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Ranger Danger, Halo Payload, A's Praise: The Chris Townsend Interview, part the second

BREAKING Eric Patterson's grip on my sanity NEWS!!! The A's have acquired OF/1B Conor Jackson from the Diamondbacks for minor league reliever Sam Demel and cash considerations... read all about it in MikeV's excellent fanpost right here!!  --EN


Welcome to Part Two of EN's conversation with KTRB's CT.

In the final installment of our conversation, Chris and I get into home broadcasting, his most memorably insane on-air moment, the state of the AL West and the Athletics, as well as his feelings about blogs and the new digital media.  Once again tremendous thanks to Englishmajor for the audio (it only took, oh, 9 hours for me to transcribe it all, but that was because my specially-trained Word Processing Gibbon -- only $19.95 from Petco -- broke and I had to do it all by myself, at my traditional 3 WPM) and Lynnzgal for the photos of the event at the Oakland Airport Holiday Inn (that's right, it's in... guess where? Oakland!), at which this interview was conducted.  Part One of our conversation may be found right here, and once again I thank everyone for reading and for your very kind comments.

EN: A good part of your program, it seems, comes from home... you broadcast from home.  Is this true?  When I called the other day your producer told me, "Oh, he's not here today, he's doing it from home."  So do you live in Oakland, first of all, where do you live? And what is it like doing it from home?  Does it infuriate your wife, and how is it set up?  Is it a remote that they do just when you're doing it, or is it a permanent uplink that goes out?

CT: I live in San Jose, and all my years working in San Francisco, I finally realized -- cuz where my national show comes out of is the same place where The Dugout Show and A's Talk come out of -- KTRB and The Sports Byline Network are in the same offices.  Everything's coming from the same building.  I got tired of driving to SF every day...

EN: This is on Broadway in SF...

CT: It's on Broadway.  It's right up the street from the CBS building. So I got tired of driving, and I finally realized -- and like an idiot, it took me years to realize -- I could just build my own studio in my house. And I could do everything out of my house.  Which saves gas, wear and tear on my car, and saves my sanity.  I mean, you have no idea the mileage I would put up every day, back and forth, from San Jose to SF.  So I do a lot of games from my house, and actually I find that I can concentrate better and get a hell of a lot more done being able to do things from my home. But I love being able to do the shows from my home, and having the flexibility, and KTRB has given me that flexibility.  I may get to all A's day games, so if there's a day game during the week or a day game on the weekends, I may get to all those day games...

EN: That's when people may hear you from the alternate GM booth, from the opposing team's GM booth, when you do the day games?

CT: I think it's a travesty that they have a visiting GM booth.  They should just call it The Chris Townsend Booth.  I mean, I'm giving them more bang for their buck.

EN: You'll get no argument from me on that.  OK, this is an interesting question: What's your craziest-ever on-air moment?  Where you were like, OMG where is this gonna go?  Will we get taken off the air?  Will I have a job tomorrow?  What is your craziest on-air moment in, what is it, 13 years of broadcasting?

CT: I used to be on a morning show on KNBR called The John London Not Just Sports Show, and for St. Patrick's Day, we had a drinking contest on the show.  And CHP was coming in with breathalyzers, to see how much we could drink before we were over the legal limit.  And well, the show started to grow... as we were building up for that show, bars started calling in petitioning to come in and mix us drinks. And here I was on the air, and they were just feeding us -- I mean we used to start at 5:30 in the morning... we're drinking Bloody Marys to start with, at 5:30 in the morning. By 8 AM, I was trashed.  And trying to be on the air, I mean you're on a 50,000 watt radio station, and people are just handing you shots, and drinks... that was the craziest moment, just trying to sound like I knew what I was doing and not get fired. And it was still trying to play the whole bit, about safe driving.  Luckily they had rides for us home, but that was the most wild show I've ever been a part of.  I mean, where have you ever been in radio where we had 3 different bartenders in the studio, making us drinks while we're doing a radio show?

It's OK, Chris, I'd have to be loaded to get through 3 hours of KNBR programming too.

EN: How many shows do you do where you need a designated driver to get home?  All right, so now a little bit about the current team: the 2010 Oakland Athletics.  What do you see as the primary differences between the club in 2009 to this year?  Is the division as winnable as it seems? Is Texas ever gonna pitch through a summer?  Start with that.

CT: Well, you just asked me three questions.

EN: Well, start with this year, how is it different from last year?  Cuz it seems like, to me, it seems like a very different energy and I wanna know what you think about that.

CT: Certain players have grown up. You look at what we saw Trevor Cahill (do) today (6/10), going 8 innings... I don't have my notes in front of me right now, but...

