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AN Chats with Purple Row; A's Welcome Street Home

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The A's return from their trip across the Bay...oh, wait, it only felt that way.

Old home week continues as the A's welcome back Huston Street and Carlos Gonzalez to the Coliseum.  Traded last November 10 for Matt Holliday, the former A's are enjoying their new surroundings, particularly of late, where the Colorado Rockies have won 17 of 20, this after dropping two of three in Anaheim earlier this week. 

Two other ex-A's, Greg Smith and Matt Murton (shipped to Colorado for Corey Wimberly), are currently trying to work their way back to the bigs.

Gonzalez played in 85 games last season for Oakland in 2008, and was generally considered the team's center-fielder of the future.  He has struggled- just nine hits in 50 at-bats- since joining the adult squad on June 5.

Street is certain to draw a few cheers from the locals, having saved 94 games in four seasons here, including two in the 2006 ALDS.  He has successfully closed out 16 wins in 17 tries for the Rockies, as the team has recently positioned itself for a post-season run.

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Street celebrates the A's sweep of the Twins in the '06 ALDS.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.daylife.com/

The Rockies were the darlings of the baseball world two years ago, winning 21 of 22 games en route to their only trip to the World Series (where they were swept by the Red Sox).  With the aid of my trusty AN colleagues, I had a chance to chat away with Russ at SBN's Purple Row.

67M: They say lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but less than two years later, the Rockies are riding another breathtaking streak.  Considering where they were before the streak, you surely couldn't see this coming, but 70 games in, are the Rockies pretty much where you thought they'd be?

Russ: Well, I wouldn't have predicted that the Rockies would be behind the Giants at this point in the season, but a few games above .500, yeah. Before the season began, I was quite conservative by predicting the Rockies would win the West with 85 victories. Unless the Dodgers completely fall apart, that's not going to be true.

67M: Given that we have a large group at AN who believes that our current manager is a dolt, what has Jim Tracy brought to the table that Clint Hurdle wasn't?  Was it just the temperament change as Tracy is much more laid back than Hurdle?  Or is Tracy making smarter in-game decisions?

Russ: It's a bit of both. For example, over the years Rockies fans witnessed Clint Hurdle make the oddest decisions when his pitcher came up to bat late in games. He'd send the pitcher out and then after the inning ended, we'd see a new pitcher on the mound. And much to the contrary of what he proclaimed, Hurdle managed like a guy whose job was on the line. The bullpen was completely out of whack as a result. No one knew their role. Huston Street was the closer for a few days, then Manny Corpas for the next, and then back to Street. That eventually stabilized, but with the relievers not having a defined role it created havoc early on. And don't let me get started on Hurdle and the "fundamentals" of baseball that he supposedly worked on in ST.

As for Tracy, he definitely provides a better temperament for this team (such as not putting all the leadership of Troy Tulowitzki and then throwing him under the bus when things go awry. Hey, look what Troy's been doing lately). While I'm certainly not a fan of the bunt, Tracy certainly has utilized it better than Hurdle ever did (i.e., not using it every fifth batter. I exaggerate . . . or do I?)
 

I guess what it comes down to is what the sine qua non for the Rockies turnaround is. More than anything, it was banishing Clint Hurdle from his position. Tracy just happens to the right guy at the right place at the right time.

67M: I am sure all of AN would like to know your impressions so far of the players Colorado received for Matt Holliday.

Russ: Huston Street has been a favorite of mine since he was freshman at Texas, so I was ecstatic when the Rockies acquired him. I hope he's a Rockie for years.  Carlos Gonzalez is great defensively, but he needs to work on his bat. He could not be contained at the Springs, but he hasn't carried that over to the majors (again). Greg Smith, to be honest, has really gotten lost in all of this.

67M: Can you give me your perspective on AN's perceptions of Holliday (did he have a style that could be interpreted by fans as "he didn't care" or did he show some spirit and personality).

Russ: I really can't speak about AN's perceptions on Holliday, but I will say this: the dude loves to play baseball and gives it his all (he did touch the plate, after all).

