- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
"There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there's 50 feet of crap ... and then there's us" -- Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in "Moneyball"
ATLANTA -- Many miles from here, an embarrassment for baseball played out Sunday. If it was an isolated case of a burst pipe, or days of torrential rain, well, then you might understand how a Major League Baseball clubhouse would have sewage all over the floor.
But as any member of the Oakland Athletics from recent seasons will tell you, sewage has been a running theme for years, especially after the Raiders play their home games. It just so happened that this time, it happened as a result of the flushing that took place during baseball games. This from Ryan Divish:
The sewage system at the 46-year-old stadium was overwhelmed from too much use over the A's six-game stay at home, which drew more than 100,000 fans. That backup caused all the drains in the A's clubhouse, the visiting clubhouse and the umpires' locker room to start pumping raw sewage into the showers. The flow was so great, it came out of the showers and bathrooms, into the coach's offices and the visiting clubhouse's training room.
Baseball clubhouses are far from aromatically pleasing after day games in the sun, but the new smell was something far worse.
"Unbelievable," Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan was heard muttering.
The flooding started during the game, and sewage still was coming out of the drains afterward. The sound of pumps and Shop-Vacs echoed throughout the lower level of O.co.
Many of the Seattle coaches skipped showering, choosing to wait until after their one-hour flight to Anaheim.
"I'm sure my wife will be impressed," Mariners manager Eric Wedge joked.
The stalemate involved in the Athletics' effort to move to San Jose has continued, and what's crazy about it is that eventually, it's going to happen. At some point, either some owner or some politician is going to break out the baseball version of a legal broadsword, because the Oakland franchise is rotting and San Jose wants a team that the Giants -- and, by extension, Major League Baseball -- say they can't have.
Somebody is going to negotiate the right price for the Giants, the right deal, eventually, and eventually the Athletics won't have to play in a ballpark overrun with sewage. The only real questions for the Athletics are: Who is going to make that happen, and when?
Will it be Bud Selig? Or his successor? Will it be team owner Lew Wolff? Or somebody who buys the team from him? Because the current situation, stench and all, is unsustainable.
The Giants are at their strongest, at the height of their popularity, so this is the time for them, MLB and the Athletics to make the deal that needs to be made.
From Susan Slusser's story:
Asked about his team's need for a new stadium, team president Michael Crowley said, "It's clear, right? This isn't the first time this has happened."
The Angels filed a complaint about unsanitary conditions several years ago over the same problem, voicing concerns about E. coli in the training room.
The Coliseum is owned jointly by the city of Oakland and Alameda County, and it is run by the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority. The A's have a lease, which expires after this season.
"We will deal with the facility to evaluate it," Rinetti said. "We will replace all carpeting in affected areas to make sure it's safe for players and staff of all teams and for our own employees to work down there. That is a very high priority."
Reliever Sean Doolittle just tweeted: "After I checked out the new swimming pool in our locker room I got to see the Raiders clubhouse! Pretty cool! #CommitmentToExcellence."
From Carl Steward's story:
This is a major wakeup call for the city of Oakland and Alameda County as well. If it wants to keep the A's, it needs to act – now. Major League Baseball needs to act — now.
A's pitcher A.J. Griffin threw the obvious against the wall in surveying the disgusting evidence: "Make sure everybody finds out about this sewage thing. We need to get a new stadium."
Getting the news out won't be a problem. It was spreading faster than the leak itself -- and around the country -- within hours of its discovery. Count on Wolff using the development, as he should, to force some long-needed action. If any more evidence was needed, the Coliseum just got flushed as a major sports venue Sunday, at least for baseball anyway.
Around the league
• The closer issue for the Tigers veered in another direction Sunday, when Jim Leyland used Joaquin Benoit, rather than Jose Valverde, and as John Lowe writes, now the question becomes: What will Detroit do with Valverde? From his story:
In his postgame news conference Sunday, Leyland was asked if Benoit, the eighth-inning setup man, will continue to be an option for the ninth.
