The Swinging A's Are Back in the Post Season

The A’s are back! Just like their last run in 2012, 2013, and 2014, this one came out of nowhere. Although they have 92 wins, so far, the A’s are still considered a long shot to get past the Red Sox or Astros in the playoffs. They may be a longshot but I don’t think they’re going to be a comfortable matchup for any team that they meet.

Since moving to Oakland in 1968, the A’s have had five stand-out eras:

  1. The Dick Williams/Alvin Dark Era; Pitching, Speed, & Reggie

  2. The Tony La Russa Era; Pitching and the Bash Brothers

  3. The Art Howe/Macha Era; The Three Aces, Tejada, Giambi, & Money Ball

  4. The Bob Melvin Era 1; Pitching, “I believe in Stephen Vogt”

  5. The Bob Melvin Era 2; Power, Power, & More Power

That team of unknowns that came to Oakland in 1968, took the East Bay by storm as they won their first of five consecutive Western Division Championships in 1971 and their first of three World Series Championships in 1972. This was a team, particularly the 1972 team that exceeded expectations. While we all knew they were good in ’72, taking down THE BIG RED MACHINE was completely unexpected. Particularly after they lost Reggie to a torn hamstring in Game 5 of the League Championship Series in Detroit. We also almost had a Draymond Green moment when Campy Campanaris threw his bat at Lerrin Lagrow in Game two of the ALCS. Fortunately he was suspended in the first few games of the ’73 season rather than the World Series.

Carried by Gene Tenace and a great pitching staff, The Swinging A’s shocked the world by winning the series in seven games. In ’73, they took down the Tom Seaver Mets and in ’74, when Alvin Dark took over they beat the Dodgers who were becoming one of the best teams in baseball.

As much as the Williams/Dark teams exceeded expectations, the La Russa A’s left us wondering what might have been. It could be argued that the Tony La Russa teams were the most talented A’s team ever. Top to bottom, McGwire, Parker, Hendu, Canseco, Stewart, Steve Howe, Eckersley, and then Ricky re-joining the A’s in 1989 were amazing. This is a team that should have matched the three championships that the A’s won in the ‘70s. In 1988, the A’s bats went anemic after Kirk Gibson hit the home run and cold bats cost the A’s the 1990 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The earthquake also took some shine off of the championship they won against the Giants.

The Howe/Macha “Money Ball” A’s had characters like the Swinging A’s of the ‘70s. They took pride in winning a lot of regular season games and having a club house that was more like a frat house. Good enough to make the American League Divisional Series four years in a row but not good enough to deliver the knock-out punch in any series. The finally got past the Twins in 2006 but were beat by the Tigers in the League Championship Series.

In 2012, the A’s snuck up on us and beat Texas in game 162, the greatest regular season game that I ever attended. That group had their chances against Detroit in ’12 & ’13 but couldn’t get past Justin Verlander and Max Sherzer. In ’14, while they were running away with the Western Division, Billy Beane went mad scientist and traded Yoenis Cespedes and others. As team chemistry fell apart, they A’s squeaked into the one game playoff which they lost against Kansas City.

This year, they snuck up on us again! With starting pitching decimated with injuries, they still have a shot at winning 100 games. The one game playoff with the Yankees is intriguing because I think the A’s have as good a chance winning in New York as they do in Oakland. With their power, they can go crazy in Yankee Stadium and it would also be fun to have the game in Oakland with drummers in right field. Winning in New York would be good because they wouldn’t have much travel to do to get to Boston for the ALDS. YES, WHETHER THE GAME IS IN NEW YORK OR OAKLAND, I THINK THE A’S WILL BEAT THE YANKEES. That said, are any of this year’s play-off teams excited to play the A’s? While they won’t be favored in any series they’re involved in they’re the scariest team out there.

Don’t count out a parade in Oakland during the first week of November.


3 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back. 2 Steps Forward 3 Steps Back

Last week we examined the idea of staying true to your convictions while being open to differing opinions. The concern I hear is that “these are desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures. The people with whom I disagree have ideas that could destroy the country.” While I understand the concern, that’s a concern that I hear from people on both the right and left.

