One can often jump the gun on such matters, what with the NBA being eight days into its new season and as such subject to the law of small numbers, but life is good.Life is good because the Los Angeles Lakers are 1-4. And because the Boston Celtics are 2-2. But it is also good because the New York Yankees are in A-Rodical disarray, and the Boston Red Sox were galactically dysfunctional, and the Dallas Cowboys stink to high heaven and the architect of that odor reasserted his unwillingness to fire himself. In fact, if it werent for Notre Dame, this could be a very happy holiday season indeed.Now this is the part where ignoramii shout out, Aha! Youre a hater! Hater, of course, being code for, My world is small, my interests tiny, my curiosity sub-atomic, so anyone who doesnt agree with me is a hater.But those people would be, and this comes as no surprise, wrong. I dont hate their teams. I hate the boredom of the same old stories told the same old way. I am not an agent for change (too much work is involved), but I like a new narrative now and then.And I also dont like those who support those teams who regain their smug, who still believe in the divine right of kings and their elevated place in those kingdoms. Who act like the universe is right when the old familiar names are ascendant.For those people, I can muster up the energy to be a hater.The argument is always posed as the tired old, The game is better when its marquee teams are winning. And its modern corollary, The TV ratings are always better when the marquee teams are winning, and we should all approve of that.Well, four things. One, no it isnt. And shut up. If your imaginations are that stunted, if your curiosity about new things is that limited, you should cease emitting noises from your blowhole for the good of the nation.Two, if you like your team, what do you care what the ratings are? You like your team, and you shouldnt need numbers to show your support is true. In fact, you come off better when you dont have numbers because you are displaying the courage of your convictions.Two, a good tale is a good tale, and Notre Dames work this year is laudatory on its own merits, and would be so if it were Vanderbilt, Western Michigan or San Jose State. You can root for the logo if you want. I prefer the deeds, and Notre Dames season would be praiseworthy if it were Brand X A&T. Conversely, the stalling of the Yankees, the falling of Lakers, the tire fire of the Red Sox and the continued mediocrity of the Cowboys is good in and of itself, because watching a team struggle is just as interesting as watching one flourish. Especially if that team is used to acting as though it should never struggle at all. And thats because of third thing, which is . . . . . . New Faces Are Good. The resurgent Bill Snyder at Kansas State, the resurrection of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the rampant Houston Texans, the budding potential dynasty-ette of the San Francisco Giants . . . these are all signs that sports is still a meritocracy rather than the relentless oppression of the status quo, and tyranny of the big name.Plus, some of the new teams are actually old powers gussied up for the new year. The Chicago Bears, for example. And Alabama is still Alabama, for you old school junkies who cant stand the idea of new anything. And if youre still a junkie for big names in big cities, even if those names are mostly name only, there are the New York Knicks. In other words, there is nothing wrong when some of the mighty have fallen, and there is good when once having fallen, they cant get back up for awhile.Plus plus, this could be nothing but a giant moot point in a month if the Lakers and Celtics figure out how to not be old any more. Or if the Knicks suddenly realize what old really feels like.Plus plus plus, the Yankees are always one act of money-burning (Josh Hamilton?) away from being back in business.The Cowboys? Well, it may be that they simply cant be helped. Not while the owner has the general managers back, and not while a vote of confidence can be delivered in front of the shaving mirror.And who doesnt think that vision isnt a hoot and a half?In short, change is good, the mighty should fall every once in a while, nobody should get to win all the time, the monarchy should be dead (no matter what monarchy youre talking about), sloth is its own punishment, let a thousand flowers bloom, and the beer remains cold no matter what. And if you cant vote for that last one, youre just hopeless.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka struck out a career-high 13 to rebound from the worst stretch of his major league career but wound up a hard-luck loser when reliever Tyler Clippard's wild pickoff throw sparked a go-ahead, two-run eighth inning in the Oakland Athletics' 4-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.
Sean Manaea (3-3), starting because Kendall Graveman was scratched with a sore pitching shoulder, matched Tanaka and allowed four hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and a walk. Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth and New York loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Santiago Casilla before Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez popped out.
Tanaka (5-4) left with the game scoreless after allowing Adam Rosales' one-out single in the eighth, and Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis followed with run-scoring hits off Clippard. Stephen Vogt added a two-run homer in the ninth against Jonathan Holder.
