Matchup with Yankees exposes A's dire situation


Matchup with Yankees exposes A's dire situation


The Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees had completed their daily ritual Yankees win, As dont and the musical guardian at the Chicos Bail Bonds Coliseum thought it would be a nice touch to play Naive Melody by Talking Heads.

You know, as in, Home, its where I want to be, pick me and turn me round.

Or maybe hes a diabolical hyena and though the irony would be particularly delicious, because the As almost never come up with a game worth remembering against the Yankees at least not since the Jeter Flip in 2001, which for As fans wasnt worth remembering either.

Saturdays game was nothing of note, in fairness. Nine-two final, CC Sabathia overcomes his Bay Area jitters and turns in a masterful performance against a lineup easily mastered. Mark Teixeira homers twice, Robinson Cano homers and doubles. The As get two hits after Josh Reddicks daily home run in the third. Whats to remember?

Well, nothing, really. Even the crowd count of 27,112, which struck some as a surprisingly low attendance for a Memorial Day Saturday, was actually in keeping with the way Yankee crowds in Oakland have dipped since the mid-aughts.

Once upon a time, the Yankees defined a good schedule for the As. Indeed, when the Yankees only make one West Coast trip, the groans from the Oakland front office are audible, because those are six gates the team typically needed 18 dates to fill.

But the Yankees have not been an automatic sellout in Oakland for years now, and even drew a ludicrous 19,849 in the first meeting between the teams in 2010. It has come painfully clear that if the As arent giving away either fireworks or things with a neck spring, they arent filling the building for anyone except the Giants, and thats only because the Giants bring their own.

Now we hate crowd columns about the As with significant vigor, since they always say the same thing if you tell people to stay away enough times, theyll eventually take you up on it.

But having lost the Yankees as a free sellout, it hardly seems worth getting their brains beat out as well. And yet that is the other trend at work here.

Saturdays win was New Yorks 14th in 17 games in the Coliseum, and 24th in the last 32 games in Unwantedville. These are eye-opening but not eye-watering numbers, as the Yankees are a much better team in all areas of the game, from the accounting department on down.

And maybe that has finally sunk into this much-abused fanbase as well that Yankee games that dont include free take-homey things are just another exercise in frustration.

Bartolo Colons latest start unraveled a little bit at a time runs in the second, third and fourth, and then a three-spot in the fifth. Colon was their best pitcher early, but the tread is starting to wear unevenly, and Manny Ramirez is apparently nowhere near being ready to save the subterranean offense.

So now the spunky little start and the impertinent performances have given way to the gravity of a lineup that struggles to reach .250, and a pitching staff that is now feeling the pain of the defections and deals of the offseason. Oh, and the injuries are coming in right on time, too the big news of the day was that Yoenis Cespedes took batting practice and did not fall down shrieking in agony.

Not even the Yankees can save them, apparently.

If there is a way out of this, Bob Melvin would be eager to see it, as he is managing this team-with-one-hand-tied-behind-its-back with as much desperation as he can muster. The whole idea of keeping them close to the field into the trade deadline was the mark of success, and this current downturn looks less like a blip and more like the conditions that prevail.

Unless they can whip up a Tommy Milone bobblehead that shoots its own fireworks in time for tomorrows start, one can expect a substandard crowd for what has typically been the teams best drawing card. Indeed, they missed their calling Saturday by handing out a calendar that had dogs on it rather than what it should have had -- no dates on it, a legend that simply read, Bud Seligs Timetable For San Jose.

For that, they would have packed the place.

Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist in sports


Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist in sports

Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets had one of his greatest games ever against the San Francisco 49ers two years ago and remembers almost none of it, because, as he told reporters Wednesday, he was cloudy-minded on painkillers.

This admission is one more reminder that sports are not necessarily good for one’s health, in large part because the culture of health in sports really doesn’t exist.

There is, rather, a culture of ordinance, and the players are the weaponry.

Marshall’s acknowledgement that he was masking pain from a high ankle sprain that should have kept him out of action for “four to six weeks,” by his own estimation but had him returning to action 10 days after the original injury.

“I’ll say it: I took a couple pain pills, so . . . I took a couple of pain pills to mask the pain,” he said on a conference call with CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. “I really wasn’t supposed to play. So I don’t remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. That was pretty much it.”

We now re-enter the culture of playing when it isn’t prudent, either out of a misplaced sense of bravado or employer-based pressure to perform (there is no direct statement from Marshall saying that the painkillers were given to him by the team). The sense of bravado, which most athletes have, probably can never be legislated, and the culture of downward pressure to perform no matter what the infirmity has proven immensely difficult to conquer.

But there is another factor here, and that is the general lack of efficacy of painkillers. Warriors coach Steve Kerr took to using a form of medicinal marijuana because the painkillers he was taking for long-lingering symptoms from his back surgery were doing more harm than good. He said he found the marijuana was equally lacking, but he had enough concerns about the deleterious effects of Vicodin, OxyContin and other standard medications assigned to athletes in pain.