I encourage you to read Jon Meacham’s, “The Soul of America, The Battle for our Better Angels.” Meachem describes challenging times America has had since the Civil War. During my lifetime, we survived civil rights conflicts, Vietnam, Watergate, and the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. As I became an adult there was a massacre in Jonestown and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk were assassinated and many other rough times. Sometimes, we’ve wanted to sever our relationship with the 50% of our fellow citizens with whom we disagree.

According to Meachem, there have been challenging times through-out our history. The second and third decade of the 20th century, saw the second wave of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan became so strong that wherever you lived, there was a good chance that your representative in Congress or your Senator was a member. In 1924 Democratic Convention, Al Smith, a Catholic was running for President and the Democratic Convention was taken over by the Ku Klux Klan. Smith was nominated by the Democrats and lost to Calvin Coolidge in November. Thirty six years later, although John Kennedy probably lost some votes for being a Catholic, he won the election in 1960.

My message this week is that the United States has always been a work in progress, very outspoken about our country’s deficiencies and not satisfied until they’re settled. Since our deficiencies have never been settled, we’ve never been satisfied. Through-out our history there have been spirited, uncivil, and sometimes violent debates on the direction of the country. We’ve grappled with the issues and survived. In 2018 America, we have the same choices that we’ve always had. We can sever our relationship with the 50% of the country with whom we disagree, OR we can choose to grapple with the issues. This path would sometimes takes us three steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes it takes us two steps forward and three steps back. The thing is we keep grappling and that’s healthy.

That’s the path of finding common ground.

Finding common ground opens up possibilities.

Would You Please Tell me What Time the Game Starts

Hey you want to go to the Cal game on the 29th? They’re playing Oregon. Both teams are 3-0. “Yea, great. What time’s the game?” I don’t know. “What do you mean I don’t know? The games a week away!” They won’t tell us until a few days before the game.

That’s the conversation college football fans are having through-out the country. Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott has embraced this arrangement, much to his benefit and the benefit of the schools. The fans, not so much. Players? (There’s another blog-post to be written about how the players are being treated like commodities.)

At $4.9 million, Scott is the highest paid Commissioner of any of the Conferences. The skill he brings to the table is bringing in money. That’s why the Pac 12 can afford to pay him what he makes. According to USA today, total revenue for the fiscal year ending 6/30/2017 was $509 million. In addition to Scott’s salary, nine other Pac 12 executives make over $450,000 per year. Since most of it comes from television, does it matter if anyone is in the stands? We’re talking about a conference game, with two undefeated teams where the stadium will be half filled!

If the Pac 12 schools are splitting the loot, we know how they benefit. How do the fans benefit? The link below is a 2013 New York Times column that describes television’s influence not only in kickoff times but in setting matchups, the integrity in reporting, and post season awards. I’ll let you read the Times column so see how Disney Chief Executive, Michael Eisner describes what ESPN means to the Disney Company.

Ilan Ben-Hanan who seems to be the scheduling brains at ESPN says “the perfect Saturday at ESPN is to be able to have fans sit down in the morning, watch College Game Day, and really not be satisfied until the last game, usually from the Pac 12 at the end of the night and onto SportsCenter.”

The crazy thing is, I still get the phone calls from the athletic department. It’s usually a nice student athlete from any one of the sports asking me if I’ll buy football season tickets. While there was a time when I did and loved to get season tickets and taking my son, Phil to the games, there’s no way I’ll do it now. I’ll pick one game, get the tickets for a low price on the secondary market and watch the game in

All that said, I ‘m as sick as any other College Football Fan. This Saturday like all the others Saturdays in the fall, you’ll be able to find me watching College Game Day.

Can we Keep Our Integrity and Still Find Common Ground

What are the benefits of searching for common ground? Is it possible for a person to build an alliance with someone with whom they disagree on a polarizing issue while staying true to their ideals? Not only is the answer yes, I believe we will advance farther as a society when we develop empathy and respect for those who have different views.

George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times, recently wrote, “Polarization has poisoned politics from top to bottom in this country—from ill-mannered President Trump down to uncivil shouting protestors inside Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The poison long ago infected social media and is worsened daily by the obsessively tweeting president.” (For the Skelton’s full column, please go to the link at the bottom of the page.)

