Wednesday, May 14, 2014

TMFW 36 - The Saxophone Jam That Raised a Batting Average 20 Points

The Oakland A's - the same team that inspired Moneyball - play across the bay from the San Francisco Giants.  The Giants play in AT&T Park, a young baseball-only stadium that is famous for its picturesque views and for home run balls splashing into McCovey Cove.  The A's play in the Oakland Coliseum - a 48-year old monstrosity of a football stadium that is most recently famous for flooding the home dugout with sewage.  The Giants have the sixth-highest payroll in the major leagues, at almost $148 million for 2014.  The A's have the fourth-lowest, just more than half of the Giants' at nearly $75 million.  The Giants are at the very top in attendance - selling out all of its games so far in 2014.  The A's are in the bottom third - playing for less than half as many fans and selling less than 60% of its tickets.
Remarkably, though, the Giants and the A's currently share the same record of 25-15, and both sit at the top of their divisions.  And, having been to both stadia for a game, I'll take the A's and their fans any day.  Those fans that do turn out to the Coliseum are passionate and loyal, and their team is passionate right back.  Recent teams have been very easy to cheer for - see these goofy commercials for some fun examples.  
This week's entry into "the A's are fun" comes via Josh Reddick, a 27-year-old right fielder.  After Sunday's 0-4 performance at the plate, Reddick was hitting .214 for the season, which is dangerously close to the Mendoza line.  Clearly needing to change things up, Reddick decided to start with his walk-up music. 
(Slight detour for those unfamiliar with "walk-up music" - this is a song that a player chooses to come over the loudspeakers as he steps to the plate to bat.  Songs are also used for famous pitchers when they come in.  Walk up music is usually something that is meant to pump up a player or intimidate the other side.  For example, Mark McGwire used Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" during his heyday and the Yankees played Metallica's "Enter Sandman" when their closer Mariano Rivera entered.  A famous cinematic example is Ricky Vaughn entering to "Wild Thing" in Major LeagueThis list of the current most popular walk-up songs is replete with rap and hard rock songs, so hopefully you get the point.) 
Okay, we're back.  So what did Reddick choose for his new music?  Some Motley Crue?  A cut from the Rocky soundtrack?  Jay-Z?  Not so much.  Reddick went with the classic saxophone riff from George Michael's "Careless Whisper."  This video from the broadcast shows the crowd, the team, and the announcers clearly enjoying the choice.  And it has worked: in the two games he's used it thus far, the smooth saxophone of "Careless Whisper" has inspired Reddick to go 4-for-8, with 4 runs, 3 RBIs, a home run, and a triple.  His average has climbed almost 20 points, from .214 to a more respectable .233.  I guess the A's just had to have Faith in the power or George Michael. 
BONUS FACT:  The resurgence of the "Careless Whisper" sax riff is no doubt due to the "Sexy Sax Man" Sergio Flores, who is featured in a wonderfully silly video - with over 23 million views on YouTube - where he plays it over and over at various public places.  (As you might guess, the bit is typically well-received by the audience but frowned upon by the authorities.)

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