Oakland extends record for road-game homers, while journeyman pitcher finds yet another new home
It’s been 15 years since Michael Lewis’ novel “Moneyball” hit the shelves of what are now mostly American relics, book stores.
If you don’t recall, it was the story of the 2002 Oakland A’s and the struggles of general manager Billy Beane to build a competitive team under the financial constraints of tight-fisted ownership.
Baseball historians often point to it when discussing the origins of nerd sabermetrics, the science of employing previously disregarded statistical distinctions about players to determine their true value, competitively and financially.
We bring this up for two reasons. The book has likely changed baseball forever. And its release was the last time the Oakland A’s were ever relevant.
Until this week, that is, when the thirst for ripened talent, at bargain-basement prices, sprung Beane into action again.
Actually, two very interesting things happened to this team on Monday during its otherwise pedestrian 5-4 in over the Tigers in Detroit.
Stephen Piscotty and Jed Lowrie both hit home runs for the A’s. Piscotty’s homer in the seventh inning extended to 26 the team’s Major-League record of hitting at least one homer in consecutive road games. They had set the record on Sunday, breaking the mark of 24 by the 1996 Baltimore Orioles.
For a team that is 41-38 and 10 ½ games out of first place in the AL West, for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series since 1990, that’s a very nice thing to be able to brag about.
And then there is Edwin Jackson, the right-handed pitcher who simply refuses to say enough is enough.
Jackson, 34, who had already made $77.5 million in his career, according to baseball-reference.com, appeared for his 13th MLB team by starting Monday’s game for the A’s. And that tied reliever Octavio Dotel, one of the hundreds of Jackson’s former teammates, for the all-time record.
“It’s just a fun fact,” Jackson told the San Jose Mercury News after allowing only one run on six hits with no walks with seven strikeouts in six innings. “Scoreboard trivia.”
Jackson’s career began in 2003 with the Dodgers, at which time he was the youngest player (20) in the majors. He pitched six innings in his debut onSept. 9 on a 4-1 win at Arizona.
And now in his is 16th season in the majors, the gun was still registering between 93-96 on his fastball on Monday.
“I try to be young once a week,” said Jackson, who signed a minor-league deal with the A’s to stay in the game.
After pitching for the Dodgers, Jackson moved on to the Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres and Orioles before signing a minor-league deal with the A’s on June 6.
The A’s really needed him, too, with injuries shelving starters Andrew Triggs, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Daniel Gossett, Jharel Cotton and Daniel Mengden, who just hurt his foot on Saturday.
The list of Jackson’s career transactions can fill the chapter of a book. Prior to Monday, his career ERA was 4.67 in 1,800 innings, with 288 starts in 377 games.
Jackson has been an all-star only once, in 2008 with the Tigers. He was pretty remarkable before the All-Star break that season. By the end of July, hitters were batting only .216 against him, the lowest batting average against any pitcher in the American League at that point. He pitched a scoreless fifth inning in the All-Star game, needing only four pitches against Yadier Molina, Ryan Zimmerman and Hanley Ramirez to get out of the inning.
But the highlight of his career came on June 25, 2010, while he was in Arizona, when he pitched a no-hitter against Tampa despite walking eight and hitting another batter and throwing 149 pitches.
Born in Germany, Jackson became the first pitcher of that nationality to throw an MLB no-hitter.
And now, perhaps, he can become the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter for his 13th team. Where there is a will, there is a way.
“I’m probably the only guy in the clubhouse who has never met him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t think he’s worn white shoes (an A’s trademark) before. So this is a first for him.”