Interview: Seth Smith
At the Oakland A’s FanFest I was invited to join five other bloggers in a press conference style interview of five members of the Oakland A’s organization. They were manager Bob Melvin, starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, shortstop Cliff Pennington and outfielders Josh Reddick and Seth Smith. While all six of us asked questions, I am going to just focus on the questions I asked on this blog. I suggest readers go to Athletics Nation where the interviews in their entirety are going to be posted. Thank you to the Oakland Athletics organization for this opportunity!
Seth Smith came to the A’s in a trade with the Colorado Rockies a few weeks ago in a deal that sent Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman to Denver. He was a second round draft pick out of Ole Miss where he was also a backup quarterback to this weekend’s Super Bowl participant Eli Manning of the New York Giants. In his MLB career, Smith has been worth 6.7 WAR, with a .275/.348/.485 Coors Field aided slashline (he is just a .257/.332/.418 hitter away from the Mile High City, though those are still solid numbers) and an impressive career wOBA of .360, and 113 wRC+ in his 1,449 plate appearance long career. I did not get to ask any questions of Smith directly, others covered the somewhat obvious questions to ask someone with whom we had such little familiarity: his lefty/righty splits and also his hitting away from Coors Field. He did answer one of my questions though whose main focus was really asking Josh Reddick about team chemistry figuring that Smith could speak to it having been with the 2007 National League Champion Rockies. My question was this:
Q (directed at Reddick) Last year in Boston there were after the season, a lot of reports about the negative [clubhouse] chemistry with the “chicken and beer” articles. Often at least from our standpoint as fans, we see teams that teams that win the World Series always have good chemistry and teams that struggle or fall out of contention late always something was wrong and there were clubhouse problems. Do you think clubhouse chemistry is sort of a “chicken-egg” thing with, you win, there was good clubhouse chemistry and if you lose there isn’t? And Seth I think you can answer the same question from your time with Colorado in the World Series?
A: For us, I agree winning cures everything. And for us with the Rockies it wasn’t so much the players because the players were the same regardless winning or losing everybody we were getting along and everything’s fine. It’s more with people who outside of the 25 guys who go out there and play kind of make things feel a little bit different bases on wins or losses.
I think what Smith was getting at here is that the fans and emotions surrounding a team really can have an impact on how the team themselves feel about themselves or the way they are playing. I have to imagine an electric atmosphere in the stands translates and in 2007 perhaps there was no more electric atmosphere than whatever surrounded the Rockies who won 21 out of 22 games down the stretch including one of the most exciting one-game playoffs with the San Diego Padres in Denver. Smith was a part of that team making his MLB debut on September 16th in a 13-0 rout of the Florida Marlins which would be the first win in that 21 of 22 game sequence.
The other question I had for both players was this and Smith answered it quite succinctly,
Q: Given that you guys were just recently traded to the A’s is today the first day that you met a lot of your teammates?
Earlier in the interview Smith was asked questions I wanted to ask and about those he commented regarding the platoon,
“I think getting more at bats is pretty much the thing. You know, I hit ‘em in the minor leagues fine, and in 2009 I hit ‘em great, and then 2010 was the first time I started seeing them sparingly. In 2011, my final numbers weren’t that good, and I didn’t really face them a lot then either.”
In his piece on Athletics Nation about the Smith interview, Nico checked the stats and Smith’s recollection is correct as well all the references made to any stats during the conversation with both Melvin and any player. It made me wonder just how much of an impact a slow start can have on a player’s future being determined. If a guy jumps out of the gate struggling versus pitching of a certain handedness how much do they lose that shot to ever appear versus them and be labeled a platoon guy as has seemingly happened to Smith? While Billy Beane has said he plans to have Smith play everyday, one has to wonder if the acquisition of left-handed pitching mashing Jonny Gomes makes that less likely?
I wasn’t thrilled with the trade, and still am not really. But, I think Smith is a good ballplayer and I really liked that he shows no fear about having to hit at the Coliseum even saying that as a gap hitter it plays to his strength. I like that he did his due diligence by speaking about it with Rockies teammates Jason Giambi and Mark Ellis too. Hopefully they gave him some good pointers, though perhaps his confidence will be fleeting once he hits a hanger that dies at the warning track.