There have been an awful lot of comings and goings in the A’s system over the past week or so, as always seems to be the case about this time of year. Lefty Hideki Okajima was promoted from the River Cats’ staff to the A’s bullpen, while perennial prospect Michael Taylor was forced to make another return trip to Sacramento. And with Jeremy Barfield1 laying claim to a spot in the River Cats’ outfield, Conner Crumbliss2 was shipped back to Midland, where he’ll be joined in the outfield by Josh Whitaker3, who was recently promoted from Stockton.
Meanwhile, righty Josh Bowman4 was shipped back to Stockton, where it looks like he’ll be joined in the rotation by former 1st-round draft pick James Simmons, who already made his first start for the Ports this week. And those are just some of the A’s prospects who’ve been on the move recently! You can get daily updates on all the A’s top prospects on my Athletics Farm5 blog and lots more details on the last week of A’s minor league action right here on Athletics Nation…
SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS
(Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Record This Week: 4-2
Record This Season: 24-19
Choice leads the team in home runs and RBIs while Peterson leads the team in walks and OBP. Choice had been playing strictly in center field, but he’s recently begun getting some starts in right field as well. And one has to wonder if the A’s might be prepping him just in case right fielder Josh Reddick’s absence lingers for too long.
Jeremy Barfield filled out the outfield picture when he arrived from Midland a little over a week ago, and he’s been fitting right in, batting .310 with a pair of home runs in his first 9 games with Sacramento. Combined with his 8 home runs at Midland, Barfield now leads all A’s minor leaguers in home runs with a total of 10. Things got a little more crowded in the outfield when Michael Taylor returned to Sacramento this week and, with Barfield playing well, the A’s decided to ship Conner Crumbliss back down to Midland.
If first baseman Daric Barton7 ends up clearing waivers, the team might need to make room on the River Cats’ roster for him before long too. Meanwhile, in his first 10 games with Sacramento, shortstop Hiro Nakajima is hitting just .237. With Hideki Okajima’s recall by the A’s this week, RHP Dan Otero is the only real standout in the River Cats’ bullpen at this point, having allowed just 1 walk and 1 run over his first 15 appearances while notching 10 saves. Sonny Gray8 has been the clear standout amongst the starting staff, posting an ERA of 2.47 while allowing no home runs and striking out 38 in 43 2/3 innings of work.
OF Michael Choice (8 HR / 26 BB / 35 K / .288 AVG / .396 OBP / .484 SLG / .879 OPS)
OF Shane Peterson (3 HR / 33 BB / 34 K / .288 AVG / .426 OBP / .424 SLG / .850 OPS)
RHP Sonny Gray (43 2/3 IP / 39 H / 12 ER / 0 HR / 19 BB / 38 K / 2.47 ERA / 1.33 WHIP)
RHP Dan Otero (18 IP / 10 H / 1 ER / 0 HR / 1 BB / 14 K / 0.50 ERA / 0.61 WHIP / 10 SV)
(Double-A Texas League)
Record This Week: 3-4
Record This Season: 20-23
First baseman Anthony Aliotti14, who has been one of the most consistent hitters in the A’s sytem this year, had a career night on Saturday, collecting 3 home runs and 8 RBIs for the RockHounds. Aliotti now leads all A’s minor leaguers in hits, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And if Daric Barton doesn’t clear waivers and end up back at Sacramento, it might finally be time for the A’s to give Aliotti a shot to show what he can do in Triple-A.
Outfielder Chad Oberacker’s been the second hottest hitter at Midland of late. He currently has 13 doubles and 5 triples, and even collected 2 of those triples in 1 game this week! In his return to Midland from Sacramento, outfielder Conner Crumbliss was back to his old self, reaching base 4 times in his first 9 plate appearances.
Since his arrival from Stockton, outfielder Josh Whitaker has had a slightly harder time of it though, hitting .176 in his first 5 games. An even more dubious distinction belongs to RockHounds’ shortstop Dusty Coleman15, who currently leads all A’s minor leaguers in errors with 14 in his first 43 games. The team’s greatest strength has been its starting rotation, which is being ably anchored by a trio of tough righties.