Skelton, describes a University of Southern California program called The USC Center for the Political Future. Bob Shrum, and Mike Murphy, veterans of the political battle field developed the program. They will discuss topics such as tribalism and what drives people into tribes.

My message last week was common ground opens up possibilities. Continuing on that theme, as polarizing as the national issues are, I suggest that the reason we need to search for common ground to grapple with the local issues that affect us on a daily basis. Issues such traffic and schools.

In my hometown, Alameda, the School Board is discussing the idea of merging our two major high schools. That’s a huge deal that is could change people’s lives. Suppose at a social event you got to talking with someone who was on the extreme opposite of you on a national issue. Both of you now have a choice. The first choice is to tell yourself the person uninformed or worse and move on. The second choice would be to continue conversation. When you decide to be polite and continue the conversation, you find out that both of you have kids who would be affected by the merger. You also learn that as “misinformed” the person is on the polarizing issue you disagree on, you’re on the same page when it comes to the community and the schools. Both of you have stayed true to your views and you’ve developed an alliance based on what you have in common—what’s best for your kids and your community.

Common ground not only opens up possibilities, our communities become stronger.

Let’s keep opening up the possibilities by finding common ground.

Link to George Skelton’s column,

What a Pennant Race

Look at this pennant race in the American League West! The Houston Astros completed a sweep against the Detroit Tigers and the A’s swept the Baltimore Orioles. The A’s are 3 games out of first place in this amazing race. Winning eight out of ten games in September, they A’s have lost a game in the standings as the Astros have won nine out of ten. Amazing baseball played by both teams.

The numbers and the great baseball reminds me of the 1993 battle between the Giants and Braves. The Braves were in the 1991 & 1992 World Series and much like the World Champion Astros were the established team. The Giants, four years removed from their 1989 World Series appearance were a force to be reckoned with as they brought Barry Bonds in to join legends Will Clark, Robbie Thompson, and Matt Williams. They also had outstanding pitching with Bill Swift and John Burkett each winning over 20 games. Rod Beck was money as a closer, saving 48 games. The Braves had the pitching staff of the ages with three future Hall of Famers, Greg Maddox, Tom Glavin, and John Smoltz. Steve Avery also contributed 18 wins. While some say the Giants, who led the division for most of the year collapsed, the Braves took the Western Division by becoming unbeatable in the second half of the year. The turning point was the acquisition of Fred McGriff. September began with the Giants & Braves splitting two head to head games in September and then the Braves won 22 out of the last 30 games. The Giants won a very respectable 18 out of the last 31. It was a battle to the last day when the Braves, won their 104th game against Colorado and the Giants lost to the Dodgers ending their season with 103 wins.

There was little satisfaction and carryover from the 103 win year. There was no Wild Card spot, and that would be the last game Will Clark and Robbie Thompson played in a Giant uniform. Worse yet, baseball went on strike in 1994. Matt Williams was traded before the 1997 season bringing Jeff Kent and others to the Giants establishing a new era of winning. The new Pac Bell Park opened in 2000.

The last thing the experts expected going into 2018 was the Oakland A’s giving the Astros a challenge. Slugger Kris Davis has 41 home runs and four players; Matt Olsen, Stephen Pischotty, Matt Chapman, and Jed Lowrey have over 20! The pitching highlights have been a no-hitter by Sean Manaea and a great bullpen led by Closer Blake Treinen and set-up man Lou Trivino. On the downside, the pitching staff has been riddled by injuries including Manaea who is currently on the Disabled List.

So what are the chances for the A’s in October? They proved they can beat anyone, including the Yankees and Red Sox. If they win in New York on October 3rd, they won’t have to travel far to take on the Red Sox. Wouldn’t it be great if they beat the Yankees and Red Sox and then got a head-to-head matchup with the Astros for a spot in the World Series?

Opening Up Possibilities by Finding Common Ground

Much of the shouting this week has been about Nike launching the ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. There’s been a lot of slogans on both sides and as with many of our debates, particularly on social media, few if any minds were changed and little common ground was found. Finding common ground opens up possibilities.

