Ratto: Beane getting first taste of big-market A's camp

212011.jpg

Ratto: Beane getting first taste of big-market A's camp

Feb. 21, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEA'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

PHOENIX, Ariz -- Far away from Hank Steinbrenners cry that baseballs lesser team should eat cake, Billy Beane was inundated by media and fans at Papago Park.It is the closest Beane has been to being part of a large revenue team in his 14 years on the job in Oakland, and while much of the media and some of the fans were there to see Hideki Matsuis first workout as an Elephant, there was still more than hes seen here in years.It is pretty crowded for a change, he said as he squinted in a game but underpowered sun. Like to see that.Then again, its the first time the As have seen expectations in the flesh in some years -- even the 2006 team that reached the ALCS operated largely on in-season stealth rather than spring training fanfare. If nothing else, the As in Beanes time have been built on the element of surprise.That comes, of course, with being built on the element of cheap, which has also been a staple in these parts in the post-Haasian era. The As go through their seasons, subsisting on low-hanging foliage and the kindnesses of revenue sharing, which of course is right in George 2.0s wheelhouse."We've got to do a little something about that, and I know Bud wants to correct it in some way," Steinbrenner said from the Yankees spring training home in Tampa. Obviously, we're very much allies with the Red Sox and the Mets, the Dodgers, the Cubs, whoever in that area.Then he dropped the gauntlet, which is Renaissance Fair for started the process of picking a fight.At some point, if you don't want to worry about teams in minor markets, don't put teams in minor markets, or don't leave teams in minor markets if they're truly minor, he said. Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer.Even though its been the answer in baseball for 10 years and football for 50, is how he meant to say.Beane hadnt heard that message in the morning, and would have deferred if he had. Thats why John Fisher and Lew Wolff gets paid the big money -- to see to it that Wolff answers and all questions about the Steinbrenners.Meanwhile, though, back in the new wasp hive of activity that is As camp, Beane watched the expectations for his 15th team taking wing, and tried to pretend that he didnt pay attention to expectations.I wouldnt put a number on it, he said, but I think if we stay healthy, we ought to be in the conversation all of September. Im not one of those people who think Texas has fallen off -- they lost Cliff Lee, sure, butAdrian Beltre was a great get for them, and theyve got some very good young pitchers like (Michael) Kirtman and Derek Holland, and I dont think Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson are going away.But I think if we stay healthy, we ought to be contenders.That, by necessity, means there ought to be actual pressure on manager Bob Geren to help make the As a player viz. Beanes vision. He has one .500 season in four years as a manager, and the only person to go longer without a winning record in the last 35 years is Lloyd McClendon, who had the excuse of managing the Pittsburgh Pirates.Beane, though, defends him as he has throughout.You could say that if we hadnt lost 40 percent of our payroll to injury a year ago, Beane said, excuse-ifying at a spectacular pace. But we havent given him enough tools for him to have expectations in his four years, either.But there are tools now, at least enough to make the As look like a six-month team if nothing else. The bullpen is stocked with arms and characters, although Grant Balfour has so far resisted the impulse to see what Charlie Sheen thinks of the Australian brewing industry. There are more hitters than last year, though with the notable exception of Matsui they still dont have a bomber.Truth is, though, the As would still be a surprise. There are some folks trying to make them the fashionable darkhorse pick in the AL West, which Beane rejected with a bemused smile. But darkhorses dont run very well for very long, and even the Giants, who darkhorsed their way right into the postseason and the perfect format with a team with four good starters, are the exception that proves the rule.People want to compare us, naturally, but I think this is the year where youll see that we really are truly two very separate and distinct entities, Beane said. Yeah, we have starting pitching if it stays healthy, and I think weve made our bullpen much better, but we and they are really two very different animals.He then went into a brief soliloquy about the As, the Giants and the difference in their media coverage and ballpark prospects, but we glazed over that point.Besides, ballpark or no, the As have a bigger problem on the horizon than where the lockers are.Its Hank Steinbrenner and his move to thin out the herd. Nothing may come of it, but the NFL owners battles are leaking into baseball consciousness, and that may mean that the As could become an endangered species before they realize the grass-roots support they seem to attracting this week.

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

mayweather-mcgregor-ball-weird.jpg

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.