Murphy Smith leads all A’s minor league league starters with a 2.00 ERA, Zach Neal leads the RockHounds with 38 strikeouts, and Sean Murphy leads all A’s minor league starters with a 1.20 WHIP. Struggling starter Josh Bowman was sent down to Stockton this week, while the A’s signed 29-year-old right-hander Erik Arnesen, who spent 7 years in the Nationals‘ system and had most recently been pitching in the independent Atlantic League, and assigned him to Midland.
1B Anthony Aliotti (7 HR / 32 BB / 35 K / .373 AVG / .472 OBP / .590 SLG / 1.062 OPS)
OF Jake Goebbert (6 HR / 10 BB / 38 K / .275 AVG / .323 OBP / .443 SLG / .766 OPS)
OF Chad Oberacker (1 HR / 17 BB / 35 K / .261 AVG / .330 OBP / .418 SLG / .748 OPS)
RHP Murphy Smith (54 IP / 52 H / 12 ER / 2 HR / 15 BB / 33 K / 2.00 ERA / 1.24 WHIP)
RHP Zach Neal (53 2/3 IP / 53 H / 16 ER / 4 HR / 13 BB / 38 K / 2.68 ERA / 1.23 WHIP)
RHP Sean Murphy (29 IP / 24 H / 7 ER / 0 HR / 10 BB / 25 K / 2.17 ERA / 1.17 WHIP)
(High-A California League)
Record This Week: 3-3
Record This Season: 21-22
Top prospect Addison Russell16 was the top story at Stockton this week, as he really started showing a little pop. The shortstop hit 2 home runs, 2 doubles and a triple this week to raise his slugging percentage to a respectable .429.
He also went 8 for 25 to lift his batting average back over 200. Meanwhile, outfielder Rashun Dixon17 homered in his first game after his arrival from Beloit. And first baseman Max Muncy continues to lead all Ports’ regulars in hits, runs, walks, home runs, total bases and on-base percentage.
RHP Drew Granier has been the one reliable member of Stockton’s starting rotation, maintaining a nifty 2.28 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League while leading all A’s minor leaguers in strikeouts with 63 in 51 1/3 innings. His fellow righty, Tanner Peters, came through with an impressive performance for the Ports this week, allowing just 1 run while walking none and striking out 10 in 8 innings to earn his 3rd win. Former 1st-round draft pick James Simmons was sent down from Sacramento this week and made his first start for Stockton on Saturday, allowing just 1 hit over 4 scoreless innings.
The Ports’ pitching staff should also be getting a bit of a boost with the return of righty Josh Bowman, who was demoted from Midland. In other pitching news for the Ports this week, Seth Frankoff was put on the disabled list and Max Perlman was given his release.
1B Max Muncy (9 HR / 33 BB / 32 K / .264 AVG / .396 OBP / .472 SLG / .868 OPS)
C Ryan Delgado (4 HR / 6 BB / 18 K / .250 AVG / .321 OBP / .474 SLG / .795 OPS)
SS Addison Russell (5 HR / 22 BB / 42 K / .206 AVG / .322 OBP / .429 SLG / .751 OPS)
RHP Drew Granier (51 1/3 IP / 39 H / 13 ER / 2 HR / 27 BB / 63 K / 2.28 ERA / 1.29 WHIP)
LHP Jake Brown (32 1/3 IP / 33 H / 15 ER / 3 HR / 1 BB / 31 K / 4.18 ERA / 1.05 WHIP)
RHP Jose Macias (24 1/3 IP / 17 H / 7 ER / 1 HR / 4 BB / 20 K / 2.59 ERA / 0.86 WHIP / 2 SV)
(Class-A Midwest League)
Record This Week: 5-3
Record This Season: 24-18
The Snappers have been busy lately. In order to make up for a number of April rainouts, the team has played 14 games over the past 12 days.
