ACC Media Day: Mulder shares early-season thoughts on Bay Area MLB clubs, Chicago Cubs’ success
Early in the 2016 season, the Bay Area’s two Major League Baseball clubs are in opposite ends of the standings. The San Francisco Giants are atop the NL West and appear likely to contend for a fourth World Series in seven seasons while the Oakland Athletics sit at the bottom of the AL West.
Former All-Star pitcher Mark Mulder shared his thoughts on both teams while hosting media day for the 27th annual American Century Championship on Tuesday, June 7, at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. The nine-year veteran with the Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals is the tournament’s defending champion after winning in 2015.
Mulder has returned to the A’s this season as a color commentator for 20 broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet California. After working as an analyst for ESPN, he is taking on a new challenge involving the club he pitched for five seasons from 2000-04.
“I know everybody there and there’s just that comfort — like you’re home,” Mulder said of his new gig.
The A’s are currently in last in their division, well back of the first-place Texas Rangers. Mulder said a lack of starting pitching consistency has hurt Oakland in the early parts of the season, including struggles from ace Sonny Gray — the right-hander had a 3-5 record in his first 10 starts and missed time with a back injury.
“The bullpen has been awesome, but you have to have starters that go deep into games and right now they haven’t had that,” Mulder said. “Now that Sonny Gray is back that will help, but I don’t think they have enough depth there for guys to go deep into games to really compete to win the division.”
Mulder sees Texas as the top team in the AL West with the Seattle Mariners a notch below. The A’s likely won’t challenge either of those teams for the division title.
“I see them being hopefully around .500, but I don’t see them winning the division,” Mulder said. “I hate saying it, but it’s the truth.”
Across the bay, the San Francisco Giants have looked good early on while topping the NL West. So far, the Giants appear to be a strong contender as they look to continue their even-year magic — bolstered by adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to their rotation.
“I feel that the every-other-year thing gets blown out of proportion a little bit, but if the fans and the team start to believe it that’s all that matters,” Mulder said. “All that means is that the team is confident this year.”
Mulder sees San Francisco as a postseason team, and believes its top two pitchers rival any of their NL foes — including the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals and New York Mets. Cueto and ace Madison Bumgarner have a combined record of 16-3 in their first 24 starts.
“Come postseason, there’s not many people that have the resume that Bumgarner has, and Cueto hasn’t pitched in as many big games but he definitely can do it,” Mulder said. “They’re going to take their chances, and chances are they’re going to be there.”
As for the league at-large, Mulder said he finds himself rooting for the Cubs ending their century-plus World Series drought despite his background and resume. The former big league lefty grew up a Chicago White Sox fan on the Windy City’s South Side and finished his career with the rival Cardinals.
“It would be different if they were a brash team, coming out and chirping too much or being a little bit too cocky,” Mulder said. “What I love is they’re just good, they know they’re good and they’re just quietly going out and doing their thing — that’s the best part about it.”
The Cubs currently have the best record in baseball a season after falling to the Mets in the NLCS. And Mulder believes Chicago will contend for the championship again if they continue the season in the same businesslike fashion that led to a 35-15 record in its first 50 games.
“The second you start talking about yourself or certain guys start making comments, that’s when everything can flip,” Mulder said. “That says a lot about the veteran guys in that clubhouse who are keeping things under control.”
Among the surprises leaguewide, Mulder said the Houston Astros’ struggles and Philadelphia Phillies’ relative success have both come as surprises. But just more than a third of the way into the 2016 season, a winning streak or losing streak for any club could easily change their fortunes.
“It’s still early in the season,” Mulder said.