Ray Ratto

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

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

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AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

For the record, and just so you can’t say you weren’t told, these are the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the 50 backups. Draw your own conclusions.

(Author’s note: We list these only because Joe Webb was just signed by the Buffalo Bills, whose starter and first backup, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, are still in the concussion protocol).

AFC WEST

DENVER: Trevor Siemian (Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler)

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith (Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray)

LOS ANGELES: Philip Rivers (Cardale Jones)

OAKLAND: Derek Carr (E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook)

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco (Ryan Mallett)

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton (AJ McCarron)

CLEVELAND: DeShone Kizer (Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum)

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs)

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)

AFC EAST

BUFFALO: Nathan Peterman (Taylor, Yates, Webb)

MIAMI: Jay Cutler (Matt Moore, David Fales)

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady (Jimmy Garoppolo)

NEW YORK: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)

NFC WEST

ARIZONA: Carson Palmer (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert)

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff (Sean Mannion)

SAN FRANCISCO: Brian Hoyer (C.J. Beathard)

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson (Austin Davis)

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)

NFL SOUTH

ATLANTA: Matt Ryan (Matt Schaub)

CAROLINA: Cam Newton (Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya)

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees (Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill)

TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin)

NFC EAST

DALLAS: Dak Prescott (Cooper Rush)

NEW YORK: Eli Manning (Geno Smith, Davis Webb)

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz (Nick Foles)

WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins (Colt McCoy)

Again, draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.