EN: 8 innings, 4 strikeouts, 1 run.

CT: And that's 4 straight wins for him, or whatever it is?

EN: Yeah.  His ERA might be under 3 now. (EN note: it currently stands at 2.91)

CT: Gio's a completely different guy.  I mean these players are growing up in front of our eyes... Pennington, I would love to see him hit but he's been very good defensively.  Rosales has added an energy. As you know -- well, you don't know, cuz none of you people were around in Spring Training, when I was saying "Daric Barton is legit. Give this guy time."  I don't wanna play smartest guy in the room, but I was smartest guy in the room on that one.  Because no one wanted to believe in Barton.  What Daric Barton has brought to this ballclub... and as Rickey Henderson always used to say: walks.  When you walk a lot, you're gonna end up getting hits.  What he is doing as an offensive player, and as a defensive player, he's the future at first base.  I don't know what's gonna happen with Chris Carter... somehow they are gonna have to figure that out, but Barton's gonna be a very good player. 

You're looking at a lot of these young players -- and I guess bringing up Pennington, the way he's struggling, it wasn't a very good idea -- but you look at Barton, you look at Rosales and the energy he's brought in, you look at Cahill, you look at Gonzalez, Bailey in his second year, you've got a lot of good young players who are just... one year better.  And one year really means so much in professional sports.  I mean, you look at a lifespan of a professional athlete, one year is a lot.  You know, you don't play for 30 years. So one year is a big deal, and everything is about confidence.  As we talked about trying to build Xtra Sports to battle the other sports stations, well you know what?  It's about confidence: if you don't believe you can win, you're not gonna win. For the past 3 years, this team has not believed it can do anything. 

This year, the team believes that it can win.  This year this team believes that, you know what? We can tee it up against anyone and have a shot.  The last couple of years, when I've been in the locker room?  No way.  They didn't believe... they knew, this was gonna be a dogmeat year, especially the one year where, Billy Beane... they were kinda up there and the next thing you know they're trading Blanton and everything.  (EN note: he means 2008.)  There has not been a belief around this organization.  Well I can tell you this year, there is that belief, people do believe.  And I think you hear it in the calls, you hear it in my voice, you hear it in Ken Korach.  People around the A's, there's a sense that, you know what?  This team can win.  And you know that players feel the exact same way.  You heard Adam Rosales today.  You heard Daric Barton when he was here the last time we were at the Holiday Inn.  These guys actually believe, and if you believe, well then you have a shot.

EN: Absolutely.  The division seems winnable.  Texas... you know, personally, I've watched the division since 2001, when I became an A's fan, because someone gave me a ticket to the Jeter "flip" game in the playoffs.  That's how I became an A's fan. 

CT: So you haven't been around that long.

EN: Not really, only 8 years, 9 years. That was my first A's playoff game, I didn't really know much or care about the A's.   I came to some games in the '90s... I got to see a game in 1993, before Mt. Davis was built, long ago.  But I didn't know much about it until 2001, when I went to the legendary Jeter Flip Game and we lost 1-0 to Mike Mussina and the Yankees.  So, for me it's kind of new.  And what I see... I see the main competition as Texas and Anaheim.  OK?  That said, when Texas built that ballpark and Juan Gonzalez made them move the fences in and whatever?  Well, since then, they've never pitched through a summer.  And until they do?  They ain't gonna.  I wanna see them do it, because every summer, every May 31st, every June 10th, we hear "Texas is for real this year, they're gonna do it!"  But are they?  Is CJ Wilson gonna throw 220 innings for them?  He's only ever thrown 73 innings.  We've seen Rich Harden, and his magical injury history. Nolan Ryan is gonna push those guys, and if they get hurt he is gonna tell them, rub some dirt on it... and if their arm falls off he's gonna tell them to throw with the other one.  Until they pitch through a summer, I ain't gonna believe that they are. 

Apparently, Rich Harden's last bullpen session didn't go so well, and he has been placed on the DL again.

EN: To me, the team that is the team to beat is the team that's always been the team to beat.  That's the team we played today (6/10).  In red.  The Red People.  And they've always proven, year after year... last year they had a player dieDie!  As in dead.  Nick Adenhart.  Last year half of their rotation, besides him... their whole rotation was hurt at one time or another.  They still iced the division, going away.  Yeah it's a bad division, the teams are pretty mediocre, but until the Rangers prove that they are gonna pitch through a summer and be there in September, with a bullpen that isn't torched, then I'm looking at the team that has proven that no matter what happens to them, they are gonna be the team that's gonna be there as the team to beat.  And that's why today's win was so important, so huge.  What's your view on that?

