staff.

All three men have extensive history coaching the large group of young players that are establishing themselves as the A’s core, and that’s a factor worth keeping in mind when evaluating the makeup of this staff.

Emerson, who assumed Young’s duties in June, will return as pitching coach despite the A’s staff posting a 4.67 ERA, highest by an Oakland staff since 1999. A’s pitchers also surrendered an Oakland-record 210 home runs.

“Similar to Ryan, he knows everybody, what we have here and in the minor leagues,” Melvin said of Emerson. “He’s been a good fit here and continues to be a good fit.”

Bush oversaw a group of hitters that showed improvement as the season wore on, scoring the fifth-most runs in the American League after the All-Star break. The A’s set a franchise record for strikeouts – in line with the rise in whiffs throughout the majors -- but also hit the fourth-most homers in franchise history.

Melvin’s staff is rounded out by first base coach Mike Aldrete, bullpen coach Garvin Alston and assistant hitting coach/catching coach Marcus Jensen. Steve Scarsone, who filled in as interim third base coach from June through the rest of the season, will resume his duties as a traveling instructor throughout the farm system.