Monday, April 18, 2011

Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics - April 16/17, 2011


The Oakland A's are now the Bay Area's poor boys after the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series. The A's are several years removed from their Moneyball years when they made the playoffs in 4 consecutive seasons from 2000-03. Lately, they have been struggling both in the standings and at the box office. But this year they have one of the brightest young pitching staffs in baseball and have been touted by many to contend. With that in mind, I decided to check out two games between the A's and the Detroit Tigers.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum


The A's play in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the fourth oldest ballpark in the majors and one of three remaining stadiums that is also used for football (Sun Life Stadium and Rogers Centre are the others). It first hosted a game just three weeks after I was born, which gives you some idea of just how old it is. The Coliseum has gone through several name changes in the past decade, but when McAfee gave up the naming rights in 2008, it reverted to the original moniker. Regardless, locals have always referred to it as The Coliseum and that's what I'll do here.


The Coliseum is located just east of I-880 and has several large parking lots surrounding it along with Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors. Parking for A's games is a ridiculous $17 (except on Tuesdays when it's free). There is also a BART station that provides easy access on public transit. Tailgating is allowed here and many fans take advantage, with some arriving for day games over two hours in advance. The parking lot also houses the extra seats that are used when the Raiders play (above).



There is nothing of interest around the stadium other than a small planter near the Westside Club that commemorates the history of all three franchises that call Oakland home. Above is Dennis Eckersley's plaque and the shot below illustrates that Oakland was once a city of champions.


Tickets are reasonably priced. I recommend the $12 Value Deck seats as they include $6 worth of food. A Saag's sausage is $5.75 which fits nicely with this promotion and if you sign up for the designated driver program to get a free pop, you don't need to buy a drink. So you can see the game and have a meal for $12, assuming you don't park. The Value Deck seats are located in the third deck between the tarps in the picture below. Of course, you don't have to sit there, you can move freely about the stadium, although ushers do check your tickets on occasion.


The Coliseum has the lowest capacity in all of MLB as they have blocked off almost all the seating in the upper deck using the aforementioned tarps. One advantage of these coverings is that they can put retired numbers and World Series championship years on them to at least make them slightly less ugly.



Some pretty good players used to call Oakland home

There are two concourses, both of which are fairly drab. On the second level, you will find the Westside Club which includes a full-service restaurant and bar behind sections 212-214. It was fairly empty before the game, but then again so was much of the stadium.




OK, I got there pretty early but for the two weekend games, attendance was less than 50% of capacity.

The lower concourse is where most of the food is, there is even an Irish Pub near section 120 (ironically, right next to the designated driver sign-up booth). Not a lot of variety in the food; I thought the Saag's sausage selection was the best value for the money, although the garlic fries were also very tempting.

Some of the lower deck seating is covered by the deck above it as you can see below. It gets very chilly here at night, so better to sit lower where you are in the lights. Generally avoid rows 31 and above in any of the 100 level sections down the baselines.



You can also see that the foul area is the biggest in the majors. On several occasions over the weekend, foul balls that would be souvenirs in other ballparks were easy outs here. I suspect the A's use super-advanced sabermetrics to avoid players who hit too many foul pops.

There are two identical scoreboards at opposite ends of the stadium, essentially above the foul poles but really marking the end zones when the football stadium is in use. Each scoreboard consists of a dot matrix display and a digital scoreboard. Not fancy, but gets the job done.

Overall, The Coliseum is clearly not one of baseball's finest facilities. It is ancient, somewhat worn down, and offers few amenities. But now that nearly every other park is new/retro with more and more distractions, it is refreshing to return to an old-time experience. The fans here are real and know the game. I enjoyed my weekend here (I didn't have to park though, so saved $34 that way) and am looking forward to a return visit this coming Wednesday. The A's are an interesting team and are worth watching if you have a chance in 2011.

Game 1 - Detroit Tigers 2 at Oakland Athletics 6

I saw two games this weekend. Saturday night was battle of the aces between Dallas Braden (below) and Justin Verlander. The Tigers opened the scoring in the second when Miguel Cabrera walked and Victor Martinez doubled. After Jhonny Peralta struck out, Brennan Boesch grounded to Daric Barton at first. Barton threw home wildly for an error (Oakland has the worst defense in the majors right now) and Cabrera scored what turned out to be an unearned run.