Squaring his shoulders more than in recent starts, Tanaka allowed five hits, walked none and threw 76 of 111 pitches for strikes. He got 25 swings and misses - his most in the majors - and the usually undemonstrative 28-year-old tipped his cap to applauding fans while he walked to the dugout.
Tanaka was booed loudly in his previous home start, when he was chased by Houston after allowing three homers and eight runs in 1 2/3 innings. And he had been pounded for 14 runs over 4 2/3 innings in his previous two outings.
Tanaka struck out eight of first 11 batters and nine of his opening 15. He fanned Mark Canha in a 10-pitch at-bat leading off the eighth, then was replaced after Rosales' hit to center.
Clippard threw past first baseman Chris Carter for an error that allowed Rosales to reach third, and Rajai Davis hit a two-hopper to third baseman Chase Headley, who threw to the plate in time for Romine to tag Rosales, who slid headfirst.
Matt Joyce, who had struck out his first three times up, drew a walk and Lowie singled to right as Rajai Davis came home and Joyce took third. Khris Davis grounded to Gregorius, who stopped the ball with a slide deep in the hole, and Davis just beat the shortstop's throw.
The crowd of 39,044 included many sailors in their naval whites.
Athletics: Graveman and RHP Jesse Hahn are likely both headed to the DL with ailing shoulders. ... 1B Yonder Alonso missed his second straight start because of a sore right wrist, an injury sustained when hit by a pitch from Miami's Jarlin Garcia on Tuesday.
Yankees: A day after CF Jacoby Ellsbury went on the seven-day concussion DL, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was hard to predict when he will return . The medical staff was determining what Ellsbury can do. "It won't be much for a few days," he said. ... Chapman is to play catch Saturday, his first baseball activity since May 12.
LHP CC Sabathia (4-2) pitches Saturday for the Yankees after winning consecutive starts for the first time since June 10 and 16 last year. RHP Jharel Cotton, 3-4 with a 5.68 ERA before he was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on May 11, will be recalled to start for Oakland. We was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in a pair of minor league starts.
OAKLAND -- The hoops historian Draymond Green has a message for those with short memories and cynical outlooks.
The NBA is never better than when The Finals have legendary potential, as is the case with the Warriors and Cavaliers, who next week become the first teams to meet three consecutive seasons to determine a champion.
“It’s a great thing for the league, contrary to popular belief,” Green said Friday after Warriors practice.
Warriors-Cavs Part III is, in fact, a fantastic boon for the league. Interest will peak. Ratings will soar. Storylines will cascade down every mountain, knoll and molehill.
“Right now, you’re witnessing greatness -- two great teams, great players,” Green said. “That’s what it is. It probably won’t be appreciated until it’s over. Say we meet again next year? It still won’t be appreciated -- until we don’t meet again and you realize what you had.”
What fans have is history made, with more in the making.
The Warriors enter The Finals after an unprecedented 12-0 start to the playoffs, becoming the first team to complete three four-game sweeps in a single postseason.
Another sweep, and it’s not inconceivable, would make these Warriors the first team in NBA history with a perfect postseason -- give them the distinction of having the best postseason in American sports history.
The Cavaliers enter The Finals after a 12-1 start and, moreover, with the reheated debate over whether LeBron James has a body of work that equals or surpasses that of Michael Jordan. James is one game removed from surpassing Jordan to become No. 1 on the all-time list for playoff scoring and will make his seventh consecutive appearance in The Finals, something Jordan never did.
Though a Cleveland victory would bolster any argument in James’ favor, a Cleveland loss might be enough to close the case in Jordan’s favor insofar as his Bulls reached six NBA Finals and won them all.
Warriors-Cavaliers has the potential to go beyond what most believe to be the most epic of postseason rivals, that being the Magic Johnson and the Lakers versus Larry Bird and the Celtics. They met only three times (1984, ’85 and ’87) but the NBA went a full 10 seasons with one team or the other in The Finals.
Being a student of the game, Green quite likely knows that -- as well as having a complete understanding of the possibilities ahead.
Even if he suspects others may not.
“But you usually don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it any more,” he said. “Maybe there’s just a lack of appreciation for greatness. When you look at the situation, most people have never reached greatness. So, maybe there’s just not an understanding of what you’re watching.
“I appreciate it. I’m happy we’ve been able to steam-roll people, and I love the fact that they’ve been able to steam-roll people. I just love great things. And I think right now we’ve found two great teams.”