It got me thinking about what we stand for as a nation and came up with two ideas; Duty/Honor and Freedom. While I they’re not mutually exclusive, I think most Americans “lead” with one or the other. Are you a person who believes that the United States was built on Duty & Honor? Or, are you person that believes the United States was built on Living in a country that is free.

My dad for instance and his brothers and sister grew up in the 1930s. They had the duty of helping their family survive the Great Depression. While America was beginniing to have child labor laws, there were no child labor laws in the Taddei family. As soon as they were old enough, they were up before the sun came up, picking lettuce to support the family. They picked lettuce until Uncle Sam called on them to serve their country. In their heart, they knew America was a Free Country but there was a lot of duty and honor going on. The results of the duty and honor was surviving the Great Depression, winning World War II, and putting a man on the moon. #dropthemic

On the other hand as a Baby Boomer in the 1960’s my days were spent playing ball at the park. Mom signed me up, paid the fees, and the Alameda Elks sponsored it. Every summer Mom would make arrangements for us to spend two weeks in the mountains, dad would load the car with our bikes, games, and sports equipment and off we’d go. I don’t know how much the cabin cost and I don’t know how much the lunch we bought on the way up cost, I just knew there was a lake waiting for me. Looking back, I understood I had a lot of freedom it just took me a while to grasp duty/honor.

Do you think our experiences gave us different prospective on things? OF COURSE THEY DID! That’s why it’s almost impossible to talk someone into changing their beliefs and coming over to you side. Our views are shaped by our life experience; good, bad, and indifferent. I believe that the best we can do is find common ground by moving the conversation forward through empathy and compassion. Finding common ground opens up possibilities.

It’s interesting to note that the action of taking a knee has been almost exclusively in the National Football League. While the National Basketball Association has a similar National Anthem rule they don’t seem to have the controversy. Maybe the collaboration that the NBA is known for helps leads to finding common ground. Finding common ground opens up possibilities.

As a family shows love to another family member who might do things that are disappointing, we can show love for country when we’re disappointed in its direction. We can also show empathy when a fellow citizen who has an honest concern about the direction of our country, peacefully act’s out on that concern. Empathy is not Endorsement. Empathy moves the conversation forward. Finding common ground opens up possibilities.

So the next time we’re disagreeing with someone on an issue, let’s look at the options.

  1. We can express outrage and ridicule them in the cleverest way possible.

  2. We can decided that we can’t reason with someone who is so uninformed.

  3. We can learn more about their prospective and the nuances of their argument.

I encourage you to choose the option that opens up possibilities.

Newspapers & Conversations

Over the past 30 or so years, I’ve done a moderate amount of airline travel. Back in the day, you could count on at least 90% of fellow passengers reading the paper during the flight. Out of Oakland, we’d have the Tribune, Chronicle, USA Today, or maybe the Wall Street Journal. Flying home a passenger would probably pick up a local from the city they were visiting. On a given flight, the person next to me might be reading a Glen Dickey column ripping Joe Montana. (Yes. Dickey not only ripped Joe, he ripped Willie Mays. If he was still writing, he’d probably find something to rip Steph Curry about.) Please pardon the digression. I might ask my fellow passenger if I could read the article when he was finished. More times than not, he’d let me and then we’d talk about it. 30,000 feet in the air with nowhere to go, real life common ground. While we all had our own opinions, we got our news from the same places. We interpreted the news based on our experiences.

Today as I took a short flight to San Diego for a one day trip, absolutely no one was reading the paper. Passengers were working on their laptops, playing games on their tablets, or sleeping. With news coming to us digitally the overwhelming majority of what we read and listen to is what we already agree with. Some watch Fox because they agree with Fox. Others watch MSNBC because they agree with MSNBC. English psychologist, Peter Watson coined the term confirmation bias; “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypothesis.” Watson came up with that in 1960 predating the digital age by many years.

Is it possible for everyday citizens like us to buld common ground? I say yes but we can’t count on politicians to do it for us, we have to do it ourselves. The solution is conversation. Civil discussions with people we disagree with will help us learn the nuances of opinions. We can empathize, respect, and have relationships with people with whom we disagree while still staying true to our values. Actor, Dylan Marron says it best, “empathy is not endorsement”.