In the 4th, Oakland had back-to-back-to-back doubles from David DeJesus, Willingham, and Hideki Matsui to score 2 runs, and Matsui later came home after left fielder Ryan Raburn misplayed a single.

In the bottom of the 5th, one of the strangest plays I've ever seen occurred. With Barton on first after a walk, Verlander stepped off the rubber and threw quickly home, hitting DeJesus in the foot. Barton went to second and DeJesus took first while the umpires conferred. Eventually, it was ruled a balk as Verlander had stepped off as if to throw to first, then came home. DeJesus returned to the plate, but Barton stayed on second. DeJesus eventually walked but Verlander retired the next 3 batters in order to escape the jam.

Cliff Pennington should get more hits to avoid this embarrassing scoreboard situation

Braden was removed after 5th due to shoulder tightness that was not related to the lengthy delay due to the balk controversy. The bullpen was solid though, with Brad Ziegler and Craig Breslow throwing scoreless frames.

The A's added another in the 6th on doubles by Kevin Kouzmanoff and Coco Crisp and another pair in the 8th highlighted by Ryan Sweeney's pinch-hit RBI triple. Although Detroit added a run in the ninth off Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes closed things out as Oakland won 6-2 in a rather tepid affair. When the highlight is a balk call, you know you saw a boring game.



Game 2 - Detroit Tigers 1 at Oakland Athletics 5

More of the same on Sunday. This time Trevor Cahill took the mound for Oakland against Brad Penny (shown below warming up).


Oakland scored first when Matsui grounded out (below) to bring home Barton in the fourth.


One inning later the A's added a 3-spot, highlighted by Willingham's 2-run single to make it 4-0. Casper Wells got Detroit on the board with a solo shot in the 6th but Oakland got it right back with a Cliff Pennington sac fly in the bottom half of the frame. Cahill went 8 strong innings with 9 strikeouts and nary a walk, yielding only the single run as the A's salvaged a series split.

Neither game was particularly memorable, the A's won by 4 both times and behind solid starting pitching. I'll be back on Wednesday for an afternoon game against Boston when Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for Oakland.

Notes

My new favourite player name is Alberto Alburquerque, a reliever for Detroit who made his debut on Friday and pitched 2/3 of an inning on Sunday. Great name, looking forward to the first time an announcer references Bugs Bunny ("I knew I should have taken that left turn in Albuquerque").

When you catch a foul ball, the ushers make you fill out a form of some sort. Not sure what it is for, but if anybody knows, please comment below.

The seagulls must be able to read the scoreboard - with the game nearing an end, they began circling the field and a couple of dozen perched atop the stadium waiting for fans to clear out so they could gorge themselves on the leftover food. Be careful, some of them were dive bombing the seats.


I met fellow roadtripper Andrew Van Cleve and his family for Sunday's game. We sat in the bleachers (hence the lack of pictures) and really didn't pay much attention to the game. It was good fun though and sitting so far away really gives a different perspective on the game.

Next Up

I'm in San Jose for two days. Tonight the Cal League's San Jose Giants are home to Inland Empire and tomorrow I visit Santa Clara University to watch the Broncos host the Stanford Cardinal in a midweek game. Check back for posts on those games.

Best,

Sean

2 comments:

  1. I was sitting down by the A's bullpen last year for a game and caught a foul ball. The form you fill out is for a drawing for a couple tickets.

    You're not the only one to notice the price of parking. Unfortunately that's set by the Coliseum Authority or whatever it's called, but I guess the team worked out something for that Tuesday promo. Of course, it's on a day few people go. More savvy people often park at the BART lot, whether or not it's a good idea.

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  2. Sean - Although the stadium is not new nor fancy, it is truely pure baseball which is what I liked when I visited a few years ago. You had mentioned something similar in this review.

    Loved the seagulls! The gulls do that at AT&T Park too. Smart birds.

    Meg

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