Inside Pitch: Ballpark of Dreams

New A's managing partner Lewis Wolff pitched an ambitious redevelopment plan last week to transform a rundown warehouse district into a bustling mini-city anchored by a 35,000-seat baseball-only ballpark. The ballpark would cost be $300-400 million. It's not clear how it would be paid, but Wolff has promised not to raid public coffers to get the job done.

Wolff stressed the importance of governmental support in the way of entitlements, real estate tax incentives and negotiations with property owners in the 100 or so acres picked by the team for redevelopment.

"We think government has a lot of currency that isn't money," he said. "There are things you can waive, there are things that we can pay back."

The 35,000-seat capacity would be a major contrast from the nearly 50,000 seats (not counting "Mt. Davis." The outfield upper deck built for football) at the Coliseum. With so many seats, there's always been a trouble getting people and corporations to buy season tickets because there's always available tickets day of the game.

Some of the luxury boxes would be small, four- or six-seats, close to the field and some of the best seats possible. Traditionally, the luxury suites are high in a stadium.

The development would stretch from 66th Avenue to High Street and include outlet-type shops surrounding a plaza, thousands of residential units, and a new BART station.

"Everyone benefits if we can take an older area and recast it into a nicer and more modern activity," Wolff told the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority. "A mixed-use kind of an approach, we can use that to help pay for the facility."

The park would have only two tiers of seating, a condominium or hotel in left-center field and one of the largest scoreboards in the major leagues in center field. The bleacher section would be shaped to resemble a giant A. The stadium would have separate "neighborhoods," including a family section.

Haren's Stretch Of Luck Ends

Throughout a streak in which the A's had won in 14 consecutive starts in games started by Dan Haren, even Haren admitted there was some luck involved. He'd pitched great in seven of the games, average in four, and below average in three.

On Friday night, he threw one of his best efforts all year, a three-hit complete-game performance with just one run allowed, but it wasn't enough with Johan Santana pitching at perhaps his best ever.

Santana threw a three-hit shutout, retired 21 of the last 23 batters, to hand the A's their ninth shutout loss of the year.

"It's weird not getting any runs," Haren said. "We've been swinging the bats so well. I don't feel like anybody is down in the clubhouse -- and I'm not just saying that. Everyone feels we'll go out there (Saturday) and get them. We just ran into the Cy Young award winner."

The streak lasted 14 starts, two months and 13 days, and took Haren's record from 1-7 to 10-7. The A's record has gone from 18-32 (the day before it started) to 66-49 after Friday's loss.

It survived four extra-inning games. An 11-10 slugfest that will be remembered for Jason Kendall's face-first dive into home to record the final out. A weird feeling for him when the opposing pitcher was one of his best friends, Noah Lowry, plus a duel against Freddy Garcia.

"It's been a nice run," Haren said. "I'll start a new one Wednesday against Baltimore."

Relief-Buster

The Angels bullpen has a reputation for being one of the best in baseball. But the A's rallied for wins Wednesday and Thursday against that bullpen, including a bizarre victory in the rubber game Thursday.

After scoring three runs off Scot Shields on Wednesday to erase a 1-0 deficit, the A's erased a four-run deficit off Brendan Donnelly, capped by a no-doubt-about-it, three-run homer by Eric Chavez.

Then in the ninth, with the winning run at third and Chavez at the plate, Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez dropped a routine throw from catcher Jose Molina. An alert Jason Kendall broke for the plate, and he scored the winning run in the 5-4 victory that put the A's all alone in first place in the American League West.

Getting a huge hit from Chavez was huge for the A's. The cleanup hitter and big bat in the A's lineup had stranded three runners in scoring position with two outs earlier in the game. But he had four hits, including two homers, and five RBIs in the three-game series.

After a painfully slow start, Chavez has 20 homers and 73 RBIs. He could end up with 30 homers and 100 RBIs, if he continues his pace from the past two-plus months.

Street Learning On The Job

RHP Huston Street learned a valuable lesson in Chicago, on the final day before the All-Star break, when he gave up a leadoff homer with a two-run lead in the ninth. Street gave up another run in that inning and was determined not to let it happen again Wednesday night.

"What I learned from Chicago is you have to move past that," Street said. "You still have a lead to protect. The win is most important. I still feel like I got the job done."

A boisterous sellout crowd of 45,131 had some anxious moments after Street give up a leadoff homer to Steve Finley in the ninth.

But Street struck out the next two batters, and with the stadium on its feet and clapping for one more whiff, Orlando Cabrera grounded out to end the A's 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

"The fans got their money's worth tonight," A's manager Ken Macha said. "They were at their best tonight. They were nice and loud, perhaps they helped us out a bit. Tonight was a great ballgame."

It wasn't looking that way for most of Wednesday night as the Angels made Barry Zito work for every out and handed over a one-run lead in the seventh inning to one of the best bullpens in baseball.

"We've had this great run and we can't just let down, figure we have it made, especially when the team we are battling comes into our yard," Zito said. "That the guys got it done late in the game, after being down all game, was huge."

Notebook

--3B Eric Chavez's modest five-game hitting streak was snapped Friday, going 0-for-4 against Johan Santana. Chavez had a couple good at-bats, hitting a low line drive deep to center for an out in the seventh and just getting under a pitch in the ninth that would have been an opposite-field hit to tie the game or win it.

--SS Bobby Crosby was reminded by infielders coach Ron Washington, one day after a bizarre play when Francisco Rodriguez dropped a routine throw from the catcher that allowed Jason Kendall to score the winning run, "make sure you back them throws up."

--LHP Barry Zito was nominated by his teammates for the Marvin Miller award for community service.

--DH Scott Hatteberg, who missed seven games with a right oblique strain, was back in the lineup Saturday as the designated hitter.

--Bullpen catcher Brandon Buckley, who missed the first road trip of the season after knee surgery, is on the fictional disabled list again after a pitch broke his toe Thursday afternoon.

--2B Mark Ellis had three hits Thursday for the fourth time in five games, raising his average to .317 on the year. He was down to .309 after going 0-for-3 Sunday. Ellis was hitting .277 at the All-Star break.

--RHP Joe Blanton labored through six innings, giving up six hits and four walks, and threw 100 pitches. But he gave up only two runs and had a no-decision.

--LHP Barry Zito's eight-game winning streak in consecutive starts was snapped when he got a no-decision Wednesday. He's still 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA over his last nine starts, after giving up two runs in six innings Wednesday night.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A bunch of things have been written about my situation, and I think that should be put to rest. I don't want to take away from what the players are doing on the field. They've put themselves in position to do some special things. My contract situation should have no bearing on what's going on here. I'd just appreciate it if everybody would treat it as a non-issue." -- A's manager Ken Macha on his contract status.

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