They’ve been playing well though, and the Snappers’ pitching staff has been leading the way. Seven members of the staff currently boast ERA’s under 3.20 while three have ERAs under 2.00. Former top prospect Michael Ynoa18 has a miniscule ERA of just 1.44 after 25 innings, while Dakota Bacus is the team’s strikeout king with 36 in 36 innings, and Raul Alcantara leads all A’s minor leaguers in wins with 5.
Meanwhile, some of the A’s top young hitting prospects continue to provide the big bats for Beloit. First baseman Matt Olson leads the team in walks, doubles and RBIs, while third baseman Renato Nunez leads in home runs and total bases, and shortstop Daniel Robertson leads all Snappers’ regulars in batting average. But a somewhat overlooked hitter has been coming on strong lately.
Outfielder John Wooten, who was drafted by the A’s in the 37th-round last year, currently leads the team in both hits and runs and is tied with Nunez for the team lead in total bases.
3B Renato Nunez (9 HR / 10 BB / 42 K / .266 AVG / .325 OBP / .518 SLG / .842 OPS)
OF John Wooten (7 HR / 13 BB / 33 K / .287 AVG / .344 OBP / .480 SLG / .824 OPS)
1B Matt Olson (5 HR / 21 BB / 48 K / .260 AVG / .351 OBP / .460 SLG / .811 OPS)
RHP Michael Ynoa (25 IP / 20 H / 4 ER / 1 HR / 7 BB / 25 K / 1.44 ERA / 1.08 WHIP)
RHP Derek De Young (33 2/3 IP / 31 H / 9 ER / 1 HR / 16 BB / 28 K / 2.41 ERA / 1.40 WHIP)
RHP Dakota Bacus (36 IP / 38 H / 12 ER / 1 HR / 9 BB / 36 K / 3.00 ERA / 1.31 WHIP)
- ^ Jeremy Barfield (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Conner Crumbliss (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Josh Whitaker (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Josh Bowman (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Athletics Farm (athleticsfarm.com)
- ^ Shane Peterson (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Daric Barton (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Sonny Gray (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Bruce Billings (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Andrew Werner (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Justin Thomas (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Stephen Vogt (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Scott Moore (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Anthony Aliotti (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Dusty Coleman (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Addison Russell (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Rashun Dixon (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Michael Ynoa (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Athletics Farm (athleticsfarm.com)
As the musicians traipsed out of the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge early last Saturday evening carrying their instruments, it became obvious Manchester City’s post-FA Cup final party had been cancelled.
After their loss to Wigan at Wembley, City’s players were in no mood for celebration.
Just a mile or so north at their team base, the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone, a small group of City players were slumped around tables in the plush residents’ bar.
The talk was, however, of a significant consolation prize.
Surely now, they asked aloud, their manager Roberto Mancini would be sacked.
End of the road: Roberto Mancini was relieved of his duties by Manchester City earlier this week Support: The majority of Manchester City fans were disappointed to see the back of Mancini Grab your coat: The Italian’s three-year spell at Eastlands ended in tumultuous fashion Professional players, who on the surface at least owed their Italian coach, were hoping fervently that he would be dismissed.
This story is more than an allegory of the selfish state of football.
It is more a reflection on one of the most peculiar and tempestuous managerial reigns in the recent history of English football.
Just days before the Cup final, one of City’s clutch of England internationals sat in the spacious home dressing room before their game against West Bromwich Albion and, as he laced up his boots, told colleagues Mancini was to be sacked that very night.
The player was wrong.
There was, indeed, a big announcement due, but it was across town at Manchester United.
Yet, the appetite of some City players to see Mancini’s head on a stake was apparent, and it grew.
Amid the flurry of newspaper stories following City’s miserable defeat at Wembley, it became clear Mancini was in deep trouble.
‘Can we put the champagne on ice yet?’ one player texted a journalist stationed outside their hotel just down the road from Euston Station.
When news of Mancini’s sacking duly came, there was yet more black humour from inside City’s dressing room.
‘It’s a shame we have a game against Reading on Tuesday,’ joked one player.