“I’m not a pot person; it doesn’t agree with me,” Kerr told CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole on the Warriors Insider Podcast. “I’ve tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you’ve got a lot of pain, I don’t think there is any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”

He later expanded on that after the initial “Kerr Is A Sparker” headlines hit the Internet.

“Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, a lot of pain, a lot of chronic pain, I had to do a lot of research,” he said. “You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet . . . NFL players, that’s what they’re given. That stuff is awful. That stuff is dangerous, the addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long-term health risks. The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players.

“But I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country. The NFL, the NBA, it’s a business. So you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is. To me, it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues because the education will overwhelm the perception. If you do any research at all, the stuff they’re prescribing is really bad for you and the stuff that they’re banning is fine.”

It is instructive, then, that when Marshall was asked for his position on the NFL’s stance not to include marijuana as a permissible substance for pain management, substance, a Jets public-relations employee who could be heard in the background of the call saying that Marshall “knows better than that.”

But Marshall did answer the question, saying in essence that he fully intends to know better, period.

“That is something that I actually want to research more this offseason when I have time,” he said. “I’m not a guy that knows about the benefits of what it can do for pain and other things. But I’d like to hear others’ opinions and really research the effects it can have on us – positives and negatives.”

In the meantime, sports soldiers on, using increasingly debunked methods for dealing with the pain their businesses inflict upon their employees and issuing warnings about breaching the silence of the workplace. But tales like Marshall’s will continue to surface until the businesses that require him and his like come to grips with the toll of their shortsightedness and, in some cases, neglect.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time


A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

As rumored over the past two months, Major League Baseball just lowered the Oakland Athletics’ revenue by $34 million, and now all the other developments of the past few weeks have finally become a call to arms by an organization that has always been strident pacifists when it comes to money.

In other words, The Little Engine That Occasionally Could has now been stripped of its little-engine classification, and the conditions that allowed them to play the cute little underdog are gone. No more waiting for more clement economic circumstances, or a more favorable political climate, or for the ever-nebulous “future” which the A’s always dangled before its dwindling fan base.

That was the news of Wednesday. Thursday, reports from ESPN’s Jim Trotter indicated that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to swallow his pride to exercise his option to join Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, thus reducing Mark Davis’ viable options to Las Vegas and the tender mercies of the NFL, or Oakland and the tender mercies of whoever decides to tackle the problem of a new football-atorium.

In other words, push and shove are now jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crash.

First, the A’s.

With the news that Major League Baseball is going to hack the team’s revenue sharing check by 25, 50, 75 and then 100 percent over the next four years, the margin of error for new front man Dave Kaval to get a stadium built has been reduced to those four years. He is following the dictates of his boss, the persistently hologrammatic John Fisher, who essentially shoved Lew Wolff out the door for preaching San Jose and then caution.

The A’s don’t want to share anything with the Raiders, which rules out a Coliseum site. They have investigated Howard Terminal, which is not without its issues. And there is a new darkhorse site, the land around Laney College which, in a tart bit of irony, is the site of the Raiders’ first Oakland home, Frank Youell Field.

The city and county are in the early stages of a deal to sell the Coliseum land to a group faced by Ronnie Lott and the money-moving Fortress group, and get out of the landlord business entirely. It has pledged somewhere between $190 and $200 million in infrastructure improvements, though in the case of two stadia, the question of whether that amount is split remains to be politicized.

But the real point here is that the Gordian knot that is Oakland’s weird hold on its franchises remains tightly raveled. The Fortress announcement was supposed to be a point of clarity, but the revenue sharing news and now the Chargers-to-L.A. rumors have returned chaos to its usual position at the tip of the food chain.

And chaos makes for hasty decisions, and hasty decisions are often regretted. But hey, what’s life without rich people awash in regrets?

The new developments ratchet up the pressure on the City of Oakland and Alameda County to decide what support – if any – to provide a new A’s stadium, and coincidentally what support – if any – can be provided to the Raiders if they are forced to stay in Oakland by the NFL.

It even ratchets up the pressure on the NFL owners to decide among themselves whether their actual end-game goal – to have the Raiders controlled by someone other than Mark Davis – is better served by allowing him to move his team to Las Vegas or denying him his escape route.

But now for the first time there are time constraints – a few months for Mark Davis, a few years for John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The principles of subsidized Moneyball are now conjoined with the principles of Darwinism, and as the A’s have had innovate-or-die thrust upon them, the Raiders have approached the day of reckoning they’ve been desperately kicking down the road since Al Davis’ death. Plus, the political structures of Oakland and Alameda County will catch the holiest of hells either way, and probably across the board.

But as Paul Weller once wrote, “That’s entertainment.” Find shelter, children. The acrid smell of roasting money is in the wind.