CT: I first wanna say this about the Rangers: I appreciate and love what Nolan Ryan is doing with the Rangers.  Whether they'll pitch through the heat or not, I don't know.  But I love the fact that finally someone is saying "You know what? I'm tired of the pitch counts.  I'm tired of babying these guys.  I'm tired of everyone going, well, you know, he's up to 80 pitches, pull him out, he's a young kid, don't let him go more than 5..."  I mean the fact that they didn't let Strasbourg close that game out the other night, (when) he could have done it, it's ridiculous.

EN: I mean, he had a shot at 20, too. Don't forget, he was at 14 (K's) with 6 hitters to go, that's the record! Hello!?!

CT: Yeah!  I mean let's go!  I'm at a point where I am tired of... go back to the old days in the '70s, where you look at Ken Holtzman, you look at Vida Blue, you look at Catfish Hunter... they would be appalled that you're pulling them out after 6 innings cuz they had 102 pitches. 

EN: Even closers threw 3 innings... Rollie Fingers did that many, many -- dozens and dozens of times.  Right?

CT: Rollie Fingers threw a complete game in Spring Training... I wanna say back in 1970.  I'm so tired of babying pitchers.  So yes, we have to wait to see if Texas is the real deal or not. I just wanna say that I appreciate that Nolan Ryan is trying to bring back that toughness in MLB, and stop babying these guys.  Stop babying these pitchers.  Cuz the only way you learn how to pitch is to pitch. And the only way you learn how to be a great pitcher is to pitch through adversity.  And you're never able to pitch through adversity if you're always on a pitch count. At some point, you gotta have a high pitch count, at some point you're gonna have runners on and you gotta be able to pitch through it.  And when you learn how to do that, it makes you mentally stronger and gives you the confidence to be able to get out of that.  So many times now, if you're in the 4th or 5th inning, and you're going through adversity and you've got a higher pitch count, they're pullin' ya.  Well, how are you ever gonna learn to complete a game, if you're never ever having to learn to get out of adversity? 

So yes, I would like to see the Rangers fall just like you would, but I do appreciate what they're doing right now, and what you talked about with the Angels?  Yes.  The Angels are clearly the class of the division.  They have more money than anyone else.  They have proven to make right decisions with their money. They've also proven that they can bring up players from their minor league system as good as anybody else.  So we in this area have talked a lot about Moneyball, and outsmarting everybody else, but you know the Angels have brought up quite a few young players themselves. 

EN: Kendrick, so many.

CT: You look at their starting rotation, you look at players in their lineup, they've brought up a lot of players from their organization and Arte Moreno is willing to spend a buck.  That's a tough guy to beat.  When you have an owner that is willing to employ a front office who's able to bring up young guys, and able to pay for guys off Free Agency, that's why they're so tough to beat.  They're good at picking players from other people and from going through the draft, in their own system.  They're tough to beat, and the A's have to sack up.  I mean, you wanna get in the ring with the bully and you wanna beat up -- you wanna win the division? You gotta knock them out, that's the team you gotta knock out.

EN: I've always thought that, since I became an A's fan.  OK, you're Billy Beane, and it's the trade deadline. It's July 29th. And we're in it.  We're 6 games over .500 and we're a game and a half ahead of Anaheim. What's the one bat you're looking at, and the one arm you're looking at? Is it Berkman and Greinke?  Is it Berkman and Millwood?  Is it Luke Scott and Millwood in a 2-for-1?  What do you think?

CT: Greinke?  You really think Kansas City will give up Greinke? And get off Luke Scott!  I told you he can't hit on the road!  And by the way, you know who fits that also? It's Carlos Gonzalez.  Cuz as much as everybody is like (in whiny-complainy A's fan voice) "Billy let Carlos Gonzalez go!" Look how he hits on the road.

EN: Or doesn't hit on the road.

CT: Yeah, exactly, doesn't hit on the road. Well, this is what I would do, but it's not my money, and obviously I don't own the team: to me, for the Oakland Athletics, knowing that you're going to be able to get rid of... about 22 1/2 million dollars. In Sheets and Chavez.  I would sit back, and I would look and find somebody who doesn't wanna pay a guy's contract anymore. And that kind of money, that I'm willing -- one example, and a guy where I'm willing to swallow that cash, you mention Berkman.  And I'm not saying Berkman's the guy, but we're just giving an example... cuz who knows if Berkman will even be there at that point. But everybody focuses on "What players would we have to give up to get somebody?"  And in baseball and in economics, as we get closer to the trading deadline, we'll have -- cuz right now it looks like we'd have to... we'd have a ton of buyers, a ton of buyers and only so many sellers. But as we get closer to the deadline, there's gonna be more sellers.  There's always gonna be more buyers than sellers, but the number will get closer to even.  I would look for a guy that's got money that an organization wants to shed, that I can absorb that money knowing that next year I'm gonna clear 22 1/2 million dollars.  Cuz I don't wanna give up any of my young talent.  I mean, cuz everyone's gonna come in and they're gonna want Carter and Taylor.  I don't give that up. 

