Ratto: A's must change to either contend or entertain


Ratto: A's must change to either contend or entertain

May 30, 2011A'S PAGE A'SVIDEO

Ray RattoCSNCalifornia.com

OAKLAND -- Its never entirely fair to take one game and make sweeping generalizations about a baseball team not when there are 161 others that could mislead a body.And yes, the As are no more a failure after being suffocated by Bartolo Colon Monday than they were pennant contenders after sweeping the Orioles over the weekend. Their strengths were displayed against Baltimore, their crushing weakness against New York.RECAP: Yankees get to Cahill early, A's lose 5-0
But frankly, and we speak here only as people who crave entertainment, the As need another internal problem to get our attention.

Oh, the Brian Fuentes-Bob Geren-Huston Street dance mix was diverting enough, but as you knew he would, Billy Beane raced to quell the disturbance before it became, well, a disturbance.That is because Beane is a well known pooper of parties, no scatology intended. He hates when players speak up, and especially hates it when they speak up for a manager he likes (as opposed to, say, Ken Macha).GUTIERREZ: A's Insider notes -- Colon's fountain of stem cell youth
And Daric Barton, the stealth two-hitter who snapped at an abusive fan Sunday afternoon, might do so again. I mean, a fella can hope, right?Still, as it can now be reasonably inferred that the As will rank among the worst in baseball at generating offense through power, thoroughly mediocre at generating it through speed, and unlikely at generating it through misdirection or trickery, the As need such diversions for the masses to keep us from forgetting them in the summer to come.(Youll notice here that we are not going to go into an attendance rant. Thats a tired old chestnut that has been hashed out a hundred times in eight dozen different ways, and is unworthy either of these fingers or your eyes).Still, when the big payoff for the Elephants attempts at audience-wrangling center around Well, the rest of the division is lousy, too, there is no big payoff at all.Someone, you see, will come out of this division with 90 wins. Someone has to. Well, someones surely going to. Only 15 American League teams since 1969, the first year of playoffs, have reached the postseason with fewer than 90, and thats out of 56 possible spots (we excluded the two strike years), and twice, in 1987 (Twins, Yankees) and 1998 (Indians, Rangers), have two sub-90s made it in the same season.In short, unless this is a much worse year than we believe, the As are going to have to defy some extraordinary odds to find themselves playing that elusive 163rd game.As of today, they will have to pick up the pace to score 600 runs. Only one AL team, the 1972 Tigers, got to the postseason scoring fewer, with 558 in 156 games, pro-rated to 579. The As current pace is 580.In short, they are very much a National League team ... a National League team from the mid-60s. The 1968 Pirates, in fact, who finished 80-82, 40-41 both home and away and averaged less than a homer every two days.And that means they are bland without the hope of being a dynamic team in any other way save manager sniping.Now maybe were overselling the Rangers or Angels here (you cant oversell the Mariners as much as they are overselling themselves now), but we doubt it. Its hard to advance with as few wins as the As are projecting, so theyd better have something else to go with, and no, holding their breaths until they get a new stadium wont do it ... unless theres a hypoxia promotion scheduled for later this year.So we think lashing out at someone looks like the way to go. Media members dont raise the hackles, so itll have to be fans, the manager, the general manager, the owners, players on players, an umpire. You know, something a little closer to the action. I mean, we did have fun with the Geren-Fuentes thing, we really did. Sure it sort of sucked for Geren and Fuentes, but you cant have an omelet without throwing eggs against your breakfast partners face.Or maybe they can figure out a way to work the Buster Posey Kennedyesque-tragedy angle the Giants fan base has flogged so well this last week. I dont know how theyd do it, but a mere broken leg clearly wont be enough.Otherwise, theyll remain as they are a study in earnest inertia. Pitching well, hitting barely at all, fielding well below the norm and watching others have all the fun in September. And thats if there are NFL and NBA lockouts.This, kids, is no way to go through the summer. No way at all.

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.