Giants, A's territorial rights saga takes new, confusing turn

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Giants, A's territorial rights saga takes new, confusing turn

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News has been around baseball long enough to know where the bodies are interred, and who put them there. He also has people of influence whispering in his ear when they want something disseminated sans fingerprints, so when he drops a report, people tend to notice.Saturdays item, though, that baseballs other 28 owners are inclined to uphold the Giants claims to the territorial rights to San Jose, smacked not of resolution to the problem, but unsubtle arm-twisting to force the Giants and As to come to an accommodation, as Vito Corleone liked to put it 40 years ago.The report, summarized briefly, was that the Giants claim to San Jose was more persuasive to the other owners, who could if they thought it was good for the game make those rights go away with one vote and a round of drinks.

This of course came as a surprise to Lew Wolff, the As front man, who said he hasnt heard a thing about it. Which means of course, that either he hasnt, or he has.Thats the beauty of baseball. You always have to guess how many lies you get to before the truth emerges. And because everyone in the business of baseball with any heat knows the art of misdirection even better than Sun-Tzu.So lets break down the possibilities.1. The Madden report is right, in which case John Fisher and Wolff are selling the team as quickly as possible, because they have already poisoned the Oakland well as comprehensively as possible.
2. The Madden report is wrong (meaning he was given disinformation, not that he wasnt told what he says he was told), in which case one can infer that whoever leaked it either works for or supports the Giants claim.
3. The Madden report is wrong, in which case whoever leaked it was trying to push the process by which the two sides argue over the amount of the tribute the As give the Giants.
4. The Madden report is wrong, in which case someone was just trying to do a little mischief and get the owners attention from the Mets and Dodgers for a few minutes.In sum, either we have reached the end game because the other owners are sick of the two sides and their tedious posturings, or we have reached the end game because the As want some action one way or another.Or someone (gee, I wonder who that could be) is trying to kill the plan via leak.The question resides, ultimately, in which team baseball places its greater hopes, and by team, we mean ownership group. Wolff has Selig, but Seligs alliances shift with circumstances, as Bob Lurie can happily tell you with a map of the scars on his psyche.The Giants have the economic might, but their ownership has now changed twice in three years and the new guy, Charles Johnson, isnt an insider by any means.And yes, its Johnson rather than Larry Baer, because baseball owners deal with the guy with the most money in the game, not the one who is the public face.If Baer is a player here in any way, its because hes had 20 years to make relationships with other owners. Not that that matters all that much, but in an argument, you use whatever weapons you have at your command.In short, this is about lobbying, and effective whispering, and pressing buttons on the right keyboards. Bud Selig doesnt run baseball, but he has access to those who do, and he is not going to take the lead on an ownership question of this magnitude. He will seek consensus among the strongest of his employers, and without knowing where they stand, we cannot know where the future of San Jose baseball stands.And Bill Madden either has moved the story along, or he hasnt, depending on why whoever told him San Jose was dead told him San Jose was dead.If youre confused, dont be. This isnt reading tea leaves. This is reading mulch.

A's spring training Day 10: Canha doubles off Gray in intrasquad game

A's spring training Day 10: Canha doubles off Gray in intrasquad game

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s had four lineups sketched out for two intrasquad games taking place simultaneously Thursday.

You couldn’t help but notice that one of the lineups in particular was packed with Oakland’s regulars, and there were plenty of highlights delivered by notable names during the two-inning game at the A’s minor league facility.

Sonny Gray gave up a run on Mark Canha’s RBI double to right-center in his inning of work but also struck out Ryon Healy with a good breaking ball. Gray’s stuff earned solid reviews from manager Bob Melvin.

Overall, Melvin was pleasantly surprised with some of the hard contact generated by his hitters, who had seen just two days of live batting practice prior to Thursday.

“Canha hits a pitch down that’s moving all over the place to right-center,” Melvin said.

In the same game, Rajai Davis hit a leadoff triple to center off Kendall Graveman and came home on Stephen Vogt’s single. Graveman got Matt Joyce looking on a fastball but gave up some hard contact in a brief 15-pitch outing. He’ll start Sunday’s game against the Angels, so Thursday’s outing acted like a between-start bullpen session.

In the other game, Sean Manaea got his three outs so quickly that they had to extend the inning a bit for him to get his work in. That game was highlighted by a long home run from infield prospect Yairo Munoz off Daniel Coulombe.

Melvin said bench coach Mark Kotsay handled duties of sketching out the rosters for the two intrasquad games, and while it will be interesting to see how Melvin writes out the lineup for Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Chicago Cubs, keep in mind that the early Cactus League games will only feature a handful of regulars in each of them.

