Cliff Pennington

Punchless A’s get shutout for 11th time in 53 games

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It was Francisco Liriano on Thursday. Felipe Paulino did it Friday. And now Kansas City’s Vin Mazzaro is the latest pitcher to shut down the A’s, throwing six scoreless innings Sunday as the A’s were shut out for the 11th time this season.

No team since 1918 had ever been shut out 11 times in its first 53 games, as the A’s have. The 2005 Astros were the last of the 12 teams since 1918 to have gotten shut out 10 times through 53 games.

Mazzaro, a former A’s pitcher who was traded to the Royals for David DeJesus prior to the 2011 season, entered the day with a 5.12 ERA in 40 starts and 10 relief appearances as a major leaguer.

14 Athletics players have amassed at least 60 at-bats this season. Six of those 14 guys are hitting under .200. Josh Reddick and Collin Cowgill are the only ones hitting even .250, and Cowgill, with one extra-base base hit in 61 at-bats, has a .279 slugging percentage to go along with his .262 average. Seven of the 14 players are slugging less than .300.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington went 0-for-3 today, extending his hitless skid to 29 at-bats.

Today’s result must have made Luke Hochevar feel all the worse. The former No. 1 overall pick gave up six runs to the A’s on Saturday in what turned out to be a 9-3 loss for the Royals. Excluding that one, the A’s have scored a total of eight runs in their last seven games.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.