Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Can We Predict Greatness or a Bad Hop?

Rick Kaplan
Staff Writer

OAKLAND (October 9) – Will Kenny Rogers run his record at the Coliseum to 24-1? Or, will he get food poisoning from the pregame meal and be unable to pitch?

Who is going to win the ALCS and how?

The one thing we can say pretty confidently is we are going to be surprised. So, this is probably all for naught. But let me give it a whirl.

The first pitch is tomorrow night in Oakland. Lots of predictions have already been offered, and the experts seem to be split fairly evenly between favoring the Tigers and the A’s.

Click below for more!Tiger starters vs. A’s starters, bullpen vs. bullpen, Tigers’ sizzling first half vs. A’s signature second half. This one looks really tight.

These breakdowns always seem to start with comparing the pitchers. And that is often the best way to approach this ritual pre-game activity.

But with teams that appear so evenly matched, why not start with defense?


Who catches the ball best could easily determine the outcome here. And this is the one place where there seems to be a really clear difference between the two clubs.

The A’s are the best defensive team in MLB. They do not give runs or outs away. And their stellar play-making, featuring the scintillating magic performed daily at third base by Eric Chavez, and the seamless outfield defense anchored by Mark Kotsay, is going to win games, especially in an A’s-Tigers series in which the quality of the pitching is likely to result in very low scores and where each run, whether scored by the offense or saved by the defense, will count dramatically in the final tally.

A lot is going to come down to which Oakland pitchers show up: The hittable bunch that finished the season in September, or the solid crew that mastered the Twins last week in the ALDS.

Something tells me that the Tigers are going to continue to get effective work from Kenny Rogers–the A’s killer–and phenom rookie-of-the-year candidate Justin Verlander. And I think Zito and Loaiza will get deep enough into the game to give the A’s a chance to win.

On the other hand, Danny Haren has been struggling for a month, with the exception of the gem he threw in the Metrodome in September. And Rich Harden, potentially a difference-maker, is an unknown entity at this juncture.

So, there are uncertainties within the Oakland staff. At the same time, The Tigers’ Jeremy Bonderman, despite his shut-down performance against the Yankees, and lefty Nate Robertson, who gave up 12 hits in 5+ innings against the Bombers, do not intimidate the A’s.

However, a slight edge in starting pitching goes to the Tigers, unless Rich Harden decides to leave some paw prints on the Tigers–and that could happen.

Regardless, the starters on these two very balanced clubs look pretty close.

So do the bullpens. Oakland, with Kiko Calero, Chad Gaudin, and Joe Kennedy, is superior in middle relief. But I’ll give an edge to the Tigers in the eighth and ninth, when they can go to the electrifying Joel Zumaya and the crafty (and deceptively hard-throwing) Todd Jones, vs. the A’s very poised strike-thrower Justin Duchscherer and the recently frequently over-matched Huston Street.

The bullpens are even.

Surprisingly, the A’s closed the gap in hitting during the second half of the season while the Tiger bats grew cold. Even though the Detroit offense was somewhat revived against the Yankees, with outfielders Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames starting to come to life, and the Tigers have added the professional bat of Sean Casey since the A’s last saw them, again, Oakland has made up a lot of ground here. The A’s are now getting good swings and timely hitting up and down the line-up, with more power than earlier in the season. Frank Thomas is no longer carrying the team by himself.

Yet the Tigers still seem to have a small edge with the bat. Detroit’s Venezuelan delegation, right fielder Maglio Ordonez and middle infielders Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco, have previously feasted on A’s pitching, and the loss of Mark Ellis hurts the A’s attack much more than his .249 batting average indicates.

But the Tiger advantage in hitting has been shrinking, and it could disappear in the ACLS. Tiger Guillen’s counterpart at shorstop, and fellow countryman Marco Scutaro–who won a Venezuelan winter league batting title a couple of years ago–is rapidly becoming a serious offensive force. With Nick Swisher banging the ball from both sides and Eric Chavez continuing to drive the ball as he began to do in September, Oakland could potentially outscore Detroit.