67M: Baseball analysts often speculate that one of the reasons for the drastic home/road splits for Colorado players is not just because the Colorado altitude increases the distance of their hits, but also that the experience of playing at altitude hinders players on the road. In other words, a Colorado hitter is used to breaking balls not breaking much in Colorado, and then on the road/sea level, off-speed stuff has a much sharper break.  So not only are they aided by playing at Colorado, but the experience of playing in Colorado actually makes it more likely that they'll be a bad road hitter, because the experience is so different than that of playing in other parks. Thoughts?

Russ: There's some truth to that, but I also think that the Rockies have historically had a lot of players that just sucked with the bat.

67M: Does their recent run change the way the Rockies view the trade deadline?

Russ: Well, the Rockies certainly won't be sellers at the end of July (oh, well, barring a complete meltdown, which could happen). Before this run, Ryan Spilborghs and Jason Marquis almost went to the Phillies for J.A. Happ and undisclosed prospects. Brad Hawpe's name was also brought up as possible trade chip. Now, not so much.

Will they be buyers? I wouldn't expect a big splash. Maybe a trade for a reliever, but that's about it.

But, please trade Garrett Atkins, Dan O'Dowd!

67M: Street's name has come up.  Do you see them moving him?

Russ: I don't see the Rockies trading Street. His possible replacements are out of action. Taylor Buchholz was supposed to be back now, but it turned out that he needed TJ surgery. Manny Corpas recently went on the DL and he still hasn't recaptured that '07 magic.

67M: Who do the A's really have to watch out for this series? Who's struggling of late?

Russ: I'd watch out for Aaron Cook, who just won a franchise-best 59th career win, on Sunday. His sinker was on and he allowed only three base hits. On offense, Troy Tulowitzki has been on a tear this entire month. He's hit seven homers and has an OPS of 1.205 so far.

67M: Aside from our pitching, which really has a chance to be special, there are obvious holes that the A's need to concern themselves with sooner rather than later.  What has you excited about being a Rockies fan beyond this season, and what has you worried? Is this a team that can compete for a while?

Russ: I am excited about RHP Jhoulys Chacin and LHP Christian Friedrich making their debuts in 2010, Eric Young Jr. making it to the big league team his father played for, the continued emergence of Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta.

Somewhere in between: Tyler Matzek. Matzek was just selected with the 11th pick in the draft, but there are doubts as to whether he will sign with the Rockies.

Worried: Jeff Francis - He wasn't himself in 2008 and during spring training we learned that he had a shoulder injury that was still around. Surgery. Out for season. Greg Reynolds - Does this guy have a future in the majors? He was selected second overall in 2006 and showed some good things through 2007, but he fell apart when he debuted in the majors last year.


67M: At AN we love our obscure nicknames; in fact Carlos Gonzalez picked up the name Patrol Craft.  Anything like that going on over at Purple Row?

Russ: Dreamy/DOOM. Caber. Dixie. Those are just a few. We call Chris Iannetta "Dreamy" because someone commented that he looked dreamy (some of the girls on the site said his eyes were what made him dreamy). He also got the nickname DOOM because his bat brings doom to other teams. Oh, he also has the nickname of "Our Very Special Boy," but we don't use it much since it sounds creepy. Caber is for Ian Stewart. It's not used much, but someone photo shopped Ian Stewart swinging a caber. Dixie is Seth Smith's nickname since he's from Mississippi.

67M: I have to know, what do you feed Rox Girl?

Russ: We feed her pieces of the Rockies. Her teeth are indestructible and she has a strong constitution.

Awesome.  Thanks, Russ!

A's and Rockies tonight at 7:05; Brett Anderson vs. Jason Hammel.  Flashfire's got the thread. Oh, and here's an FB entry from an ex- who lives in Colorado, and apparently owns at least one 67M voodoo doll:

Wishin... An A Hopin..An A Prayin...That "Mr. GENERATIONS A's FAN" BRINGS HIS BAD LUCK MOJO to the A's Game 2Nite...lol

Ex-gf's suck.