Matchup with Yankees exposes A's dire situation


Matchup with Yankees exposes A's dire situation


The Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees had completed their daily ritual Yankees win, As dont and the musical guardian at the Chicos Bail Bonds Coliseum thought it would be a nice touch to play Naive Melody by Talking Heads.

You know, as in, Home, its where I want to be, pick me and turn me round.

Or maybe hes a diabolical hyena and though the irony would be particularly delicious, because the As almost never come up with a game worth remembering against the Yankees at least not since the Jeter Flip in 2001, which for As fans wasnt worth remembering either.

Saturdays game was nothing of note, in fairness. Nine-two final, CC Sabathia overcomes his Bay Area jitters and turns in a masterful performance against a lineup easily mastered. Mark Teixeira homers twice, Robinson Cano homers and doubles. The As get two hits after Josh Reddicks daily home run in the third. Whats to remember?

Well, nothing, really. Even the crowd count of 27,112, which struck some as a surprisingly low attendance for a Memorial Day Saturday, was actually in keeping with the way Yankee crowds in Oakland have dipped since the mid-aughts.

Once upon a time, the Yankees defined a good schedule for the As. Indeed, when the Yankees only make one West Coast trip, the groans from the Oakland front office are audible, because those are six gates the team typically needed 18 dates to fill.

But the Yankees have not been an automatic sellout in Oakland for years now, and even drew a ludicrous 19,849 in the first meeting between the teams in 2010. It has come painfully clear that if the As arent giving away either fireworks or things with a neck spring, they arent filling the building for anyone except the Giants, and thats only because the Giants bring their own.

Now we hate crowd columns about the As with significant vigor, since they always say the same thing if you tell people to stay away enough times, theyll eventually take you up on it.

But having lost the Yankees as a free sellout, it hardly seems worth getting their brains beat out as well. And yet that is the other trend at work here.

Saturdays win was New Yorks 14th in 17 games in the Coliseum, and 24th in the last 32 games in Unwantedville. These are eye-opening but not eye-watering numbers, as the Yankees are a much better team in all areas of the game, from the accounting department on down.

And maybe that has finally sunk into this much-abused fanbase as well that Yankee games that dont include free take-homey things are just another exercise in frustration.

Bartolo Colons latest start unraveled a little bit at a time runs in the second, third and fourth, and then a three-spot in the fifth. Colon was their best pitcher early, but the tread is starting to wear unevenly, and Manny Ramirez is apparently nowhere near being ready to save the subterranean offense.

So now the spunky little start and the impertinent performances have given way to the gravity of a lineup that struggles to reach .250, and a pitching staff that is now feeling the pain of the defections and deals of the offseason. Oh, and the injuries are coming in right on time, too the big news of the day was that Yoenis Cespedes took batting practice and did not fall down shrieking in agony.

Not even the Yankees can save them, apparently.

If there is a way out of this, Bob Melvin would be eager to see it, as he is managing this team-with-one-hand-tied-behind-its-back with as much desperation as he can muster. The whole idea of keeping them close to the field into the trade deadline was the mark of success, and this current downturn looks less like a blip and more like the conditions that prevail.

Unless they can whip up a Tommy Milone bobblehead that shoots its own fireworks in time for tomorrows start, one can expect a substandard crowd for what has typically been the teams best drawing card. Indeed, they missed their calling Saturday by handing out a calendar that had dogs on it rather than what it should have had -- no dates on it, a legend that simply read, Bud Seligs Timetable For San Jose.

For that, they would have packed the place.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

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.