Happy birthday to Burt Young

My wife and friends could make a strong argument that I have an unhealthy love for the “Rocky” movies.  I’m a guy who spent more than a decade half-joking that someday I would name my first-born child Apollo because I liked the character played by Carl Weathers so much.

That’s right, I didn’t joke about naming my son Apollo, I joked about naming any child I had, boy or girl, Apollo.  Of course, my wife didn’t go for that* and my children owe her a debt of gratitude.

What better way to tip my hat to all things “Rocky” than by wishing a happy birthday to Burt Young, the man who breathed life into the character Paulie?

Who ever would have dreamed that the only key supporting character to make it from “Rocky” to “Rocky Balboa” would have been everyone’s favorite lovable buffoon?  I would have put my money on Talia Shire as Adrian but Sly Stallone stuck her 6 feet under for the final “Rocky” film.

My appreciation of Young also extends to his work in the Rodney Dangerfield comic masterpiece “Back to School”  Can you imagine that film without Young as the lovable buffoon bodyguard Lou?  The mere thought of a Young-less “Back to School” makes me shiver.

On top of the awesome acting, did you know Young paints?  Basically, there’s nothing the man can’t do.

Thanks for all the great work Mr. Young, I hope you’re partying like a rock star today!

* Side note to the whole “I wanted to name my kid Apollo Creed but my wife wouldn’t let me” thing: If we ever get a dog I have the green light to name it Apollo.  If we get a few dogs I also have the OK to name them after the immortal characters played by Patrick Swayze, Bodhi from “Point Break” and Dalton from “Road House.”

eBay: My one-stop shopping source for Bob Geren memorabilia

Don’t ask me why I ended up on eBay looking for A’s manager Bob Geren because I can’t really explain it myself.   Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment with an odd appreciation for the absurd.

But the bottom line is a little Web surfing with my morning cup of coffee led me to these gems: A Bob Geren bobblehead and a game-used Geren bat.

For a little more than $100 these one-of-a-kind items can be all mine.  That’ll also buy me a lifetime pass to sleep on the couch if my wife finds out I squandered that much money on Geren trinkets.

It’d be nice to have the bobblehead because it would give me something to yell at and shake the next time Geren makes a move that leaves me scratching my head as my blood pressure soars through the roof.  I wish I had the Geren bobblehead last week when he let sick-as-a-dog Daric Barton bat late in a game in Seattle with men on base instead of bringing in Hideki Matsui with the A’s trailing.

It also would have been nice to scream at the bobblehead when he used relievers Grant Balfour and Craig Breslow on back-to-back nights in that series even though the A’s were winning by a wide margin and he could have saved the bullpen by going to Bobby Cramer.

I can’t shake the feeling that Geren manages a lot of games like he’s still in the minor leagues or spring training because he often seems more focused on finding ways to get some guys a little work and other guys a little rest here and there rather than going for the kill and snapping up as many wins as possible.

And the bat?  How can I pass on that bat?  I’m sure it’s in near-perfect condition considering the fact that Geren only hit .233 in the big leagues.  I bet there’s barely a dent in that thing.  What better way to take out my frustrations with Geren’s moves than taking a frustrated swing at his bobblehead with his own bat?

But there’s another reason to entertain the idea of buying this junk.  I hate to say this but I often get the feeling that Geren will manage the A’s longer than Connie Mack so I might as well get comfortable with the guy because he isn’t going anywhere as long as Billy Beane is running the A’s.  Why not own a bobblehead and a bat used by the man likely to become the longest tenured manager in A’s history?  That stuff will be worth a lot of money if Geren ever leads the A’s to a winning record.

Of course, if the A’s have a great season that ends with some champagne being sprayed around the clubhouse all will be forgiven and I’ll humbly embrace Bob Geren as a genius.  Until that glorious day arrives I’ll continue to view him as a painfully dull manager playing Parcheesi while the skipper in the other dugout is playing chess.

Winning in spite of Bob Geren

The A’s return home to Oakland tonight after a 5-4 road trip to start a homestand against the Detroit Tigers and I should be relatively happy that they held their own on the road.  But I have to admit that I’m actually a little annoyed.

I’m not cranky because they didn’t manage to have an overwhelmingly successful road trip.  I can live with a record barely over .500 on the A’s first venture outside of the Oakland Coliseum this early in the season.

What has my blood pressure up is the same thing as usual: Manager Bob Geren.  Specifically, I still can’t wrap my head around why he had Daric Barton on the bench in Chicago yesterday.

Barton was coming off a 4 for 5 game and you don’t bench a hot hitter when you’re playing an offensive juggernaut like the Chicago White Sox in their bandbox ballpark.  You need every run you can get and it seems like Managing 101 to ride a hot hand as long as you can.

On top of all that, Barton had a 1.175 career OPS against White Sox starter John Danks.  I’m no genius but that sure seems like a fine time to keep him in the lineup.

But for some reason Geren decided that yesterday was the time to give Barton a break even though he’s only in his mid-20s and we’re early in the season.  A player that young doesn’t need a break this early in April.

My rapidly expanding gut tells me the common sense move yesterday would have been to give catcher Kurt Suzuki the day off after back-to-back extra inning efforts behind the plate with a day game following a night game.  You would think a former catcher like Geren would be especially sensitive to giving Suzuki a breather after spending that much time behind the plate.

Personally, I’d like to see Geren ease off on Suzuki and try and keep him fresh for the stretch run when the A’s will need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to make a run at the playoffs.  Giving your catcher a day game after a night game off is another Managing 101 class that Geren must have skipped.

