Hollywood, take notice of the 2012 A's


Hollywood, take notice of the 2012 A's

So it turns out that Billy Beane isnt past his sell-by date at all. He just peaked too early, cinematically speaking.

You see, this is the As movie that should have been made, not the one that was released last year. This is the team made of the sparest parts, with the least reason to think grand thoughts, yet thinking them all the time anyway because . . . well, because why the hell not?.

Take Saturday. The As let down a crowd of 28,142 by not beating the New York Yankees with a walk-off hit, as they had the night before. Instead, they got a homer in the eighth inning from Brandon Inge, the greatest .200 hitter who ever .200-ed his way through a season.

Then, because that was insufficiently dramatic, they trotted out Sean Doolittle to save the game in the ninth because closer Ryan Cook was on E after three consecutive appearances. And all Doolittle and his raggedy used-to-be-an-infielder-before-his-shoulder-turned-into-an-ankle-ish had to do was face and vanquish Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, with a side of Andruw Jones.

67.5 million and 1,574 home runs. And Doolittle went single, strikeout, strikeout and steal, strikeout.

RECAP: Pratt's Instant Replay -- A's 2, Yankees 1

You think thats not a movie. You think that doesnt beat the hell out of Jonah Hills slack-jawed face for two hours?

Well, maybe it doesnt. Movies are a personal thing.

But this is a hell of a movie, and for Beane, who has watched those halcyon days of yore fade into questions of whether the finances have passed him by, this may turn out to be the wackiest revenge.

True, Orson Welles may not be the best comparison point here, but he did open his career with Citizen Kane and then never came close to matching it. Beane was the hottest thing in businessmen-watching-baseball for a long time, then the ground dried under his feet.

And now? Sean Doolittle strikes out 135 percent of the Oakland payroll to give the Yankees one more finger in the eye. After Inge, the new and improved Scott Hatteberg, homers to put the As ahead. After Jarrod Parker, a Diamondback a year ago with 73 pitches of major league experience, snuffed the Yankees on five hits.

Yes, this is the movie that should have been made, and would have been if Michael Lewis had only had the wit to foretell the future and wait a decade. And if Brad Pitt could have been convinced that Inge wouldnt be a better role. And if Jon Hamm could have signed on to be a slightly grayer Beane.

Now this isnt your boilerplate Beanes-a-genius column, because this transcends master plans and outthinking the planet in search of value for dollars spent. This is hitting-on-17 stuff, and even if it doesnt last . . . well, the other movie didnt end with the last game, either. And everyone gets credit because, well, to do otherwise would ruin the story.

This is otherworldly, and maybe it wont last because of the cruel gravity of the 162-game season. But this game alone should act as a hell of an example of what kind of film could be made if you just suspend belief and play it over the top.

Way over the top.

Yoenis Cespedes (the player the As would never have been in on in the old days) hit a zillion-foot homer to tie the game. Inge was all but chased out of Detroit (and isnt that a feat in and of itself). Parker. Doolittle. And Cook, and Josh Reddick the manic pastry chef and right fielder, and Brandon McCarthy and his tweeting spouse, and miscellaneous other Brandons, and Tommy Milone, and Chris Carter, and Bartolo Colon, and the stray Australians, and best of all, the hologram of Marlon Brando as Manny Ramirez, the ghost of Flag Day Past.

Of course, it wouldnt work with big stars stealing the screen, because thats not what this team is. It might have to be sold as an ensemble piece, a sort of Animal House casting process where the most famous actor has the fewest lines. Why, theres a place for Peter Dinklage here, I know it.

So yes, this is a movie. A hell of a movie, in fact. Way more cavalier than the first Major League, may more realistic than Eight Men Out, way more fun than Bang The Drum Slowly, and way more of a statement about the capriciousness of life than Bull Durham.

Indeed, this is the logical inheritor of the Moneyball title, except that this isnt Moneyball. Were not quite sure what it is yet, because this team isnt quite sure what it is yet, either. They may not know how theyre doing it, to be honest, but they know it is getting done.

And however it gets pitched to the studio, it works as entertainment. It seriously does.

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations


Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.