Is there someone you’re ready to cut off communication because you disagree with them? I encourage you to try something revolutionary. Engage them in conversation without trying to change their mind. You might learn something, they might learn something and both of you might realize you have more in common than you think.

Stop the Name Calling

This week as President Trump tweeted about LaBron James’ “lack of intelligence,”I realized that the biggest crisis that we have in America is not the passage of a particular policy or law. The biggest crisis we have is the lack of ability to share our views without insulting those who disagree. Its not just a conservative problem. Robert De Niro accomplished nothing when he yelled F TRUMP at the Tonys. Conservatives call Liberals snowflakes & libtards. Liberals call conservatives fascists & bigots. No exchange of ideas, the other side is just stupid and wants to ruin the country. Is there someone out there who can move the conversation forward and actually exchange an idea?

Taking a Knee

While watching the first two games of the NBA Finals, I was struck by the fact that we’re not seeing the same controversy about National Anthem protests as we see in the NFL. So what’s the difference? It’s not like the NBA stars aren’t engaged in discussions about current events.

  • In 2014, NBA players took the floor wearing “I can’t breathe” tee shirts, calling attention to the choke-hold death of Eric Garner in New York.

  • The Golden State Warriors chose to take Washington DC kids to the African American Museum rather than visit President Trump in the White House.

  • When LeBron James gave his views on current events, he was asked by political commentator, Laura Ingraham to “Shut up and dribble.”

While there was much written and discussed about these incidents and others, most of what we hear from NBA management is supportive. Golden State Warrior Coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spur coach Greg Popovich have been outspoken in their support of the players’ right to express themselves.

On the other hand, as the NBA Playoffs were taking place, the NFL was making news announcing their new rule requiring players to either stand for the National Anthem or not come out of the dressing room. Former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have not been able to find jobs in the NFL since they chose to take knees during the National Anthem. Last October at the NFL Owners Meeting, Houston Texan owner Bob McNair said the league cannot allow “inmates running the prison” in regard to players’ national anthem protests.

It’s ironic that while the NBA also has a rule requiring the players to stand respectfully for the National Anthem, the players appear to be choosing not to challenge it. It’s my opinion that the NBA owners and management look to their players as business partners. The owners realize that both sides need each other for the league to prosper. I believe that NFL management looks at their players as commodities that can be replaced. While both leagues are making billions of dollars there seems to be a lot more anxiety and distrust in the NFL than the NBA.

Many of us believe professional sports is a fantasy land filled with well-paid celebrities. While there’s a lot of truth in that, there still needs to be a certain amount of cooperation within the franchises and leagues. To be successful, everyone needs to be pulling the rope in the same direction. I’d love to hear how this works in our daily lives. Please leave your comments on how cooperation works wherever you are in the employment hierarchy.

Let's Find Common Ground

Have you ever had a positive conversation with someone after they called you a fascist or a libtard? Kind of puts the kibosh on the whole discussion doesn’t it. We live in a country of over 300 million people, a world of over 7 billion, some of our egos are so big that we feel that our personal views are the only ones that are valid. Many of our egos are so fragile that we’re highly offended by people who simply disagree with us on an issue or have the audacity to vote differently than us. When it happens we either pull out our phone or find the nearest computer and ridicule the offender in nastiest way possible. This is convenient because where far enough removed from the offender that we won’t have to defend our position or learn the nuances of their position. We also get the bonus of seeing positive comments and likes from our social media friends who agree with us. What are we accomplishing? What are we solving? The tragedy is that we’re losing our ability to find common ground with people who see the world differently than us. Day by day, we’re severing our relationship with half the people in our country. It doesn’t have to be that way. Just because two people disagree on a tax or social issue doesn’t mean they can’t find common ground and be part of a solution to another issue. The idea is to have enough curiosity and respect to get into conversation rather than going right to the device to demonstrate how clever we can be.The purpose of this blog is to start the conversation. I’ll be posting things a couple of time a week and inviting contributions that stimulate discussion. Please add your comments. Whether you agree or disagree, keep comments respectful. Let’s see if we can have a good time in our quest for common ground..