PROSPECT WATCH: Shortstop Franklin Barreto, the A’s top-rated prospect, will also see some time at second base this spring but not in the outfield, Melvin said. Barreto has played some center field in winter ball, but general manager David Forst, during an offseason interview with CSN California, said the team envisions Barreto as an infielder. The A’s have Marcus Semien entrenched at shortstop right now, and there’s been some feeling among scouts that Barreto — whose bat is his biggest strength — is better suited for second base long-term anyway. Another highly touted prospect, Richie Martin, is a possible shortstop of the future as well.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s have expressed optimism that reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive in camp shortly after being delayed by the visa process in the Dominican Republic. But Casilla remains day-to-day, with Melvin not giving a timetable for his arrival.

“We were going to slow-play him this spring anyway. He’ll throw some bullpens and probably throw to some hitters before we get him in a game,” Melvin said. “At this point in time I’m still not that concerned. I’ll start to be a little bit if we get into games (and he’s not in camp), but I still think we’re on a good schedule with him.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Oscar-nominated actor Mahershala Ali, an Oakland native who threw out the first pitch at an A’s game last season, arranged for a screening of his movie “Moonlight” on Thursday night for A’s players at a Scottsdale theatre. Ali is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie, which is also up for Best Picture.

“It’s nice of him to think of that and want to set that up,” reliever John Axford said. “I’ve already seen it and I’ll be there again.”

Axford, a movie fanatic and Film & Television major in college, has created a social media buzz in recent years by doing incredibly well predicting the Oscar winners. He has yet to reveal all of his picks for Sunday’s show, but he gives rave reviews to “Moonlight.”

Nuggets' Malone plays what if game with Kings, takes jab at ownership

Nuggets' Malone plays what if game with Kings, takes jab at ownership

SACRAMENTO -- It seems like yesterday that Michael Malone was leading a Sacramento Kings team featuring DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay into battle every night. Less than three years later, only Gay remains with the franchise and he’s out for the season with a torn left Achilles. 

Thomas left in a lopsided trade that yielded Sacramento Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception during the summer of 2014. Malone was let go with an 11-13 record 24 games into the 2014-15 campaign after Cousins went down with a bout of viral meningitis. Cousins is now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans following a blockbuster trade on Sunday.

“I always go back and think - ‘what could have happened if myself, DeMarcus, Isaiah, a healthy Rudy, if we were all together?,’” Malone told a small group of reporters before shootaround on Thursday. “We’ll never know, but I like to think that a lot of positive things would have happened, because I felt like we had something good going here. And it wasn’t to be.”

Malone’s reputation as a defense-minded coach played into his firing. At the time, owner Vivek Ranadivé used musical metaphors to describe what he was looking for in his next head coach.

“We had a Sousa marching band, which was needed when there was chaos, but now we need to shift to a jazz band, where people can be individually showcased and improvised,” Ranadivé said. “What we need is a jazz director.”

Malone is back in Sacramento Thursday night as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets and he’s looking for his first win against his former club in his fifth opportunity. He also heads a group that leads the Kings by a game and a half in the standings and boasts the NBA’s fourth highest scoring average at 110.6 points per game. 

“I can’t remember all the things that were said when I was fired, because there was so much being said,” Malone stated. “But I know one of the things that was being said was ‘style of play.’ There were people that were not in my corner that used that as a way to get me fired. Now we’re one of the highest scoring teams in NBA.”

“I look at you people, you were wrong,” a smiling Malone added while looking directly into a news camera. 

Known for his ability to connect to Cousins, Malone was as shocked as anyone to hear that the Kings traded the talented 26-year-old. The two have remained close, despite no longer working together.

“That was definitely a surprise over All-Star break,” Malone said. “Surprise for me, even a bigger surprise for him from what I understand.”

Malone has very little time to worry about his former player. He has to prepare his Nuggets team for a new-look Kings roster that has played a gritty, hard-nosed style all season long. With 26 games remaining, his team sits in the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase and they face a team that is backed into a cormer.

“They have a chip on their shoulder,” Malone said. “You make a big trade like that and I’m sure the players in that locker room are going to say, ‘Everybody’s writing us off because we don’t have DeMarcus.’ They’re going to come out and try and prove everybody wrong. They beat Boston, a very good team, without DeMarcus, and I’m sure that’s the model they’re going to try to use moving forward.”

A straight shooter through and through, Malone spoke on a variety of topics before heading out to the floor to prep his team for the 7:30 start at Golden 1 Center. 

“I just want to get a win, period,” Malone said. “The grudge is gone, this is part of the business. I knew the rules when I signed up, I really did.”

Malone understood the reality of taking over a fledgling franchise under new ownership and management when he took the Kings job. Sacramento gave him his first head coaching opportunity in the league, which he is grateful for, but his departure was anything but clean. The grudge might be gone, but those who covered Malone during his time with the Kings know full-well that playing this franchise will always be personal.