Ratto: Temperatures run warm and fuzzy for A's, Ellis


Ratto: Temperatures run warm and fuzzy for A's, Ellis

Feb. 24, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEA'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

For teams that have been off the grid for the last several years the way the As have, expectations tend to be frothy-headed cobra venom. Looks like a nice cold beer, ends up laying you out.But there Mark Ellis is anyway, the longest-running Elephant, noticing not only that this is the warmest, fuzziest spring he can remember in years but that all the things that tend to beat the As down can now be used as shoulder chips. Like the relentless anonymity. Like the minimal crowds. Like the general unfashionableness of As-hood. This is honestly the most excited Ive seen things around here in years, the veteran second baseman said before Thursdays intrasquad game won by, well, the As of course. You always come to spring hoping for good things, but I dont even remember things humming like this in 06. Ellis enters his 10th year as an Oak-towner, if you count the year he missed after tearing his labrum in a spring training collision with Bobby Crosby. He has known good times and bad ones, the years when Oakland was a destination and when it was a place to avoid. But now, with a pitching rotation of considerable note and new bats in place of no bats, the As are one of those stealthyfashionable next-big-thing picks that occasionally hit but far more often miss. And hell take it for what it is. I remember when it was Mark, Barry and Tim, we were a pretty promising team but they were the ones who got the notice, Ellis said, referring to those halcyon days of MulderZitoHudson. This feels different to me, with getting DJ (David DeJesus) and (Hideki) Matsui and all our pitching. Its like weve got something going here, and people are ready for it all to hit. Now we sort of look at the things that used to keep people away and say, Fine. It doesnt matter. Nobody pays attention to us? Nobody comes to see us? Fine. The stuff that people used to whine about, now we can use it as motivation, like Youll find out about us. He says it with not with a grimace but with a knowing smile, as though he sees something the rest of us can only guess at. The As have had pitching before but no bench or bullpen. Theyve had hitters with no bench or enough pitching. And they always manage to find the disabled list in droves. They may do so again; health is as predictable as an agitated chicken, and until they prove they can stay healthy, the logical person must assume the As will not be. But Ellis believes that health is the only thing keeping them from being a real deal. And he got that sense in the most counterintuitive way. I got a good feeling about us when the Rangers got to the World Series, he said. I thought when we played them that we were as good as they were. I know Cliff Lee is a hell of a pitcher, but we hung with them the whole year. The As, in fact, were 9-10, and the run differential of 76-88 wasnt so overwhelming that Ellis is wrong to believe that the As could be the 2011 Rangers. Or the 2011 Giants, for that matter. And yet almosts and if-onlys more often end up in what-the-hell-happeneds and how-did-it-all-go-wrongs. Teams win when they win, and for all the metrics that accurately measure what did happen, guessing in advance when it will is more a matter of art. Spring training is the time when fanciful thoughts make the most sense, but players like Ellis arent so prone to romantic imaginings. Theyve seen too much, they recognize all the ways things can go south. So it is that when he stands in front of his locker and laughs as easily as he does about the season ahead, he gives off the aura of someone who knows something but hasnt quite figured out how to express it, let alone prove it. I think the only way I can explain it is that you get a feeling when you see everyone walking around like they know they belong, like they know they have an important place on a roster. Last year, guys like (Trevor) Cahill, (Gio) Gonzalez, (Brett) Anderson looked like they could, but they didnt really carry themselves like they knew it. Now they do. They know it, and we know it. Now we have to go do it. And thats still the hardest part of all. Which is why expectations really are cobra venom. If the moment hits when everything comes together, as it did in Arlington in San Francisco, its perfect. But if it turns out to be a false positive . . . well, you know. Mark Ellis knows the difference. At least he thinks he does. This year will prove how much he knows, and how much he still has to learn.Follow Ray on Twitter @RattoCSN

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.