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


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.

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.