Weeks wants to be The Face again
Second baseman had superb rookie season, but last his strut last year
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:28 p.m.
This is about Oakland A's once-and-perhaps-future second baseman Jemile Weeks, but first it's about the refrigerator magnet.
At the start of last season, the A's produced a magnetized season schedule you could stick on your refrigerator. It was Weeks' photo on the magnet, Weeks sliding, Weeks' hat flying off, Weeks' dreadlocks almost taking off into space.
The photo was dramatic and it meant Jemile Weeks, 25 at the time, was the face of the Oakland A's. Admittedly the A's didn't have much of a face — they would gain face later in the season. But Weeks had batted .303 in 2011, his rookie year, and he was an essential part of the A's future. Until he wasn't.
Last year, he didn't play well — couldn't hit for sure. On Aug. 21, the A's sent him down to Sacramento. Now, he is in camp competing with Scott Sizemore, Jed Lowrie and Adam Rosales. “There are a lot of pieces we are taking a look at,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Could Weeks end up on the bench or in Sacramento?
“I think anything's open, yeah,” Melvin said.
So Weeks, who used to represent the A's future, is fighting to be part of the present. I spoke to him Thursday in the A's clubhouse, spoke about the magnet. Sure, he saw it. “To be able to come out the first season and have the success I had and to be rewarded that fast, I was really honored,” he said.
What happened in 2012?
“You hit a dull point and you try to get out of it, and you're kind of fighting yourself more than you're fighting the game. You just grow from it.”
When he got sent down, he spoke to batting coach Chili Davis, a famous name in the Bay Area. Davis had a fantastic rookie season for the Giants and got sent down the next year like Weeks.
“He was just telling me the same type of issue happened with him,” Weeks said. “But he got back to where he needed to be and had one of his best seasons the next season.”
Did it help talking to Davis?
“Yeah, at that time, you don't want to see the future. You're right there in the moment. It is inspiring knowing a guy with his stature went through the same thing and overcame it. There are some guys who don't. I feel I can be that guy who overcame his failures.”
I'm going to level with you. When you're writing about a player, it's smart to talk to the other guy. The other guy has more insight, sometimes, than the one you're writing about. In this case, the other guy is Davis.
“The day Jemile got sent down,” Davis said, “my comment to him was, 'I didn't get to see you play last year and what I'm hearing from everyone is that you're a very aggressive player. You're aggressive at the plate. You're aggressive on the bases. You're aggressive on defense. You didn't hold back anything. I don't see that player right now. When you go down, you need to get your strut back.' He's got a nice little strut and he lost that strut last year.
“When you start slow, you start looking at your numbers. 'That's not me. I don't hit .190. And I don't hit .200.' Your focus goes away from the things you did before to be a .300 hitter.
“Jemile worked his tail off last year, maybe worked a little too hard. What I see this year is a lot closer to the Jemile Weeks I heard about prior to coming here. He's been aggressive at the plate. He's played defense aggressively. He's been on base a lot. He's swinging the bat well. I just hope he sticks with it.
“You know me, Lowell. I had a decent rookie year. I had a crappy sophomore year and it taught me a lot. I was shocked to get sent down, but I wasn't shocked. I mean, I was hitting .230. I'm not a .230 hitter. I kind of relaxed that year: 'I got this figured out.' The same pitchers I had success against the year before remembered that, studied more, bore down harder. But I wasn't the same player I was prior to 1983.
“The year Jemile had last year is a great teaching year for him. He would get into 1-0 counts and take the next pitch, 2-0 counts and take the next pitch when it was a pitch I know he thought he could hit. And there is that little hesitance you have when you don't think you're swinging the bat well. It's not that you're not ready to swing. It's that you're trying to see the ball too long.
“To him, it was 'make sure it's a good pitch.' By the time he tried to make that aggressive pass to it, the ball was deep. From what I've seen this year, he's much more aggressive to the strike zone.
“He hit the ball well in Japan (at the start of 2012). Everything became fly balls after that. It wasn't like they were lazy fly balls. He was stepping on these pitches, but he just didn't have that power to drive it out of left center or out of center. Chris Carter hitting like that or (Yoenis) Cespedes, heck yeah, I want them driving the ball to the big part of the field.
“What happened was I made him conscious of hitting too many fly balls, and he tried to make an adjustment, went from one extreme to the other. That took him out of the happy medium. His natural swing is a line-drive swing from both sides. At times, if you miss in his sweet spot, he will hit the ball out of the park. But that's not what makes Jemile Weeks successful.”
Weeks recently got upended at second base, came down on his shoulder and bruised it. He will not play until Saturday or Sunday. The team keeps moving on. The face of the team keeps changing. Weeks wants to keep his face, if not on the magnet, certainly in the picture.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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