‘We could have gone out to celebrate.’ These were players who had won significant medals under Mancini, an FA Cup in 2011 and a League title in 2012.
They should have been grateful.
So, how exactly did the relationship between the man who brought the title to City for the first time in 44 years and some of his players become so toxic? The potent mix of testosterone and ego guarantees arguments in football dressing rooms.
The difference with City was that you would often find the manager slap bang in the middle.
Moments after conceding the last-minute goal that gave rivals United a 3-2 derby win at the Etihad Stadium last December, City goalkeeper Joe Hart found himself on the end of a tirade from Mancini that few present have forgotten.
Clashes: Samir Nasri (above) and Joe Hart were on the receiving end of tirades from the former City manager Most observers blamed a ducking Samir Nasri for City’s defensive wall buckling to hand United victory through a late Robin van Persie free-kick.
But Mancini was furious with his keeper.
‘You owe me everything,’ raged Mancini in front of his astonished squad.
‘I gave you a chance in this team and this is how you repay me.’ Earlier in Mancini’s three-and-a-half year reign, there had been warnings of what was to come, of a style of management alien to pampered and sheltered modern footballers.
At the time, the generally held view was that Mancini was establishing his control over malcontents such as Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Bellamy disliked Mancini so much he became embroiled in an internal club investigation into allegations he had encouraged Everton manager David Moyes as he clashed with Mancini on the touchline during a game in March 2010.
Fury: Mancini and David Moyes were involved in a touchline bust-up back in 2010 The inquiry found no hard evidence.
Interestingly, Bellamy’s teammates – as well as staff in the players’ tunnel – claimed they had heard nothing.
Adebayor, meanwhile, was so frustrated with his coach that he stormed into the dressing room and wiped out a tactics board with a karate kick after the goalless Manchester derby in November that same year.
Some onlookers suggested it was the most energy Adebayor had expended all season.
Nothing, however, eclipsed the ferocity of the confrontation between Tevez and Mancini just a month earlier.
No joy: The Italian and Carlos Tevez were involved in a number of altercations during their time together Former City slicker: Craig Bellamy and Mancini did not see eye-to-eye Hearing Tevez mutter something during half-time of a home game against Newcastle, Mancini turned on his team’s star player and told him: ‘If you don’t like it here then you can f*** off back to Argentina.’ Already irritated by Mancini’s double training sessions, Tevez jumped to his feet, tore off his pale blue City shirt and for a moment it looked as though the altercation could become physical.
‘Players dived in and pulled the two of them apart before it got out of hand,’ a source told Sportsmail.
‘Had it happened this season, they may have let Carlos get on with it.’ Mancini had established a pattern that was not to change.
His was not to be a regime that would encourage too much debate.
Over time, the Italian rooted out the players he didn’t like – Bellamy left for Cardiff, Adebayor moved to Tottenham, while Mancini showed strong management in offloading the owners’ favourite Robinho within months of arriving.
Life at City didn’t change much, though.
On the one hand, Mancini battled over transfers with executives Garry Cook and Brian Marwood, bringing assistant David Platt with him to make sure his employers didn’t say things in English he couldn’t understand.
Vacant: Mancini’s empty car parking space at City’s Carrington training ground on Friday ‘I should have full control at this club,’ he said with justification.
On the other hand, he began to lose the faith of a group of players he needed to meet the exacting standards of the Arab owners.
Prior to the 2011 FA Cup final, Belgium defender Vincent Kompany described Mancini as a ‘genius’.
Soon after, he was handed the club captaincy.
Fast forward to the start of this season.
With City struggling to impose themselves on the Premier League, Kompany took Mancini to one side after training and offered some suggestions.
‘Mancini didn’t like that,’ revealed Sportsmail’s source.
‘He thought Kompany was getting too carried away with his own importance.
He told him so, too.
Their relationship never recovered.’ Beyond repair: Vincent Kompany described Mancini as a ‘genius’ – but their relationship soon deteriorated With Kompany – one of the dressing room’s key figures – harbouring increasing misgivings about Mancini this season, perhaps it is no surprise the City coach did not survive.
