Sports writers, and baseball daily beat writers in particular, are really busy people. They're constantly talking to managers, players and even clubhouse staff trying to score that next big scoop.
But Oakland Tribune beat writer Josh Suchon took time out of digging for that next big story to answer five quick questions from yours truly about our Athletics for AN.
The conversation is below:
1. Many A's fans are frustrated over the lack of offense and the struggling bullpen. What do you think is the A's biggest weakness? Do you think this weakness will recitify itself or will take a move from the front office?
Well, I'm answering this question after the A's scored 31 runs in their last three games. So I'm going to say the bullpen is a bigger weakness. The A's offense won't keep this up. They won't score runs like the 2000 team did. But they can score enough runs. The biggest issue, no question, is the bullpen. Not just if they can get enough crucial outs to win the division, but whether they can get enough in the playoffs. Right now, I just can't see it. I think GM Billy Beane will need to get more help if they are going to get deep into the playoffs.
2. The team has done well without Eric Chavez thus far. The starting pitching is an obvious reason, and Scott Hatteberg and Mark Kotsay has really helped. What is Hatter doing differently this season to be so much more effective? Has he mentioned any change in his approach? Do you think Kotsay just took some time to adjust to the AL?
Hatteberg is healthy this year and that's an important difference. He didn't use it as an excuse last year, but it clearly hurt his production. He's not doing anything differently. He still rarely swings at the first pitch and works the count. He's just in a groove. Kotsay's biggest problem was trying to be the so-called traditional leadoff hitter. He took pitches in certain counts because he thought that's what he was supposed to do. But that's not his style and that's not how he's had success in his career. He's an aggressive hitter. He swings early in the count. Once he went back to doing what he's always done, the results followed. It just goes to show that one approach doesn't work for everybody.
3. Coming over from covering the Giants in the past, by comparison, how's the atmosphere in the A's clubhouse? Are they as you expected -- like the raucous group of a few years ago?
They aren't as raucous as they were in previous years, at least from the stories I've heard and witnessed. A few more guys are married and they are getting older, growing up a little, so to speak. It's still a much different clubhouse than the Giants. It's a lot more open, relaxed. The best hitter (Eric Chavez) and best pitcher (Tim Hudson) are the best quotes on the team. That makes a journalist's job much easier.
4. Has there been something about the A's that has surprised you in seeing them on a regular basis this season? Something you didn't know about them perhaps.
Not really. Hudson and Mulder never cease to amaze me. The whole "Moneyball" thing fascinates me from the standpoint of how often the book's title is used throughout baseball for certain situations and by people who never read the book or missed the point of the book. It makes me laugh. In some ways, the so-called A's Way is almost like a Saturday Night Live sketch. The philosophy was hatched when they had no pitching and a bunch of sluggers. Now it's the exact opposite. Like a hitters approach, there's no one way to build a team -- and the A's know it. You have to build off your strengths and be flexible based on your payroll.
5. Lastly, from being around the team on a daily basis and talking with Macha regularly, what do you think is going to happen with the closer role?
Unless somebody new is acquired, I think Macha has no choice but to continue using Rhodes in most save situations -- just not all of them. He'll ride the hot hand, whether it's Rhodes or Justin Duchscherer or Jim Mecir or Chad Bradford. I like that they are open minded about how to use guys. The thing is, it's not like there's a great closer out there who can be acquired, who doesn't have a huge contract and who wouldn't cost too much in return. So I wouldn't hold your breath for a Mariano Rivera-type closer. But this is why Billy Beane gets paid the big bucks, to find somebody to help the 'pen when it doesn't look like anybody out there is available.
There you have it from a man who spends the majority of his time around the team we love.
Thanks for the insight, Josh. Oh, and enjoy your time off over the next few days.