And I mean that literally. I asked for questions from the Athletics Nation community a week ago. The A's manager was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to answer questions from you.
Below is the username and question (some of the questions I had to seriously condense and/or edit). I also tried to avoid questions that were designed to get him to say things like, "Kendall stinks" simply because a manager isn't going to call out a player in public. And from my experience in speaking to Mr. Geren, both on and off the record, he is a relentlessly positive individual which I'm sure is quite refreshing to the A's players after the last few seasons. I want to thank Mr. Geren for taking the time out of a recent road trip to answer these questions for AN. After reviewing the questions, he had this to say, "It's nice to know that not only are our fans great supporters of the team, but they are also knowledgeable baseball people." Too true.
Without further ado, here is your interview with A's manager Bob Geren:
GoAs: The A's this year have been racked by injuries, obviously making your job of finding a good lineup each day more difficult. Do you think this is simply a string of bad luck, or is there some outside explanation (the front office acquiring players who are more injury-prone because they are more affordable, problems with offseason training, etc.)?
Bob Geren: We've had a serious string of bad luck but, there has been some very positive things that have come about because of these injuries. Gaudin is now a starting pitcher. We found Jack Cust and of course Travis Buck is getting a chance to prove he can play in the Major Leagues. Finding nine guys that will play their hearts out and want to win each night, has not been a problem.
williadc: As a manager, what steps do you take to avoid a culture of defeat in the face of all these injuries? There has to be a mental letdown with a team when a new player seems to be going on the DL every day.
Geren: This might sound like a repeat of the last answer but there has not been a letdown and no shortage of players that want to play and win. I told this team in spring training that ups, downs, and injuries are a part of the game, so it will take everybody to win.
Eric in Atlanta: Have you managed a situation with so many injuries like this before? If not, what experiences are you leaning on to handle the situation?
Geren: I've had extensive managerial experience in AAA and winter ball where rosters are constantly changing. I feel for the players and the team when somebody is injured but I also feel positive about giving young players a chance to succeed at this level.
Luispolonia: With so many simultaneous injuries to key players on this team, as a new manager, how difficult is it to maintain, or build upon the chemistry that these A's are famous for? Who is stepping up in the absence of guys like Kotsay and Bradley?
Geren: Team chemistry has always been one of our strengths and it remains that way. Even though some of our key players are injured they remain an integral part of the team daily and a positive influence in the clubhouse.
Ohtobe21likehuston: How do you feel about being at .500 at this point in the season despite all of the stop-gaps that have had to be used because of the injuries? Also, I think you have done one hell of a job with this team and we're glad to have you around.
Geren: As a manager, I've never had .500 as a goal. I look at it more that we are in striking distance to the first place club. When we get our DL players back I'm confident that we can make a solid run at them.
Hawk: With the recent success of Jack Cust, what do you think you will do once Mike Piazza rejoins the team? Any chance that we'll see Piazza behind the plate again to help the team offensively?
Geren: Jack Cust has been such a great lift for us. He's really helped us to get where we are. Jack is not just a DH his is also a corner outfielder. As far as Mike catching, that's always a possibility. He was our #2 catcher for awhile already this season.
theblackpearl: In the meantime, with the struggles of the offense, and all the injuries, do you think it would be beneficial to play Adam Melhuse a little more frequently as he gives the team more power?
Geren: Adam will see more time in the future. He will be starting Sunday in Baltimore.
J Rod: I've noticed that Jay Marshall is being asked to get a lot of right-handed batters out even though he has a solid track record of success in the minors against left handed hitters. Do you see him as more than just a left-handed specialist?
Geren: Jay Marshall is a ground-ball specialist. He's had better success so far this year in the Major Leagues against lefties. As his role evolves, he will see more left handed hitters than righties, but not exclusively lefties.