I don’t take any satisfaction in knocking Geren, I really don’t. He’s such an easy target that it seems a little cheap to pick on him.  He honestly seems like a nice guy and I give him credit for making it to the top of his profession as a player and a coach which is more than I’ll probably ever accomplish in my career.

But I can’t help but get the feeling that the A’s win in spite of him, not because of anything he brings to the dugout as a leader or tactician. I have a bad feeling that over the course of  along season he’s going to make enough head-scratching moves to cost the A’s a few  games and knock them out of contention.

My hopes for the 2011 A’s are as high as ever and I hope Geren proves me wrong and I can stop making sarcastic jokes about Oakland playing “GerenBall” every time he annoys me.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, Scratch-N-Sniff Geren

Dead Celebrity Friday: Frank Gorshin

An occasional tribute to a totally random gone but not forgotten  — at least not on Fridays — star.

Today I tip my hat to the dearly departed Frank Gorshin, better known as the Riddler from the campy “Batman” TV series.

Gorshin’s birthday was on Monday which is a great excuse to give the man some props today.

The Riddler was my favorite villain on Batman.  Cesar Romero’s Joker was always a close second.  For my money, the only thing holding Romero back is the fact that he smeared makeup over his signature mustache every time he appeared on the show.

Thanks for the memories Mr. Gorshin and rest in peace.

Let’s play ball in Oakland!

Taking a break from an increasingly busy life to contemplate all things green and gold in A’s Musings …

* It’s finally here, Opening Night for the A’s.  It doesn’t get much better than that for me as a sports fan.

* Yes, it sucked getting swept by the Giants in the final three spring training games of the year but the starting pitchers looked sharp and no one got hurt and that’s the most important thing to take into April.

* Kind of funny what a difference a few days makes.  When news broke that the A’s effort to buy 860 AM was falling apart right before the start of the season, Twitter was alive with people ripping ownership and anticipating the potential shame of a radio-less season for the club.  But now we’re sitting here on the verge of the first game of 2011 with a new 4-year radio home for the A’s at 95.7 FM with a better signal in the East Bay than 860 AM could ever deliver.  The only thing I have to complain about is being exposed to country music if I tune in a little too early for a game.

* The top three things I’m optimistic about heading this season with the A’s: Brett Anderson having a healthy, dominant year, Gio Gonzalez taking the proverbial “next step,” Daric Barton showing some more aggressiveness and driving the ball when he gets ahead in the count.

* Three things I’m worried about heading into this season with the A’s: That damn injury bug rearing its ugly head, painfully dull manager Bob Geren shooting himself in the foot, Hideki Matsui’s bat speed which reportedly looked painfully s-l-o-w in spring training.

* One of the nice parts of the season finally starting for the A’s is that it helps push the franchise’s uncertain ballpark situation into the background.  I love following other A’s blogs and Twitter feeds but after a while there’s nothing more tiresome and frustrating than reading about Lew Wolff, San Jose, Victory Court, territorial rights, redevelopment agencies and Bud Selig’s impotent Blue Ribbon Committee.  Wake me when a final decision has been made and a shovel is finally hitting dirt at a ballpark site somewhere.  My blood pressure can’t handle every annoying twist and turn in this drawn-out saga.

* Speaking of the A’s ballpark situation, Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown makes a depressing prediction that by the end of the season MLB will still be dragging its heels on this issue.  That wouldn’t surprise me one bit but it’s still a downer.  Selig and his cronies need to get off their butt and make a call on the A’s future.

* I’ve missed hearing Ray Fosse get all excited about HD broadcasts on Comcast.  Glad to have you back pal.  I bet you’re going to love the return of yellow jerseys in Oakland.

* While I’m writing about A’s broadcasters I’ll take a moment to say that I still sorely miss Bill King.

* I know this is getting way ahead of things, but who the heck is going to be on the field for the A’s next season?  I’m serious.  Just look around the diamond and for the most part all you see are guys on 1-year deals.  Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis are only signed through this season.  Same goes for the starting outfield of Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus.  Designated hitter Hideki Matsui won’t be wearing green and gold in 2012 either.

If prospects such as Chris Carter, Grant Green, Jemile Weeks, Stephen Parker, Michael Taylor  and Adrian Cardenas make major strides this season in the minor leagues you could see a lot of kids in white shoes playing ball in Oakland next year.

One way or another general manager Billy Beane will have a boatload of money and roster flexibility to play with when he heads into the offseason.

* Speaking of Chris Carter: Free Chris Carter!  The man has nothing left to prove in Triple A and he has more raw power than anyone on Oakland’s roster.  If the A’s really want to duke it out with high-scoring teams like the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees and White Sox in the American League they need Carter’s bat somewhere in the lineup.

* Anyone else getting tired of seeing occasional updates on how Rich Harden is doing?  We’ve been through this before and it never seems to get better.  He’s healthy for about 20 minutes and then he’s hurt for about 3 months.  Repeat that  a couple of times and you have a typical Harden season when he’s wearing green and gold.  At least this time around in Oakland he’s just a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation and the last seat in the bullpen so a season spent on the disabled list won’t kill the team’s chances to make a run at the AL West title.

* If this ends up being Marl Ellis’ last season with the A’s I hope they can make it to the playoffs one more time so he goes out a winner.  The guy is a total class act and the best second baseman of his generation to never win a Gold Glove.  If Oakland’s out of the playoff picture when the trade deadline rolls around  Beane should send Ellis to a contender so he can play in some meaningful games down the stretch.  Philadelphia already looks like a perfect fit if Chase Utley keeps limping around on bad knees.

* Dallas Braden, still as entertaining as ever.

* And now, for your viewing pleasure, a little inspiration from the past: