Is Cespedes Oakland's Lin?

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Is Cespedes Oakland's Lin?

This did not occur to me when it should have, which is not unusual, but watching Jeremy Lin up his own ante yet again Tuesday night in Toronto caused the small Christmas-tree-sized bulb signifying a freshly-hatched half-formed idea to illuminate itself overhead late last night.Football has The Tebow. Basketball has The Lin. Baseball has to find its own now. And frankly, the team best positioned to make this otherworldly play is the downtroddenest of all, your Oakland Athletics.
The Elephants have chosen as a management strategy to beat themselves with tire chains for the past six years waiting for a new stadium to magically appear in San Jose. Between that and some odd hires and personnel decisions, the most spirited arguing about the team this year has been reduced to whether it can reach the magical 70-win mark.Enter Yoenis Cespedes, the likeliest new gift from our galactic overlords.He fits the twin profiles of Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin for extraterrestrial arrivals. He toiled in Cuba, which is much further away from the mainstream baseball firmament than it should be, for political reasons. He made his name putting up very good but difficult-to-translate numbers in the Cuban league, and a workout tape that made him seem more Borg than human. He was a much-desired commodity among teams that typically throw money around, only to fall to the team still working on the barter system.If you replace Cuba with Yale, the workout tape with the combine, Cuban baseball with the SEC and the Ivy League, and throw in the As as the once-proud but since-modest operation to compare with the Broncos and Knicks . . .Well, okay. Maybe you have to squint to do it, but there is good reason to wonder why football, which doesnt need Tebowmania to make its monthly nut, or basketball, which just went to the trouble of closing up shop to break its union, got help from another planet while baseball has to do with Earthlings alone.And the answer is, it doesnt.Now we grant you there is some pretty fevered mythmaking going on with Tebow and Lin, to the point where they are now almost pitted against each other in a Whose Phenomenon Is Better? reality show. Somewhere, an attractive female celebrity is being warmed up in the bullpen as a potential romantic interest for Lin, since the Knicks were for a time the Kardashians Stop-And-Shop, and because Tebow was linked for a time in a huge and ultimately untenable stretch with Katy Perry.But as the Internet has shown us time and again, there is plenty of frantic off-your-meds hyperbole to go around for everyone, and logic suggests that if football, which didnt need Tim Tebow, got him, and basketball, which just devalued its labor stock, got Lin, why baseball, which has had labor peace for decades now, cant have its.Of course, golf had Tiger, but that gift has been spent, and tennis runs through its best at a faster and faster pace. And hockey . . . well, it has plenty of teams in need, lots of unlikely places from which to unearth a Kryptonian spaceship crashed in the woods, and Edmonton has had the two most recent tries in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but were getting off the topic here.This is baseballs chance to get its piece of Eureka! action, and Cespedes seems the logical choice. I mean, wed say the Mets because theyre so laughably destitute, but any good player to emerge from there would be tagged and bagged as part of the Madoff lawsuit, and its hard to get lyrical about that. Kansas City and Pittsburgh could use a nice jump-start too, but theres only so much paranormal intervention a sport is entitled to one to a customer seems the current ratio.So, with full knowledge that Lins and Tebows are best formed from accident and circumstance, and that predicting the next one is the same as dooming the next one, let us propose Yoenis Cespedes anyway. He fits the profile, and we havent had a healthy round of What Athlete Xs Rise To Fame Means To Me stories in what, 17 hours?Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.
 

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.