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.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.

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


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.