With first Hart, then Kompany, whose own form was nosediving, on the wrong side of the divide, others were always likely to follow.
Certainly the clique of English players which formed around the under-fire Hart and out-of-favour defender Joleon Lescott spent much of this season bitching.
Their manager was aware of it and merely considered them weak.
The situation was becoming critical, though.
This was a group who had won the championship just months earlier and, while it is not unusual for stars with big egos to complain about a coach when they are not playing, this cartel of dissatisfied players was made up of individuals who were often at the core of the first XI.
Losing the faith: James Milner was said to have run out of patience with Mancini ‘When someone as stable as James Milner loses faith, you really are in trouble,’ reflected another well-placed source.
It would be wrong to suggest Mancini’s dressing room was united in opposition to him.
There were players, among them the Toure brothers and right back Pablo Zabaleta, who thought their coach was deserving of more support.
On the ball: Yaya Toure was pro-Mancini In English football, though, the dissidents usually speak the loudest and dissatisfaction can spread quickly.
More surprising is that by the time of his dismissal, foreign players – people who Mancini had brought to the club, such as David Silva and Sergio Aguero – were starting to question their futures.
Not all of this unrest can be laid at Mancini’s door and foreign players often review their situations on an annual basis.
Nevertheless, murmurings from Silva and Aguero have been growing louder and one of incoming manager Manuel Pellegrini’s first tasks will be to provide some reassurance.
That is something Mancini rarely did.
Always a strong, single-minded individual during his glittering career as a forward in Italy’s Serie A, he could never understand why modern players did not show the same mental fortitude.
Many of his players were crying out for indulgence but he wouldn’t have it.
Out-of-favour players did, on occasion, talk to their coach.
Mancini listened but declined to provide the comfort they sought.
In his eyes, they should have saved their energy for working their way into the team.
Mancini did spend time on Italian wild child Mario Balotelli.
As far as the forward was concerned, some players felt different rules applied.
It was even suggested this week that Balotelli was allowed, on occasion, to smoke in the dressing room at City’s training ground.
Row: But Mancini handed Balotelli a number of ‘second chances’ before he was eventually sold to AC Milan Nevertheless, on his appointment in the wake of Mark Hughes’s sacking in late 2009, one of Mancini’s long-time allies from Italy warned privately: ‘There will be no sentiment.
If you are not in his team, you may as well be dead.’ Of all the words spoken during Mancini’s time in England, few proved so pertinent.
Roberto Mancini used to tell the media – with whom he was popular – that he ‘loved’ his City players.
In the eyes of his dressing room foes, he loved himself rather more.
Certainly image was important to the urbane, stylish Mancini.
He dressed well but some players lampooned him.
They were aware he used a tanning salon and suspected he had his eyebrows shaped at Harvey Nichols.
Keeping up appearances: Image was important to Mancini with some players lampooning him for his fashion The sniping was a bit rich coming from a group who could spend more on clothes each year than most people spend on a car.
Every day, Mancini would cycle to training from his home in leafy Alderley Edge.
What few people knew, though, was that his faithful aide ‘Jose’ occasionally drove behind him in case Mancini grew tired.
‘Jose’ was Mancini’s eyes and ears at City, attending to his every need.
Towards the end, he would even pass messages to players Mancini didn’t want to talk to.
When Mancini wanted to browse the Jimmy Choo store in Amsterdam last September when City were on their European travels, ‘Jose’ accompanied him the 100 yards from his hotel.
On your bike: Mancini used to cycle to City’s Carrington training ground When Mancini wanted his tan deepening at a salon in Cheshire this year, ‘Jose’ went with him.
So loyal was ‘Jose’ that he would sometimes accompany Mancini’s wife, Federica, to her workouts at the plush David Lloyd health club in Cheadle.
During his reign, Mancini leant heavily on his old team-mate Platt, who put out fires where he could.
Others on the City staff, though, were not so loyal.
On a pre-season tour of America three summers ago, one member of the support staff Mancini had inherited told anyone who would listen that the ‘players hate him’.