EN: Mazzaro?

CT: Well, Mazzaro, I look at him... would I deal him?  Yeah, I'd deal him.  If I could get the right guy. But there are teams -- we talk on the postgame show about "Who would we have to give up?", but the reality is that this is a business and there's gonna be plenty of teams, to them getting rid of a guy's salary will be a win for them... and you can give up some no-name minor league guys, plus take on that player's salary?  And that'll be a win for an organization. That's how I would do it.  Now, obviously I don't know what the books look like, I don't know what they're willing to spend. I don't know what they're willing to absorb, but if I was Billy Beane in a perfect world, I would be looking to take on a little bit of cash, for the next couple of years, knowing that I'm getting rid of Sheets and that I'm getting rid of Chavez, without having to give up top young talent.  I would absorb -- because if you can absorb the cash from somebody, you can get some quality talent if you're willing to take that money off that other team's books. 

EN: And keep your Carter, and your Taylor, and your Gio, and your Cahill, and your Mazzaro for the depth that we're going to need to really compete in '11 and '12.

A's GM Billy Beane, at left, pictured at home in his Perfect World preparing to vanquish Angels' owner Arte Moreno, on the right with disembodied hand and fireball.
(Note: "Wujudkan Dunia Impianmu" is PW Dialect and translates roughly as "To excessively celebrate a grand slam is to invite disaster.")

EN: OK, it's the last question.  Here it is, ladies and gentlemen... you knew it was gonna be about the new media.  About the blogs.  About the new digital media.  You were skeptical of blogs at first...I don't blame you.  I'm not a bloggy person either.  I'm not a blogger: I was asked to do what I do for Athletics Nation, and I'm very happy to do it.  But I'm not a sportswriter, I'm not a blogger.  I'm kind of... stepping out of my normal shoes, a little bit, with Athletics Nation.  Obviously the negative tone, the ill-informed tone of a lot of blogs is a turn-off.  Athletics Nation kind of came onto your show, trying to help you build up this sort of unprecedented voice for KTRB... for the A's and the East Bay.  How do you feel now?

CT: How do I feel now about Athletics Nation, about the blogs? 

EN: Has Athletics Nation helped to make more -- to lend a broader tone or perspective to your feelings about blogs other than just dismissability as being negative, as being... cuz a lot of it is.  There's a lot of guys in their mom's basement, with a big bag of Cheetos, and a keyboard, and they never leave the house.  So has what we're doing, and your exposure to us, caused you to have a broader vision of what the digital media is starting to -- the move that the digital media is starting to make into the mainstream of sports reporting?

CT: I think this is a better way to put it: what Athletics Nation is is completely different from what a lot of blogs are, and you don't want to be affiliated with them (the other ones).  What Athletics Nation is and is about, is much different than what you see on a lot of sports blogs.  A lot of sports blogs are very cruel, and say some things that are flat out wrong.  And I think that people here in the Bay Area, in the place that we live, are more educated, and really don't have an idea -- do you know what blogs are like for Florida State?  For Alabama?  Do you know what it's like for these blogs for these sports teams around the country, and how cruel these people are?  You don't wanna be associated with that.  You don't wanna be associated with death threats.  You don't wanna be singling out people.  You have no idea how bad -- and I do because I do a national show, and I see this.  Athletics Nation... cuz you've introduced me, you've shown me the thread, I've clicked onto it... I've seen it.

Athletics Nation is nothing like that.  So when you say to me, "Chris, does AN change your view on blogs?", I say no.  Athletics Nation doesn't wanna be like those other blogs. You don't wanna be anything like that.  You don't wanna be going after players, you don't wanna be going after their families.  The history of these blogs going on around sports franchises is something you don't wanna be associated with.  I think AN is a very highbrow -- I think they're very sophisticated, they're what you want to be. I don't think you wanna be associated with the other blogs. And once again, I appreciate everything AN has done for the show, and when it first came to me Russell (EN note: he means Leopold Bloom), when he first came to me and started talking about it, I had no idea, but yeah!  What I've experienced with my national show and blogs? It was pretty ugly.  And downright -- and people I wanted nothing to do with.  And it wasn't until Russell brought me into it, and then you came in and educated me on this... I can't tell you how happy I am that Athletics Nation is a part of this.  But I will say this: don't associate yourself with a lot of the sports blogs out there, because you don't want to be a part of them.

