The Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants played two exhibition games this week to help warm up for the upcoming 2020 MLB season, and it was amazing just to see live baseball on TV for the first time in months. Even though the A’s lost both games to their far inferior opponent, it was still fun to watch.
All the main action is covered in our recaps, which you can see here:
- Game 1 recap
- Game 2 recap
- First impressions of an MLB game with no fans
- Several Giants kneel for national anthem before exhibition game at Coliseum
- Nico: There’s A Reason A’s Looked Flat In “Bay Bridge Series”
However, there were some other stories worth mentioning that didn’t already get attention on Athletics Nation.
Here are five cool things, plus one that kind of stunk.
1. Alyssa Nakken, first female coach
Back in January, former Sacramento State softball star Alyssa Nakken made history when she was hired by the Giants as the first-ever full-time female MLB coach. Her official job title is simply Major League Coach, with a variety of duties, and while she won’t be in the dugout during games she will travel with the team on road trips.
During the exhibition games, the Giants took the chance to give her some experience in a new role: First base coach. She spent a couple innings in that position in the first game Monday, and then on Tuesday she started and coached the whole game.
It was months ago that Nakken got hired, but this was a chance to see it in real life, with her on the field working with players and being part of the team. There’s been a lot of bad in 2020, but this was one encouraging moment to enjoy, and a refreshing sign of cultural progress and gender equality.
2. Andrew Triggs sighting
We last saw Andrew Triggs pitch in the majors in 2018. He spent three seasons with the Oakland A’s, serving as a solid starter whose sidearm delivery makes him particularly fun to watch, but injuries consistently got in the way and severely limited his playing time. The A’s finally cut bait in late 2019.
Triggs found a new home in San Francisco, and now he’s healthy and back on the mound. There was nothing particularly noteworthy about his outing, just the fact that it happened at all. It was a scoreless inning in a practice game, but more than that it was an Athletics Nation favorite getting his career back on track, even if it happens to be for an archrival team.
3. Carlos Navas pitches at Coliseum
If you follow the Oakland A’s farm system extremely closely, you might recognize the name Carlos Navas. The right-hander was signed by the A’s as a teenager in 2010, and spent eight seasons in organization, through 2017. He put up a solid performance out of the Double-A bullpen that summer, but ultimately elected free agency and moved on to look for opportunity elsewhere.
After a year in the Reds system, Navas ended up with the Giants, and he made their 60-man player pool this summer. On Monday, he got the call to pitch the 9th inning, finally taking the Coliseum mound after spending nearly a decade as an A’s prospect. It wasn’t in a green and gold uniform, and it wasn’t even a real game, but it had to feel good to finally get to that particular MLB mound.
4. Jordan Weems first impression
The A’s made a surprise addition to their roster last weekend, adding reliever Jordan Weems to the 40-man with the reported intent to have him on the Opening Day squad. It’s always fun to see a minor league free agent get the call to the majors, much less to begin a season, and this one is particularly interesting given his Doolittle-esque history of converting from catcher to pitcher in the minors in 2016.
On Monday, we got to see him on the Coliseum mound for the first time. He only threw four pitches, to two batters, but it was a promising first impression — even though one of the pieces of weak contact he induced fell for a lucky RBI hit.
5. Liam Hendriks barehand grab
Even an exhibition game can yield an incredible highlight. Just call him Liam Chapman.
The ball was hit behind him, so he reached back and deftly grabbed it with his bare hand. Holy Toledo!
One uncool thing: Replay review still stinks
Replay review is now over a decade old in baseball, and somehow it’s still awful. To be clear, I am a 110% proponent of using replay, and I think the concept makes the game better. But in its current form, I’m not sure it achieves that goal. Exhibit A from Tuesday:
Unless everyone, including the Giants’ own longtime TV broadcasting crew, is mistaken on the ground rules, this is just an unacceptable error. This shouldn’t even have been a close call, with the laws of physics ending any possible doubt, and even with the benefit of several minutes to look at it they still couldn’t figure it out. When even the other team agrees the umps blew it, they probably blew it.
We’re seven years removed from Angel Hernandez robbing a homer from Adam Rosales, and replay appears to have made zero progress since then.
Then it happened again later on Tuesday. Pinder was playing defense this time at second base, and made a close play at first base on a grounder. The runner was called out, and the call was upheld. The screenshot below isn’t perfect, but I thought the runner was safe by solid margin — I see the foot on the bag with the ball still not yet squeezed in the first baseman’s glove. Again, this one didn’t even look debatable to me, and yet they stuck with the opposite call.
Two replay reviews, both involving Pinder, and both wrong (one of them colossally so), one in favor of each team. What’s the point of replay if it’s not going to get things right?
Fortunately these blown calls won’t matter, because the games were scrimmages. But they’ll start to count on Friday, when the A’s host Opening Day against the Angels at the Coliseum, at 7:10 p.m. on ESPN.