The short lull before the Division Series begins always seems to take the feelings of excitement and anticipation and throws them in a pressure cooker. Everything is amplified to vertiginous levels. All the hype and hoopla of 162 games of the regular season combined pales in comparison to the electricity generated by a playoff series, and there’s been a lot going on this week as the A’s prepare for a rematch of last year’s ALDS with the Detroit Tigers.
When the A’s announced their roster for the ALDS yesterday there weren’t many surprises, but the A’s threw a curveball with A.J. Griffin being left off the roster in favor of Dan Straily. A few weeks ago I wrote that Griffin would likely get a spot in the LDS rotation, but mild tendinitis in his right elbow has relegated him to the sidelines for now. Griffin started Game 4 of last year’s ALDS as a rookie, holding the Tigers to two runs in five-plus innings. Straily will start Game 4 in Detroit if the series goes that far.
While Straily’s streaky tendencies might be worrisome, I’ve always had supreme confidence in whoever takes the pearl for the A’s. During the last decade I’ve learned to trust the pitching and pray for the hitting. Straily might be a rookie, but I’ve grown accustomed to any pitcher wearing green and gold giving the team a great chance to win any game. He faced the Tigers once this season on August 28 in Detroit, going six innings and surrendering eight hits and two walks with two strikeouts while limiting them to one run. He picked up the win as the A’s cruised to a 14-4 victory.
Depending on what happens in this round Griffin could be added back to the roster in the next round, but the soreness is his elbow has to subside first. Don’t be surprised if we see the El Cajon native back on the mound if the A’s advance.
As for position players, Nate Freiman was left off the roster as expected due to an abdominal strain that has slowed him in recent weeks. Taking his spot is the rejuvenated Daric Barton. Even if Freiman were healthy it’s likely he still wouldn’t have made the roster since Detroit’s starting rotation is strictly right-handed and the Duke alum slashed just .167/.239/.167 against righties this season.
Without a right-handed hitting option at first base the A’s had been giving Derek Norris some practice fielding grounders at first during the past week. The A’s have decided to carry three catchers in this round, so it’ll be interesting to see how Bob Melvin mixes and matches during the series.
Besides playoff fever, we have some intriguing developments in the eternal saga of the struggle for a new stadium.
Earlier this year we heard Oakland major Jean Quan talk about bringing unidentified, foreign investors on board for the Coliseum City project, and yesterday those mystery investors were revealed to be real estate investment firm Colony Capital and Dubai financier Rashid Al Malik. Interestingly, this news comes the same week in which the City of San Jose will head to a court for a hearing on Friday in their antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball. Marine Layer over at newballpark.org has a nice write-up on Colony and Al Malik, so check it out if you want to learn more them. There’s many angles to explore here, and this situation will only get more compelling in the coming weeks. You can expect more in-depth analysis from me as things play out.
Sure is a thrilling time to be an A’s fan right about now.