EN: Yeah, the ugliness.  I don't know if you know this, but we are a part of SB Nation -- which, if you read the New York Times Business section, on June 6th, there was a whole article on SB Nation, on Tyler (Blez) who created the whole network. And what he's trying to do -- what we're trying to do -- is to make a blog, to make an outpost for every team, college and pro, in every sport -- that can aspire to the level of content and community that Athletics Nation (which was the first, and is the biggest)... that AN can set the example for all the other SB Nation blogs that are coming up now and are trying to get to that level, for every team in sports.  And that's what SB Nation, which was just written up in The Times 2 days ago, 3 days ago... that's what it said, and we're pretty proud of that.

CT: Yeah, what you showed me is definitely superior to what I've seen in the past, cuz I have affiliates in the Southeast, and lemme tell ya those blogs in the Southeast, how they treat those college athletes...

EN: Vitriolic...

CT: I mean, it's at a point where if I was the parent of one of these kids, I'd want to go after some of these bloggers, the stuff that they say.  And it's not just in the Southeast, it's in the South... it's in the Midwest.  I think, Athletics Nation, what I've seen -- what you've shown me, emperor, I'm very impressed by.  I haven't seen the CT thread, but I've seen the website, and it's very obvious that's there's a passion for the Athletics... it's very well done, it's very well thought-out. I mean if you wanna be an A's fan why wouldn't you go there?  You can click on all the minor league websites, that are there... anything you wanna know about the A's, you can find it on Athletics Nation.  It might be the most comprehensive website about the A's.  It's... I don't know if I wanna say this, but it might be better than the A's (official) website, if you wanna know information about the A's.  I've seen it: it's updated, you can look at the 25-man roster, you can look at all the information.  Yeah, I've seen it, and I'm very impressed by it. But you don't wanna associate yourself with all blogs, with all blogs in sports, cuz a lot of blogs are very negative, very cruel, and I don't dig 'em.

It's true: not counting the
enslaved-squirrels-on-tandem-bikes that power this site and the ongoing Sock Puppet Abuse Scandal, we are pretty civil... for the internet.  O_0

EN: We try to be head and shoulders above, and thank you for noticing, and thank you for sitting down with me and talking with me for this time. We love what you do... obviously I don't have to tell you to keep doing it.  You're building something, in my opinion -- in all of our opinion, really, that this team and this area called the East Bay have waited for, really since this team came here in 1968, they've never had this.  And you're doing it at a level -- KTRB as a general voice for the A's, as a general outpost for the A's -- that is already, only a year and a half in, already head and shoulders above the 42 years that have gone before since it came on the scene and we really thank you for what you do and I thank you so much for sitting down with me, man.

CT: Well, I'm trying to build this thing, we're trying to make it happen.  And actually I have a meeting tomorrow, with management, to continue the growth of this radio station... and as long as people understand what we're trying to do and what we're trying to grow, please support us. And everything that I'm going to do is only going to help A's fans.  I'm trying to build this thing for A's fans, and emperor lemme tell you, this might be one of the highlights of my career, sitting down with you... sitting down and drinking a beer and having a conversation with you.

EN: (laughter) Well, maybe he doesn't get out much, ladies and gentlemen, but he's Chris Townsend: host of The Dugout Show and A's Talk on KTRB, Xtra Sports 860, and his own national show, imaginatively titled The Chris Townsend Show, going out on 500+ stations nationwide and the Armed Forces Network worldwide... thank you so much for doing this.

CT: I have a burger in my mouth now... but thank you.

So there you have it!  The Athletics and Trevor "Mr. Dependable" Cahill begin a 3-game set in historic (and when Sweet Lou gets mad, histrionic) Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs this afternoon at 5 PM Pacific, and Quicksilver Dan, the Merqury Man will be along around then with Game Threads (and, I'm told, one of those giant rubber castles filled with colored balloons they always have for the kids to bounce around in at birthday parties) for you to play in... thanks again for reading!

Current Series

3 game series vs Cubs @ Wrigley Field

Oakland Athletics
@ Chicago Cubs

Tuesday, Jun 15, 2010, 5:05 PM PDT
Wrigley Field

Trevor Cahill vs Carlos Zambrano

Mostly cloudy,rain. Winds blowing in from right field at 5-10 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 75.

Complete Coverage >

Wed 06/16 5:05 PM PDT
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