Why Mancini didn’t root him out remains a mystery.
Remarkably, he remains in a job.
At least former kitman Stephen Aziz – who left the club this season – was brave enough to go public last Wednesday, describing Mancini as ‘vain and self-centred’ on Twitter.
Those posts have now been deleted.
To the City supporters and to the English football community as a whole, the dedicated, charismatic Mancini will always be remembered fondly.
One of the gang: Mancini celebrates winning last year’s Barclays Premier League title He won two major trophies.
He won 6-1 at Old Trafford.
He took City into the Champions League.
Away from the pressures of the training ground, he was terrific company, generous and loved by those he encountered in his favourite city centre Italian restaurant.
In many ways, he deserved better than to be deserted by players in whom he had invested so much hope.
Ultimately, though, this single-minded man was undone by the misguided belief that his players would change and that he didn’t have to.
That, perhaps, was his most damaging misjudgment.
His squad grew tired of his peculiar public pronouncements.
He never seemed to understand the damage he was doing.
According to those close to him, Mancini spoke out so freely and wildly because he didn’t like to lie.
He also didn’t read English newspapers and, by extension, didn’t care about what was in them.
Happier times: Mancini celebrates winning the FA Cup after City beat Stoke in 2011 His players did, though, and so did City’s board of directors.
At City, electronic press clippings land on the appropriate people’s laptops – here and in Abu Dhabi – by 3am.
Defender Micah Richards was bemused when he heard in October that he was expected to be back from a knee injury ‘in three weeks’.
He was at home on crutches after ligament surgery at the time and returned, as is normal, after four months.
Samir Nasri read that he was not trying hard enough and that his manager would like to ‘give him a punch’.
Kompany was criticised for playing in a Belgium game, even though his national FA’s medical department had already cleared it with doctors at City.
There were times this season when City’s players complained that they needed their coach to say less and do more.
After a numbing Premier League defeat by Southampton in February, for example, Mancini didn’t even come into the dressing room to lift sagging heads.Instead, he sent an aide to fetch his bag and hitched a lift on a private plane back to Italy.
At other times, they could have done with some space.
Life at City consisted of hard training sessions – Mancini cannot be criticised for that – and a schedule that would sometimes change at short notice.
While he was winning, as he was for much of his time in England, Mancini’s hard-line methods were tolerated.
‘Management by confrontation and division’ one observer called it.
But when results began to turn, Mancini spun around to find too few players willing to fight for him.
As they head for their summer break, City’s players will reflect on a season of missed opportunities.
Mancini’s dismissal, though, will not sadden all of them.
Looking back now, it is surprising that the Italian survived at the club for so long.
AP file photo
Anglers in this year’s Winni Derby on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire will have to pass a lie-detector test before claiming any prizes.
By Tracy Connor, Staff Writer, NBC News
There will be no fish stories at this year’s Winni Derby in New Hampshire.
Organizers of the annual landlocked salmon-fishing contest will force the winner to take a polygraph exam to ensure the grand-prize specimen isn’t imported from another lake or caught earlier.
“It’s something that’s always been in our rules, but it was never done before,” derby chair Diane LaBrie said Thursday, the eve of the three-day competition.
She said no one has been caught cheating, but “there’s a lot of rumors.”
“People talk. Fish and Game hears things. We just feel it’s necessary to do.”
The derby costs $40 to enter and the grand prize is $12,500.
The rules say that the salmon and lake trout must be caught on Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire.
LaBrie said over-eager anglers could be tempted to take their boats out on smaller lakes that might have bigger salmon because they’re less fished and then bring them to the derby weigh station.
It’s even possible someone could land a big fish before the derby and then keep it alive until the weigh-in.
So to make sure the scales of justice are not compromised, this year’s winner will have to submit to a lie-detector exam within a week, as first reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader1.
If they flunk, the title will be stripped.
Last year’s top winner weighed 5.4 pounds and was almost 25 inches long.
- ^ as first reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader (www.unionleader.com)