Leyland said: "He'll be an option, but I'm not going to get into all that stuff about the closer. I explained why I did it today. If there had been three right-handed hitters coming up (in the ninth), it might have been totally different."
A lot of Braves are saying Simmons, of course, but Jason Heyward has taken up for Freeman, having played with him through the minors -- and, as Freeman notes with a smile, every team that thought about drafting him also considered taking him as a pitcher, rather than a hitter, and the last pitch he threw as an amateur was 97 mph.
Freeman figures that there will be some way for the two to settle this -- within the confines of what the Braves' decision-makers are OK with. Freeman said that he volunteered to pitch during a long extra-inning game, but it would seem unlikely that he would ever get the chance, so long as he continues to hit over .300 and swing as one of the best run-producers in the National League.
All kidding aside: Freeman says that when Simmons throws, he has a "true four-seamer," with the ball not tailing or sinking. Almost every throw the Atlanta shortstop makes seems to be chest high, perfectly placed, on line and on target.
We have Freeman and Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti on today's podcast -- with Righetti talking about whether he has managerial aspirations, and the unlikely route he took to becoming a pitching coach.
• By the way: The Giants had really good things to say about Josh Johnson and how he threw the ball against them recently, saying that he worked downhill, as in his best years -- with a little more off-speed stuff than in the past, but with good stuff, nonetheless. Johnson's average fastball velocity so far this year is about what it was last year, according to Fangraphs. Johnson is dealing with a blister issue at a time when the Jays are making a big push: They swept the Rangers in Texas, and have drawn to within 5 1/2 games of the wild card.
• From the Elias Sports Bureau: Adam Lind went 3-for-5 with a three-run home run in the Blue Jays' 7–2 win at Texas. Lind batted just .228 through May 6, but his .407 average since May 7 is the highest among all major leaguers with at least 100 at-bats over that span.
• The Rays summoned Wil Myers to the big leagues, with hopes that he'll help. He has been swinging the bat well in Triple-A in recent weeks, and as Tampa Bay has shown time and again, the Rays' prospects are usually prepared to contribute when they're called up. The Rays will let their prospects marinate a little longer in the minors than most organizations, because for the sake of per-dollar efficiency, that's the way it must be for Tampa Bay, which must try to extricate as much as possible from its young players.
• The Angels-Yankees game ended in a classic showdown of future Hall of Famers.
• With the Dodgers' TV deal in place, they know more precisely the parameters under which they can negotiate with Clayton Kershaw, spurring the recent movement. Kershaw's negotiations are likely to conclude with a seven-year deal.
• You can't stop the Padres, you can only hope to contain them: They are 30-19 since April 23, the second-best record in the majors in that time. And now four teams are within two games of one another in the NL West.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Astros promoted Jonathan Singleton to Triple-A.
5. The Brewers signed their top pick, writes Tom Haudricourt.
Dings and dents
1. The Phillies were lifeless again, writes Jim Salisbury.
• For Zack Wheeler, it's on to Super Tuesday, writes Kevin Kernan.
• The Cardinals did something they hadn't done in a long time: They lost a series. To the Marlins.
• Don Mattingly is returning to manage in the Bronx. The Dodgers are 10 games under .500 and 7 1/2 games out of first place, and it's no secret that Mattingly's job is on the line. Zack Greinke did not pitch well Sunday.
• The Giants haven't been playing that well, but as Henry Schulman writes, they haven't lost much ground in the standings, either.
• Andres Torres had a tough day, writes Alex Pavolic. The second mistake that Torres made was just really odd, because as the ball bounced in his direction, slightly to his right, he didn't really move -- and it just skipped past him. From Pavlovic's story:
"To be honest, I have no clue what happened," he said of the second misplay. "I feel terrible. Tomorrow, I'll try to do my thing. You don't feel good, you know? You're trying to help, but you're human and you make mistakes. We're going to have good days and bad days. It's tough, but you have to move on."