Ratto: Bailey returns, A's vaunted bullpen a reality


Ratto: Bailey returns, A's vaunted bullpen a reality

A'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

We know a few things about Spring Training that are universal. Like someones going to have to take out a hive of Africanized bees on a stadium concourse. Like allergies will make the average stadium section look like a tuberculosis ward. Like the cutting edge music on the ballpark P.A. from Stealers Wheel and Jim Croce.And like the As giving some reason to worry about their health.Comrade Killion covered the general health topic elsewhere on our happy site, but Thursday the Oaklands got to see someone they need badly and hadnt seen in business yet their closer, Andrew Bailey.
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Bailey has been recovering from an embittered elbow, and when thrown in with two other relied-upon pitchers who also havent worked yet, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz, he was starting to cause a little mild consternation in and around Phoenix Municipal Time Warp.Not because anyone thought he wouldnt be ready in time, but because when youre talking about the As, out of sight sends people out of their minds.But Bailey was ascendant in his first start since his elbow turned on him, retiring Kansas City Royals Mitch Maier, Alex Gordon and Wil Myers on 12 pitches in the As 4-4 tie.
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And he was not only ascendant on a day when the As got a point in their own building to go 5-7-1 in the Cactus League, he was apparently high on calcium and Vitamin D as well.Theres a little anxiety going out there the first time, sure, the As closer said after hitting 94 mph and 93 at least twice in his outing. But it felt fine. I was able just to let myself go. The extra 10-12 degrees of extension (in his arm) felt normal. I didnt notice and difference in my mechanics.And . . .Now I can go in my refrigerator and get the milk carton out. Before, I almost had to climb in to get it.But the September surgery to clean out several chips, spurs, scar tissue, corn chips, toy whistles and a small turtle from his elbow mostly served to heighten his anticipation and improve his dairy acquisition skills.I went in planning to just throw fastballs, he said, but once I got out there, the adrenalin kicked in a bit and I mixed in a few cutters. I didnt throw any curves or changes, but those will come.Two of those cutters were the murder weapons in the strikeouts of Gordon and Myers, but he found greater satisfaction hitting the gun at close to his normal velocity and putting the ball in the designated spots (he threw four balls and eight strikes).Baileys return gets the As one body closer to having their full bullpen complement. Craig Breslow (hamstring) and Michael Wuertz (shoulder) still have not appeared in a sorta-for-real game yet, and since the As have been bragging on the bullpen depth since Billy Beane started acquiring it last year, one can understand the casual As fan wanting to see it in full wingspan and plumage.But we knew they were going to take it easy and not hurry us, so thats been good, Bailey said. Well all be there when the season starts.Bailey is expected to hold his place as the closer despite the acquisition of Brian Fuentes, but the As long and proud relationship with the disabled list has always made long-term planning in Oakland the best way to hear God laugh. Baileys first outing, though, makes the possibility of that vaunted bullpen a little more likely.Id like to get about five or six more outings before the Bay (Bridge) Series, maybe eight in total, he said, and that should be good.The As, and the California Milk Board, certainly hope so.What'syour take? Email Rayand let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray on Twitter @RattoCSN.

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.