Anyone who was at the Coliseum on Friday afternoon for the concluding game of the 2006 ALDS between the Twins and the Ath letics will never forget that experience for the rest of their lives.

The touchable electricity and exuberance of the home crowd was fed by another two clutch doubles from Scutaro and more wondrous stabs at the hot corner from Chavez. And the promise of Chavy’s bat awakening, after his huge home run in the second inning to put Oakland in front 1-0, and that later opposite-field smash off the left-centerfield wall, left the fans in an confident, Even invincible, mood.

For me, however, the key play in the game, and quite possibly in the 2006 season, was Milton Bradley’s unparalleled throw to cut down Torii Hunter in the sixth inning of what was a 4-2 game at the time, as the Twins seemed to be rallying and gaining momentum.

That throw seem to put a end to their ideas of coming back

MB had already hit a two run homer to give the A’s a 4-0 lead, following Chavez’ second inning solo blast and Scutaro’s first double.

Bradley is a special, complete player. And he is going to get even better. He brings an energy and a passion to the field that has been lacking for a long time on the A’s.

He has an effect on his teammates that only the great players seem to be able to instill. I am referring to the Willie Stargells, the Carl Yastremskis, the Frank Robinsons, and the Reggie Jacksons.

Winners. Leaders. And sometimes abrasive. Because they expect a lot, and they can ignite their teammates.

Bradley, who had a rough time with injuries during the first half of the season and spent virtually that whole time on the DL, returned to the line-up on July 14.

The Athletics crushed the Red Sox at Fenway, 15-3. Milton went 4-5.

The A’s, who had been 46-43 up to the night when Bradley returned, were 47-26 after he came back to the line-up.

A real troublemaker. Especially for the other team.

On July 30, Bradley’s prodigious walk-off three run blast to centerfield off the Blue Jays’ B.J. Ryan, one of the AL’s toughest closers, came after Bradley could be seen vocally encouraging his teammates, then down by two runs, not to give up until the final out.

Bradley can catch and throw with the best, he can run, and he can hit for power. There is no other player quite like him in baseball right now, with the possible exception of the Mets’ Carlos Beltran.

But no other player, other than Bradley, possesses all those skills and is also an inspirational leader.

This series is likely to come down to one or two moments, one or two key plays. It could be a laser from the right field corner to cut down the tying run. Or it could be a key hit, or even moving up the winning run on a ground-out.

It might just be the attitude and passion of one player that affects the winning team.

Milton Bradley will be heard from in this series.

Oakland wins in a THRILLING seven games.


1 Anonymous { 10.10.06 at 7:13 am }

Great column.

Glad to see you FINALLY came around on Bradley. You were a pretty vocal critic of the Ethier deal – even writing a sarcastic piece about Beane trading Milton back to LA for Andre.

Good job,

2 Anonymous { 10.10.06 at 10:23 am }

Dear Anonymous,
Gee, I wish great readers like you would use your name! People actually pay attention to what I say, huh? I iknew someone would nail me about that Ethier trade column! It was mainly just doing something goodfy, and a little about being concerned about MB’s injury proneness, not his ability or his charisma . . . look at my April 5 column (“april” in “story archives” under the Main Menu) entitled “My All-Throwback Team,” especially the last few paragraphs of the text, if you want to see how enamored I was of Milton very early in the season. true, as my brother says, I change my mind every three hours . . . Thanks, Rick P.S. Loveofthegame readers, what do you think of the nickname “Big Game” (Milton Bradley Inc.) to go with “Big Hurt”?

3 Anonymous { 10.10.06 at 3:59 pm }

What about managers, or do you think their role isn’t that
significant at this stage of the season?


4 Anonymous { 09.22.07 at 1:13 pm }

5 Anonymous { 09.22.07 at 1:50 pm }

6 Anonymous { 02.25.10 at 5:18 am }

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7 Anonymous { 03.03.10 at 11:08 pm }

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