HollywoodOz: Eric Chavez, right now, seems to be a shadow of his former self. Yes, he's got sore forearms. Yes, he's had a shoulder issue for several years that he won't get off-season surgery to fix. Yes, he has no protection in the lineup. Yes, he's defensive nirvana, but .240 with 5 HRs is what you'd expect from Scutaro if he'd been playing third base all year, not the offensive lynchpin of the team. Does there come a point where you have to say, "Eric, we love you and all, you're a clubhouse leader, but you have to sit down until your health is 100 percent"?
Geren: All everyday Major League Baseball players go through bumps and bruises and play with different levels of pain. We evaluate all players on a day to day basis. If Eric, or any of our players require time off, they will be given it. Eric is currently in the middle of a few days off to heal up.
One won lost won: What's the current thinking about baseball bats by the hitters? Do they order a ton of all-identical bats and stick to those, or do they like to switch with other available bats. Why not order a range of bat weights and lengths, like a golfer with a bag of clubs? And do players switch bats "mid-game" for situational hitting (like, getting a bunt down.)?
Geren: The majority of hitters keep the same length bat at all times. Most players will use one to two different models. I would estimate that 50 percent will have different weighted bats usually a one ounce differential. Some will drop down an ounce in weight in August and September, or even in early season against a pitcher with high velocity fastballs. Some hitters that aren't under contract with a specific bat company will try different brands of bats. In the last ten years or so maple bats have become more popular but there are still veteran players that like the ash bats better. As far as situations, many years ago some players would actually have a thick handled, thick barreled bat for bunting. I haven't seen this though in the last 15-20 years.
TheGreenGoldCrush: With the new stadium on the way, do you think the A's are going to get the financial support they need to sign some top talent in the next few years and more importantly keep the stars the A's currently have instead of losing players to other teams year in and year out? Was the Swisher extension a sign of things to come?
Geren: This question sounds like one the front office can answer better than I can. All I can say is I'm extremely pleased with the club signing Swisher. He is full of talent and plays the game hard. I'm so happy he will be with us for the remainder of this contract.
Branch Rickey: Could you shed some light on whether someone instructed rookie left-hander Dallas Braden not to throw his screwball, which so many of us ANers read about as the key pitch in his arsenal that helped him move quickly through the minor leagues?
Geren: Dallas Braden is a fine young pitcher who has had some success with us this year. His repertoire of pitches includes a fastball to both sides of the plate, slider, and an outstanding change up that fades and dives away from right handed hitters having the same characteristics as a screwball.
Notsellingjeans: In terms of defensive alignment, do the A's play most hitters they face "straight up", or is there at least a subtle shift for literally every hitter they face, based upon statistical data? Also, which defensive metric (PMR, Zone Rating, Dewan's +/-, etc.) does the team value the most in terms of evaluating defenders, or do they have their own?
Geren: We have a defensive meeting before every series. We use a combination of spray charts, scouting reports, and video to align each individual player at every position in the field. We have positioning for both left and right handed pitchers. The outfield and infield coaches watch their players every hitter of the game to be sure they are positioned where they want them. The A's use a combination of various methods to evaluate defense.
Englishmajor: As a manager, how do you deal with a player who's clearly very smart and very talented, has done well in the past, isn't injured, isn't visibly doing anything wrong that anyone can detect...but just isn't hitting well? How do you balance your responsibility to the team as a whole vs. your need to respect that individual player and make the best use of him in the long and short term?
Geren: A player with a proven track record will eventually come around. You do your best to keep them positive, encouraged, and working hard - showing patience and respect. In the long run they will come around and help the team win. Sometimes depending on the player their defense alone can help the team win games.
grover: After the back-to-back blown saves vs. the Royals, several people wanted to see Connor Robertson get a chance at closing the next save opportunity, even if it meant he could be making his big league debut in the 9th inning of a 1-run game. How do you feel about debuting a pitcher in such a high stress situation?
Geren: I would prefer to have a rookie make his debut in a less pressured situation but, if I honestly felt that the rookie is our best option, I wouldn't be afraid to use him.